President Bush has had an exit strategy from the onset of the military intervension in Iraq, conditioning the draw-down of American troops there primarily upon the viability of the gestating constitutional government and the ability of the new Iraqi security forces to protect it.
Armchair-generalship, negative nitpicking, skepticism, cynicism, and defeatism abound, however, and all aspects of the war at each stage of it have been second-guessed and hyper-criticized, from insistence that Hans Blix's bloodhounding was sufficient to keep Saddam honest, from accusations that the planning of the war was either carefully pre-meditated by an imperialistic PNAC cabal years before 9/11 or was rashly conceived of right after it without a second thought, that the rationalizations for the war were pretexts for base motives of personal revenge or greed, that its military invasion and execution was bound to--"Any day now"-- hit a wall of fierce resistance and get quagmired at the gates of Baghdad, that the occupation strategy was essentially ad libbed on the spot, that the development of the fledgling democracy is a "debacle" (which was the new buzzword in the hive of the waspy antiwar literati that, after a sensational debut, made its rounds in the salons and the blogosphere and was on everyone's lips and was passed around like a drunken debutante but is even now being worn out and is soon to join the has-been club of once-catchy words, mantras, and political battle-cries that you'll never hear again, like "Manichaean," "Abu Ghraib," and "Air America"), and that the training of the Iraqi security forces resembles the futile attempt to teach the proverbial dog that won't hunt how to track, shoot, pluck, and roast pheasant and can only result in the transformation of the Three Stooges into the Keystone Cops.
However, although there have indeed been the typical delays, mishaps, setbacks, blunders, and bloodshed that typifies every war since Agamemnon came knocking on Priam's gates, when one considers the "leaner and meaner" number of troops deployed in relation to the size of the area and the textbook-bound success of the air and ground campaign despite that ratio, and the challenge of understanding, accommodating, and then juggling the complexities of an exotic culture while simultaneously reprogramming political mores and assembling a constitutional republic from scratch during a reconstruction period plaqued by saboteurs and assymetrical warfare, and that two national democratic elections have already been conducted in an orderly fashion with enthusiastic, popular participation and minimal amounts of violence, that Saddam Hussein has been captured alive and well and is going on trial, and that the number of soldiers lost throughout this radical and historic two-and-a-half year endeavor is but two-thirds of the citizens lost at the catalyst of 9/11 and a percentile of those lost in Vietnam, be not angry. Be amazed.
Yes, there are difficulties, to be sure, as the president warned-- and victory is not guaranteed, as Republicus knows-- but to characterize Operation Iraqi Freedom as a "debacle" is like characterizing the self-evidently recovering U.S. economy of last year as "the worst economy since the Great Depression."
Or President Bush as "The worst president in the history of the country."
They're over-the-top exaggerations. They're lies.
The speed of the massive reconstruction and historic constituting has been rapid by any measure (except, of course, the anti-war crowd's), and progress on both conditions for troop withdrawal substantial.
It is tricky for the president to discuss this because he cannot--understandably--telegraph a withdrawal date to insurgent, chainsaw-wielding lumberjacks while the sapling government and security forces are still taking root (and make no mistake: it is no coincidence that the frenzy of tree-felling this past week coincides with the congressional deliberations for setting a troop-withdrawal date).
Also, he has staked his presidency on the success of this war (as the Bush-haters know, which should provide a clue as to why they're so determined to see it fail), so the new republic must be demonstrably viable and not a house of cards or else, should it collapse after a premature withdrawal, it would validate all the hyper-criticism and defeatism hurled by that implacable crowd and provide them with an opportunity to interpret and publicize the troop withdrawal as an act of cutting and running and a coveted concession of failure.
The loss of the Vietnam War was not a foregone conclusion until the United States caved from the domestic political pressures, broke its commitments, and abandoned the fledgling South Vietnamese democracy.
So Bush's concerns for both the welfare of the new Iraqi republic and his own political legacy are inextricably tied together, which is good for the Iraqis, because they can be assured of his undivided attention.
The time will come soon when troops can start coming home, and Republicus will pre-empt--right here-- the allegations from the antiwar crowd and the intersecting cult of Bush-haters (who are not necessarily--necessarily, mind you--one and the same) that it will have something to do with the vociferous political pressure they applied and proof that the mission was--all along-- a waste of time, treasure, and lives...
...before they turn their wrath against the evidence to the contrary, a functioning democratic government that, hardly "democratic" ("Hey, weren't those voting machines made by Diebold?"), will henceforth be considered an illegitimate puppet of American imperialism that oppresses "The People" (i.e. the Jihadists and other anti-Western dead-enders who will be effectively deterred by a fully-trained Iraqi army, and whose interests are the only ones the antiwar crowd's are serving).
Meanwhile, the prophecied civil war will be watched for with the same word-parsing and interpretation of signs that a Seventh Day Adventist engages in while on the watch for apocalyptic Armageddon.
But what we're seeing now is the civil war.
Anyway, the first condition for troop draw-down-- a fully-activated and functioning constitutional government-- is speedily approaching as scheduled (which is remarkable in itself).
