Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 26, 2008

Sprinting to the Finish

Condoleezza Rice is racing, circling the globe twice this month and last.  And after a grueling series of meetings in Washington, the secretary of state will be off again, this time to China to head the American delegation at the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.  When will she finally slow her frantic pace?  “January 20th, 12:01,” she replied  today while in New Zealand.  President Bush promised a “sprint to the finish line,” and Rice is doing the running.

Yet if she wants to complete Dubya’s ambitious end-of-term agenda-denuclearizing Iran and North Korea, brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians, winning the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and solving miscellaneous problems around the globe-Ms. Rice should travel less and paradigm change more.  In the short time left to her, she will not make any problem appreciably better if she sticks to her world view that only big powers count.  Why?  She’s relying on Russia and China to help her, but they don’t share her outlook or her goals.

Relying on Moscow and Beijing may permit her to make incremental advances in the next five months, but any little victories that result will prove to be meaningless for two reasons.  First, some of the problems she faces, such as the Iranian nuclear crisis, must be solved soon if they are not to end in catastrophe.  Second, the next president, eager to implement his own policy, will undoubtedly undo her temporary handiwork.

All this means Secretary Rice must fundamentally change her strategy if she wants success in any of the major problems she confronts.  Of course, it does not mean she will achieve her goals if she executes radical policy shifts, but it does mean she would at least have a chance of succeeding if she does so.  As it is, Madam Secretary is playing losing hands.

Neither Russia nor China is making any of the world’s problems better.  On the contrary, they’re the problem.  One of the crucial lessons of the last century is that democracies cannot build lasting partnerships with great-power communists and dictators.  If we could not do so then, why would we be able to do so now?

So, if Secretary Rice and her boss want to improve their legacies, they will have to admit they were wrong to rely on the Russians and the Chinese and start the formation of the coalition of free states that will be our only hope of achieving enduring solutions.

Condoleezza Rice is racing, circling the globe twice this month and last.  And after a grueling series of meetings in Washington, the secretary of state will be off again, this time to China to head the American delegation at the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.  When will she finally slow her frantic pace?  “January 20th, 12:01,” she replied  today while in New Zealand.  President Bush promised a “sprint to the finish line,” and Rice is doing the running.

Yet if she wants to complete Dubya’s ambitious end-of-term agenda-denuclearizing Iran and North Korea, brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians, winning the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and solving miscellaneous problems around the globe-Ms. Rice should travel less and paradigm change more.  In the short time left to her, she will not make any problem appreciably better if she sticks to her world view that only big powers count.  Why?  She’s relying on Russia and China to help her, but they don’t share her outlook or her goals.

Relying on Moscow and Beijing may permit her to make incremental advances in the next five months, but any little victories that result will prove to be meaningless for two reasons.  First, some of the problems she faces, such as the Iranian nuclear crisis, must be solved soon if they are not to end in catastrophe.  Second, the next president, eager to implement his own policy, will undoubtedly undo her temporary handiwork.

All this means Secretary Rice must fundamentally change her strategy if she wants success in any of the major problems she confronts.  Of course, it does not mean she will achieve her goals if she executes radical policy shifts, but it does mean she would at least have a chance of succeeding if she does so.  As it is, Madam Secretary is playing losing hands.

Neither Russia nor China is making any of the world’s problems better.  On the contrary, they’re the problem.  One of the crucial lessons of the last century is that democracies cannot build lasting partnerships with great-power communists and dictators.  If we could not do so then, why would we be able to do so now?

So, if Secretary Rice and her boss want to improve their legacies, they will have to admit they were wrong to rely on the Russians and the Chinese and start the formation of the coalition of free states that will be our only hope of achieving enduring solutions.

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Another Excuse –Enough Already

Susan Estrich was worried even before today:

Problem is, there aren’t enough Obama supporters yet to carry the election. It’s the folks in the middle, the folks who haven’t deecided, the folks who need convincing or are inclined not to like him, or are still smarting from the defeat of Hillary Clinton, who will decide this election. Did the foreign trip move them? . . . “They think they can’t lose,” one of the smartest people I know said to me this week, describing the attitude he sees on display in the Obama campaign. He isn’t the first one to say it. There was a crop of stories, as the trip was ending, suggesting that the Obama campaign, which used to pride itself on its openess and transparency as compared to the Clinton machine, has now abandoned openess and transparency in favor of tight controls, attacks on reporters who write less-than flattering pieces, and a particularly unattractive form of hardball that people who think they are on the way to the White House, or already there, often adopt. It will not serve him well.

