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The Way Forward By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, January 11, 2007


He could have looked less chastened and spoken less with the cadence of a man straitened by political reversals. He could have called for more dramatic action than that expected by Beltway conventional wisdom. He could have tempered his praise for the “distinguished” and “thoughtful” “experts” of the Iraq Study Group. However, last night the president announced his intention to snatch victory from the jaws of defeatism. President Bush, the celebrated “decider,” proved the United States has only one commander-in-chief at a time and gave voice to the most silenced of his constituents: those committed to victory.

 

In his nationally televised address, President Bush laid out a plan to win the “decisive ideological struggle of our time.” He will send18 Iraqi brigades and five U.S. brigades – a total of 17,500 Americans – to secure Baghdad. This will double the number of Americans in the capital city. An additional 4,000 U.S. troops will patrol the Anbar Province. This will lower the ratio of Americans-to-Iraqis to 1:50 (one American soldier for every 50 Iraqis), exactly the number textbook military planning requires to secure a province. Finally, there will be enough troops to hold the area. Rather than roaming the area to put out the latest fires, troops can hold the areas once cleared, depleting enemy forces – which further lowers the soldier-enemy ratio.

 

Not all were convinced of the link between more troops and killing more terrorists. Reliable Bush critic Sen. George Voinovich, RINO-OH, demanded, “I want real evidence that a potential surge in troops will do more good than harm.Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, likewise requested such “evidence” on the Larry King Show. She need look no further than the neighboring Mexican border, where an injection of uniformed men helped stem the level of illegal immigration. Illegal alien arrests dropped 8 percent along the border in 2006, after President Bush dispatched 5,700 National Guardsmen to assist the Border Patrol. Arrests in the Yuma (Arizona) sector declined 48 percent the first month of deployment alone. Yet the same senator who clamored for putting “100,000 new police on the streets” during the Clinton administration cannot comprehend how additional troops might be of use in a war zone.

 

Although Feinstein called this an “escalation,” it will commit fewer troops to Iraq than served there in December 2005. “The ‘surge’ is actually quite small,” admitted retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich. Four of the five brigades were already scheduled to go, and it will be 3-4 months before the 21,500 troops are at full capacity.

 

As Donald Rumsfeld reminded, though, more troops on the ground mean more casualties, and President Bush rightly prepared the American people for this eventuality. “Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering,” he accurately forecasted. This is particularly true if Americans are to engage the sectarian militias ripping Iraq asunder at the moment. “If our troops do not enter Sadr City, they belittle the notion of a surge because they would leave a leading militia unscathed,” said International Institute for Strategic Studies scholar Patrick Cronin. This would pit a fully-surged 153,000-man U.S. army against an estimated 60,000-man Shi’ite militia supplied by Iran. The inevitable casualty spike will give a hostile Democratic Party and (Democratic) media – both already obsessed with American deaths – continual fodder for assaulting the administration and undermining American morale. In a nation where inhabitants of “red states” and “blue states” are actually a vibrant purple, this is probably the president’s last politically viable chance to save Iraq from the jihadists and the American Left. Thankfully, administration sources have made it clear Bush has a “Plan B” in case this bid fails.

 

The current Bush victory plan calls for more American troops to be embedded in Iraqi units, although Iraqis will now be under native command. Bush likewise devotes billions more for reconstruction.

 

Of capital importance, last night Bush finally addressed “the extremist challenge” presented by Iran and Syria. “We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria,” he purposed. “And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.” The nation cannot hope to prevail if two neighboring countries act as suppliers or conduits of men and materiel for the terror underground. Significantly, Bush did not limit this action within Iraqi borders, which means he learned one of the lessons of Vietnam: no more Ho Chi Minh Trails. What a contrast to Dick Durbin’s comments following the speech on the subject of Iran and Syria: “If there's any surge that we need, it's a surge in diplomacy.

 

The WashingtonPost.com headlined this component of Bush’s plan, with its typical evenhanded detachment, “President Threatens Syria and Iran.”

 

Portions of Bush’s speech should have overjoyed the Left, but thus far, it has held its jubilation in check. President Bush attempted to reach out to area partners by noting the threat jihadists pose to “Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States.” He said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must take operational control of his entire country by November. He called for rolling back de-Baathification and insisted all Iraqis – even Sunnis in oil-poor sectors of Iraq – must share in the nation’s oil revenues, just as the Left has suggested. He gave the media its first headline of the speech, saying, “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.” (In 2004, the Left demanded President Bush admit his mistakes.) Finally, the president declared, “I have made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended.” For months, Democrats have demanded Bush make clear America’s commitment is not “open-ended.” So much for the party that pledged to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardships, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

 

A quick search of leftists’ statements on the plan uncovered little subsequent praise for these conciliations. Instead, the Democratic Party Left has savaged the president.

 

For the Democratic response, the party tapped Dick Durbin. Yes, that Dick Durbin. The Iraqis, he scolded, “must know that, every time they call 9-1-1, we are not going to send 20,000 more American soldiers.” On the one hand, left-wingers repeatedly cite polls – out of context – that show Iraqis want U.S. troops out ASAP. (In fact, the New York Times revived this line immediately after the speech in an article entitled, “Promising Troops Where They Really Aren’t Wanted.”) Now, Durbin claims the Iraqis are begging for an infusion of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers in order to avoid taking responsibility for their own government.

