Thursday, January 11, 2007

King George Speaks

I thought last night's speach from the President was very, very interesting. From a purely observational angle, he started off wooden, cold, and frankly, mechanic. He was delivering lines about terrorists and deaths as if he were talking about the latest Chicago Bear first down. I've never seen the President that bad in a public forum before. He came pretty close in the 2004 debate with Kerry that I blogged about, but even then, he still had his trademark arrogance and self-righteousness. But last night, I was shocked. He looked like a beaten man who was out of options. He warmed up after about 10 minutes and became a bit more typical Bush, but the strongest impression I had was that he looked done.

Strategically, I thought last night's speech was brilliant. The people that work for the King are truly crackerjack smart and they cleverly worded his speech to make it sound like the President's plan was carefully thought out and based on the recommendations of his generals, the Iraq Study Group Report, academics, and diplomats. Of course, his plan clearly isn't based on any of that, in fact, increasing troop numbers is in direct conflict with pretty much the consensus of all of those people, but hey, good job in spinning something outright false to make it sound true.

I also thought it was very clever in how the speech constrasted two conditions: the great benefits from a peaceful, American friendly and democratic Iraq versus the great dangers of a failed, hostile, militant Iraq. Of course, they had to go with this strategy because they're short on details in the middle. It's debate 101. Talk about the great risks of failure as a mechanism to build support for a future that would be extremely palatable, if achievable.

Finally, I totally disagree with many on the left about this speech being "nothing new". In fact, the lefty blogosphere is kind of being a bit disingenous if you ask me. Their criticisms essentially fall into two categories: the speech was a pack of lies (true, but hardly unsurprising, it's politics) and there was nothing new here. Then they proceed to trumpet the lines of the various democrats who spoke on the issue last night (the only one of which that made competent and intelligent arguments was Barak Obama...don't get me started on John Edwards, that dude is a tool).

I find the current lefty approach totally uninspiring. The universal message is "troop redeployment" (apparently, everyone got the same memo). But I'm not convinced that's the best idea in the world. Not at this point. The bottom line is, Bush is right. We've got a serious problem in Iraq and if we don't deal with it, it's going to make things that much worse for US interests and the interests of all the arab nations in the Middle East. (Never mind that this is a problem of his own creation. The time for blame is election season. This is the time for finding a solution and getting it done.)

I fail to see how troop redeployment could further the goal of bringing peace and security to Baghdad or eliminating the insurgency. It is certainly true that US presence in Iraq fuels the insurgency, but stating the converse, that removing US troops would reduce the insurgency, it a failure of basic logic.

That's why I think the only person who made much sense last night was Barak Obama. He was the only one to coherently say that the failure with the President's approach is that it is a military strategy to a political problem. And he's right. Fundamentally, Bush's plan is fatally flawed because it doesn't acknowledge that failing a political solution, the insurgency will continue indefinitely, just ask any Colombian about that. (And this is why we gotta get that Obama fellow into the White House with General Clark as his VP. We need smart people that can see the forest from the trees, something the current administration can't do.)

At any rate, I think that part of the President's plan actually makes some sense and that's the part about imbedding US troops with Iraqi divisions. I don't know if this is going to work, but I do think it's a good shot. From what I've read, the Iraqi troops are extremely divided. The old guard don't trust the US forces and the new guard don't trust the old guard. Putting the US in the middle might just help resolve some of those differences. Being shot at certainly helps to solidify loose alliance. So, I don't know if this step is going to help, but I think it's a good step toward progress.

That being said, the 21,500 additional troops that King George is sending to Iraq are going to come from Afghanistan and that's terrible news. More than anything, this is why I oppose sending more troops. If we had 21,500 troops sitting at home, trained, armed, and ready to go, then I'd say give it a shot (as long as the strategy combined elements of a political solution as well). But we don't have that. We're already stretched thin as it is. To redeploy troops fighting the Taliban, The Organization that was behind 9/11 is just pure madness to me. If we lose in Afghanistan, a country where real progress has been made, and in Iraq, I think we're in for big trouble. So, I'm very concerned about this latest development.

The next few weeks will see some clever politicking on both sides of the aisle. The Dems are most likely to attach conditions ("benchmarks") to the President's funding requests, while the Pres is likely to go around the country giving variations of last night's speech to drum up support. All of that is fascinating (in a "look at the accident on the side of the road as you drive by" sort of way), but I'm more focused at this point on what's actually happening on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. The politics of all of this are just too dirty.


Side note: I dreamed last night that the Bears beat the Seahawks 26-6 in this weekend's playoff matchup. Bear's defense destroyed Hasselback and Alexander, while their running game at up yards and accounted for two scores. Grossman didn't play well, got benched, then got sent back in again in the 4th quarter and got a score. Hester had a long return, but fumbled out of bounds at the 5, leading to a Bears FG.

I dream in detail.

Go Bears.

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