Can Gen. Petraeus turn war in Iraq around?

Jewish World Review Victor Davis Hanson March 15, 2007

The verdict on four years of fighting in Iraq hinges on the events of the next few months.

With the U.S. public and many politicians intensely skeptical that a changed military strategy can salvage the war, the U.S.’s new commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, must win them all over — and fast.

Petraeus takes over on the heels of the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the departures from Iraq of Gens. John Abizaid and George Casey, and the electoral gains of anti-war Democrats.

[ … ]

But has a single commander ever made much of a difference in almost instantly turning around an entire theater?

In fact, yes. The once relatively unknown Gens. Ulysses S. Grant, Curtis LeMay and George S. Patton all found renown only after replacing their failed predecessors. Indeed, in almost every war, on occasion a single general can so radically change the pulse of the battlefield that a political victory becomes possible where once the public thought it was utterly improbable.

. . . more


23 thoughts on “Can Gen. Petraeus turn war in Iraq around?

  1. Hanson is correct to identify General Petraeus as one of the most important figures in middle-east today. Petraeus is the one bright shinging light in an otherwise bleak situation in Iraq.

    During late 2003 and 2004 Petraeus was given comand of the area around Mosul and was able to keep that area relatively peaceful while the situation elsewhere in Iraq deteriorated. Petraeus employed aggressive community outreach, regular communication with local leaders and sensitivity to Iraqi cultural and political concerns, staying faithful to the classic rules of counter-insurgency which emphasize winning hearts and minds. He deliberately avoided the use of brute force tactics, such as busting down doors at 2am and dragging people away, that were used by other units, such as General Odierno’s 4th ID, and which created intense hostility against Americans elsewhere in Iraq.

    The fact that US Generals such as Petraeus and Odierno were employing such wildly contrasting tactics in dealing with the Iraqis during the first year of the occupation points to the lack of leadership from above, and specifically from Secretary Rumsfeld.
    That the new Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, appointed Petraeus is a hopeful sign. However, the situation in Iraq is much more dangerous now than it was before, having metastasized from an insurgency to a wider low-level civil war.

    Also, Petraeus has to work within the context of overall US policy, which if flawed, (as it was before) may be counter-productive to the General’s best eforts. One has to wonder for example why so much of the new “surge” is directed at the Shiites in Baghdad’s Sadr city, rather than the much more hostile Sunnis in Al Anbar province who have been responsible for most of the attacks against American servicemen. Is this Vice-President Cheney’s office trying to stir up mischief again, instigating a war against Iran by threatening their Shiite clients in Iraq?

  2. Hanson keeps up his typical line of babble.

    All of his historical examples, save one, deal with conventional wars. Unexpected and brilliant tactics can have dramatic results if applied against organized armies. A town (Atlanta) can be taken. A conventional front can be rolled back (Korea).

    But notice something interesting about Hanson and his ilk.

    Where are the successful counter-insurgencies? He dealt with exactly one – South Africa.

    Notice how he phrased it:

    Take, for example, the Boer War between a colonial Great Britain and the Afrikaners of South Africa. Its first year (1899) proved disastrous for British forces. Their conventional forces were ill prepared for guerilla ambushes by Afrikaner irregular sharpshooters and cavalry. But with the appointment of Lord Kitchener in 1900 came the creation of British commandos and new tactics, leading to a British victory and an eventual settlement.

    What were those new tactics that led to victory?

    Stunning new cavalry tactics? Amazing new battle formations for infantry troops? What, in deed, were they?

    Well, here they are:

    After September 1900, when the war had become mainly a guerrilla conflict, Australian troops were deployed in sweeping the countryside and enforcing the British policy of cutting the Boer guerrillas off from the support of their farms and families. This meant the destruction of Boer farms, the confiscation of horses, cattle and wagons and the rounding up of the inhabitants, usually women and children. These civilian captives were taken to concentration camps where, weakened by malnutrition, thousands died of contagious diseases. By mid-1901 the war for the Australians was characterised by long rides, often at night, followed by an attack on a Boer farmhouse or encampment (laager) at dawn. The skirmishes were often minor, involving small Boer forces quickly overwhelmed by superior numbers. There were occasional fights between the Australians and larger Boer forces, but encounters with Boer commandos were rare.

