Over the weekend the Blogosphere, as well as some portions of the MSM, were abuzz regarding the appearance of an essay entitled “ How to Win in Iraq” in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.
The essay was written by Lt. Col. Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., a retired Army officer, currently the Executive Director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
, a Department of Defense focused think tank, and a visiting professor of public policy at George Mason University in Virginia.
The buzz was started by the New York Times’ house conservative, David Brooks, who featured Krepinevich’s column in his Sunday morning op-ed piece. In that article, entitled “Winning in Iraq
,” Brooks summarized Krepinevich’s main points as a means of pleading with the President to change direction in Iraq. Specifically, Brooks argued that the President does not currently have a coherent strategy for winning against the “insurgents” in Iraq and that he needs to adopt something along the lines of Krepinevich’s vision, and fast, if he is to prevail not only in Iraq but in the battlefield of American public opinion as well.
Not bad advice, I think. We’ll discuss the details of Krepinevich’s critique next time, but, in the manner of a preface to those remarks, we first want to discuss how we came to such a pass. While in a certain sense the President deserves high marks for being consistent, being consistently mediocre as a war leader is not an accolade. To my mind, the Bush Presidency has three distinct phases to date:
1) The OB (Original Bush)—Inauguration Day to September 12, 2001
This was the time when Bush was still more “Governor Bush” than “President Bush.” Coming off the disastrous 2000 election (you remember, the one the Democrats tried to steal through the courts), the OB was quiet, cautious, advancing only the “Compassionate Conservative” agenda and pushing only a very quiet new-realist foreign policy. At this stage, aside from obvious stylistic differences, the OB wasn’t markedly different from his dad.
2) The BDB (Bush Doctrine Bush)—September 12, 2001 to Sometime in early 2003.
This is the Bush the country rallied around post-September 11 and the seemingly transformed man who left “the Governor” behind as a distant memory. This Bush stood before Congress on September 20, 2001 and outlined what quickly became known as the “Bush Doctrine:”Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.
Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. (Emphasis added).
This was nothing less than a declaration of war against the terrorist-sponsoring nations of the world. At a minimum—at the rock-bottom bare minimum—this was taken to mean that the United States would not be going to war just against the obvious target of the Taliban of Afghanistan, but would also henceforth until victory be on a hostile footing against states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
What many partisans of the Left forget is that it was this argument, based on a changed understanding of the world and our role in it, a re-think forced on us by the attacks of 9.11, that won over a large portion of the conservative right to the Bush Doctrine. This was the war that many of us signed on to.
3) The WB (Wilsonite Bush)—Early 2003 to the Present
The key to understanding the transformation in the Bush Presidency from BDB to WB is the Rt. Hon. Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, MP and the nation he represents. During the run up to the Afghan War, the need for allies was not paramount in America’s eyes. Quite the contrary, in fact. Yet, the actions of the British and their Prime Minister in the immediate aftermath of 9.11 was a source of great comfort to the Americans. From the Star-Spangled Banner at Buckingham Palace to the Prime Minister’s presence in the gallery above the floor of the House when Bush delivered his speech of September 20, 2001, the instincts of the Brits to stick by us in times of trouble was decisive. Friends, we thought, good ones, solid ones, the Brits, thank God. The knowledge that the Stars and Stripes were going into battle once more along side the Union Jack comforted many, even those (and this is crucial) whose understanding of that comfort was nothing more than instinctual.
However, Mr. Blair was not in Washington merely to express solidarity. He was also there to effect a mission of damage control. In the judgment of HMG in mid-September, 2001, as has been bountifully documented in the more quiet days since, there was a great fear that the U.S. was going to lash out and make a bad situation worse. Accordingly, in addition to the matter-of-course expressions of solidarity, Mr. Blair’s mission was to nudge the President towards “legality,” to avoid “unilateral” expressions of American military power and to galvanize the “world community” to joint action against terrorism.
In his statement to Parliament on the attacks of 9.11 on September 14, 2001, the Prime Minister had three main action points regarding what was to occur in response:There are three things we must now take forward urgently.
First, we must bring to justice those responsible. Rightly, President Bush and the US Government have proceeded with care. They did not lash out. They did not strike first and think afterwards. Their very deliberation is a measure of the seriousness of their intent.
They, together with allies, will want to identify, with care, those responsible. This is a judgement that must and will be based on hard evidence.
Once that judgement is made, the appropriate action can be taken. It will be determined, it will take time, it will continue over time until this menace is properly dealt with and its machinery of terror destroyed.But one thing should be very clear. By their acts, these terrorists and those behind them have made themselves the enemies of the civilised world.The objective will be to bring to account those who have organised, aided, abetted and incited this act of infamy; and those that harbour or help them have a choice: either to cease their protection of our enemies; or be treated as an enemy themselves.
Note that the very first thing the PM had to do was assure Parliament that we did not “lash out,” nor that we intended to. This is a remark as revealing as it is telling. It’s patronizing in a almost pleasant There-Will-Always-Be-An-England-And-It-Will-Always-Be-Filled-With-Condescending-Jerks kind of way, but, on the other hand, it’s not really a compliment, is it?