That was before the umpteenth explanation of why Barack Obama didn’t visit the wounded troops– now he says he didn’t want to “distract them.” Then why make the arrangement originally? Or why not go quietly without the camera crew? McCain is now pouncing with a new ad that makes the “3 a.m.” ad look like beanbag.

When he pulls out these explanations — reminiscent of the “Republicans made me take the private financing” — he betrays not only arrogance, but contempt for voters. They will buy anything, he seems to be convinced. A smile, a glib explanation, and they won’t dare challenge my virtue, he suggests by coming up with explanations that defy belief.

Do regular folks care? Perhaps. The magnificent professor of the “Last Lecture,” Randy Pausch passed away. In a lovely obituary in the Washington Post we read Pausch’s advice:

“You get people to help you by telling the truth, by being earnest,” he said. “I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every day because hip is short-term. Earnest is long-term.”

And you wonder whether simple honesty, earnestness and decency really count. Or is it just hip, or hype as the case may be, that drives people? You wonder sometimes what the market will bear.

Susan Estrich was worried even before today:

Problem is, there aren’t enough Obama supporters yet to carry the election. It’s the folks in the middle, the folks who haven’t deecided, the folks who need convincing or are inclined not to like him, or are still smarting from the defeat of Hillary Clinton, who will decide this election. Did the foreign trip move them? . . . “They think they can’t lose,” one of the smartest people I know said to me this week, describing the attitude he sees on display in the Obama campaign. He isn’t the first one to say it. There was a crop of stories, as the trip was ending, suggesting that the Obama campaign, which used to pride itself on its openess and transparency as compared to the Clinton machine, has now abandoned openess and transparency in favor of tight controls, attacks on reporters who write less-than flattering pieces, and a particularly unattractive form of hardball that people who think they are on the way to the White House, or already there, often adopt. It will not serve him well.

That was before the umpteenth explanation of why Barack Obama didn’t visit the wounded troops– now he says he didn’t want to “distract them.” Then why make the arrangement originally? Or why not go quietly without the camera crew? McCain is now pouncing with a new ad that makes the “3 a.m.” ad look like beanbag.

When he pulls out these explanations — reminiscent of the “Republicans made me take the private financing” — he betrays not only arrogance, but contempt for voters. They will buy anything, he seems to be convinced. A smile, a glib explanation, and they won’t dare challenge my virtue, he suggests by coming up with explanations that defy belief.

Do regular folks care? Perhaps. The magnificent professor of the “Last Lecture,” Randy Pausch passed away. In a lovely obituary in the Washington Post we read Pausch’s advice:

“You get people to help you by telling the truth, by being earnest,” he said. “I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every day because hip is short-term. Earnest is long-term.”

And you wonder whether simple honesty, earnestness and decency really count. Or is it just hip, or hype as the case may be, that drives people? You wonder sometimes what the market will bear.

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McCain Missed A Chance

While Senator Barack Obama was on his world tour, Senator John McCain should have been busy—neither planning to speak at an Gulf Coast oil rig, visiting with the Dalai Lama, nor whining about his coverage in the press. Instead, McCain should have paid a visit to the Rio Grande Valley. There, of course, fifteen counties have just been declared federal disaster areas, thousands are still without power, and an assessed $750 million dollar clean-up task awaits. All this as a result of Hurricane Dolly.

The two contrasting images of the presidential candidates would have been staggering. Imagine: Obama assuring hordes of Germans that he is “a fellow citizen of the world” in the picturesque Berlin Tiergarten; McCain, donning a slicker, assuring the citizens of South Texas that the federal government will not allow this to be another Hurricane Katrina. It would have contrasted a sprightly Obama with a sober McCain; an arrogant, high-flying orator with a person conscious of the needs of average Americans. This is exactly the message McCain has been unable to send successfully.

