Sunday, December 10, 2006

Iraq: Sergeant Rock and a Hard Place and a Hard Sell

It sickens me that while our troops valiantly try to cope with a Hobbesian situation in Iraq, our political and military leaders argue publicly over word choices.

Is it a civil war or an insurgency or just plain chaotic violence? Was the Iraq Study Group report a stinging rebuke of Mister Bush's policy, or was it endorsement of his goal to achieve a free and stable Iraq? Did it say the policy wasn't working, or did it simply say we need a new policy? Are we "not winning" or "not losing?" (I'm waiting for White House Press Secretary Tony Snow to say we're "not not losing, but we're not not winning either.")

It's bad enough when purely political types engage in this kind of gibberish, but when guys with four stars on their collars say things like "If we withdraw, they'll follow us here" and "we haven't lost a single battle," I despair whether there's an ounce of integrity left in any department of the executive branch.

The next set of Rovewellian buzz phrases and talking points is beginning to emerge. "Way forward" is eating up a lot of bandwidth. "Wash our hands" seems to be the replacement for "cut and run." British Prime Minister Tony Blair came up with a doozy last week, something to the effect that modern realism must have idealism at the middle of it. That's more than a bit like saying a circle is a square with the edges rounded off.

It's all nonsense. And while rear echelon feather merchants wear out the spin cycle button, real troops operate in the way of real harm with no overarching strategy or purpose.

REMF in Chief

Like many, I've tended to fall into a trap of letting young Mister Bush off the hook for his follies. After all, we knew he was an Ivy League boob with a phony Texas accent when we first elected him, and then reelected him. (When I say "we" elected him, by the way, I don't mean "me." George W. Bush single-handedly motivated me to cast my first vote for a Democrat.) When Bush first took office, many of us said, "Oh well, he's got Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to keep him out of trouble." Boy, were we dumb.

As the Bush administration's policies unraveled, many of us laid blame at the feet of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of the neocon cabal that had seduced the feckless frat boy down the path to perdition. But the time for cutting Bush a break is over. The guy's sixty years old now, and he's been the leader of the free world for six years. In his joint "press opportunity" with British Prime Minister Tony Blair last Thursday, Bush had a golden opportunity to act his age and live up to the responsibilities of his high office. He chose to do otherwise.

I lost count of how many times he parroted "way forward," or how often he made absurd analogies between our current situation and World War II, and, yeah, under pressure, he squawked the "9/11" meme as he's done so often when the flawed logic of his mono-syllabic rhetoric falls apart.

It's still tempting to feel sorry for Bush. It can't be easy to know--even if only at the edge of your consciousness--that you're the first U.S. president to lose two wars, and to have your daddy's friends tell the world what an abject failure you are.

But too bad: that's the price you risk when you run for high public office. To paraphrase Harry Truman, "If you can't stand the stink, don't go in the outhouse."

The Empire Strikes Out

By adopting the neoconservative vision of a global American empire consolidated through means of armed force, Bush has squandered the gains of over two centuries of blood, sweat and tears spent by our forebears over the course of more than two centuries. Our country is as divided--if not more so--than it was during the civil war. Whatever global goodwill and loyalty we earned in the two world wars and the Cold War has melted like the snow of an early spring morning. Thanks to his inferior stewardship of our armed forces, the military might that brought us to a preeminent position in global affairs has now proven impotent as a tool of national power and influence. China and Russia, our old Cold War adversaries, are on the verge of shouldering us out of the Middle East through their influence with Iran, and they'll do so without firing a single shot or making any serious attempt to compete with us in an arms race.

Bush shows no sign of having learned anything from his mistakes. I'm not sure he even thinks he's made any. America sent a loud and clear message to its government in the recent election in which it took away Bush's GOP majority from both houses of Congress. Bush seems to think the election results reflected the public's fatigue with partisan bickering. He's completely missed the signal that the country is sick of him, and his policies, and his political party.

Bush is still in office, still Commander in Chief of a military at war, and still an idiot. We have much to fear about how much more damage he can do in the next two years, how many decades it will take to undo it, and how many more of our troops will die fighting in stupid wars while we try to smooth the pleats in our national skirt.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. Not winning but not losing either is very much akin to not pregnant but not NOT" pregnant. Impossible. Either you are or you aren't. It is not a continuum on which you may land on some neutral point, not when so much blood is flowing. God help us, indeed. It is time for some long overdue humility as a nation and if we are in great good fortune, we may get some forgiveness for what we hath wrought.

  2. Martin K9:04 AM

    In insurgency-warfare, not winning equals loosing. End of story. Its amazing to see the leaders of the mightiest nation on earth speaking like a braindamaged mid-level business-leader. "Motivation" and "Will to Perserve" and other Nietzche-AynRand drivel is like a viral infection, it seems, they seem to have this idea that if you just have the Will your tanks and APCs will stop breaking down in the desert-sand.

  3. Not winning but not losing. Sounds like a quagmire to me...

  4. "The slow pace of winning" Now "that we know what we didn't know, we didn't know."

  5. Anonymous1:30 PM

    Do you think the president will be able to survive intense congressional scrutiny of his administration's last 6 years?

  6. Let's see, 48% of Congress is Republican, 15% are DLC sellouts, and 20% shit themselves when the right-wing media says anything. Yeah, he might survive.

  7. "It's still tempting to feel sorry for Bush."

    In my more remote and sanguine moments contemplating the unfolding disaster Bush et. al. has unleashed on America, I sometimes wonder whether the outcome will unfold as tragedy, melodrama, or farce.

    The essence of tragedy is the moment of self-revelation when the protagonist realizes, like Oedipus, that he is resonsible for his own undoing. I don't see any moments of self-relization in Dubya's future. I'm betting against tragedy.

    Melodrama requires a villain who schemes and connives his way to some degree of success and power, only to be overthrown and given his comeuppance by some hero. Bush plays the villain well, but I see no heroes to set the world right again. I'm betting against melodrama.

    So my money is on farce. I see a whole cast of villains of all stripes who will connive and scheme against each other, chortling like Baldric in the Blackadder series, "I have a cunning plan," and then proceed through one hilarious mishap after another. In the end, everyone gets their comeuppance. The problem is that, to work, farce requires a certain emotional distance, and I'm having trouble with that.