    To win, the British invented the Concentration Camp, and they stocked it full of Boer women and children. Hanson knows this, of course, which is why he didn’t actually delve into any details on how the good Lord Kitchner came about his hard-won success in the horn of Africa.

    The other examples of Sherman et al are not applicable to a guerilla war, but the example of Kitchner might be. Except, of course, that anyone who believes the public inside the United States would stand for genocide on the scale of South Africa is simply deluded about where he lives.

    The U.S. will not conduct a genocide as done by Kitchner. We won’t even conduct one on par with our actions in the Phillippines. In the modern era, with the press piping the damage into our living rooms, the American public has no stomach for mass slaughter or locking up women and children in order to force the men to stop fighting.

    Yes, I know that retribution against civilians is part and parcel of how Muslims retain control of the various societies in which they govern. However, we aren’t talking about Muslim sensibilities, we’re talking about the Christian and post-Christian sensibilities in the United States.

    There can be no climatic battle at Stalingrad. There can be no rounding up of civilians to break the will of the men fighting. Those two Hanson-themes are bogus.

    So what will work? How will, short of the terror tactics Muslims employ regularly on each other, do you plan to convince a large number of Muslims to stop fighting a foreign force occupying a slice of the Umma?

    Any volunteers wish to map out a strategy that works?

  3. Glen writes: “Any volunteers wish to map out a strategy that works?”

    Even if the Petraeus strategy is sound, I have at least two questions:

    1) will it work four years after the lid has already blown off, and

    2) given that, as one of Petraeus’ colonels said, a counterinsurgency strategy can take ten years or more to work, is the U.S. willing and able to keep the military in Iraq for that long?

    My guess is “no” on both counts.

  4. Barring a return of the draft, the US military will be broken before the end of the ten years or so of occupation that it takes for Iraq to stabilize. From the Washington Post:

    Military Is Ill-Prepared For Other Conflicts

    Four years after the invasion of Iraq, the high and growing demand for U.S. troops there and in Afghanistan has left ground forces in the United States short of the training, personnel and equipment that would be vital to fight a major ground conflict elsewhere, senior U.S. military and government officials acknowledge.

    More troubling, the officials say, is that it will take years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover from what some officials privately have called a “death spiral,” in which the ever more rapid pace of war-zone rotations has consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand.

    The risk to the nation is serious and deepening, senior officers warn, because the U.S. military now lacks a large strategic reserve of ground troops ready to respond quickly and decisively to potential foreign crises, whether the internal collapse of Pakistan, a conflict with Iran or an outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula. Air and naval power can only go so far in compensating for infantry, artillery and other land forces, they said. An immediate concern is that critical Army overseas equipment stocks for use in another conflict have been depleted by the recent troop increases in Iraq, they said.

    Heck of a Job, Bushie!

  5. Gen. Tony McPeak (retired): Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War:

    McPeak: McPeak: The worst case? Iraq’s Sunnis begin to be backed into a corner, then the Sunni governments — Jordan, Saudi Arabia — jump in. Israel sees that it’s threatened by these developments. Once the Israelis get involved, then everybody piles on. And you’ve got nuclear events going off in the Middle East. That would be about as bad as it could get.

    This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country’s international standing has been frittered away by people who don’t have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn’t make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.

    This will be the contribution of the conservative Christian political movement that will be most remembered by history – helping to elect the most incompetent and damaging US President in our nations history .

    Beyond Quagmire: A panel of experts agree that the war in Iraq is lost. The only question now is: How bad will the coming explosion be?

  6. I have to laugh Dean that you would cite McPeak as any type of source.

    He’s a political prostitute (and I don’t mean that as a slander against prostitutes. They at least generally have standards.). He’ll say and do anything political for the right amount of money.

    When I was on active duty he got his position as Chief of staff for the Air Force because of default. His predecessor Dugan had spoken about the Gulf War beyond what the White House wanted so he was replaced, unfortunately, it was with McPeak.

    So during Desert Shield/Storm while all the other military CinCs were concerned with the war. McPeak’s biggest concern was the new Air Force uniform (a rather nightmarish experience).

    When Clinton was in the White House he came out and said that women would never serve in the cockpit in aircraft under hostile conflict. A few weeks later the Clinton Administration came out with a policy that women would be allowed to pilot combat aircraft. McPeak was the first in line to say that this was an excellent idea. And why did he do this? Because he wanted the Chairman of the joint Chiefs position, which should have gone to the Air Force if tradition were followed and he sucked up to the administration with anticipation he would be selected for supporting the administration.

