Tuesday, July 29, 2008
A Debate: Lawrence Korb vs. Max Boot on PBS Lehrer News Hour
HT: Weekly Standard:
MARGARET WARNER: Barack Obama was in Iraq today, the second stop in an overseas trip highlighting the differences between him and his Republican rival, John McCain, over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama's meetings in Iraq were preceded by a weekend visit to Afghanistan, where he talked with U.S. troops and the country's president, Hamid Karzai.
In an interview there on CBS' "Face the Nation" yesterday, Obama reargued his case for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq over a 16-month timeline, and adding troops to reinforce the effort in Afghanistan.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), Presidential Candidate: I believe U.S. troop levels need to increase. And I, for at least a year now, have called for two additional brigades, perhaps three. I think it's very important that we unify command more effectively to coordinate our military activities.
But military alone is not going be enough. The Afghan government needs to do more, but we have to understand that the situation is precarious and urgent here in Afghanistan. And I believe this has to be our central focus, the central front on our battle against terrorism.
And I think one of the biggest mistakes we made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job here, focus our attention here. We got distracted by Iraq.
MARGARET WARNER: McCain took issue with that today on ABC's "Good Morning America."
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), Presidential Candidate: Look, you don't have to choose to lose in Iraq in order to succeed in Afghanistan.
MARGARET WARNER: At a campaign appearance in Maine this afternoon, McCain hammered away at Obama's approach to Iraq.
MCCAIN: We have to maintain the progress that we have. The major point here is, Senator Obama could not have gone to Iraq as he did because he opposed the surge. It was the surge that succeeded. It was the surge that -- that has brought -- that is winning this war. He opposed it. He said it wouldn't succeed. He has still yet to say that it has succeeded.
MARGARET WARNER: The issue of when to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq has heated up in recent days. This weekend, a German magazine quoted Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, seeming to endorse Obama's approach.
After the White House objected, a Maliki spokesman said the prime minister's words had been misunderstood and mistranslated. Yet, last Friday, the White House said President Bush and Maliki had agreed to come up with a time horizon for the goal of withdrawing U.S. forces.
And, after Maliki and Obama met in Baghdad today, the prime minister's spokesman told reporters, "We are hoping that, in 2010, combat troops will withdraw from Iraq."
McCain's stance appeared to draw support yesterday from Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen on "FOX News Sunday."
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: If I were to say to you, let's set a timeline of getting all of our combat troops out within two years, what do you think would be the consequences of setting that kind of a timeline?
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think the consequences could be very dangerous in that regard. I'm convinced at this point in time that coming -- making reductions based on conditions on the ground are very important.
MARGARET WARNER: This is the second week in which McCain and Obama have sparred directly over the link between the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. In a speech in Washington last Tuesday, Obama renewed his vow to quickly send two more brigades to Afghanistan.
BARACK OBAMA: If another attack on our homeland comes, it will likely come from the same region where 9/11 was planned. And, yet, today, we have five times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan. Senator McCain said just months ago that Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq. I could not disagree more.
MARGARET WARNER: McCain replied that same day in Albuquerque with his first detailed proposal for Afghanistan, saying he would send three more brigades.
JOHN MCCAIN: Senator Obama will tell you we can't win in Afghanistan without losing in Iraq. In fact, he has it exactly backwards. It is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan. With the right strategy and the right forces, we can succeed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And they are not disconnected. Success breeds success. Failure breeds failure. I know how to win wars.
McCain Campaign Adviser
MARGARET WARNER: Obama's trip continues elsewhere in the Middle East and to Europe.
We take up the Obama and McCain agendas for Iraq and Afghanistan now with Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He's an informal adviser to the Obama campaign. And Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he's an informal adviser to the McCain campaign. Both men have been to Iraq within the past year.
And welcome to you both. Let me start by asking -- and I will start with you, Lawrence Korb -- is it fair to say that the crux of the difference between these two candidates on these two conflicts is, what is the central front in the war on terrorism?
LAWRENCE KORB, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress: Very definitely.
Senator Obama was on record back in 2002, before we went into Iraq, saying it was a dumb war, because it would divert ourselves from the central front on the war on terror. There were no al-Qaida in Iraq before we went there.
According to our intelligence community, this is where al-Qaida central is reconstituting themselves, on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. And what Senator Obama is saying -- and I agree with it -- I'm not speaking for him, but this has been my position all along -- that you can't tie yourself to events in Iraq and ignore Afghanistan. I think that's the key thing.
