"How did it come to pass that an opposition's measure of a president's foreign policy was all or nothing, success or "failure"? The answer is that the political absolutism now normal in Washington arrived at the moment--Nov. 7, 2000--that our politics subordinated even a war against terror to seizing the office of the presidency." - Daniel Henninger - WSJ 11/18/05
"the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." - George Orwell

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Iraq is a “quagmire;” Alright, I said It

The term “quagmire” and the beginnings of its overuse hark back to the Vietnam War; becoming part of the popular lexicon following the publication of David Halberstam’s Pulitzer Prize winning account of the Diem/Kennedy years of the Vietnam War, "The Making of a Quagmire."

Just about every military intervention of the U.S. since Vietnam has been referred to as a “quagmire,” in one form or another. It has become a catchphrase that speaks volumes, however elicits no details other than the minds eye portrays. Once labeled a “quagmire” a war or battle has likely heard its last level headed remark made about it; that goes for those in support of or against the conflagration in question.

There has to be a time that we will remove the majority of our forces from Iraq, however, a specific date cannot be selected and certainly not when things might be taking the kind of turn that may give us the first glimmer of a paced exodus that is actually based on a workable improvement; a real possibility of ‘perhaps they can take the helm on their own.’

The “quagmire” admitted to is a “quagmire” more of the mind than of the physical reality of one. Physically “quagmire” is a measurement of degree and subjection that is thought of differently depending upon the point of view, so to me it is a fairly useless assessment as to any movement forward or backward. One can get from point A to point B through the thick mud or “quagmire” an inch at a time or in a barely perceptible manner and if so, do we judge it before getting to B prior to actually getting there?

“Quagmire” is most realistically descriptive of the mental “quagmire” that so many involved directly and indirectly are dealing with when we discuss Iraq. It is best illustrated this morning in The NY Times in an article entitled, “Standing Against the War, but Unsure How to End it.” Forget about whether the toilet paper is speaking on either side of the political spectrum. Read what is actually being said; “Now, what do we do now? Walk away? We should really ramp it up, or get out now” and “It’s fighting between Republicans and Democrats, I don’t even know that they’re really looking at doing anything. No one quite knows how to end it and one reason for that is no one knows what “end it” means.

If we pull out on Bill Richardson’s timeline (all out by March/April ’08) or even the, dare I say more realistic Joe Biden time frame (at least a year at minimum); what “end,” are we talking about? It would perhaps be the “end” to our concentrated and numeric involvement, but that is not truly an end is it? I don’t believe it would be unrealistic to envision that it would continue and worsen in the overall region, having ramifications that make our involvement now appear trivial.

If we stick it out and see the “surge” through to September awaiting the report of General Petraeus it won’t be over either. Many seem to believe and I’m sure will fight tooth and nail to use his interim report as “proof” the “surge” is not working and Iraq is “lost.” However, the “surge” is a prime example of the day to day morphing of the battlefield and how our unrivalled military addresses it. It is the politics of the battlefield; not the battlefield of politics.

This morning, the “U.S. Is Seen in Iraq Until at Least ’09, is an article on a classified plan, “which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador.” The “plan” is not an end either, but it strikes me as a move forward (no promises) that has the means to turn our mental “quagmire” on its head but only if we allow it.

As quoted earlier, “it’s fighting between Republicans and Democrats,” really does describe pretty appropriately what a major problem is with our effort in Iraq. It would be nice if both sides of the aisle stepped back and perhaps viewed this latest as the beginning of a realistic possibility for a draw down. Step back, avoid calling it Bush’s plan or a Democrat plan; call it the “military” plan that may allow us to pull all of our heads out of our “quagmire.”

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