Monday, December 10, 2007


Getting Beyond Stalemate

The Washington Post this weekend published a notable op-ed, Getting Beyond Stalemate to Win a War,” jointly authored by retired Major General (MG) John Batiste and Vets for Freedom Executive Director Pete Hegseth.

Hegseth, who’s been tireless in his efforts this year in leading the media fight for victory and against surrender in the war in Iraq, presented quite a contrast with Batiste. Batiste the former 1st Infantry Division Commander, publicly trumpeted starkly negative assessments of our efforts in Iraq this past year. At the time, immediately pre-election, the timing and vehemence of his opposition, his emphasis on subjective opinion versus military facts on the ground, all struck me as nakedly partisan and opportunist.

All the more remarkable that Hegseth and Batiste contributed jointly to this opinion piece. Hegseth notified Vets for Freedom supporters (I’m on their National Leadership Team) that, notwithstanding any prior political differences, Batiste is a “true patriot.” Here’s how Hegseth explains their work together for the WaPo op-ed:

The op-ed outlines the need for America to succeed in Iraq, as well as in the Long War against radical Islam.
As you may know, in 2006 Maj. Gen. Batiste was an outspoken critic of failed strategies in Iraq. However, to his great credit, he now believes we must stop "prosecuting the past," recognize the success of the new strategy, and focus on victory. I could not agree more!
My sincere hope is that this op-ed will help serve as a sort of "political reconciliation" in our own country. It is time to put aside petty partisan differences, and rally behind the need for success in Iraq and in the Long War.
It was an honor to write the piece with Maj. Gen. Batiste—he is a fine officer and a true patriot.

If Hegseth can make this statement about Batiste, at the least I can reconsider any earlier judgment I made about him. In any case, Hegseth and Batiste make a strong argument for reconciliation of oppositional national security views, and victory in Iraq:

Our military men and women deserve better than partisan politics; they deserve honest assessments of our nation's performance in fighting the Long War.
We are veterans of the Iraq war with vastly different experiences. Both of us commanded troops in Iraq. We, too, held seemingly entrenched, and incompatible, views upon our return. One of us spoke out against mismanagement of the war -- failed leadership, lack of strategy and misdirection. The other championed the cause of successfully completing our mission.
Our perspectives were different, yet not as stark as the "outspoken general" and "stay-the-course supporter" labels we received. Such labels are oversimplified and inaccurate, and we are united behind a greater purpose.
It's time to discuss the way forward rather than prosecute the past. Congress must do the same, for our nation and the troops.

As I’ve stated many times, who knows how much easier this fight might have been, if serious and security minded Democrats had held sway, and kept the anti-war rhetoric well-tempered by a “politics stop at the water’s edge” philosophy. (How about this for a post-9/11 version of same, “politics stop at ground zero’s debris field.”)

Hegseth and Batiste energetically embrace the concept of the Long War that we fight against radical Islamic extremism, and call for concerted, unified American effort against or terrorist enemies in five key areas, as excerpted:

·        The United States must be successful in the fight against worldwide Islamic extremism.

·        Iraq cannot become a staging ground for Islamic extremism or be dominated by other powers in the region, such as Iran and Syria.

·        The counterinsurgency campaign led by Gen. David Petraeus is the correct approach in Iraq.

·        No matter what, Iran must not be permitted to become a nuclear power.

·        Our military capabilities need to match our national strategy.

Hegseth and Batiste assert that Veterans are resolved in their defense of this nation, and make one additional plea:

America's veterans -- young and old -- are resolved to support and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. This commitment, and nothing less, should compel us to stand together, in and out of uniform. Would that Congress finds the courage to bury its pride and do the same.

This should have been the stand taken in 2003, and long overdue in 2007, but perhaps it marks an important (and essential) turning point in political rhetoric.

I view it as inevitable that all those who formerly spoke of defeat, withdrawal, quagmire, blunders, will need to reposition for 2008. The writing’s on the wall. Those who cling to the defeat narrative will be punished severely; if not by an electorate, then by those who position with an electorate in mind.

Here’s a tactical question. How much cover do you extend to people who still have political interests in opposition to your own? Does it make them look foolish, or embarrassed that they were wrong? Is that enough to weaken them?

One issue is who holds the White House in 2009. Another is, no matter who wins, how will the military be treated? Are they going to listen to us, next time things get tough? How will we be used? Will we keep fighting the Long War, with leaders who will make tough decisions?

I'd vote whole-heartedly for reconciliation, if I had any confidence that those on the other side were genuine in their "new awareness" and serious about the real, abiding threats we face.

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