In addition to further delineating himself from Obama, McCain could have accomplished something else. By visiting the scene as the disaster unfolded, McCain could have silenced some critics and assured voters that his candidacy is not a continuation of the Bush administration. Bush has to this day not been able to recover from the political hit he took after Hurricane Katrina. McCain would have been politically smart to distance himself from this element of the Bush administration’s legacy.

While Senator Barack Obama was on his world tour, Senator John McCain should have been busy—neither planning to speak at an Gulf Coast oil rig, visiting with the Dalai Lama, nor whining about his coverage in the press. Instead, McCain should have paid a visit to the Rio Grande Valley. There, of course, fifteen counties have just been declared federal disaster areas, thousands are still without power, and an assessed $750 million dollar clean-up task awaits. All this as a result of Hurricane Dolly.

The two contrasting images of the presidential candidates would have been staggering. Imagine: Obama assuring hordes of Germans that he is “a fellow citizen of the world” in the picturesque Berlin Tiergarten; McCain, donning a slicker, assuring the citizens of South Texas that the federal government will not allow this to be another Hurricane Katrina. It would have contrasted a sprightly Obama with a sober McCain; an arrogant, high-flying orator with a person conscious of the needs of average Americans. This is exactly the message McCain has been unable to send successfully.

In addition to further delineating himself from Obama, McCain could have accomplished something else. By visiting the scene as the disaster unfolded, McCain could have silenced some critics and assured voters that his candidacy is not a continuation of the Bush administration. Bush has to this day not been able to recover from the political hit he took after Hurricane Katrina. McCain would have been politically smart to distance himself from this element of the Bush administration’s legacy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I heartily concur, Noah.

The IOC is starting to rank up there with the U.N. on the list of misguided international organizations we could do without.

No dog, or birthday or Christmas gifts? One more reason to leave kids out of a campaign. People get too much information.

It’s a bit long but the faux trip wrap-up briefing book is a good read — especially pages 8 and 9. The biggest problems from the trip, even MSM-types agree: not admitting error on the surge and still maintaining his opposition to a successful strategy.

“He’s not running for anything” seems like a lame excuse not to cover the story the MSM won’t cover. The story obviously knocked him out of VP contention. Shouldn’t the press explain why? You get cross-eyed trying to keep track of all the MSM’s double standards. (Imagine if this was one of the former GOP presidential contenders.)

Just like Karl Rove warned: think up your excuse and stick with it.

Would they be happier with President Cheney?

Exactly right, Jamie. But it is clarifying to see how the Left views Israel and wants to readjust American foreign policy, isn’t it?

I agree with all of them.

To make the quiz even harder, you can’t use “this is the moment” or any sentence with “citizens of the world.” Stumped, aren’t ya?

Going to love this in Youngstown. And people think Obama isn’t funny.

Given the choice between very good local press in key swing states and generally bad press in the big national newspapers (Wall Street Journal excepted) which would the McCain campaign rather have? ( Hint: If you don’t have to do it for your job and you read the New York Times voluntarily, you probably already decided not to vote for McCain. That’s why Fox matters a lot.)

If Michigan is this close this is a different race that the MSM has been covering/spinning. But a big “if.”

I heartily concur, Noah.

The IOC is starting to rank up there with the U.N. on the list of misguided international organizations we could do without.

No dog, or birthday or Christmas gifts? One more reason to leave kids out of a campaign. People get too much information.

It’s a bit long but the faux trip wrap-up briefing book is a good read — especially pages 8 and 9. The biggest problems from the trip, even MSM-types agree: not admitting error on the surge and still maintaining his opposition to a successful strategy.

“He’s not running for anything” seems like a lame excuse not to cover the story the MSM won’t cover. The story obviously knocked him out of VP contention. Shouldn’t the press explain why? You get cross-eyed trying to keep track of all the MSM’s double standards. (Imagine if this was one of the former GOP presidential contenders.)

Just like Karl Rove warned: think up your excuse and stick with it.

Would they be happier with President Cheney?