The balance of the first point foreshadows the Bush Doctrine, but notice the subtle difference in emphasis: Blair’s statement is squarely focused on the attacks of 9.11 and not the wider terrorist world. And, further, any action taken against those found responsible will be made “together with allies.” In short, while Bush was crafting a case for an American war against terrorist and terrorist-supporting regimes, Blair was outlining a case for a multi-lateral war against those responsible for 9.11. Similar responses, but very, very different in one all-important respect: the scope of the coming war for which 9.11 was the opening salvo. The PM continued:Secondly, this is a moment when every difference between nations, every divergence of interest, every irritant in our relations, are put to one side in one common endeavour. The world should stand together against this outrage.
NATO has already, for the first time since it was founded in 1949, invoked Article 5 and determined that this attack in America will be considered as an attack against the Alliance as a whole.
The UN Security Council on Wednesday passed a resolution which set out its readiness to take all necessary steps to combat terrorism.
From Russia, China, the EU, from Arab states, from Asia and the Americas, from every continent of the world has come united condemnation. This solidarity should be maintained and translated into support for action.
We do not yet know the exact origin of this evil. But, if, as appears likely, it is so-called Islamic fundamentalists, we know they do not speak or act for the vast majority of decent law-abiding Muslims throughout the world. I say to our Arab and Muslim friends: neither you nor Islam is responsible for this; on the contrary, we know you share our shock at this terrorism; and we ask you as friends to make common cause with us in defeating this barbarism that is totally foreign to the true spirit and teachings of Islam.
And I would add that, now more than ever, we have reason not to let the Middle East Peace Process slip still further but if at all possible to reinvigorate it and move it forward.
Here we have the alphabet soup coming to the fore. By his second point, NATO, the United Nations, Russia, China, the EU, Arab states and the Muslim on the street are all crucial to the battle at hand. Oh, yes, and peace in Israel/Palestine. No problem.Thirdly, whatever the nature of the immediate response to these terrible events in America, we need to re-think dramatically the scale and nature of the action the world takes to combat terrorism.
We know a good deal about many of these terror groups. But as a world we have not been effective at dealing with them.
And of course it is difficult. We are democratic. They are not. We have respect for human life. They do not. We hold essentially liberal values.
They do not. As we look into these issues it is important that we never lose sight of our basic values. But we have to understand the nature of the enemy and act accordingly.
Civil liberties are a vital part of our country, and of our world. But the most basic liberty of all is the right of the ordinary citizen to go about their business free from fear or terror. That liberty has been denied, in the cruellest way imaginable, to the passengers aboard the hijacked planes, to those who perished in the trade towers and the Pentagon, to the hundreds of rescue workers killed as they tried to help.
So we need to look once more: nationally and internationally at extradition laws, and the mechanisms for international justice; at how these terrorist groups are financed and their money laundered: and the links between terror and crime and we need to frame a response that will work, and hold internationally.
Extradition, “international justice,” money laundering. The old law enforcement approach, not tied in as a tool in an overall war, as President Bush was to do a week later, but the tool. It was a key moment in the War on Terrorism, one we’ve been paying for ever since.
What happened next is common knowledge: to buttress his friend the Prime Minister and to keep the U.K. psychologically-important support beyond the immediately agreed to war in Afghanistan, the President began to drop references to American causes of war and began more and more to rely on the type of language more similar to that the PM presented to Parliament.
In the run up to the Iraq War, this dynamic was to repeat itself and reinforce the break between BDB and the current WB. As the need to keep allies became more and more received wisdom and the case for an American war kept in the background, concessions to allies (and potential allies) began to pile up. The end result was the Administration’s disastrous turn to the United Nations Security Council, where it had no allies and could not have reasonably been expected to win approval for a war that was, internationally, exceptionally unpopular.
After all, America could have gone to war against Iraq on its own and on its own terms. It choose not to, for political reasons that largely were the result of a self-reinforcing cycle of news and opinion that took an idea (“we need allies”) and made it a fact. But the damage to the war cause was deeper: by selling conservative America on a war that the President never intended to fight—an American war, led by America, not flinching from the conclusions to be drawn from the application of the Bush Doctrine—Bush not only alienated the liberals, but a good number of conservatives as well (and I’m *not* talking about Buchanan-like paleos either).
At first, conservatives put those concerns aside. You can fill volumes with Victor Hanson-like posts that were to the effect of “well, sure, Bush doesn’t seem to be following his self-named doctrine, but these things are complicated, and he’s taking on one enemy at a time, not using military force in all instances, it’s all part of a brilliant plan…..”
Brilliant plan, my ass.
Question: Is the Islamic Republic supporting terrorist groups against the United States? If so, why are we not at war?
Question: Is Syria supporting terrorist groups against the United States?
Why are we just talking to them?
Question: North Korea?
Question: Our troops are short translators? Why haven’t we drafted the thousands of recent new loyal Americans from Arabic-speaking nations who have recently legally immigrated and, in doing so, registered with the Selective Service and agreed to bear arms if called upon?
Question: Is there not an Islamic Fascist genocide occurring in the Sudan?
The war we are currently engaged in is not the war President Bush sold to conservatives. As such, it should not be surprising that an increasingly large number of conservative qualms have come to the fore.
If we’re at war, let’s go to war. If we’re not, let’s get home