"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

Monday, January 29, 2007

Shades of Vietnam….Which Lessons?

“Those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat its mistakes.” – George Santayana (roughly quoted)

“Words to live by, as long as the lessons learned are the correct ones.” – Blandly Urbane

Senator Warner regrets his support for the Vietnam war:

"I regret that I was not more outspoken. The Army generals would come in, 'Just send in another five or ten thousand.' You know, month after month. Another ten or fifteen thousand. They thought they could win it. We kept surging in those years. It didn't work."

Are we just going to be “surging?” The term surging does not definitively mean just increasing the troop numbers, but as it is being used it does. Senator Warner and others like to simplify arguments.

Just throwing soldiers at the problems will not resolve them, but with a change of tactics it could; tactics that hopefully contain a little less political correctness and more war fighting seriousness. It certainly appears that a more serious tone is being taken considering the latest revelation that Iranian agents are being detained, while turning the fight to them as well.

As the surge has begun, language like this is fairly pointless:

"The Senate disagrees with the plan to augment our forces by 21,500, and urges the President instead to consider all options and alternatives."

Does the Senate have a plan or two they might offer; something other than a spineless and time wasting resolution? Perhaps Senator Warner and those opposed to the Iraq enterprise and “surge” could answer a few questions regarding their plan(s). Playing the role of opposition, should require more than just the negative aspect of non-support or pointing out error; that’s the easy part. The hard part is making the decisions; their decisions consist of only words and talk, something the UN and others in the international community are already good at. They should be required to put a little more on the line in the way of ideas and alternatives.

Of Warner’s participation in a “no confidence” resolution, James Moran, (D VA):

"His support for a redeployment resolution -- and his opposition to the surge policy -- is very important."

Redeployment is a plan, regardless of how weak. A “phased redeployment,” connotes action; hence the oppositions love of it. It is however, a plan/resolution full of holes as it does not address any reality, only “the good old days all over again.” “Phased redeployment,” says ‘we mean business,’ but they don’t.

Taken in “phases,” the “redeployment,” calls for taking soldiers out of Iraq and deploying them elsewhere in the M.E. as more of a reactionary force. A question should be, where in the M.E.? We also might want to check with bin Laden and others as to where exactly in the M.E. is acceptable. If memory serves, which I believe they’re hoping and counting on it not; this one of the leading reasons for 9/11 and previous attacks against our interests according to bin Laden

Redeploy the soldiers to “Betwixt,” which is a sliver of land between nations in the M.E., may very well be the only place available, however, Betwixt is as imaginary a place as “phased redeployment,” is a real plan.

During an Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Senator Joseph Lieberman, (I- CT), and General Petraeus, went back and forth like this:

Lieberman - "A resolution -- a Senate-passed resolution of disapproval for this new strategy in Iraq -- would give the enemy some encouragement, some feeling that, well, some clear expression that the American people are divided?"

Petraeus - "That's correct, sir."

With a hint of opinion, the article notes that Warner was “clearly upset,” by this exchange. Calling the exchange, “personal,” Warner stated to Patraeus and colleagues:

"We're not a division here of patriots who support the troops and those who are making statements and working on resolutions that could be translated as aiding and abetting the enemy. I hope that this colloquy has not trapped you into some responses that you might later regret. (italics mine)"

I’m curious as to whether anyone else holds this battle as personal and whether or not their “personal,” is considered trumped by Warner’s “personal.” After all, Warner appears to be one of those that believes he derived the appropriate and correct lessons of history from Vietnam.

I also sincerely hope history’s lessons were learned by General Patreaus with regard to the blatant threat of being brought down as veiled by the senator. And that the good general does not take the comment too “personally.”

According to the article, a few days after the exchange at the hearing Senator Warner asked:

"Those who say we're not doing the right thing tell me, what is the obligation of the Senate? Do nothing?"

Those who say we are doing the right thing tell me, what is the obligation of the Senate?

No sir, we should expect more than that, more than just the weak words of a resolution. A resolution not unlike the many highly regarded, yet worthless resolutions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But an action like that would require making tough decisions, rather than “do(ing) nothing.”

Perhaps a tour into alternative lessons of history that might be derived from our Southeast Asian experience.

What we do about history matters. The often repeated saying that those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them has a lot of truth in it. But what are 'the lessons of history'? The very attempt at definition furnishes ground for new conflicts. History is not a recipe book; past events are never replicated in the present in quite the same way. Historical events are infinitely variable and their interpretations are a constantly shifting process. There are no certainties to be found in the past.” – Gerda Lerner
Robert Kagan has an extremely well written column regarding a "resolution" and Iraq in general. "Politicians in both parties act as if they can make the war go away soon. It won't." - read "Grand Delusion" if you haven't already.

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