Exactly right, Jamie. But it is clarifying to see how the Left views Israel and wants to readjust American foreign policy, isn’t it?

I agree with all of them.

To make the quiz even harder, you can’t use “this is the moment” or any sentence with “citizens of the world.” Stumped, aren’t ya?

Going to love this in Youngstown. And people think Obama isn’t funny.

Given the choice between very good local press in key swing states and generally bad press in the big national newspapers (Wall Street Journal excepted) which would the McCain campaign rather have? ( Hint: If you don’t have to do it for your job and you read the New York Times voluntarily, you probably already decided not to vote for McCain. That’s why Fox matters a lot.)

If Michigan is this close this is a different race that the MSM has been covering/spinning. But a big “if.”

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Defining “Victory” in Iraq

As recently as the first half of 2007, the idea of an American victory in Iraq seemed like a fantasy to just about everyone, including me. General David Petraeus surged additional troops to Iraq, however, and he transformed the joint American-Iraqi counterinsurgency strategy into what nearly all observers now acknowledge is a remarkable and unexpected success. Few bother to argue otherwise anymore. What remains ambiguous and contested is the definition of an American victory.

It’s slightly tricky for a couple of reasons. Pinpointing the exact date when a counterinsurgency ends – not just in Iraq, but any counterinsurgency – is impossible. There are no final battles. There can’t be. And if we don’t know when the war is over, it can be difficult to figure out what over even means in the first place. So how will we know if we’ve won?

Part of the problem here is that the war in Iraq is usually thought of as a single war in Iraq. But there have been at least three wars in Iraq since 2003 – the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party regime, the civil war between Sunni and Shia militias, and the insurgencies against government and international forces waged by a constellation of guerrilla and terrorist groups. All three wars are distinct from each other, and two of the three are already over.

The war against Saddam Hussein and his government ended when the regime was overthrown and what remained of its army was disbanded. You might say it didn’t officially end until he was captured in December of 2003, but he effectively lost when he was demoted from absolute dictator to fugitive. No matter what else might happen, Saddam Hussein will never be considered victorious.

The civil war between Sunni and Shia militias likewise is over. We know that now because we can look back in hindsight. Not one single person was killed in ethno-sectarian conflict in May or June of this year. That particular conflict had been winding down since December of 2006 when the monthly casualties began freefalling in an almost straight line from a high of more than 2,000 a month down to nothing. Nobody won that war. It’s just over.

Casualties from insurgent warfare haven’t slacked off as completely, but they have almost slacked off as completely. If all violent trends continue in their current downward directions, this war, too, will taper off to non-existence or relative insignificance. We’ll know in hindsight, too, when that war finally is over after no has been killed by insurgents for a few months.

What looks now like the last dying gasp of the various anti-Iraqi insurgencies is all that remains of these various wars in Iraq. If attacks against the Iraqi government and multinational forces drop off to zero or near zero, it ought to go without saying that the insurgent groups will have lost and the counterinsurgents will have won.

Whether these wars were worth fighting or not may be debated forever. Determining the winners and losers, though, is short and obvious work as long as the three conflicts are properly understood to be separate.

As recently as the first half of 2007, the idea of an American victory in Iraq seemed like a fantasy to just about everyone, including me. General David Petraeus surged additional troops to Iraq, however, and he transformed the joint American-Iraqi counterinsurgency strategy into what nearly all observers now acknowledge is a remarkable and unexpected success. Few bother to argue otherwise anymore. What remains ambiguous and contested is the definition of an American victory.

It’s slightly tricky for a couple of reasons. Pinpointing the exact date when a counterinsurgency ends – not just in Iraq, but any counterinsurgency – is impossible. There are no final battles. There can’t be. And if we don’t know when the war is over, it can be difficult to figure out what over even means in the first place. So how will we know if we’ve won?

Part of the problem here is that the war in Iraq is usually thought of as a single war in Iraq. But there have been at least three wars in Iraq since 2003 – the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party regime, the civil war between Sunni and Shia militias, and the insurgencies against government and international forces waged by a constellation of guerrilla and terrorist groups. All three wars are distinct from each other, and two of the three are already over.