MARGARET WARNER: But -- but do you think he is saying that you can ignore events in Iraq to shift the attention to Afghanistan?
LAWRENCE KORB: No, I think what he is saying is, if you give the Iraqis a timeline, which both the American people and the Iraqi people -- and the Iraqi parliament, by the way -- they have sent a letter to our Congress saying that they will not agree to keep us there without a timeline -- I think this will get the Iraqis to make the political compromises they need. And this will get the countries in the region to work constructively to ensure that Iraq does not become a failed state.
MARGARET WARNER: And, Max Boot, John McCain believes the first priority remains Iraq; is that right?
MAX BOOT, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations: John McCain believes that we have to win the war on terrorism wherever the terrorists are. And, certainly, for the last several years, they have been in Iraq. Osama bin Laden himself has talked about Iraq as being central to al-Qaida's strategy. And that is where we had to fight them.
Now, if we had taken Barack Obama's advice, we would have pulled all of our combat troops out of Iraq by March of this year. And can you imagine what the country would look like at that point? It would be far worse than 2006. It would be chaos. There would be ethnic cleansing. It would be a victory for Iran and al-Qaida.
Now, thankfully, George W. Bush adopted John McCain's plan to surge, instead of to leave. And, as a result of that, we have seen violence drop over 80 percent over the last year. This is despite the opposition of Senator Barack Obama and other Democrats, who opposed the surge.
Now, if we had listened to them, it would have been a disaster. Now that we are starting to get Iraq under control, it makes sense to send some more troops to Afghanistan, where, clearly, the situation has deteriorated in the last six months or a year or so.
John McCain believes we have to fight and win on both battlefields, but he believes it would be a disaster if we were to lose in Iraq. That would embolden al-Qaida. That would embolden our enemies all over the world. Now that we are starting to win in Iraq, we can turn our attention in Afghanistan. And he has proposed a strategy for winning there as well.
Obama Campaign Adviser
It was a factor, but was not nearly as big a factor as the Sunni insurgents laying down their arms, because the -- we now call them the Sons of Iraq. We are paying them. We are training them. It was about 100,000 of them.
MARGARET WARNER: Lawrence Korb, what about this point that McCain hammered at today, that he says Senator Obama was wrong to have opposed the surge, and that, in fact, the success of the surge is what has made possible, even, the thought of diverting any troops from Iraq to Afghanistan?
LAWRENCE KORB: No. The surge means that we added 20,000 more combat troops.
But what began to turn things around in Iraq was, in 2006, after the Democrats won control of the Congress, the -- what they called the Sunni insurgents became known as the Sons of Iraq -- you had the Al Anbar awakening -- said that they would team up with us to go after al-Qaida in Iraq, because al-Qaida in Iraq had been so violent, the things they had done. And they realized that we were not going to be there forever.
This is the deal, that that has gotten the violence down in Al Anbar Province, which is where it was the heaviest. And then, even before the surge was completed, in February 2007, Sadr, Muqtada al-Sadr, told his militia to lay down their arms.
MARGARET WARNER: But are you saying that the surge, the 20,000 additional combat forces, aren't a significant factor in why things are more peaceful?
LAWRENCE KORB: It was a factor, but was not nearly as big a factor as the Sunni insurgents laying down their arms, because the -- we now call them the Sons of Iraq. We are paying them. We are training them. It was about 100,000 of them. But this is a deal we could have had in 2004. We didn't take it. We took it in 2006, because -- after the election.
MARGARET WARNER: Max Boot, if I could come back to you on Senator McCain's position and how that is going to jibe with the views of the Iraqi government, if he were to become president -- and I think it is pretty clear what the Maliki government is saying, despite their, gee, that isn't quite what we meant, but then they said it again today, which is they seem to share Senator Obama's timetable.
Could a Senator McCain persist in wanting a long-term stationing of U.S. forces, which at least was his original position, in the face of that kind of opposition?
MAX BOOT: I don't think there's really as much of a conflict between Senator McCain's view and the view of the Iraqi government as it appears.
First, let me, if I could just very quickly, correct a misapprehension that Larry Korb is perpetrating here, the same one that Barack Obama has perpetrated before, which is to say that the success that we are seeing in Iraq as a result of the Democratic victory in the November 2006 election.
