Saturday, March 17, 2007

From Where Should We Expect Better Iraq Policy?

A couple of days ago in The Long Exit David "Babbling" Brooks attacked those who suggest that Iraq's government is shirking its duties. You know, the liberal democrats who say things like this:
Iraqi leaders must step up to achieve key political and security milestones on which they have agreed.
Or the weak-kneed, cut-and-run liberals who say things like "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency of Iraq." Apparently only Democrats like Carl Levin would say such absurd things:
The essential Levin argument was that the Iraqi leaders have been shirking their duties and it’s time to force them to get serious. “It is time for Congress to explain to the Iraqis that it is your country,” Levin declared. It is time to shift responsibility for Iraq firmly onto Iraqi shoulders, and give them the incentives they need to make the tough choices. The Democratic timetable resolution, Levin concluded, “will deliver a cold dose of reality to Iraqi leaders.”

But does anybody think that Iraqi leaders, many of whom have seen their brothers and children gunned down, need a cold dose of reality delivered from the U.S. Congress
Right, David... Surely no Iraqi leader would welcome troop withdrawal as a wake-up call to his countrymen.

People who criticize bloggers as reactive, with the majority doing no real reporting and simply commenting on events they read or see in the news, take note: At least, unlike David Brooks, they are taking the time to keep up with the news.

There is some merit to Brooks' criticism of Democrats as not wanting to join either of the two sides of the Iraq war debate - those who argue for withdrawal on the basis that"the place is headed for civil war, there’s nothing we can do to stop it, and we certainly don’t want to get caught in the middle,", or those who assert " We have to do everything we can to head off catastrophe ... We should perhaps build on the promise of the surge with regional diplomacy or a soft partition, but we certainly should not set timetables for withdrawal." But at the same time he paints a false dichotomy in order to contain the Democrats in the middle - there are other political, diplomatic and military options which could be pursued, but won't as long as Bush is in the White House. It might be nice in some respects if the Democrats were more forceful, but Brooks has to know that its not entirely honest to criticize them for disfavoring what could be a disasterous short-term pull-out while refusing to endorse Bush's continued wholesale ineptitude.
Say what you will about President Bush, when he thinks a policy is right, like the surge, he supports it, even if it’s going to be unpopular. The Democratic leaders, accustomed to the irresponsibility of opposition, show no such guts.
But Bush doesn't refuse to change his mind on bad policy because he's unafraid of the polls. He refuses to change bad policy because he's stubborn, and pathologically afraid of admitting that he has made mistakes.

Bill Kristol noted about four years ago that Bush had driven the nation into a ditch with his incompetent Iraq policy. Kristol does not seem so sure any more, recently writing "It should be obvious that 'staying the course" is a recipe for failure.'" But Brooks delights in riding shotgun with a President who, four years later, insists that he knew what he was doing when he drove into the ditch and, if he just keeps on doing exactly the same thing over and over again... well, he's not even promising that he'll get us out of the ditch. He's going to leave that job to the next President.

Is the surge, of itself, enough to get us out of the ditch? As I noted at the outset, albeit while forcing those who haven't been following the news to follow a link to get the whole story, the guy in charge of the surge, General Petraeus, doesn't think so. So when Brooks writes,
Liberals recognize the cynicism of it all. Republicans know the difference between principled opposition and unprincipled posturing.
Is he describing what he anticipates to be the reaction to his column? If Brooks had a backbone, perhaps he would choose which side he's on, then (assuming he's every bit the keyboard commando he appears to be) start describing concrete policy changes which will be necesseary to achieve success, and the measurable, sustained improvements that will serve as signs that we are, in fact, succeeding.

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