    For anyone to consider him as a reliable source of information — because citing any four star general that supports their beliefs as a source of proving a point — is a strong indication that they don’t know his history and do not understand the military(read clueless in these comments).

  7. Fine, JBL, Dean is a partisan hack.

    We all know Dean is a partisan hack. He completely ignores the blatant failures of the Clinton administration, while pining for Clinton III in the form of Hillary Clinton.

    So deal with my assessment of Victor Davis Hanson’s article. I do know history, and the military, and even a few things about Muslims.

    So where am I wrong in my assessment of this VDH article?

    If you can’t pound the civilian population into submission a la Kitchener in South Africa, just how do you deal with a recalcitrant group of disparate tribes bent on killing each other?

  8. Glen,

    Like all editorials Hanson’s is limited because of the amount of space that is allowed for publishing. There’s not enough space to go into every tactic used by the generals to effect change. So I don’t see Hanson focusing on that tactics that were used, but rather he’s pointing to the concept of changing ideas with the introduction of a new general. I see you reading into the article your bias and interpreting something out of it that isn’t there.

    As far as your comments about the Boer War and the Philippines you’ve taken rather simplistic interpretations of protracted complex campaigns. To argue that it was only Kitchener’s use of concentration camps that turned the tide of war shows a myopic view to re-enforce a bias to prove an argument. There’s more to the Boer War, because in use of a myopic biased argument it ignores the effectiveness of British troops in the later war stages (the Boer War was not one continuous war, but a series of conflicts) when they took the offensive with increased troop strengths. You might want to read up on the subject with Thomas Pakenham’s “Boer War” (even though it is a bit dated). More recent books on the subject are Martin Barthorp’s “Slogging Over Africa” and Gregory Fremont-Barnes’ summary “Boer War: 1899 – 1902”.

    Concerning the Philippines you should re-evaluate your views, because they’re tainted with some myths. Especially with how Pershing operated in the theater (wrapping dead Muslims in pig skins was not his main tactic). Not all American military tactics were abusive practices of oppressing the proletariat as Marxist historians like to portray the conflict.

    With your question about how do you fight counter insurgencies I recommend these books:
    John Nagl’s “Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife” which discusses the development of counter insurgency tactics since Malay.
    Thomas Hammes’ “The Sling and the Stone: on War in the 21st Century”
    And Robert Kaplan’s “Imperial Grunts”

    Because Hanson writes some general editorial about change being effected with a new general, it’s not proof of some failing in American military tactics to combat counter insurgency. There have been some incredible changes and adaptations by the military that has been missed by the general press. To paraphrase Lewis, when it comes to military issues the press seems to miss the elephant while focusing on the fern seeds in the elephant’s toes.

  9. Glen – I’m surprised by your comments. I don’t think that you would disagree with any of the following statements:

    1 – Invading Iraq was a mistake. The circumstances of the invasion, the shifting rationale for war, the flimsiness of the supporting evidence used as justification for war, and the inablilty to secure the backing of the UN compunded the mistake.

    2- Once in control of Iraq we botched the occupation. We failed to prevent looting and provide security. We failed to secure weapons sites and ammunition depots later used by the insurgents. We practically created the insurgency by disbanding the Iraqi army and Iraqi civil service, instantly making a half a million men with military training unenmployed, idle and angry. We allowed scandalous conditions to develop in Iraqi prisons, like Abu Ghraib creating information and images, that inflamed the Iraqi population and fed the insurgency.

    3- The middle east is far less stable and more dangerous now than it was in 2001. The possibility that Iraq could become the flashpoint for a wide regional conflict between Sunnis and Shiites and eventually drawing in the Israelis has increased dramatically.

    4- The US military is far weaker now than it was in 2001. Morale is low. Training and preparedness has fallen to all time lows. Units have been stretched to the breaking point by nearly non-stop deployments. Ammunition is drawn down and a large amount of our military equipment is in disrepair.

    The President of the United States as Commander and Chief and the princople government official responsible for the conduct of our nation’s foreign policy is the individual utimately responsible. In as much as US policies have failed, President George W. Bush bears the blame.

    So tell me again – talk to me – why these statements, which you probably agree with – make me a partisan hack.

