Sunday, September 30, 2007
I've been watching the PBS series on World War II. It has seared in my mind what it must have been like living as family in the United States at that time, and suddenly your beloved children are called up to go to war in either the Asian or European spheres - in distant and foreign jungles filled with diseases and the the very high likelihood of combat and casualty.
What was especially interesting was the high body count in the major battles, both in Europe and in Asia - so great a number, that the government was able to hide them from the people. No blogs around then. No reporters to report in some of these places, or if they did, the reporters complied with government censoring. But the body counts were in the thousands per day! Not thousands per four to five years, though any number, large or small, is tragic.
And mistakes were made by the leadership - political and military - that cost men's lives, and thousands of them. The commander over the battle at Anzio, which could have been a huge success for us, hitting the enemy "where they ain't" as MacArthur would express, slowed his approach because he was very conservative (small c); but had he hit the ground running, the outcome would have been hugely different in terms of men's lives, and the length of the war.
When I consider the character of the nation then in comparison to today, I have to wonder why it is we do not have the patience and resolve to win. We simply want to turn our heads, mumble that war is bad, and that we don't want any part in it, even though we cannot control the circumstance.
And there is new hope that we are and can win this war in Iraq, and it has a lot to do with the strategy on the ground that is allowing sufficient backbone for an eventual political solution as well, here described in a recent WSJ Op Ed.
When President Roosevelt announced that America would not accept anything less than full and unconditional surrender of the enemy, this too got me thinking about our circumstances today. This is exactly where there has been a failure of leadership. We need the bully pulpit of the presidency to be touting the same idea - we want nothing less than the full and unconditional surrender by Al Qaida. That's what we need to aim for; that's what we need to fight for.
Let's put history to work for us for as George Santayana said, for those who do not regard history are destined to repeat its mistakes.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Surprise! Chafee is No Longer a Republican!
The Projo has announced today what a number of GOP insiders in RI have known for at least a week, that Lincoln Chafee has disaffiliated from the GOP. Some think it may have coincidental timing to Steve Laffey's recently published book. It's possible.
The tragedy of his doing it now is that he embarrasses all those Washington stalwarts who came out for him at Laffey's expense: Senator John McCain, Laura Bush, Libby Dole, and many others.
Senescent old RI Republicans like me, members of a splintered minority party in a state where free enterprise loving entrepreneurs are running away like rats on a sinking ship, know that Chafee was never really been a Republican at heart. We felt uncomfortable for him, and some of us came right out and said that he should leave the GOP - leave for his own good and our good as well.
Well, it's done now - finally. His father was not a right wing Republican, but Lincoln really never firmly gripped Republican ground.
So farewell Linc.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Text of Gen. Petraeus’ Letter to U.S. Forces in Iraq
Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and Civilians of Multi-National Force-Iraq:
We are now over two-and-a-half months into the surge of offensive operations made possible by the surge of forces, and I want to share with you my view of how I think we're doing. This letter is a bit longer than previous ones, since I feel you deserve a detailed description of what I believe we have — and have not — accomplished, as Ambassador Crocker and I finalize the assessment we will provide shortly to Congress.
Up front, my sense is that we have achieved tactical momentum and wrested the initiative from our enemies in a number of areas of Iraq. The result has been progress in the security arena, although it has, as you know, been uneven. Additionally, as you all appreciate very well, innumerable tasks remain and much hard work lies ahead. We are, in short, a long way from the goal line, but we do have the ball and we are driving down the field.
We face a situation that is exceedingly complex. Al Qaeda, associated insurgent groups, and militia extremists, some supported by Iran, continue to carry out attacks on us, our Iraqi partners, and the Iraqi civilians we seek to secure. We have to contend with the relentless pace of operations, the crushing heat, and the emotions that we all experience during long deployments and tough combat. And we operate against a backdrop of limited Iraqi governmental capacity, institutions trying to rebuild, and various forms of corruption. All of this takes place in a climate of distrust and fear that stems from the sectarian violence that did so much damage to the fabric of Iraqi society in 2006 and into 2007, not to mention the decades of repression under Saddam's brutal regime. Tragically, sectarian violence continues to cause death and displacement in Baghdad and elsewhere, albeit at considerably reduced levels of 8 months ago, due, in large part, to your hard work and sacrifice together with our Iraqi counterparts.