Now, that is just bizarre, because anybody who has been to Iraq knows that the Al Anbar awakening...
LAWRENCE KORB: If you want to correct me, then I'm going to come back, OK? She asked you a question. Answer that one.
MAX BOOT: Larry, let me finish my sentence, please.
Anybody who has been to Iraq knows that the Al Anbar awakening began in September of 2006, months before the Democrats took office in the United States. And anybody who has been to Iraq recently also knows that there is no way that these brave Sunnis or the Sons of Iraq would be risking their lives if they saw that American troops were on their way out.
The only reason they are willing to stand and fight against al-Qaida is because they know that the commitment of the United States remains secure and that we will stand with them.
MARGARET WARNER: Go back to Senator McCain's...
MAX BOOT: Now, let me answer the question.
MARGARET WARNER: Please, yes.
MAX BOOT: Yes, absolutely. Let me answer the question about Senator McCain's views and Prime Minister Maliki's views.
Obama Campaign Adviser
MAX BOOT: Now, remember, Prime Minister Maliki is a politician. So, you have to pars his words very, very carefully. And you have to understand that he is, to some extent, posturing for domestic political advantage, because he wants to present himself as a nationalist to win votes in the upcoming provincial elections.
He's also in tough negotiations with the Bush administration, and talking about withdrawal timetables gives him some leverage there. But you have to look very carefully at what he said. He did not say that they will impose a timetable. He said that they hope that U.S. troop could leave by 2010, which is fine. That's essentially -- Senator McCain hopes that U.S. combat troops can leave fairly soon, too.
The difference is, Senator McCain has said that any reductions in combat forces have to be based on conditions on the ground, not on rigid timetables imposed in advance. And, if you listen to what Prime Minister Maliki and his spokesmen are saying, they agree with that.
They agree that we can only have these major withdrawals of American troops if conditions on the ground permit. But that's something that Senator Barack Obama does not agree with. He wants to reduce U.S. troops, no matter what conditions on the ground are. And nobody can predict what Iraq will look like two years from now.
So, it is incredibly irresponsible and very dangerous, as Admiral Mullen said, to try to create a rigid timeline to which we adhere no matter what happens in Iraq.
MARGARET WARNER: OK.
We are almost out of time, and I do want to ask a question about Afghanistan.
Under a President Barack, how quickly, Lawrence Korb, would additional brigades be available to send to Afghanistan?
LAWRENCE KORB: Well, in -- rather than replacing the brigades in Iraq as they finish their tour, you would then divert them to Afghanistan.
If you -- basically, if he comes in, and there's 15 brigades, that means about a brigade-and-a-half a month would finish their 12-month -- 12-month tour.
MARGARET WARNER: But give us a real timeline for inserting more troops.
LAWRENCE KORB: Well, he -- in fact, Senator Obama said -- and I think we can't wait. But, if he were to come in, basically, he would start the withdrawal of the brigades, so you would not replace the brigades. So, within the first couple of months, you would have the two to three brigades there.
McCain Campaign Adviser
MARGARET WARNER: And -- and, Max Boot, a President McCain, would he divert no troops to Afghanistan until he felt Iraq was secure? And how long would that be?
MAX BOOT: Well, Senator -- well, Senator McCain has already said that he would surge three brigades into Afghanistan, which is more than what Senator Obama has proposed.
MARGARET WARNER: But I mean how, with what?
MAX BOOT: Well, it's not hard, because we have just withdrawn five brigades from Iraq. We have taken five out. That means that, next year, we're going to have the capability to put some more into Afghanistan, no matter what happens in Iraq.
MARGARET WARNER: But, excuse me, let me just -- may I interrupt you?
MAX BOOT: Yes.
MARGARET WARNER: Doesn't -- the brigades that are coming out have been on very long rotations. Haven't the rotations been shortened, so there isn't the same availability?
MAX BOOT: Well, you can have 12-month rotations. You can have 15-month rotations. Ideally, you want to have troops getting as much rest as possible.
Ideally, you also want to have more troops available. If President Bush had listened to Senator McCain and some others, and had expanded the size of the active-duty ground forces years ago, we would have more options at this point.
But, right now, we have -- certainly have the capability to surge two brigades, three brigades, whatever is necessary, into Afghanistan next year. And keep in mind, as the situation in Iraq improves, Senator McCain is in favor of more withdrawals. He is not opposed to withdrawals. He has said that he would bring most American troops home from Iraq by the end of his first term in 2013.