  10. JBL –

    First of all, stuff your Marxist historian comment. Do you really think someone who speaks to one Republican club a month is reading Marxist histories? You confuse me with Dean.

    Dean doesn’t get speaking engagements at Republican Clubs. I do, because the Republican Party is my home.

    Hanson spends most of his time coming up with specious historical analogies to put a veneer of respectability on his policy bias. If this were his lone foray into this arena, then your defense of his limited space would be appropriate. However, this is not his lone editorial, but rather part of a pattern. Conservatives respect history and historical precedence, which is why VDH continuously looks for historical analogies to validate current administration policy, even if it means re-interpreting the meaning of the wars between Athens and Sparta to somehow make it about Iraq.

    Let’s get this straight. Are you claiming that post-1900 the use of concentration camps by Kitchener was NOT the decisive factor in forcing the Boer’s to stop fighting? Surely other tactics were employed, but what was the most important method for crushing the Boers?

    There was no proletariat in the Phillippines. It was a village-based agrarian economy. The Phillippines were then, as now, a geographic accident rather than a cohesive nation. The right-wing in the U.S. vigorously opposed the annexation of the Phillippines, while progressives like Teddy Roosevelt were enamored with the idea of an empire for liberty and introducing the U.S. into the ‘great game.’

    Let’s get this exactly straight. Are you saying that the U.S. did not engage in widespread atrocities in order to stop the fighting? I am not accusing all U.S. service personnel of engaging in atrocities, but the fundamental tactic of the former Indian fighters was to crush the rebellion by making civilians feel the sting for insurgent activities.

    You do, of course, understand that General Jacob Smith and other officers were court martialed towards the end of the first phase of the insurrection in 1902? The activities of the U.S. military in the Phillippines is well-known, and we are not talking about Pershing when he commanded forces in the South years later.

    The fact is that tactics like this work. They really work. Whether you are discussing the dirty wars in Latin America, the Boer War, the method by which the Muslim armies used terror to retain control in the Balkans, or the way in which the U.S. convinced the Filippinos to stop fighting. There may be some carrots or some other niceties involved, but it isn’t ‘winning hearts and minds’ that ends insurgencies.

    It’s drowning them in blood that ends them. When the men know their wives and children can’t be left undefended then they stay home instead of hitting the bush to fight the invaders. Insurgency is modern-day activity, in classical societies insurgencies were choked off before they began because the ancients would have just killed all the women and children, thereby destroying the society with whom they were at war.

    I asked you for your opinion, and you give me book recommendations. Fine, Nagi is a dolt. He assumes that the organizational behavior of the British Army explains its success while the OB of the U.S. army explains our failure in Vietnam. The two situations were not even close, and even he admits that the Brits were traditionally a colonial police force while Americans are not natural imperialists.

    I’ve read Kaplan. I don’t agree with him. Of course, that is just my ‘bias,’ because my opinion must be illogical and grounded on my own Marxist thinking.

    That is, that must be the case because it is opposed to your opinion JBL which couldn’t possibly be clouded by mistaken loyalty to a liberal, neo-socialist President like George W. Bush to the betrayal of your supposed conservative principals.

    Neat trick you pull. If I agree with you I’m clear thinking, as are the authors whose work you support. If I disagree with you, then I am deluded, irrational, and a Marxist.

    How nice to live in your little world.

    The fact is that the U.S. is attempting to defeat a counter-insurgency in Iraq without the aid of terror. We guarantee the safety of civilians, except when our ROE call for heavy weapons, and then attempt to win hearts and minds and gather support for a government in Baghdad.

    The ultimate success or failure of this endeavor in Iraq is dependent on getting Muslims of two different sects and multiple different tribes to co-exist in a peaceful, democratic society that reflects Western values to a large degree.

    In the end, JBL, you are arguing that Islam is irrelevant, that Muslims in Iraq can transcend their own religion, and that we can help them to be something no Muslim population has ever been. We have to do that, because crushing them is out-of-the-question.

    Americans won’t support the types of tactics that Pinochet or Saddam or the British used to crush insurgencies. We won’t. It’s not us, we can’t do it. So that leaves us dependent on making nice with the Muslims, because crushing them is out of the question.

    Americans don’t like these types of wars, they get tired of them quickly. As a people, we always have. The dolts in Washington should have understood that before getting us involved in this.

