Thursday, December 07, 2006

Panel says: as you were

Of all that I’ve read recently and over the last few years involving our mission in Iraq and the President’s responses and actions, I’ve come to the conclusion that not many people really have a grasp of events and the big picture.  This is not a ringing endorsement of Republicans, who can be just as short term in their thinking as anyone, but a repudiation of critics of the Bush administration who are demanding that he change his stance on withdrawal of troops.

This is also not to say that Bush shouldn’t face certain amounts of criticism for his actions home and abroad.  However, we, as a nation of peoples, need to be honest with the facts and wider in our vision of what’s going on in the world.  It’s a fact that gets lost that Iraq is a smaller part of a greater struggle, and that accepting a certain amount of chaos there might be necessary for the larger struggle.  I.E. we’re losing a battle, not the war itself.  Don't quit now!

So now there’s this panel of folks intending to drive our policy in Iraq consisting, among others, of James Baker and Lee Hamilton.  They’ve come up with some recommendations going forward.  The President and Tony Blair have been reviewing them, and are correctly saying that they might implement some of them or many of them, but probably not all of them.  I don’t think that we can pretend that the Baker/Hamilton commission is a non-political one and that some of the recommendations it made are going to be sound and non-politicized. 

One of the things that struck me during this process was the Democratic realization (or, if they didn’t get this during the hearings I don’t know what it’ll take) that Bush is in fact listening to his military leaders and commanders in Iraq on what troop requirements they need.    Bush later said as much, that he didn’t want to make scheduled troop reductions and instead would listen to the advice of commanders in charge of Iraq related objectives.

Which makes sense, if you think about it.  What political advantage does Bush have in not reducing troop levels in the Middle East?  Really, if he didn’t think he needed the troops over there, he could start bringing some home and build some political capital with the moderates here in the States. 

      The president said he would take the recommendations seriously. But he noted, "Congress is not going to accept every recommendation in the report and neither is the administration."

      Asked specifically whether U.S. combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by 2008, Bush said that "we'd like our troops out as fast as possible," but that "our commanders will be making recommendations based upon whether we can achieve our objectives."

      Asked bluntly if he was still in denial about the situation in Iraq, Bush grew emotional. "I talk to the families who die," he said. "I also understand how brave our men and women who wear the uniform are. I understand how hard it is on wives and families, especially as we come into the holiday season." Still, Bush said, he believes U.S. and British forces will prevail.

      "Our job is to help the forces of moderation," he said. Calling Sept. 11 "a wake-up call for the American people," he said that "a threat overseas can come home to hurt us here.… I wouldn't have our troops in harm's way if didn't believe that."

I think the President, while not a perfect human being, gets the big picture still.  As the leader of this nation who makes the tough decisions, I would hope that he listens to advice and decides what makes sense in light of the global situation and what doesn’t.  Some of what the commission above recommends might make good sense.

But it’s still apparent that the press doesn’t get the global aspect to what we’re trying to accomplish in Iraq.  I don’t know what purpose asking the President if he’s in denial about the situation in Iraq is supposed to accomplish other than to try and rankle the President and get some sound bite that can be used against him later.  Indeed, the President, by virtue of his position and security clearance, is much more in touch with reality than the press.  If the press people are truly wondering why the President talks in such positive terms about a tough situation, perhaps they should all take a course in positive thinking.  People in positions of leadership commonly talk in positive terms when managing a project or mission that must succeed.  Which doesn’t mean that they aren’t also grappling with the difficulties on the ground.

  It’s apparent that DC press and media people are, in fact, out of touch with reality, just as it’s apparent that congress-people are increasingly out of touch in their insular Washington environment.

Jonah Goldberg on the Corner:

      I've been thinking. As many have noted, the ISG's recommendations are mostly nothing new. The draw down of troops, the imbedding, the training, the pressure on the Iraqis etc, etc: all of these things are either already being tried, have been tried or are about to be tried. The report undercuts the Murtha crowd by delegitimizing the quick bug-out (AKA redeployment) option and makes staying in Iraq at least until '08 the "conventional" or "mainstream" point of view.

      For Bush, isn't this the only part of the ISG report that matters? And when it comes to the actual situation in Iraq, the report basically confirms established policies of the White House and the Pentagon. So, in effect, doesn't the heralded bipartisan commission in effect give Bush the leeway to — ahem — stay the course?

      Of course, the ISGers want Bush to endorse the entire report, hence all of that boilerplate about how everything reinforces everything else etc etc. They could never contemplate that such Olympian wisdom might be dissected. Could it be that this was the price Baker had to pay to Panenta and others to get agreement? Because it seems to me that Bush is perfectly at liberty, politically speaking, to cherry pick policies from  the report that  he likes and disregard the rest. And when he does so he can say he is following the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Critics can complain he's not buying all of them, but that's hardly going to be a devastating complaint. Indeed, what are critics going to say? That he can't follow the ISG's advice on increasing troops for training without also haggling with Syria over Israel?  I doubt it.

My emphasis.  This should all be a real wake up call to those who insist that Bush can do nothing right, but I’m sure they’ll find some way to spin this in the other direction.

More from Instapundit:

      COMMENTS ON THE ISG REPORT, from Sgt. T.F. Boggs, back from his second deployment in Iraq. Excerpt: "I thought old people were supposed to be more patient than a 24 year old but apparently I have more patience for our victory to unfold in Iraq than 99.9 percent of Americans. Iraq isn’t fast food--you can’t have what you want and have it now."

On another political note, please pay attention to the heroics of two Senators, Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint.  They’ve engineered a continuing resolution that effectively prevents over 10,000 of the earmarks from the remaining appropriations bills for the year. 

      Because of the courageous work of a few senators, led by Coburn and DeMint, taxpayers will save billions. And, from all indications, the fireworks will continue. Armed with a bagful of wrenches, you can expect Coburn and DeMint to shut down the liberals' big-government machine if (or more likely when) it starts up next year in the 110th Congress.

There are many of us out there with actual conservative values that believe that the federal government should not be used in the callous cash-cow way that Senators have treated it for decades now.  But since both Republicans and Democrats have been treating it so, what hope did we have that the chain would be broken and someone courageous would stop the bleeding.

I see a light up ahead.

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