The difference is, he wants to wait until he sees what the conditions on the ground are, and not impose a rigid timetable for withdrawal. And that's his big difference with Senator Obama.
It's not a question of whether one is going to withdraw and one is going to stay forever. That is a caricature. The reality is, one wants to withdraw no matter what -- and, if we had taken his advice now, Iraq would be a disaster...
MARGARET WARNER: All right.
MAX BOOT: ... whereas Senator McCain wants to wait and look at conditions on the ground and listen to his commanders, which is not something that Senator Obama has been doing by releasing his plan before he showed up in Iraq.
MARGARET WARNER: Max Boot, sorry to interrupt, but we are going have to leave it there.
Thank you both.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Randy Pausch RIP
From the coauthor of his book at the WSJ.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The Mainstream Media is Tripping Over Itself in Support of Obama
It is getting pretty obvious, isn't it? And to really underscore the point, yesterday, the media got it all wrong about what al-Maliki agreed to with Obama regarding US troop withdrawals from Iraq. I mean, come on guys, give it a break. This obsequiousness could backfire by November (but I doubt it).
A word to the MSM wise: be careful what you wish for. Obama is not the second coming of JFK.
Friday, July 11, 2008
The News isn't all that Bad for McCain, But You'd Never Know It
There is a little - just a little - good news for McCain, though you would never know it. Last week, the Weekly Standard noted how Newsweek has nothing but accolades to shower upon Obama and his wife; and for McCain and his wife, only storm clouds, horrors and derision.
The same is true at NBC's Today show, which is obviously as bad as or even worse than MSNBC. Andrea Mitchell is dragged in early in the morning to do her usual negative story on the McCain campaign. It is sickening, so I shut it off now. Today the anti-McCain news was on the overzealousness of his friend and economic advisor, former US Senator Phil Gramm. Tomorrow it will be more of the same garbage from NBC and MSNBC, but the Weekly Standard blog has uncovered some interesting, if not momentary good news for the McCain campaign. You will never hear this from Newsweek, MSNBC or the Today show:
Dean Barnett July 11, 2008 5:28 PM - original item
Over the weekend, I was having an impromptu conversation with the McCain campaign’s deputy director of online communications. During our chat, I predicted, “Your guy will be within two points of Obama in the Rasmussen tracking poll by the end of the week.”
I mention this anecdote not merely to highlight the tantalizing list of glittering political all-stars that I habitually hobnob with, but also to illustrate how the fact that Obama was damaging his campaign narrative with his serial flip-flops was easily foreseeable. Lo and behold, in today’s Rasmussen tracking poll, McCain has pulled to within two points.
Obviously this has nothing to do with anything the McCain campaign has done. In spite of the McCainiacs’ best efforts, balanced-budget-mania has yet to sweep the nation. And the candidate’s over-the-top disparaging of social security hasn’t served as a bracing helping of straight talk that has energized his campaign. In order to preserve whatever dwindling chances I have of someday getting a seat on the Straight Talk Express, I will only mention in passing this week’s cloddish efforts of campaign surrogates Carly Fiorina and Phil Gramm.
A few days ago, we discussed how this campaign will boil down to Obama vs. Not Obama. Not Obama had a very good week.
Beckel’s article takes a sympathetic look at his 14 year-old son’s plight. In short, the lad has stopped swooning:
I was a little surprised last week when my son asked me, "What's wrong with Senator Obama?" I asked why. "Because he sounds different", he says. Thinking the kid was referring to Obama's recent moves to the center on some issues I tell him every candidate for president repositions for the general election. My son gives me one of those teenage 'what planet are you on' looks and says, "never mind."
It took awhile but I realized my point about Obama's repositioning on Iraq, FISA, etc meant nothing to my kid. All he knew was that the "Obama of Summer" was somehow different than the Yes We Can "Obama of Winter" - and it bothered him. To my kid it wasn't a question of issues, but a perception that somehow Obama had changed. As Barack Obama learned this week it is a perception shared by thousands of his supporters who do understand the issues and, unlike my son, can vote.
Does Obama really sound different or are people just hearing him differently? The uplift he provided earlier in the campaign season was so bracing precisely because it was new. But as Achilles discovered with his shield, nothing can stay new forever. We conservatives began months ago to mock Obama for labeling every issue that wasn’t to his liking a “distraction.” All he wanted to talk about was Hope/Change.
