Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Hold Firm Opinions

In honor of the efforts of Vets for Freedom to rally OIF and OEF veterans on Capitol Hill today, here’s a summary of some of the best “hold firm” commentary from the past couple of days.

First, comes the admonition to keep on surgin', from the redoubtable Bill Kristol, writing at the Weekly Standard:

The Defeatist Democrats have lots of support from the mainstream media, most of whom have simply given up on reporting the war or analyzing arguments about the war. Actually, the newsmen who know something, like John F. Burns and Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times, have produced some terrific reporting. But run-of-the-mill foreign policy and White House reporters have little interest in what is actually happening in Iraq, or in a real consideration of the likely outcomes of different policy options. They're not even reporting what's happening in Washington. They're simply committed to discrediting the war and humiliating the Bush administration.

As for the foreign policy establishment and its fellow travelers in the punditocracy, one might have thought they could be serious about this war--actually analyzing events, engaging in a grown-up debate about the real-world consequences of different courses of action, keeping calm amid the political posturing. Many in the Bush administration who care for their standing in the establishment's eyes have spent an awful lot of time cultivating these masters of nuance and complexity. All for naught. The establishment, like the media and the Democrats, wants to discredit and humiliate an administration that too often (though not often enough!) dared to think for itself, and to act without their permission. They're out to destroy Bush, his ideas, and his supporters, no matter the consequences for the country.

Over the last few weeks, all of these estimable entities--the Democratic party in Congress, much of the media, and the foreign policy establishment--have joined together to try to panic the country, and the Bush administration, into giving up.


Over the last few months, the United States (finally) surged in Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq has now surged against the surge. Iran is surging against the surge. We're pushing them back. Now the Democrats in Congress, the mainstream media, and the foreign policy establishment have mounted their own surges against the surge. So far, Bush is beating them back. If Bush can hang tough, and General Petraeus can keep on surging, the Defeatists will fail. And the United States will have a good chance to succeed in Iraq.

Surges within surges within surges within surges. Sounds like a kind of geopolitical acid-reflux. Our side has all the gas, and our enemies experience the real heartburn.

Next up, long-suffering Michael Ledeen thinks the military knows what’s really going on in Iraq – he’s right of course. Writing at NRO, Ledeen also highlights what President Bush described as the bigger fight none of his critics acknowledge:

The fight in Iraq is part of a broader struggle that’s unfolding across the region...The same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map is also providing sophisticated IEDs to extremists in Iraq who are using them to kill American soldiers.
The same Hezbollah terrorists who are waging war against the forces of democracy in Lebanon are training extremists to do the same against coalition forces in Iraq.
The same Syrian regime that provides support and sanctuary for Islamic jihad and Hamas has refused to close its airport in Damascus to suicide bombers headed to Iraq.
...the war against extremists and radicals is not only evident in Iraq, but it’s evident in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Afghanistan.

In short, the president sees that it is a regional war, as it has been from the beginning, just as our enemies in Damascus and Tehran publicly told us it would be, even before a single American soldier set foot in Iraq. The two biggest causes of casualties in Iraq are non-indigenous: suicide bombers and constantly improving explosive devices deployed in and alongside roads.  Eighty to ninety percent of all suicide bombers are foreigners (mostly Saudis who are trained in Syria), not Iraqis, and the explosives have long been known to be of Iranian design to contain Iranian components, and often constructed in Iran (see the latest intelligence news about al Qaeda reconstituting in Iran).


Big wars require big strategies, and we do not have one. Yet. I believe the country would support one if the case were made clearly and honestly. Taking the war to our enemies in Damascus and Tehran does not require troops on the ground or bombs from the air, except in the limited cases of terrorist training camps and weapons factories. It requires, above all, two things: support for the democratic forces in Syria and Iran, and the will to confront our enemies. That will can be easily expressed, but no president has had the coherence and courage to do that. Iran has been at war with us for nearly thirty years, but no president has ever said we want an end to the terror regime in Tehran
It’s long past time to hear those words.