 

He continued, “Escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election.” The American people voted for radical change in the Capitol Hill intern program; Democrats were too cowardly to campaign on Iraq (because it makes them look like weak-willed defeatists) and told its candidates to invoke, in equal proportions, Mark Foley and Our Lord Jesus Christ. Their position on Iraq was to “wait and see” what the Baker-Hamilton Commission suggested. And among its proposals was a temporary 20,000-troop surge its elected representatives now threaten to block.

 

In a Q&A session following his rebuttal, Durbin called into question whether the Congressional authorization of force still applied to Iraq at all. “If you look at the purpose of our invasion of Iraq, frankly every single element is unnecessary today,” he said. “There is no Saddam Hussein. There are no Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Oh yeah, well, there are al-Qaeda terrorists who still communicate with the masterminds of 9/11. As a result of this change, Durbin added, “I won't rule out further action by Congress” to stop the deployment.

 

This is the raison d’etre for Ted Kennedy’s call to deny funding for additional troops. His proposal, its pages dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, reads, “The mission of the Armed Forces of the United States in Iraq no longer bears any resemblance to the mission of the Armed Forces authorized by Congress in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.” On the one hand, he states President Bush should have foreseen the mission would become a nation-building venture before it was ever launched; yet Kennedy claims an approving Congress never did. Thus, he hopes to establish the frightening precedent that Congress can back out of war resolutions whenever battleground conditions change.

 

The media have done their part for Teddy’s bill. Earlier this week, mainstream press outlets covered Kennedy bellowing that Iraq is “George Bush’s Vietnam” for the umpteenth time. Today, the New York Times dutifully “reported”: “Not since Richard M. Nixon ordered American troops in Vietnam to invade Cambodia in 1970 has a president taken such a risk with an increasingly unpopular war.

 

And the prestige press has covered up the most significant fact of the Bush’s change-in-direction: the same leftists who oppose this troop “escalation” (I’ve heard the term four times from elected Democratic representatives, so the talking points must be out) have called for committing more troops to Iraq from day one.

 

On this matter, the Democratic leadership has been as consistent as the idle on a ’74 Pinto.

 

On Meet the Press in May 2004, Speaker Nancy Pelosi forthrightly told Tim Russert, “We need more troops on the ground.Until days ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid split the difference, telling George Stephanopoulos, “If it's for a surge, that is, for two or three months and it's part of a program to get us out of there, as indicated, by this time next year, then, sure, I'll go along with it.Yet last week, Pelosi and Reid wrote to President Bush:

 

Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed…Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq.

 

They instead one-upped John Murtha, calling for a four-to-six-month withdrawal of troops. (Sen. Carl Levin, too, suggested threatening a four-month about-face was the best way to defeat foreign jihadists.) Similarly:

 

  • In 2004, Democratic presidentical nominee John Kerry wrote in The Washington Post, “[Americans] know chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Eric Shinseki, was right when he argued that more troops would be needed to establish security and win the peace.” In fact, he inaccurately accused Bush of firing Shinseki for making the comment in two presidential debates. He has since endorsed a six-month withdrawal.
  • In June 2003, Howard Dean said on Meet the Press, “I know that we don't have enough people in Iraq. I know that General Shinseki said that we need 300,000 troops to go into Iraq.” He opposes the “surge.”
  • In April 2004, Sen. Hillary Clinton told Katie Couric, “We should've had more [troops] going in. The administration thought that they could win the war on the cheap with few troops and not much of a commitment.” But she abruptly opposed more troops in mid-December, and last night she said Bush “will continue to take us down the wrong road – only faster.”
  • A host of elected officials and media outlets accused the president of fighting the Iraq war “on the cheap,” including segregationist Sen. Fritz Hollings, Bob Herbert, Thomas Friedman, The New Yorker, Salon.com, and ABC News.

 

Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, leftist Democrats, fearing political backlash if they once again opposed a popular war, voted to authorize President Bush’s use of force. Now Kennedy wants to deny funding for the president to carry out his constitutional duties, and other leftists want at least a non-binding resolution symbolically opposing his marching orders. (See “subversive.”) The commander-in-chief does not need Congressional approval for the details of each successive military campaign. The media rightly lampooned LBJ for selecting bombing targets from the Oval Office. The nation will rest no more securely if his actions are duplicated in some 535 Congressional offices dotting the Capitol.

 

Foreseeing their partisan warfare, President Bush said they had the right to oppose his plan; however, “all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed.” The Left can begin by explaining why Americans should entrust the nation’s defense policy to Congressional Democrats, who recently retreated from an onslaught led by Cindy Sheehan?

 

Meanwhile, almost nine years after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, President Bush’s armed forces have killed their chief architect – still cleaning up the mess from the last time the Left set American foreign policy.    

 

Early in the Democratic rebuttal, Dick Durbin said, “We are not winning in Iraq.” One could not tell on his lips if this were analysis or prophecy.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).


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