But the problem with politics is that you have to make all sorts of Hobson's choices that will escape the Hope/Change paradigm. For instance, do you beat back the environmentalists and make them accept common sense policies, or do you tell the rest of the country to lump it and enjoy its $4/gallon gas? On another level, do you talk common sense about Iraq and enrage the left or do you remain committed to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?
In other words, politics has to be conducted on a lower plane than the one Obama comfortably operates on.
Forget about the unforgivable cheesiness of Barack Obama raising money for Hillary Clinton while he has his own pressing matters to tend to. (Is this indicative of the way he’ll stand up for American interests as president?) More interesting are the dark hints being proffered by Obama command central regarding the status of the campaign’s once historic fundraising:
In a conference call Wednesday night, a top Obama adviser told members of the senator's national finance committee that "there's a huge amount of money we need to raise, and we have to be aware of that," according to one person on the call, who said the campaign, combined with the Democratic National Committee, hopes to have raised $450 million by Election Day.
Several of Obama's top fundraisers said yesterday that they don't think trend lines showing three straight months of declining donations to the candidate are cause for concern.
The three months in question are March, April and May. So what will June’s numbers look like? Sean Oxendine, one of the wiz kids at Next Right, notices a pattern:
Obama's then-record-breaking $32M fundraising haul in January was released on February 4. Which just happened to be right before Super Tuesday.
Obama's record-breaking $55M fundraising haul in February was announced on March 6. Two days after the Ohio/Texas campaigns, when he desperately needed to release some good news.
Obama's pretty-darned-good $40M+ fundraising haul in March was announced on April 3, early in the month.
But Obama's now-under-expectations $31M in April wasn't announced until May 20. You remember, the day of the Oregon and Kentucky primary, when everyone was talking about things other than fundraising numbers?
And the May numbers ($22M) weren't announced until June 20. A Friday, aka "bury news day."
So in other words, Obama's campaign gets the importance of the news cycle with respect to fundraising. In the heat of the most competitive primary in recent times, Obama managed to get his fundraising dollars counted in 3-4 days. But now, it’s taking him 3 weeks to do it?
It is still idle speculation, but we might be in for a treat tomorrow or next Friday (or whatever day they can bury the numbers).
Since Bob Beckel’s son and I have already made the point about the declining enthusiasm of the Obama minions and I hate to beat a dead horse, I’ll instead take note of a different phenomenon. Remember a few months ago when Obama and his champions (especially in the lefty blogopshere) crowed about how they and Obama had figured out how to turn the internet into an ATM? What's happened since then? Did they misplace the recipe to the secret sauce?
It was obvious at the time that Obama’s internet fundraising, much like Ron Paul’s, had nothing to do with the campaign’s facility with the intertubes. Those who thought otherwise probably believe that the trees push the wind. Both candidates’ fundraising successes can be attributed to having captured lightning in a bottle. Of course, the relevant political consultants will promise that they can do the trick again on demand. And candidates will hire them based on that pledge. But there is no formula to such things. Howard Dean had similar successes in 2004. Joe Trippi, the purported architect of those successes, had no luck recreating them for John Edwards’s campaign this time around.
Back in the day, Richard Viguerie earned quite a name for himself by inventing the mail (or something like that, anyway). Now, having modernized with the times, he scampers around the internet sending out a seemingly endless supply of emails lamenting everyone else’s lack of conservative bona fides. John McCain is currently Viguerie’s Public Enemy #1:
John McCain has had the Republican nomination sewn up for five months and has done little to convince conservatives they should come off the sidelines and fight for him.
Personnel is policy and if Senator McCain won’t surround himself with conservatives during this campaign, when he desperately needs them, why should we think that he will have conservatives making critical decisions in his administration?
Senator McCain has never been a conservative, is not one now, and will not govern as one. From McCain-Feingold to cap-and-trade, he is a supporter of one Big Government scheme after another. History shows that, in the Oval Office, where almost all the political pressure comes from supporters of Big Government, he would only get worse.
Let’s put aside the intellectual incoherence for a moment. On second thought, let’s not. In Viguerie’s telling, John McCain never has been and never will be a conservative. And yet if McCain surrounded himself with conservatives during the campaign, Viguerie would feel much more enthusiastic about things. Talk about a cheap date!
