Sunday, July 20, 2008

Acknowledge Sucess and Failures

Opponents of the war in Iraq have a problem. Republicans are making the point that the surge has worked and opponents are intellectually dishonest if they don't accept that fact.

They have a point. For several reasons, one of which is the surge (which I did not support), the situation in Iraq is much better today than it was a year and a half ago. There is certainly more hope that we can leave an Iraq that will become a nation that will not be a source of violence and instability in the world.

The problem, of course, is such an admission would be seen as an endorsement of the war and the policies of the Bush Administration. Even though the surge didn't meet many of its own goals and it is generally agreed the war was a mistake and the Administration bungled badly many major issues during the first 3 or 4 years, any concession of success now would be used by proponents of the war as proof that the opponents were wrong. Wrong about opposing the surge. Wrong about opposing Administration policies and tactics. Wrong about questioning the rationals for going to war. Of course, all such assertions would wrong.

While the adage "Hindsight is 20/20" may seem to be irrefutable, it is merely a statement that it is easier to link a known result to prior actions than to predict which actions will achieve a particular result. Even when we have a result, it may not be possible to tell which actions were instrumental in achieving the result. And such analysis often cannot rule out that other actions might have produced even more favorable results.

That is a complicated way of saying, yes, our situation in Iraq is better today than it was a year and half ago and the surge was one of the actions that got us to this point. It was not the only action. It may or may not have been the most significant action. Finally, there may have been other actions that were not taken that would have put us in an even better position.

Even if you agree that we are in a better position today, it will be a long time before we have the perspective to say whether, given the costs in lives, injuries, dollars, etc., the surge was worth those costs.

Senator McCain says that if Senator Obama's plan from several month's ago had been followed we would now be facing defeat in Iraq. I'm sure he believes that, but he has absolutely no way to prove that or even make a convincing argument. A speedy withdrawal as Senator Obama proposed may have forced the Iraqi's to step up more quickly. It might have eventually resulted in situation similar to today, though possibly more costly for Iraq, but less costly for the United States. Remember, at the time there were reports that the threat of a speedy withdrawal seemed to force the Iraqi government to start planning for an Iraq after a U.S. withdrawal.

Books have and will be written about Iraq successes, failures and missed opportunities, but that doesn't help Democrats acknowledge some obvious success without conceding defeat.

I think Democrats should acknowledge the success of the surge when Republics acknowledge that we should never have invaded Iraq, but that is not going to happen. The next best plan is to closely link an acknowledgment of success to an abbreviated list of the failures and a transition to a defined exit strategy.

Something like, Given that we were misled into a war that was unnecessary and badly managed for four years, the surge has had more success than events up to that time would have predicted. The United States military has once again performed their duties magnificently and rescued this country and this Administration from a precarious situation. Now that the violence in Iraq is down from the high levels at the start of the surge, that the Iraqi's are moving closer to a position where they can govern and defend themselves and that Iraq has expressed a desire for us to withdraw our troops by 2010, it is now time for us to develop a plan and set a timetable to leave Iraq and finally concentrate on the real war on terrorism.

No comments: