December 05, 2006

I've had enough hubris

The Iraq study group led by former Secretary James Baker will meet with Bush tomorrow to brief him on the results of the study. While a "phased withdrawl" is supposed to be the primary option selected by the commission, the real question at hand is not necessarily what the recommendations will be. Instead, more focus is on Bush himself, and whether he will heed any advice he is given. To date, Bush has been quite stubborn when it comes to outside advice. On issues from Iraq to social policy, he has chosen to lend an ear only to those in his administration, or his neo-conservative political base.

Needless to say, I have my doubts about how well he will receive the report tomorrow.Bush's plan of "staying the course" until "victory" is entirely flawed. First and foremost, Bush has only vaguely explained what victory in Iraq is. At what point has the war been won? There are no benchmarks to test any result of the Iraq conflict- that is to say, we'll never know if the war has been won. The qualification of the outcome is entirely subjective. The U.S. will have won when Bush says so.

This is quite unlike other wars in American history. In the Revolutionary War, the colonies won when the British packed up and left. In the Civil War, the North won when the South formally surrendered. In World War II, it was again the surrender of the Axis leaders that decided the outcome.The enemies in Iraq consist of fragmented, factionalized groups with no single leader. When (and if) this war is won, there will be no signed surrender document on the USS Missouri or at the Appomattox courthouse.

What needs to be determined is what the criteria should be for a victory. Bush claims that the Iraq government needs be able to stand on its own in order for the U.S. to pull out. What constitutes standing on its own? Does the government need to establish a certain amount of laws? Raise an amount of funds through taxes? Create an army of a certain size? Have an election? Specific criteria need to be established to quantify or better qualify the circumstances that would constitute "victory." The country is owed this simple idea. If U.S. troops are going to stay until they are victorious, a well defined 'victory' scenario is necessary. For all we know now, the victory conditions in Bush's head could be quite maligned, such as the completion of an oil pipeline, imposition of an Israel-friendly leader, or the agreement that an Iraqi army will have a stand-off against Iran.

If the U.S. government wants to salvage foreign relations in the Middle East, it needs to be proactive about it. While the warring factions continue to destroy buildings, kill civilians and be otherwise unruly, the United States should find a moderately civil region and begin rebuilding the infrastructure. Start by constructing a few roads, water wells, bridges and continue with schools hospitals and the like. Such an endeavor would be inexpensive by comparison to the amount of money ($315 Billion) currently being spent on destroying those same pieces of infrastructure and society. These kind of projects would remind Iraqis, Arabs, and Muslims why America is a great place. It would also bring proof to support the rationale originally used to invade Iraq. If we wanted to remove Saddam and promote Iraqi freedom and prosperity all along, why aren't we making efforts along those lines?

Bush has been stubborn to alter his actions on just about every issue. It seems as if he's worried about being seen as having made the wrong decisions originally. Or worse, he's worried about being a "flip-flopper"- the very thing his campaign accused Kerry of being back in '04. I don't see there as being anything wrong with changing ones mind. Different times call for different actions.

I appreciate a candidate who is willing to vote for something one time, then 10 years later switch sides and oppose the same issue. It's not 'flip-flopping'- it's called pragmatism, and its an age old methodology. Not all situations are the same- it takes a learning experience to fully understand an issue or an idea. Think about how much Iraq has changed since 2003. While invading Iraq may have seemed like a good idea to the administration 4 years ago, the time and tide has changed and new ideas are required to alleviate the problems in that region. There is nothing wrong with changing a perspective or stance on Iraq. Adjusting ones perspective to reflect a new situation is a symbol of responsibility and leadership, not carelessness or immorality.

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