Me, I take the opposite tack. I realize that McCain has several policy inclinations that are markedly different from my own. But he did win the nomination. And he is much better than the other guy, the one who responds to Iran testing missiles that could destroy Israel by lamenting America's provocations. So I will vote for McCain, and do so relatively enthusiastically.
And I don’t want McCain to try to disingenuously purchase my undiluted enthusiasm. If he offered a massive tax cut package like Bob Dole did in 1996, I would have the exact same reaction I did to Dole’s pledge – I wouldn’t believe it. In other words, McCain should throw me under the bus. Doing so has worked for him so far. And he should run in the middle where he’s happy and where the swing votes fortuitously lie.
Consultant-speak meets Al Qaeda, and the result is comic genius.
Hello, valued Al Qaeda associate! Welcome to the inaugural issue of Vistas, the new electronic newsletter designed to keep you informed on all the fast-paced comings and goings within our Total Quality Jihad family.
In a dynamic marketplace characterized by rapid change and unexpected missiles, even the most disciplined adaptive organizations can find it challenging to keep the lines of communication open. Without understanding the strategic "big picture," associates will sometimes be confused by misleading rumors they read on unreliable infidel blogs and websites like "F**ked Insurgency" and "Jihad Deadpool." With Vistas, you will learn the real story -- of how we are attacking the competitive casualty gap with a paradigm-changing tactical adaptive strategy focused on paradise value optimization. Yes, there will be some changes, but our core leadership mission remains the same one established by Chairman Emeritus Osama Bin Laden when he founded Al Qaeda in his family goat shed nearly 15 years ago: to create a robust, cave-centric, best-of-breed strategic organization for global caliphate management solution services. If we all pull together as accountable subteams, we are on-track to rebuild momentum after the Q4 Infidel elections!
As you have possibly heard by now, Team Satan and their subsidiary Iraqi Security Forces have made several key market acquisitions in the last few months. In order to meet Q3 Return-on-Mayhem targets and maximize stakeholder value, we need to refocus our client-facing resource model. As we are currently seeking a 17th round of venture funding, budgets are extremely tight, and this will require reducing our internal work team payroll load through adaptive right-sizing on a go-forward basis. Accounting estimates indicate that much of this will be achieved via natural attrition and Apache Hellfire missiles. Still, in order to achieve costing targets, we will need to engage in involuntary outboarding.
The Communications department will be most directly effected by this initiative, as we continue transitioning of our day-to-day public relations efforts to low-cost offshore service providers like Huffington Post, DailyKos, and Democratic Underground.
Read the whole thing.
Labels: 2008 Election
Friday, July 04, 2008
Musing on America
Seventeen years ago I was on my last overseas trip (the ones to Mexico in 1996 and Canada in 1997 not counting as overseas). I spent about 30 hours in the Bahrain airport, writing for my visa into post-war Kuwait to come through. It finally did, and I arrived in Kuwait July 4, 1991, where I joined my wife. She had been there about six weeks as a Red Cross nurse, and was about to leave for home. We overlapped three days, I think.At that time I had spent five of the previous nine years living out of the country: from 1981-83 in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, and then from 1988 to 1990 in Kuwait. I remember my first flight back into America, in September 1981, when I came to fetch the family and bring them to Saudi for our life there. Charles was 2 years 8 months old, and Sara a mere 5 months. I flew on Pan Am, which to me was a symbol of America. Upon touch down at JFK airport, many on the plane broke out in cheers and clapping. Home again, to the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Several times since then Lynda and I have commented on how reckless and foolish we were, as young parents, to take our children to the Persian Gulf region while the Iran-Iraq war was on. We saw few effects of it while in Saudi, but it was still on when we began expatriate life in Kuwait years later. Several times we saw smoking ships being brought to land somewhere to the south, close enough to see what it was but far enough away to not know what type of ship, or if they were putting into a Kuwaiti or Saudi port. I suspect the Saudi ports were over the horizon, and that they must have been foreign vessels--probably Iraqi--putting into Kuwait ports for repairs. My first month in Kuwait four terrorist bombs were set off, though always in a place that seemed to be to damage a business, not kill people.
In those five years, I had six homecomings to America, plus the one in the trip after the war, so seven overall. I've been to Canada twice, and Mexico once, so in all I have returned to America ten times in my life. Each time was an exhilarating feeling. Home again, to a nation where peace prevails and sanity rules. Home again, to where economic opportunity is bounded only by the effort you put in and the amount the government takes out. Home again, to safety and security. Usually to cheers, always to relief.