The war against Saddam Hussein and his government ended when the regime was overthrown and what remained of its army was disbanded. You might say it didn’t officially end until he was captured in December of 2003, but he effectively lost when he was demoted from absolute dictator to fugitive. No matter what else might happen, Saddam Hussein will never be considered victorious.

The civil war between Sunni and Shia militias likewise is over. We know that now because we can look back in hindsight. Not one single person was killed in ethno-sectarian conflict in May or June of this year. That particular conflict had been winding down since December of 2006 when the monthly casualties began freefalling in an almost straight line from a high of more than 2,000 a month down to nothing. Nobody won that war. It’s just over.

Casualties from insurgent warfare haven’t slacked off as completely, but they have almost slacked off as completely. If all violent trends continue in their current downward directions, this war, too, will taper off to non-existence or relative insignificance. We’ll know in hindsight, too, when that war finally is over after no has been killed by insurgents for a few months.

What looks now like the last dying gasp of the various anti-Iraqi insurgencies is all that remains of these various wars in Iraq. If attacks against the Iraqi government and multinational forces drop off to zero or near zero, it ought to go without saying that the insurgent groups will have lost and the counterinsurgents will have won.

Whether these wars were worth fighting or not may be debated forever. Determining the winners and losers, though, is short and obvious work as long as the three conflicts are properly understood to be separate.

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Got Him Off The Bench

It wasn’t too long ago that Republicans were bemoaning John McCain’s hesitance in going after his opponent. He was praising Barack Obama’s  patriotism too much, refusing to invoke Reverend Wright (and chastising his own supporters who did), and seemingly trying to float above the fray. That’s changed in a big way.

On Iraq McCain is personally going after Barack Obama in speeches and interviews. The message is broadening from the specifics of Iraq to judgment and character. His argument is three-fold.

First, McCain argues that Obama was wrong and made his judgment at the time for political convenience. He said yesterday:

Senator Obama made a different choice. He not only opposed the new strategy, but actually tried to prevent us from implementing it. He didn’t just advocate defeat, he tried to legislate it. When his efforts failed, he continued to predict the failure of our troops. As our soldiers and Marines prepared to move into Baghdad neighborhoods and Anbari villages, Senator Obama predicted that their efforts would make the sectarian violence in Iraq worse, not better. And as our troops took the fight to the enemy, Senator Obama tried to cut off funding for them. He was one of only 14 senators to vote against the emergency funding in May 2007 that supported our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would choose to lose in Iraq in hopes of winning in Afghanistan. But had his position been adopted, we would have lost both wars.Three weeks after Senator Obama voted to deny funding for our troops in the field, General Ray Odierno launched the first major combat operations of the surge. Senator Obama declared defeat one month later: “My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now.” His assessment was popular at the time. But it couldn’t have been more wrong. . . Senator Obama told the American people what he thought you wanted to hear. I told you the truth.

Second, McCain argues that Obama doesn’t understand the implications of a defeat — which is where we were heading without the surge — for America. He declared: “Senator Obama might dismiss defeat in Iraq as the current President’s problem. But presidents don’t lose wars. Nations do. And presidents don’t fight wars. You do, the men and women of the greatest fighting force in the history of the world.”

And finally he contends that Obama insistence that he still would oppose the surge makes him unfit to lead: “In retrospect, given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chooses failure. I cannot conceive of a Commander in Chief making that choice.” As he told the Columbus Dispatch:

I do know that he used the war for political reasons because no one, no one would refuse to acknowledge, no rational observer could refuse to acknowledge the success of the surge. And he still advocates a course that because of the left of his party, Moveon.org, etc., he still advocates a surge — excuse me, a date for withdrawal — that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and General Petraeus say is very dangerous. Very dangerous — not wrong, but dangerous.

Both the speech and interview are must-reads, both because of the force of the arguments and the fact that this is John McCain, who conservatives thought could never say a harsh word about a “Democratic friend,” dismembering his opponent limb-by-limb. If there were any doubt that this is where the election will be won — on disproving Obama’s character, judgment and readiness to lead — this should dispel those doubts. And if there is a better argument for McCain to make that can rally the conservative base and appeal to independents no one has yet found it. (Well, domestic energy production is a close second.)