    Keep up the good work JBL, so far it’s gone excellently. May be we can promise them all camels in Iraq as a bribe to stop fighting?

  11. Re post #9 –

    I do not disagree with anything you said. I disagree that any Democrat currently running will do beans about anything you have pointed out.

    Chuck Hagel would. So would Ron Paul. But on the Democratic side? Nation-building through violence is a staple of Democratic life. The anti-war left will, eventually, hold its nose and get behind the Democratic nominee the same as it did when it got behind John Kerry.

    That ended in fiasco, because Kerry had no discernible position on the war. He voted for it, but opposed it. When offered a chance to call it a mistake, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t decide if he were anti-war or a hawkish war hero.

    In the end, he failed. The genesis of the current Iraq War was actually the Clinton Administration. They set Saddam up as this giant, on-going threat. Even when campaigning against the Iraq War in 2004, anti-war candidates like Howard Dean were promising military action in Liberia.

    Criticizing Bush is fine. I think everyone should do it. But you have to be realistic about the Democrats. The Iraq War is actually a military action that is wholly conceivable as a Democratically run operation, just like the War in Vietnam. That war was conceived of as an international corollary to the ‘Great Society’ domestic program of Lyndon Johnson.

    For my money, the action is with right-wing conservatives of the Ron Paul and Chuck Hagel variety. In fact, I have been gratified to see liberals taking stands behind both these gentlemen. That is primarily because they have been saying things that liberals would never dream of saying, like Chuck Hagel advocating impeachment for George Bush, and not even apologizing about it.

    Hagel has an 87% lifetime ACU rating.

    Both men are solidly pro-life and have other traditionally conservative stances. I am afraid that many Democrats, therefore, will reject them and stick with the Democratic nominee. Whether Obama or Hillary, the Democratic nominee is 100% guaranteed to stay in Iraq, come Hell or high water, until after 2012.

    At the same time, a future Democratic president will NEVER refrain from running around the world playing global policeman. Interventionist foreign policies are just the nanny-state writ large. Asking a statist to refrain from meddling is like trying to dry out a drunk, it isn’t going to happen.

    So, why did I call you a partisan hack? Because my sense is that you don’t see the problems with your own party, which are legion. You are as focused on the ills of the Republicans as others are on the ills of the Democratic Party.

    The ‘mainstream’ candidates of both parties are thoroughly statist, status quo types who will provide no leadership or vision on any topic. To proclaim that Hillary actually is the answer to anything is sheer, blind partisanship. She was on the inside during when most of this went wrong to begin with.

  12. Glen – While there are certainly elements of truth in what you say, I disagree with your conclusion that a Democratic President would have chosen to invade Iraq just like President Bush.

    In 2002, with the nation whipped into a frenzy of outrage and patriotic fervor following September 11th attacks, and President Bush enjoying all-time highs in public approval most Democrats were too cowardly and frightened to challenge his decision to invade Iraq. In 1990 most Democrats had opposed the war plans of the first President Bush and later regretted that decision when the first Gulf War ended in success. They didn’t want to make the same mistake twice, and deliberately ignored other indications that the second Gulf War could be a muich more risky venture.

    The mid-nineties saw a schism in the Republican foreign policy establishment. While President George HW Bush and his “realist” advisors were satisfied that liberating Kuwait was victory enough, another wing of the Republican establishment was bitterly disappointed that Saddam Hussein had not been deposed. Called the “neo-conservatives and associated with an organization called the Project for the New American Century, they began actively lobbying for a more aggressive approach towards Iraq. The concept of remaking the middle-east through regime change in Iraq was their creation.

    At least two things suggest that a Democratic president would not have invaded Iraq.

    First, the Neoconservatives included few Democrats and instead pressed their case with mostly Republican politicians. The Neocons enjoyed very little traction with the Clinton administration, which was committed to a policy of regime change through containment, deterrence and economic pressure through sanctions. There is no indication that Al Gore would have been more receptive to the Neocons or altered US policy towards Iraq significantly.

    Second, Gore would have retained most of Clinton’s foreign policy team, a team that regarded Al Qaeda and not Iraq, as America’s greatest foreign policy threat. The record shows that warnings about Al Qaeda by the Clinton advisors to the incoming Bush were largely ignored, and Clinton officials who were remained, like Richard C. Clarke, were downgraded and marginalized. In short, the Bush administration replaced a foreign team focused on Al Qaeda with a new foreign policy team comprised of Neocons focused on the objective of regime change in Iraq.

