Sunday, January 14, 2007

Reality: 3 Stanford: 0

There's some irony in seeing the Journal Sentinel's Greg Stanford, in today's Crossroads column, charge President Bush with "confusing the world as he wishes it to be with the world as it is." Stanford's own view of the world is...well...

Perhaps a couple of examples from the column will help illustrate.

First, there is the matter of Bush's proposed troop increase:

Still, he talked as if, deep in his bowels, he really believed he was right all along and that the United States shall prevail just by staying the course. Yes, he would do some jiggering - for one, increasing troop strength to 153,500.

That step merely reverts, though, to an earlier part of the course. Just two months ago, American troops were 152,000-strong in Iraq; a year ago, troop level stood at 160,000.

This is a classic strawman argument. Stanford, avowed...realist...that he is, should know very well that increasing the troop levels is just one part of the changes Bush has made, and far from the most important. The "green light" to engage insurgents (where before politics often handicapped US forces) is a much bigger one, as is the announced intention to cut off Syrian and especially Iranian interference in the country.

To gank an infamous male lament rather drastically out of's not the size that matters--it's what you do with it.

Then, there are the problems in Iraq and the consequences of failure:

Bush's references to the dangers in Iraq also strike me as less than honest. He talked about al-Qaida terrorists, Sunni insurgents, Shiite death squads and about a "vicious cycle of sectarian violence." He went on to say:

"The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people."

But all of these problems, current and potential, are entirely his own doing.

Now, granted--Iraq would not currently be in a near-civil war if the United States hadn't invaded and Saddam Hussein were still in power, so to that extent, Stanford is correct. Bush set the table for everything that followed.

But entirely Bush's own doing? This would be funny, if Stanford weren't actually serious. His ill-conceived "Bring 'em on" notwithstanding, it was not Bush who invited Al-Qaeda to do its best to disrupt the fledgling Iraqi government. It was not Bush who invited Sunni insurgents to seek to do likewise. It was not Bush who blew up the Golden Mosque of Samarra, or who invited Iran to egg on Shiite retaliation.

It was Bush who failed to deal adequately with these threats, but that's a far cry from saying that he authored them.

And as for the consequences of failure...lest we forget, two of the major rallying cries for Al-Qaeda prior to 9/11--the sanctions against Iraq, and American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia--were direct reactions against Saddam Hussein's government, which Stanford apparently believes should have been left in power. And on the subject of Iran, it should be pointed out that their nuclear ambitions are not new. What is new is that Iraq is not occupying the international community's attention by thumbing its nose at inspectors.

Iraq becoming a launching pad for terrorist attacks...OK, that one I'll grant, if only because, should Bush succeed in his democracy project, the country would serve much the same purpose for our side.

Then, most incredibly:

True, the invasion of Iraq had an upside, which Bush is quick to point out: the removal of a bloody tyrant from office. But he never owns up to the huge downside of offing a secular government that kept the Iraq factions under control, opposed "radical Islamic extremists" and served as a check on Iran.

As a consequence, he neglects to address a key question: Since our presence prompted all these problems, what makes him think our continued presence will make them go away?

Amazingly, Stanford contradicts his own argument. "Since our presence prompted all these problems"? He just claimed the very sentence before that it was our removing the secular government, not our presence, that set these problems off!

Our continued presence may not, in and of itself, make them go away--but withdrawing our presence and support for the Iraqi government, as Stanford desires, will certainly make things worse.

Strawmen, Bush fixation, ideology trumping his own accounting of the facts--just who's the one guilty of wishful thinking, here?

(EDIT: I stupidly forgot which side of the Sunni-Shiite conflict Iran was supporting. Fixed now.)

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