Friday, April 20, 2007

No Strings Attached, Please

U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith returned from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan last week and held a conference call to discuss his observations of the war on terrorism taking place in both countries.

He said there are no illusions about “the enormity of the task” in Iraq, but that progress is being made. He pointed to the improved police force and security situation in Ramadi, tribal leadership working with the coalition in Fallujah, and rebuilding of Iraq’s navy at Um Qasr as examples of the good work done by coalition troops.

After visiting with General Petraeus and others in Iraq, Smith was convinced good planning is taking place and progress is being made by the “day to day heroes” we never hear about.

In Afghanistan, the provincial reconstruction teams (PRT’s) are working toward building an economic backbone for the country. He pointed out that the task of rebuilding is different in Afghanistan than it is in Iraq because we didn’t dismantle the infrastructure of the country during the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, there simply wasn’t much infrastructure left by the Taliban.

The Congressman said that what he’d seen and heard in Iraq solidified his position and reinforced his vote against the supplemental spending bill with all the strings attached for the war.

One of the specific points he gathered from the troops in Iraq which reaffirmed his position was the “need for flexibility;” read not specific directives from Congress which would only serve to complicate matters.

I would most certainly agree.

Congressman Smith didn’t ask this question, but haven’t we already made enough mistakes and relearned enough hard lessons in this war? Why choose to relearn the one about micromanaging a war from Washington?

535 armchair generals, led by some with the war-time personalities of Sybil, constantly readjusting the bar and redefining benchmarks for success so as to never achieve success is simply a bad idea.

Just look at some of the critics’ shifts to see the multiple personalities of their positions.

One of their criticisms is that we’re not doing enough to fight Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. But fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq doesn’t seem to be necessary. Al Qaeda is suspected of setting off the bomb in Iraq’s parliament last week. But instead of using the occasion to reinvigorate the fight against them, defeatists here point to it as a reason to get out of Iraq. So, do they or don’t they think we need to fight Al Qaeda?

Congressman Smith noted how the violent overreach by Al Qaeda in Iraq has driven Iraqi’s together in a fight against them. Last Saturday’s Telegraph from Britain noted that the same attack had even brought Sunnis and Shiites in parliament together, resolved to fight Al Qaeda. Military intelligence and news articles over the last several months have shown the same trend, a growing, concerted effort against Al Qaeda by the Iraqi’s, especially in Anbar Province. Doesn’t it seem odd that they increasingly understand the threat from Al Qaeda while we seem less and less willing to acknowledge it?

But that’s not the only place where the factors for success are constantly on the move so as to allow pessimism and defeatism to run amuck.

How many senators and congressmen who had been calling for more troops in Iraq up to and through last summer, have spent the last four months arguing against that very same thing now that the President is implementing “the surge?”

Previously, when more and more provinces in Iraq were becoming peaceful, even to the point of being turned over to full Iraqi control from coalition authority, the defeatists belittled those accomplishments. We heard that progress in those places was irrelevant because Baghdad was the key to victory.

Now that the trends in Baghdad show signs of success, those stuck in multiple personality criticism mode point to the violence elsewhere in the country as reasons the cause is lost. So, is Baghdad the key or not? Or is that “benchmark” simply going to change to fulfill a predetermined, desired outcome?

One of the things I was told by the staff of a war critic in Washington was that even though Baghdad is the key, the surge wouldn’t work because the bad guys would simply “go to ground” and come out of hiding later. But violence popping up in other areas of the country is a clear indication that at least some of the bad guys flushed out of Baghdad. Now that same politician points to those series of events as reasons why the cause is lost. Beyond being short-sighted about the mobility and intentions of terrorists, it begs the simple question, “which way is it?” Why does the condition of the rest of the country now matter when it previously mattered so very little?

However, there’s no point for those who really need to answer these questions to do so. They’re likely to change their answers as conditions improve in one place or another that contradict their positions, thus forcing them to change their answers, again.

Regardless, what it does illustrate is why there shouldn’t be micromanagement by Congress via the supplemental spending bill, because the defeatists demanding the strings be attached are sure to constantly change the length, number, color, and size of the strings to ensure we can’t succeed.

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