Monday, July 28, 2008


Grand Revision

As if in prelude to commentary on Sen. Obama’s Presidential (Campaign) Visit to Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel and Palestinian Territories, and an adoring Europe, this past week evidenced recent evidence of Grand Revision.

This, of course, is the long predicted traverse of various political classes of Conventional Wisdom from What We All Knew Was True then, to What We Have Always Known is True now.

This turn of events surprises many, even those quite familiar with the various adages that embroider the truism, Defeat is an Orphan, Victory has a Thousand Fathers. Old political hands no doubt have all manner of examples from Partisan Navigation of the various methods and manners of the political pivot. Changes in political trade winds prompt a wise Captain to change tack. Paradigms shift.

Earlier in the week, no less a partisan than former White House Counsel Lanny Davis waxed poetic about the liberation of Iraq:

I just know I can’t get out of my mind that lady with the purple finger held up, smiling into the camera. If getting in was a mistake, then getting out — how and when — is not so simple as long as there is hope that she can some day live in a democratic Iraq that can help America in the war against terror.

Davis’s “confession of an anti-war Democrat,” was less surprising in revealing that Davis shifted readily between viewing the war as justified or not, depending on perceptions of how things were going at any moment, but rather what such admission reveals about this particular type of political animal.

Davis in effect admits that he changes his entire historical understanding and level of support for an American war effort, based on what things look like, how things are going, from moment to moment. That’s quite an admission for anyone who thinks seriously about foreign policy. It smacks of crass political expediency. Or moral relativity.

Here’s how Davis started out on his journey of transformation:

I had been strongly opposed to the U.S. intervention from the start. I felt this way even though I believed (as did most everyone, including the intelligence community) that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and even though I thought that Saddam was a murderous, genocidal thug and the world would be better off — and the U.S. safer — with him dead.

However, I reasoned, the WMD inspectors were back in and we had Saddam surrounded — thanks to George Bush, by the way, for which we Democrats did not give him sufficient credit at the time.

So why risk the uncertainties of a preemptive invasion, loss of life and treasure, and diverting our attention from 9/11 and the war against terror, which most U.S. intelligence indicated had nothing to do with Saddam?

Of course, all these remain good reasons for opposing starting the war, even as I look back now.

Davis admits to questioning his former certainty about the “wrongness” of the war when confronted by obvious indications that Iraqis actually celebrated their liberation, in joyfully embracing the rudiments of democracy after decades of oppression and horror.

Of course, when Al Qaeda set about to foment sectarian violence and the appearance of civil war, Davis reacted just as the terror Masters intended.

Then came the long demanded change in US policy in Iraq: a new counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy, and an increase of troops. The military actions necessary to create security, to give Iraq relief from violence, and a chance for the Iraqi government to make the insisted upon political progress.

Davis describes his latest change in perspective:

And then in early 2007 came the surge, which so many of us in the anti-war left of the Democratic Party predicted would be a failure, throwing good men and women and billions of dollars after futility. We were wrong.

The surge did, in fact, lead to a reduction of violence, confirmed by media on the ground as well as our military leaders.

It did allow the Shi’ite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the last several months to show leadership by joining, if not leading, the military effort to clean out of Basra the masked Mahdi Army controlled by the anti-U.S. Shiite extremist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and in the Sadr City section of Baghdad he claimed to control.

This willingness by the Shi’ite–dominated Maliki government to move against the Sadr Shi’ite extremists won crucial credibility for the government among many Sunni leaders and Sunnis on the streets, who joined together with Shi’ites to turn against the Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Taliban–like extremists.

These are facts, not arguments.

I suppose it should be gratifying to war supporters that anti-war Democrats can reconcile themselves to a positive outcome, to victory in Iraq, when all the uncertainty and “fog of war” has dissipated. But it reminds me of the townspeople coming alongside Gary Cooper at the end of High Noon, when Cooper and his wife protect the town against a criminal gang, unable to elicit the least support when the odds looked long, results were in doubt, and cringing citizens were more fearful of personal harm than standing in support of their town.

Via Glenn Reynolds, who also links to an earlier post, where Reader Peter Ingemi offered a prediction:

I'm remembering the coy saying about the French resistance. "If everyone who claimed to be in the resistance really had been, there would have been nobody left to collaborate."

I make the following prediction: In 20 or 25 years (it might not even take that long) all the people who where saying that the war was wrong and Iraq was wrong will talk about how America brought democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan and how they were a part of it due to their protests and desire for democracy and the end of tyranny. (of course they will not mention that the tyranny that they meant was us.) If the same people who write the current history books write them again be sure that this will happen.

The Grand Revision appears to be underway. More to follow.

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