It's being critiqued by the very-hard-to-please war critics and sneered at by the impossible-to-please Bush-haters, saying how there is no wall between Mosque and State but a one-way bridge to sharia
, and therefore sets up a system that has more gender apartheid than was seen in Saddam's secular Baathist dictatorship, spites the minority status of the (insurgent-producing) Sunni minority, essentially establishes an Iranian twin, and so forth, but, again, that's just a talking down of Bush and All-Things-Bush the same way indeed that the splendid recovery of the traumatized U.S. economy was being talked down with Bush's presiding, talked all the way down to the absurd depths of Depression and Chapter 11 of the U.S. Treasury (Republicus has seen plenty of such hysterical claims; it is Bush who engages in fear mongering? Projection).
The Iraqi constitution is the most politically progressive document in the Muslim world.
Changing their angle, the hyper-critics then nitpick about the apparently-characteristic Bush cronyism or bemoan a deeper and dark "Neocon" machination and imperial puppetry exemplified by the weasly character of the Western-educated (Chicago University and MIT) Ahmed Chalabi, the deputy prime minister in Iraq and former interim oil minister ("A-ha!") and an erstwhile buddy of PNAC's Neoconservative Arch-Demon Paul Wolfowitz ("DOUBLE A-HA!!"),
AND a major intelligence-supplier regarding Saddam's WMD stockpiles and ties to Al Qaeda ("TRIPLE A-HA!!!
)," and whose face is plastered on the walls of Jordanian post-offices for, uh, ahem,
Yes. Excellent. But don't you see, my fellow Americans? We have a key governmental player in the highest eschelons of the Republic of Iraq--and who's from a family of Iraqi public servants, mind you-- whose opportunistic shenanigans resemble neither Saddam Hussein's iron-fisted brutalities nor the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa-slinging inquisitions, but instead a United States congressman's (D) own shenanigans during a typical day on Capital Hill.
What do you want? A WASPish Jeffersonian democracy? Fuhget about it. The Bible won't be on the best-seller list there anytime soon. Meet them halfway and give them free copies of Montesquieu's Persian Letters
to get their minds off of the Mediaeval falasifas and start them thinking like Enlightened philosophes and they're on their way.
As for the second condition, i.e. the readiness of the security forces, Republicus has watched them--from afar-- grow from reports of insurgent infiltration and sabotage... to cowardice and refusal to fight... to reports of them being killed by the dozens as they lined up at recruiting stations... to their receiving of high marks as they fought alongside their liberators.
As a compliment, the ancients would say: "They fight like Greeks."
The new Iraqi soldiers say, ambitiously, proudly: "We want to fight like Americans."
President Bush had this to say on Veteran's Day:
I have said as Iraqis stand up, Americans will stand down. And with our help, the Iraqi military is gaining new capabilities and new confidence with each passing month.
At the time of our Fallujah operations a year ago, there were only a few Iraqi army battalions in combat. Today, there are nearly 90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists alongside our forces.
General David Petraeus says Iraqis are in the fight. They are fighting and dying for their country and they're fighting increasingly well.
This progress is not easy, but it is steady. And no fair-minded person should ignore, deny or dismiss the achievements of the Iraqi people.
The chronic war-critics like to quibble about the number of the ready Iraqi battalions and the mettle of the soldiers, and talk-down the quality of that condition just as they talk down the quality of the first (i.e. of the consitutional government).
And when the cult of Bush-haters hear the president praising the improvement of the Iraqi military forces, they automatically assume he's lying (because he's a lying liar who tells lies, that's why, so there), and presume the opposite (i.e. that they'll be unable to withstand a counter-revolution against the new government and will drown beneath the first wave of an insurgent tide).
But to set the record straight, Republicus has been personally informed--on good authority--that the Iraqi security forces are--as the president assured-- in far better condition than what the war-critic and Bush-hater would have you believe.
A White House staffer, who was in tune to the relentless negativity ubiquitously dispersed by the antiwar crowd while stateside, was sent to Iraq and just recently returned.
Not sure what to expect, he was surprised--and very impressed-- with the professionalism, elan, and esprit de corps of the new battalions.
Wide-eyed, he described their performance in response to an incident in Baghdad as "Performing at the level of our own Special Forces."
"Really," asked Republicus, "Level 1?"
Really. Observing a lightning deployment in response to a terrorist alert and beholding a crack squad of Iraqi soldiers operating independently of any American sergeant, the words he found to describe them were, in all reverence, "Bad-ass," and "hardcore," saying they demonstrated determination, a fearlessness of death rivalling any terrorist's, and unequivocal--and lethal-- results.
These weren't the Keystone Cops.
Republicus raised concerns that these were interloping remnants of Saddam's elite Republican Guard, and were liable to flip, turning on their teachers (i.e. us), and/or rallying around the next despot (perhaps within their very ranks), destroying the new constitution, and making vain the hopes, dreams, and sacrifices for victory, freedom, and peace.
No, Republicus was informed. This new generation of Iraqi soldiers think Iraqi
, not Tikriti, Baathist, Shia, Sunni, or Kurdish.
Which is very good news.
So when the troops do start coming home, ignore the second-guessing that will gloat that Bush has caved to the antiwar crowd's demands and has conceded defeat, leaving the Iraqis to their own devices and disaster, and be assured that yet another phase of the mission has been accomplished.
On a brighter note--for the Bush-haters-- the same staffer did confirm the rumours that spats have erupted in the White House, most notably between the president and the vice president.
The vice president was overheard telling the president something to the effect of: "I'm getting tired of bailing you out of your messes."
There's a bone for ya, Jeff. Gnaw on that.