In spite of these challenges, our operations — particularly the offensive operations we have conducted since mid-June — have helped produce progress in many areas on the ground. In fact, the number of attacks across the country has declined in 8 of the past 11 weeks, reaching during the last week in August a level not seen since June 2006. This trend is not just a result of greater numbers of Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces; it also reflects your determination, courage, and skill in conducting counterinsurgency operations. By taking the fight to the enemy, you have killed or captured dozens of leaders and thousands of members of Al Qaeda-Iraq and extremist militia elements, you have taken many of Al Qaeda's former sanctuaries away from them, and you have dismantled a number of their car bomb and improvised explosive device networks. By living among the population with our Iraqi partners, you have been holding the areas you have cleared. By helping Iraqis reestablish basic services and local governance, you have helped exploit the security gains. And by partnering closely with Iraqi Security Forces, you have been strengthening Iraqi elements that will one day have sole responsibility for protecting their population. Indeed, while Iraqi forces clearly remain a work in progress, Iraqi soldiers and police are very much in the fight, and they continue to sustain losses that are two to three times our losses.
The progress has not, to be sure, been uniform across Baghdad or across Iraq. Accomplishments in some areas — for example, in Ramadi and in Anbar Province — have been greater than any of us might have predicted six months ago. The achievements in some other areas _ for example, in some particularly challenging Baghdad neighborhoods and in reducing overall civilian casualties, especially those caused by periodic, barbaric Al Qaeda bombings _ have not been as dramatic. However, the overall trajectory has been encouraging, especially when compared to the situation at the height of the sectarian violence in late 2006 and early 2007.
Many of us had hoped this summer would be a time of tangible political progress at the national level as well. One of the justifications for the surge, after all, was that it would help create the space for Iraqi leaders to tackle the tough questions and agree on key pieces of "national reconciliation" legislation. It has not worked out as we had hoped. All participants, Iraqi and coalition alike, are dissatisfied by the halting progress on major legislative initiatives such as the oil framework law, revenue sharing, and de-ba'athification reform. At the same time, however, our appreciation of what this legislation represents for Iraqi leaders has grown. These laws are truly fundamental in nature and will help determine how Iraqis will share power and resources in the new Iraq. While much work remains to be done before these critical issues are resolved, the seriousness with which Iraqi leaders came together at their summit in late August has given hope that they are up to the task before them, even if it is clearly taking more time than we initially expected.
In the coming months, our coalition's countries and all Iraqis will continue to depend on each of you and on our Iraqi counterparts to keep the pressure on the extremists, to help improve security and strengthen the rule of law for all Iraqis, to work with the Government of Iraq to integrate local volunteers into local security and national institutions, to assist with the restoration and improvement of basic services, and to continue the development of conditions that foster reconciliation. For our part, Ambassador Crocker and I will continue to do everything in our power to help the Prime Minister and the Government of Iraq achieve the meaningful results that will ensure that your sacrifices and those of your comrades help produce sustainable security for Iraq over the long term. A stable and secure Iraq that denies extremists a safe haven and has a government that is representative of and responsive to all Iraqis helps protect the vital interests of our coalition countries. A stable and secure Iraq will also benefit Iraq's citizens and Iraq's neighbors alike, bringing calm to a region full of challenges and employing Iraq's human capital and natural resource blessings for the benefit of all.
As I noted at the outset of this letter, over the next few days, Ambassador Crocker and I will share with the U.S. Congress and the American people our assessment of the situation in Iraq. I will also describe the recommendations I have provided to my chain of command. I will go before Congress conscious of the strain on our forces, the sacrifices that you and your families are making, the gains we have made in Iraq, the challenges that remain, and the importance of building on what we and our Iraqi counterparts have fought so hard to achieve.
Thanks once again for what each of you continues to do. Our Nations have asked much of you and your families. It remains the greatest of honors to serve with you.
David H. Petraeus
General, United States Army
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