    It is also inconceivable that a Vice President Edwards, like Vice President Cheney would have set up an “Office of Special Plans” to look for, or manufacture, and disemminate unvetted evidence of an Iraqi threat because he did not trust the more cautious analysis provided by the official intelligence establishment at the CIA.

    In short, a President Gore, with the Clinton foreign policy team intact, would have focused on pursuing Al Qaeda and would considered the existing policy of containment, deterrence and economic sanctions an adequete response to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. If Al Gore was President we would not be in Iraq today.

  13. Dean –

    You mean the Clinton Administration that:

    1) Bombed Serbia
    2) Put troops on the ground in Hait, Kosovo, and Croatia
    3) Bombed Afghanistan
    4) Bombed Iraq multiple times

    Peace-loving bunch, just ask the Serbs. I can easily see President Gore whipping up the regime change express in Iraq, neo-cons or no neo-cons. You could be right, of course, that Gore wouldn’t have gone to Iraq but we’ll never know, will we?

    But then again, he might have gone to Iran. Or to some other place. A vote for a Democrat isn’t necessarily a vote for non-intervention, it is possibly a vote for a different kind of intervention, but that is not the same thing. None of the ‘mainstream’ Democrats are interested in ending the role of the U.S. as globo-cop. They are anti-Iraq War in the main, but they seem to have other wars in the offing.

    You also need to keep in mind that Hillary may actually be a huge, dyed-in-the-wool hawk. Everything I’ve read indicates that she is a seriously determined advocate of U.S. firepower being used to spread the blessings of Democracy to the 3rd World.

    Be careful what you wish for. The Dems may end up starting more wars.

    You might want to consider changing affiliation and voting for Chuck Hagel or Ron Paul, if you are most concerned about a non-interventionist foreign policy that is.

  14. There’s a time when a politician has to put political calculation aside and do what’s in the in the best long-term policy interests of the United States. I agree that Hillary Clinton may not know when that time is.

    Our nation has to make some very difficult choices in the next few years, not just about Iraq, but on Health Care, Engery Independence and the Budget Deficit. If we have a President who decides that the best course of action is to defer to special interests or the shifting winds of public approval, we could end up making the wrong decisions.

    In fact I would like to learn more about both Chuck Hagel and Sam Brownback. I admire Hagel’s brave and honest commentary about the war in Iraq and want to see if he applies those qualities to other important issues.

    Likewise with Sam Brownback, whose faith seems to me to be authentic and genuine. Brownback also opposed the “surge” in Iraq. Now I want to know where he stands on main issues: health care, energy independence, taxes and the deficit. Brownback may be the man to turn “compassionate conservatism” from the empty slogan it is now, into a substantiive set of proactive and meaningful policies.

    I’m mystified by the popularity of the other three GOP front-runners (who have 8 wives between them). Guiliani once supported public funding of abortions. Gingrich led the impeachment of Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal while he was having his own exra-marital affair. McCain is too emotionally volatile and has aggressively supported escalation of US forces in Iraq, thus tiying his fortunes to the outcome of the war.

  15. Dean –

    No surprise on the frontrunners. A large mass of Republicans have decided that the war trump everything. If you are pure on Iraq (meaning a Bush backer to the hilt) and you have a tough-guy image with name recognition, then all else is secondary.

    Which is why we are staring at the possibility of a thrice divorced social liberal running on the ‘family values’ ticket.

    But, this is the really twisted part, unless the Democrats also demand purity on the war the other way, here is what will happen. The Democratic nominee will waffle, obfuscate, and make gestures towards ‘winning in Iraq’ in order to try and appeal to independents and some Republicans.

    Liberals seem quite willing to allow this, because unlike Republicans, liberals can’t seem to decide if the Iraq War is problem number one or if it is health care, global warming, whatever.

    That means the Democratic candidate will likely run hawkish and actually attack the left wing of the party. Hillary is positioned to do this. The left-wing of the party will then lick its wounds and show up, because they’ll tell themselves, “Well, at least we’ll get health care reform, etc.”

    Result? Four more years in Iraq, because no way a Democrat is going to withdraw troops and then get lambasted like Truman did for ‘losing’ a whole country.