McCain would do a lot worse for an ad than simply lifting Jamie Kirchick’s concluding paragraph from his recent piece:

To admit that his judgment was wanting on the subject of the surge would irreparably damage — if not kill — the Democratic narrative of the war. Admitting he was mistaken on something is a bridge too far for the supposedly post-partisan Obama to cross. Choosing a president this November, voters would do well to remember which candidate — during America’s darkest days in Iraq — called for retreat and which one presciently counseled a strategy for victory.

It wasn’t too long ago that Republicans were bemoaning John McCain’s hesitance in going after his opponent. He was praising Barack Obama’s  patriotism too much, refusing to invoke Reverend Wright (and chastising his own supporters who did), and seemingly trying to float above the fray. That’s changed in a big way.

On Iraq McCain is personally going after Barack Obama in speeches and interviews. The message is broadening from the specifics of Iraq to judgment and character. His argument is three-fold.

First, McCain argues that Obama was wrong and made his judgment at the time for political convenience. He said yesterday:

Senator Obama made a different choice. He not only opposed the new strategy, but actually tried to prevent us from implementing it. He didn’t just advocate defeat, he tried to legislate it. When his efforts failed, he continued to predict the failure of our troops. As our soldiers and Marines prepared to move into Baghdad neighborhoods and Anbari villages, Senator Obama predicted that their efforts would make the sectarian violence in Iraq worse, not better. And as our troops took the fight to the enemy, Senator Obama tried to cut off funding for them. He was one of only 14 senators to vote against the emergency funding in May 2007 that supported our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would choose to lose in Iraq in hopes of winning in Afghanistan. But had his position been adopted, we would have lost both wars.Three weeks after Senator Obama voted to deny funding for our troops in the field, General Ray Odierno launched the first major combat operations of the surge. Senator Obama declared defeat one month later: “My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now.” His assessment was popular at the time. But it couldn’t have been more wrong. . . Senator Obama told the American people what he thought you wanted to hear. I told you the truth.

Second, McCain argues that Obama doesn’t understand the implications of a defeat — which is where we were heading without the surge — for America. He declared: “Senator Obama might dismiss defeat in Iraq as the current President’s problem. But presidents don’t lose wars. Nations do. And presidents don’t fight wars. You do, the men and women of the greatest fighting force in the history of the world.”

And finally he contends that Obama insistence that he still would oppose the surge makes him unfit to lead: “In retrospect, given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chooses failure. I cannot conceive of a Commander in Chief making that choice.” As he told the Columbus Dispatch:

I do know that he used the war for political reasons because no one, no one would refuse to acknowledge, no rational observer could refuse to acknowledge the success of the surge. And he still advocates a course that because of the left of his party, Moveon.org, etc., he still advocates a surge — excuse me, a date for withdrawal — that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and General Petraeus say is very dangerous. Very dangerous — not wrong, but dangerous.

Both the speech and interview are must-reads, both because of the force of the arguments and the fact that this is John McCain, who conservatives thought could never say a harsh word about a “Democratic friend,” dismembering his opponent limb-by-limb. If there were any doubt that this is where the election will be won — on disproving Obama’s character, judgment and readiness to lead — this should dispel those doubts. And if there is a better argument for McCain to make that can rally the conservative base and appeal to independents no one has yet found it. (Well, domestic energy production is a close second.)

McCain would do a lot worse for an ad than simply lifting Jamie Kirchick’s concluding paragraph from his recent piece:

To admit that his judgment was wanting on the subject of the surge would irreparably damage — if not kill — the Democratic narrative of the war. Admitting he was mistaken on something is a bridge too far for the supposedly post-partisan Obama to cross. Choosing a president this November, voters would do well to remember which candidate — during America’s darkest days in Iraq — called for retreat and which one presciently counseled a strategy for victory.

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The Obfuscator

A terrific David Frum column on Barack Obama’s Berlin speech:

Obama’s vague language is the product of an unrealistic mind. He denies the reality of conflict — and flinches from the obligations of self-defense. Obama has risen to power by using a soothing cloud of meaningless words to conceal displeasing truths and avoid difficult choices. His more worldly supporters will quietly whisper that Obama thinks more incisively than his speeches suggest. Let’s hope so. Yet the speech in Berlin should cause us all to wonder: Maybe Obama’s mind really is as foggy as his language.