It’s a wider war. Beyond the issue of hold firm, or surrender in Iraq, remains the more vexing problem of what to do about a hostile regime who has been at war with the US for the past thirty years. (Just in case we get beyond today’s foolishness from the pro-surrender caucuses.)

Rich Lowry, writing at the New York Post, sees President Bush as the “last hawk standing” in holding firm, whether he successfully rallies his fellow Republicans, or not:

Bush is as confident and upbeat as ever. Even once-friendly commentators like The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan wish he'd show some strain and worry as the war drags into its fifth year. But Bush must have confidence and optimism written into his DNA. As leaks, GOP defections and plummeting approval ratings swirl all around him, he remains resolute: The Iraq War must, and can, be won.

Asked about persistent reports that he is looking to find a compromise with Congress around the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group for a troop drawdown, Bush is adamant that he is going to see the troop surge through September and then rely on the advice of Gen. David Petraeus on how to proceed.

"What you're asking me is that in order to placate people in Congress, am I going to write a strategy before the military reports back?" he says. "And the answer is, 'no.' "


Bush says that one of his most important audiences is not just the American public, but the enemy, who "thinks we're weak." He says "these are sophisticated people and they listen to the debate." They doubt "that we're going to be tough enough. I really believe that the additional forces into Iraq surprised them - a lot."

If only the opponents of our efforts in Iraq would consider, even in the slightest, the enemy we fight. How their efforts to end, obstruct, limit or reduce, embolden these enemies, and send the message that we can be waited out. That we will, yet again, turn our backs and fail our friends.

The Vets for Freedom rally today is all about bringing the voices of military veterans, the men and women who fight on our behalf, to bear on a wavering Congress. Despite grossly dishonest and distorted attack pieces (see most issues of the NY Times, and this phony story in particular) that claim military support for our efforts in Iraq is weakening, the US military wants to win, and knows we can.

John Burns captured a few of the many strong military voices urging support for our current efforts in a remarkable NY Times article that refutes the positions taken by the Times own editors:

General Lynch, a blunt-spoken, cigar-smoking Ohio native who commands the Third Infantry Division, said that all the American troops that began an offensive south of Baghdad in mid-June were part of the five-month-old troop buildup, and that they were making “significant” gains in areas that were previously enemy sanctuaries. Pulling back before the job was completed, he said, would create “an environment where the enemy could come back and fill the void.”

He implied that an early withdrawal would amount to an abandonment of Iraqi civilians who he said had rallied in support of the American and Iraqi troops, and would leave the civilians exposed to renewed brutality by extremist groups. “When we go out there, the first question they ask is, ‘Are you staying?’ ” he said. “And the second question is, ‘How can we help?’ ” He added, “What we hear is, ‘We’ve had enough of people attacking our villages, attacking our homes, and attacking our children.’ ”

General Lynch said his troops had promised local people that they would stay in the areas they had taken from the extremists until enough Iraqi forces were available to take over, and said this had helped sustain “a groundswell” of feeling against the extremists. He said locals had pinpointed hide-outs of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an extremist group that claims to have ties to Osama bin Laden’s network, that had been used to send suicide bombers into Baghdad and they had helped troops locate 170 large arms caches. The general said the locals had started neighborhood patrol units called “Iraqi provincial volunteers” that supplied their own weapons and ammunition.


General Lynch also challenged an argument often made by American lawmakers who want to end the military involvement here soon: that Iraqi troops have ducked much of the hard fighting, and often proved unreliable because of the strong sectarian influence exercised by the competition for power between Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political factions.

“I don’t know,” he said, how American war critics had concluded that the new American-trained Iraqi Army was not up to the fight. “I find that professionally offensive,” he said, after noting that there were “many Iraqi heroes” of the fighting south of Baghdad. “They’re competent,” he said. “There’s just not enough of them.”

No soldier wants to lose a war. No soldier wants to fail in his mission, by giving up while the opportunity to win remains. Veterans in this fight [not to be called the Global War on Terror] know first hand the sacrifices required, the cost of achieving our military objectives.

So if those with real “skin in the game” tell us to keep in the fight, who exactly are those who urge us to withdraw? To whom should we be listening?

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