By Alan Nathan © 2007

Republican incompetence over Iraq has given cover to Democratic stupidity and again we’re trapped between those failing and those refusing success.

President Bush is sending 21,500 additional military personnel to work primarily with Iraqi troops in their efforts to “clear, hold and build” throughout Baghdad and its surrounding enclaves. It’s the process of ridding a community of enemy fighters, then securing the area so that repairs and improvements can be made to their infrastructure.

Many favoring troop increases (escalation) forget (or choose to discount) that clearing, holding and building those towns and cities periodically dominated by insurgents and sectarian fighters have been familiar endeavors since 2004.

Elevated thinkers (not to be mistaken for Republican, Democratic, or Libertarian leaders) understandably ask the question: “Why so slow on the uptake?” Yes, we’ve had superbly measurable and noteworthy successes, but they’re easily missed when eclipsed by the pictures of mangled lives and smoking remains. Without security in its capitol, stability throughout the remaining 80 percent of Iraq understandably inspires little comfort.

That said, it’s inexcusable to surrender just because some prematurely lose faith in our military’s prowess. Until beating the enemy is beyond our capabilities, acquiescence is not an option. The only thing stopping the American government from crushing our foe is her collective unwillingness to accept the ugliness of victory.

Through excessive demands for cautionary rules of engagement, too many of our leaders insist that Americans are only allowed to defend themselves up to the point where they don’t endanger the enemy’s fellow citizens through collateral damage. By that unenlightened measure, whenever there’s a moral conflict between our people and theirs, theirs must take precedent – such as with the Bush-Pentagon’s decision not to kill 200 Taliban fighters neatly packed together in July of 2006 because they were attending a funeral with bystanders (for another Taliban fighter)!

While this news catapulted many Americans into an anaphylactic shock, Republicans were too forgiving of the president while Democrats were obscenely supportive. (And folks wonder why this centrist so venomously loathes these two political orthodoxies.)

If we’re not permitted to kill enemy fighters because of their own potential civilian death toll, then the enemy will live to kill more of us – both soldier and civilian. There’s a huge difference between fanatical jihadists targeting the innocent versus Coalition forces inadvertently killing them while in pursuit of those same jihadists.

War opponents may despise this conclusion because of its explosive political disadvantages. (No one wants to be seen supporting policies more advantageous to the enemy than to their own.) However, their objection to the war is not over the strategy for winning, but rather over the wisdom of winning.

They fundamentally believe that it’s ill advised to triumph, because if too many were killed, this would establish the wrong precedent for coping with future “bad acting” groups or governments. Apparently, we’re only permitted to succeed if we don’t defeat the enemy – too bizarre!

The Republicans have blindly supported this president in his failed Iraqi strategy because of his otherwise laudable goal to have that country learn to “govern itself, sustain itself and peacefully co-exist with its neighbors.” Essentially, the president did the right thing the wrong way, and his party allowed him too much grace time before holding him more accountable.

Democrats and some Republicans had correctly argued that a goal does not a strategy make, and in 2004 many of them began calling for more troops. Then, of course, in early 2006 when they were in danger of more and more Republicans concurring with troop expansions, they walked away from their own advice and started insisting that the only way Bush could change the course would be to reverse the course.

Clearly there’s a disparity between altering the offensive versus abandoning it, but antiwar zealots opted for ignoring such distinctions and preferred to characterize them as analogous so they could have what they truly wanted without saying it – surrender!

If you’re opting for defeat, admit it. Don’t commit the colossal rhetorical blunder of antiwar enthusiast Senator Chuck Hagel, R-NE, who stated on the January 14, 2007 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press With Tim Russert:

First, as I said before, I am not, nor any member of Congress that I’m aware of, Tim, is advocating defeat. That’s ridiculous, and I’m offended that any responsible member of Congress or anyone else would even suggest such a thing.

Yet just three minutes before that he had said:

We are projecting ourselves further and deeper into a situation that we cannot win militarily.

Senator, let me acquaint you with the Queen’s English. If you’re stating that we can’t win, then by default you’re saying we can only lose. You may not have spewed the words “I advocate defeat,” but the words you have used carry the same conclusion and place you in the unenviable position of having to argue a contrast where there is no difference. (Not the swiftest gazelle in the herd, is he?)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, is angrily resisting Bush’s plans for a surge in troops. However, on December 17, 2006, the Associated Press reported different sentiments under the headline, “Reid OK With Short-Term Surge in U.S. Troops in Iraq”:

“If the commanders on the ground said this is just for a short period of time, we’ll go along with that,” said Reid, D-Nev., citing a time frame such as two months to three months. “But a period of 18 months to 24 months would be too long,” he said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-MI, agreed with Reid’s earlier flip as he did with his later flop. While he currently opposes the Bush increase, Reuters reported the following on January 4, 2007, under the headline, “Key Democrat might consider troop boost in Iraq”:

President George W. Bush is likely to link any short-term increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq to political milestones or other conditions, a key Senate Democrat (Levin) said on Thursday, saying he might consider backing such a “surge” if those conditions are right.

Messrs. Reid and Levin did their about faces before the Bush plan was fully disclosed, because it was more important to show lockstep obeisance to the party’s ideological hierarchy, than give respect and latitude to the majority of military personnel favoring it – you know, those who are more aware and most immediately affected by the war’s challenges. As a vet, I find that eerily familiar and exceedingly vile.

But not to worry, unlike war opponents saying those who never served cannot credibly support the war, I won’t say the same about those opposing it. (Double standards are too easily dismantled, aren’t they?)

Equally laughable are the antiwar Democrats’ inconsistent allegiance to poll numbers. While expressing indignation over the President’s refusal to comply with the 68 percent against him on Iraq, they forget that when 72 percent originally backed the effort in 2003, their party’s Lefthad no compunction about “defying the people’s will” through their own voiced opposition to that original popular support. Once exposed as part of the do as I say not as I do crowd, you can’t be taken seriously.

As a quick aside, that same hypocrisy surrounding their fealty to survey numbers is dramatically self-evident with the President’s Prescription Drug Plan (Part D). Over 80 percent of its members are delighted with its performance and savings, but “the people’s will” doesn’t stop most Democratic politicos from undercutting it. Why? For the same reason both sides will ignore polls when they’re on the losing end – polls change when circumstances change, and whoever is right today may be wrong tomorrow.

This naturally provokes a question: Are the antiwar activists furious over the surge, because the polls are against it, or because if the surge proves successful, said polls would be for it?

Poll-politics are often driven by maneuvered, self-fulfilling prophecies of encouraged failure in order to bring about whatever conclusion is best for one side or the other. However, on the subject of war, whether your side won the debate or not, the success of your country should always trump whatever may have been your original stance. Some in the GOP came to understand that about Clinton’s wars in Bosnia and Kosovo – hopefully more in the Democratic party will come to learn the same about the war in Iraq.