Jan 3, 2007

Marc Danziger: What the troops win in Iraq, the White House loses

So this weekend Saddam Hussein was hung. The New Year is here, the troops are still bleeding in Iraq and the politicians are still fighting here at home. Where are we as we enter 2007?
I’m a liberal Democrat who has been a vocal supporter of the Iraq war since shortly before the invasion in 2002. I’ve written about it, argued with friends about it, studied every aspect of it that I can find and in the last few months I’ve come to the firm conclusion that the war is a strategic failure.
That doesn’t mean we’re losing — despite all the “reporting” coming from the media, it’s certainly the case that we’re hurting our enemies far worse than they are hurting us. But it does mean that the strategic aims of the invasion — which I believe went far beyond simply deposing Saddam — are almost certainly not going to be met.
Those aims, I believed (and still believe) included shocking the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iran into throttling back their support for Islamist and Salafist terror, breaking the pattern of state sponsorship that led al-Qaida to become a capable force in the 1990s, and creating a network of Middle Eastern allies against the movement represented by — but not controlled by — al-Qaida.
I came to believe shortly after Sept. 12, 2001, that we were facing a worldwide movement centered in a branch of radical Islam — one that had crossbred with Western radicalism of the 19th century to create a powerful and attractive ideology that had one eye on Allah and the other on hating the West.
That movement was empowered by state actors who saw it as both a useful outlet to manage the internal populations they oppress, and an inexpensive and low-risk way of projecting regional power.
I believed that the shock of invading Iraq could pull the state actors away from supporting this movement — as it has to a minor extent — and that we could then begin to create and strengthen alliances to provide alternative intellectual and political paths for frustrated Middle Easterners.
I still think it was a good bet, particularly compared to the alternatives available to us in 2002.
Where I was flatly wrong was in ignoring the weakness within the U.S. — weakness centered in the White House. The constraints on how we fought and what we were willing to spend were put on by the Bush administration. They chose to emphasize a cheap, light, less-lethal war that would require little political capital.
The envelope of political support for the war was deliberately kept too small by both by the GOP and the Democrats. But at the end of the day, a wartime president’s job is to make that envelope big enough to contain the sustained effort needed to win.
Bush didn’t do so.
Was it for ideological reasons? Maybe, partly. But it was also for reasons that are easier to understand and harder to forgive. Because to achieve and maintain the political coalition necessary to support a larger military footprint, and to have acknowledged a longer war and banked the political capital necessary to fight it — necessarily bipartisan capital — the pet domestic political goals of the GOP might have had to have been compromised.
If guaranteeing a “permanent GOP majority” was more important than setting the stage for winning in Iraq — and in retrospect, that certainly appears to have been the case — there is no one to blame but the White House.
The Democrats don’t get off scot-free. But this was Bush’s war to win or lose.This isn’t a new complaint to me. I’ve been saying the same thing since 2002. I’m frustrated and angry that I didn’t make the point more strongly, and that I didn’t follow the line of reasoning to the logical conclusion — that the political support for the Bush administration and for the war effort would collapse, and we’d be paralyzed in the face of future challenges as the political ability to actually do anything evaporates.
That’s pretty much where we sit today. Some folks may view that as good news.
I’m not convinced that that’s a good thing. Now we’re in a position where — unless the expansionist trajectory the Salafists and Islamist radicals have been taking suddenly changes — we’ll be faced with new challenges and very few palatable tools to use to meet them.
Thanks, Mr. President. Could you do something about that, please?
Marc Danziger is a member of The Examiner Blog Board of Contributors and blogs as “Armed Liberal” at windsofchange.net.

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KikayC said...

hi Carol! I admire your "outspoken" views. Here, we are trained not to talk about 2 things, politics and religion. Oh well...seems that one always gets into trouble when they discuss their views about the government and the church.

Anyway, thanks for dropping by my site. :)

Carol said...

We have the same rule here..not supposed to discuss Politics or Religion..people fight..Perhaps why we are at War?