What I’ve always found ironic about the Obama candidacy is that it is most feverishly supported by people who consider themselves far more intelligent than the average American.

A terrific David Frum column on Barack Obama’s Berlin speech:

Obama’s vague language is the product of an unrealistic mind. He denies the reality of conflict — and flinches from the obligations of self-defense. Obama has risen to power by using a soothing cloud of meaningless words to conceal displeasing truths and avoid difficult choices. His more worldly supporters will quietly whisper that Obama thinks more incisively than his speeches suggest. Let’s hope so. Yet the speech in Berlin should cause us all to wonder: Maybe Obama’s mind really is as foggy as his language.

What I’ve always found ironic about the Obama candidacy is that it is most feverishly supported by people who consider themselves far more intelligent than the average American.

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No Real Answer

Bob Herbert is the latest of the liberal pundits to be flummoxed by Barack Obama’s refusal to admit the surge has turned our fortunes around in Iraq and that it was a good thing it did. So what to do? Attack John McCain, of course. Herbert writes:

Senator McCain crossed a line that he shouldn’t have this week when he said that Mr. Obama “would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” It was a lousy comment, tantamount to calling Mr. Obama a traitor, and Senator McCain should apologize for it.

Lousy? But why? He doesn’t say why it was wrong, just that it is mean to say it. But it is not wrong, of course. As McCain explained in his radio address today:

Back here in the country that we are competing to lead, a lot folks were having trouble trying to square Senator Obama’s multiple positions on the surge in Iraq. First, he opposed the surge and confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge. But now that it’s clear that the surge has succeeded, and brought victory in Iraq within sight, Senator Obama can’t quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment. Instead, he commits the even greater error of insisting that even in hindsight, he would still oppose the surge. Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory. That’s not exactly my idea of the judgment we seek in a commander-in-chief.

It is the bolded portion which provides the most support for McCain’se proposition. In other words Obama would prefer to have the non-surge Iraq, an American defeat and humiliation and chaos in Iraq. But no, his defenders say, he just thinks the surge wasn’t needed and everything would be just fine now without it. (To be consistent we could have to posit it would be exactly the same as Iraq with no U.S. troops since Obama voted in May 2007 to cut off all funding for troops in Iraq.) There are two problems with that one.

First, it’s fantasy-land stuff. No U.S. military leader, outside observer, Iraqi official or military leader or allied leader thinks that is true. (Not even Katie Couric does.)This is the magic theory of national security. If Obama wants to defend himself on the grounds he’s a naif that’s fine I suppose, but even he says the surge reduced violence.

Second, this is not the reason Obama gave for saying even now he wouldn’t embrace the surge. He said he’d liked to have used the money elsewhere and he wants to implement a surge in Afghanistan. (I know– you can’t make this stuff up.) But in all that he didn’t say anything about Iraq being just fine without the surge. Once again, it is clear he doesn’t much care about the outcome there and didn’t much care all along if we lost in Iraq.

So back to McCain’s accusation. It seems fairly clear that the “losing a war” part of McCain’s argument is rather airtight. That has been the netroot argument all along — Iraq is not our fight, it is irrelevant to fighting Al Qaeda and so we can leave. (They like to say “leave” or “withdraw,” but “withdraw” when your side is in peril is known as “retreat.” And what follows is “defeat.”)

Well then, maybe McCain overstepped on the “for political gain” part of the the construct. Maybe Obama thought his position was really brave and daring and he wasn’t playing to the gallery. Yeah, right. This has been the rallying cry for his campaign, the ticket to the nomination and the item he used to beat Hillary Clinton into submission. So at the very least, he followed a path which maximized his political advantage at every turn. (Again he might claim he was woefully uninformed and despite independent experts, testimony of General PetraeUs and Ambassador Crocker, and reports from Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden, he was totally in the dark as to the progress of the surge, until lo and behold, time had passed and the nomination was sewn up.) And now that all the evidence is in he still sticks with the netroot party line and refuses to embrace the surge. (After witnessing the fit which the Left threw over his reversal on FISA it is understandable that this was one fight which he didn’t want to take on.)