    If the liberals really, really put the war first and all other issues second, then regardless of the views that Hagel has on abortion or Brownback has on 2nd Amendment rights, or Ron Paul has on the Constitution, the liberals would be in there supporting them.

    But they haven’t gotten to that point. Which is why Obama or Hillary is going to con you. The Republicans already know they sold out, but they did so because of their signature issue – the War on Terror. Single-mindedness on the other side is sorely lacking.

    You’re going to compromise this election on way or the other. To my liberal friends, if the war is really the central issue in your minds, then right-wing candidates are the only ones addressing that.

  16. Duncan Hunter tried to shut down the work of the chief auditor investigating contractor fraud in Iraq.

    Congress Tells Auditor in Iraq to Close Office, NY Times, November 2, 2006

    Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

    And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

    The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.

    ..The termination language was inserted into the bill by Congressional staff members working for Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and who declared on Monday that he plans to run for president in 2008.

    I think this issue may come up.

  17. IMHO the ideal Republican candidate would combine social conservatism, foreign policy realism and economic moderation.

    Opposition to Roe v. Wade is highly defensible on both moral and legal grounds and the majority of the American public is, to a certain degree, more pro-Life than pro-Choice. They don’t want to see abortion criminalized, but they do want to see it discouraged.

    Neoconservate foreign policy has been a collosal failure that has made the world more dangerous. A shift back to the James Baker-Brent Scowcroft school of foreign policy, which puts more emphasis on diplomacy and multilateral cooperation, is in order for the ideal Republican candidate.

    The ideal Republican candidate will recognize the real danger posed by the massive growth in our national debt, just as the baby boomers are about to retire, and will not push to extend the Bush tax cuts which mostly benefit the very rich. The ideal Republican candidate will instead propose a solution to the Alternative Minimum tax which threatens to raise taxes for more and more of the middle class.

    Lastly, the Republican party risks sliding into irrelavency if it cannot address the kitchen table issues that affect American families, like health care, unemployment, the rising cost of education, wage stagnation and the widening income gap. The ideal Republican candidate is pro-family not only in his rhetoric, but in his economic policies as well.

  18. What does that tell you? It tells me that the Republicans have ceded too may critical issues to the Democrats, that the range of Republican priorities (Tax cuts, gay marriage, abortion and more tax cuts) is so narrow that the party risks fading into irrelavency.

  19. Well, perhaps, but again, the Dem’s won because a handful ran as conservatives, and the present leadership just isn’t get much traction. Time will tell of course, but I think you might be making the mistake of reading the last election as a mandate. Pelosi and company certainly are, but I think they might be surprised. Disaffection with the Rep’s is not translating into support of the Dem’s.

  20. Even the Wall Street Journal has commented on the need by Republicans to address the economic anxieties of the middle-class. Check out the chart wit the article below that shows GDP rising by 16% since 2002, but wages remaining flat.

    Bush Reorients Rhetoric, Acknowledges Income Gap

    Even before Republicans’ November defeat at the polls, some administration allies were warning that economic insecurity was eroding Republican support. A business coalition hired pollster David Winston to figure out why voters remained so dissatisfied with the economy. His focus groups of middle-income voters in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh found voters going deeper into debt to keep up with rising costs of health care and energy. Executive compensation “is getting to the point where it’s obscene,” said one focus-group participant.

    The more politicians talked about how good the economy was, the worse these voters felt. “It’s almost as if these folks are floating around in the ocean, watching the yachts and speedboats go by, thinking, ‘Hey, I’m here, someone notice me,'” says Dirk Van Dongen, a co-chairman of the coalition and president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. Mr. Winston advised Republicans: “Our message should be that while the economy is getting back on track, we need to do more to help people with the cost of living.”

    ..Over the past several months, debate inside the administration has shifted some. When he ran Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Mr. Paulson had invited former Clinton aides Gene Sperling and Princeton University labor economist Alan Krueger to brief him on the impact of globalization on wages and inequality. At a staff meeting soon after taking the Treasury post in July, he expressed puzzlement about the administration’s opposition to raising the minimum wage, a person familiar with the meeting says. He has dispatched Undersecretary Robert Steel, another Goldman alumnus, to scout for ideas to boost the lower middle class.

    Treasury Secretary Paulson is probably one of the best appointments George W. Bush has ever made – a brilliant man selected for his expertise, rather than his political sycophacy.

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