Saturday, January 13, 2007

Yes, but ... (Thoughts on the troop surge and the escalation of the war)

I've avoided commenting on President Bush's speech and the supposed change in strategy in Iraq because I feel vastly underqualified to say much of anything. War supporters say they want victory and accuse anti-war activists of rooting for defeat, but is it really that simple? After all, any calculation of victory depends solely on a definition of victory in the first place- I don't think President Bush has ever really provided one, although to be fair, no one else has either. We could declare victory today and head home, but the vast majority of the American people- and the vast majority of Congress would not find that palatable. Personally I don't think any notion of victory can really be determined until 10-15-or maybe even 20 years down the road. If at that point Iraq is in chaos and we have chaos in the Middle East we can call this war a failure- if Iraq is at peace, and terrorism declines worldwide, than I'd call the war a success.

At this point I will listen to any criticism of the Bush administration as far as the conduct of the war- as I've said, I just don't feel knowledgeable enough to weigh in on strategy or diplomatic relations. The one thing that I still will not accept is the supposed immorality of this war. In the long run we may well decide that this war was poorly planned, poorly executed, and detrimental to our national security, but that doesn't make the war immoral. Saddam was a bad dictator and we removed him from power and freed the Iraqi people. Period.

I have grown increasingly concerned about the apparent lack of a real plan from the Bush administration and even more concerned at the number of incidents that erode American moral authority in the realm of public opinion. Many conservatives will argue that this is unfair- that a small number of isolated incidents should not reflect poorly on what has been one of the most benign occupations in the history of war. But this argument misses the fact that this is not 1945 and we live in a world of 24-7 media coverage. Like it or not, public opinion and media coverage matters, and ever scandal is scrutinized. If our plan is what I stated above- a free and democratic Iraq as a launching point for ending radical Islamic terrorism- then we need to win the battle of public opinion just as much as we need to win the actual battle on the ground. I think at this point, Bush realizes this too, but he's a couple years too late to the party.


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