In short, there is ample support for McCain’s argument. The fact that Obama’s supporters can only respond with an ad hominem attack on McCain should remove any doubt But if they want to go back to the naive/uninformed explanation for Obama’s inexplicable refusal to recognize and welcome the results of the surge that probably would be okay with McCain too.

Bob Herbert is the latest of the liberal pundits to be flummoxed by Barack Obama’s refusal to admit the surge has turned our fortunes around in Iraq and that it was a good thing it did. So what to do? Attack John McCain, of course. Herbert writes:

Senator McCain crossed a line that he shouldn’t have this week when he said that Mr. Obama “would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” It was a lousy comment, tantamount to calling Mr. Obama a traitor, and Senator McCain should apologize for it.

Lousy? But why? He doesn’t say why it was wrong, just that it is mean to say it. But it is not wrong, of course. As McCain explained in his radio address today:

Back here in the country that we are competing to lead, a lot folks were having trouble trying to square Senator Obama’s multiple positions on the surge in Iraq. First, he opposed the surge and confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge. But now that it’s clear that the surge has succeeded, and brought victory in Iraq within sight, Senator Obama can’t quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment. Instead, he commits the even greater error of insisting that even in hindsight, he would still oppose the surge. Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory. That’s not exactly my idea of the judgment we seek in a commander-in-chief.

It is the bolded portion which provides the most support for McCain’se proposition. In other words Obama would prefer to have the non-surge Iraq, an American defeat and humiliation and chaos in Iraq. But no, his defenders say, he just thinks the surge wasn’t needed and everything would be just fine now without it. (To be consistent we could have to posit it would be exactly the same as Iraq with no U.S. troops since Obama voted in May 2007 to cut off all funding for troops in Iraq.) There are two problems with that one.

First, it’s fantasy-land stuff. No U.S. military leader, outside observer, Iraqi official or military leader or allied leader thinks that is true. (Not even Katie Couric does.)This is the magic theory of national security. If Obama wants to defend himself on the grounds he’s a naif that’s fine I suppose, but even he says the surge reduced violence.

Second, this is not the reason Obama gave for saying even now he wouldn’t embrace the surge. He said he’d liked to have used the money elsewhere and he wants to implement a surge in Afghanistan. (I know– you can’t make this stuff up.) But in all that he didn’t say anything about Iraq being just fine without the surge. Once again, it is clear he doesn’t much care about the outcome there and didn’t much care all along if we lost in Iraq.

So back to McCain’s accusation. It seems fairly clear that the “losing a war” part of McCain’s argument is rather airtight. That has been the netroot argument all along — Iraq is not our fight, it is irrelevant to fighting Al Qaeda and so we can leave. (They like to say “leave” or “withdraw,” but “withdraw” when your side is in peril is known as “retreat.” And what follows is “defeat.”)

Well then, maybe McCain overstepped on the “for political gain” part of the the construct. Maybe Obama thought his position was really brave and daring and he wasn’t playing to the gallery. Yeah, right. This has been the rallying cry for his campaign, the ticket to the nomination and the item he used to beat Hillary Clinton into submission. So at the very least, he followed a path which maximized his political advantage at every turn. (Again he might claim he was woefully uninformed and despite independent experts, testimony of General PetraeUs and Ambassador Crocker, and reports from Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden, he was totally in the dark as to the progress of the surge, until lo and behold, time had passed and the nomination was sewn up.) And now that all the evidence is in he still sticks with the netroot party line and refuses to embrace the surge. (After witnessing the fit which the Left threw over his reversal on FISA it is understandable that this was one fight which he didn’t want to take on.)

In short, there is ample support for McCain’s argument. The fact that Obama’s supporters can only respond with an ad hominem attack on McCain should remove any doubt But if they want to go back to the naive/uninformed explanation for Obama’s inexplicable refusal to recognize and welcome the results of the surge that probably would be okay with McCain too.

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