The world has changed in those years since the long trips for oversees residency, not for business or tourism. I had the opportunity to be in about twenty-five or thirty other countries. I love this country most of all. Yet, as I've said in an editorial, I see the United States as a fragile experiment, a mere 232 years after declaring independence, 217 after finding a workable form of government. We have outlasted some nations, but many others through history lasted longer. The experiment is still fragile. Forces foreign and domestic want to change us from being the nation we were formed to be. I won't list the changes, and not all readers would agree with the specifics.
Has America passed its zenith? Are we now on the decline? This would take many posts to write about, which I won't do at this time--too much writing to do otherwise. If we have passed our zenith, I hope it is momentary, and that another score of years will find us on the ascendancy again. As I said in the closing line of a tribute poem to Ronald Reagan, "Long live your shining city on a hill."
Helms RIP this Fourth of July
I recall coming in late for a breakfast hosted by Senator Jesse Helms during the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit. My brother and I walked by the podium as he was speaking. We felt like we had committed a sacrilege. "Give 'Em Helms - Jesse" was the cry at the time.
The Senator died today in Raleigh, NC at 86 of natural causes.
"It's just incredible that he would die on July 4, the same day of the Declaration of Independence and the same day that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died, and he certainly is a patriot in the mold of those great men," said former North Carolina GOP Rep. Bill Cobey, the chairman of The Jesse Helms Center at Wingate University.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Five Good Reasons We Went to War in Iraq
From today's commentary page at the WSJ:
When the president ultimately decided that the Iraqi regime must be ousted by force, he was influenced by five key factors:
1) Saddam was a threat to U.S. interests before 9/11. The Iraqi dictator had started wars against Iran and Kuwait, and had fired missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel. Unrepentant about the rape of Kuwait, he remained intensely hostile to the U.S. He provided training, funds, safe haven and political support to various types of terrorists. He had developed WMD and used chemical weapons fatally against Iran and Iraqi Kurds. Iraq's official press issued statements praising the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.
2) The threat of renewed aggression by Saddam was more troubling and urgent after 9/11. Though Saddam's regime was not implicated in the 9/11 operation, it was an important state supporter of terrorism. And President Bush's strategy was not simply retaliation against the group responsible for 9/11. Rather it was to prevent the next major attack. This focused U.S. officials not just on al Qaeda, but on all the terrorist groups and state supporters of terrorism who might be inspired by 9/11 – especially on those with the potential to use weapons of mass destruction.
3) To contain the threat from Saddam, all reasonable means short of war had been tried unsuccessfully for a dozen years. The U.S. did not rush to war. Working mainly through the U.N., we tried a series of measures to contain the Iraqi threat: formal diplomatic censure, weapons inspections, economic sanctions, no-fly zones, no-drive zones and limited military strikes. A defiant Saddam, however, dismantled the containment strategy and the U.N. Security Council had no stomach to sustain its own resolutions, let alone compel Saddam's compliance.
4) While there were large risks involved in a war, the risks of leaving Saddam in power were even larger. The U.S. and British pilots patrolling the no-fly zones were routinely under enemy fire, and a larger confrontation – over Kuwait again or some other issue – appeared virtually certain to arise once Saddam succeeded in getting out from under the U.N.'s crumbling economic sanctions.
Mr. Bush decided it was unacceptable to wait while Saddam advanced his biological weapons program or possibly developed a nuclear weapon. The CIA was mistaken, we all now know, in its assessment that we would find chemical and biological weapons stockpiles in Iraq. But after the fall of the regime, intelligence officials did find chemical and biological weapons programs structured so that Iraq could produce stockpiles in three to five weeks. They also found that Saddam was intent on having a nuclear weapon. The CIA was wrong in saying just before the war that his nuclear program was active; but Iraq appears to have been in a position to make a nuclear weapon in less than a year if it purchased fissile material from a supplier such as North Korea.
5) America after 9/11 had a lower tolerance for such dangers. It was reasonable – one might say obligatory – for the president to worry about a renewed confrontation with Saddam. Like many others, he feared Saddam might then use weapons of mass destruction again, perhaps deployed against us through a proxy such as one of the many terrorist groups Iraq supported.
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