Monday, June 19, 2006

"It's a Funny War": Redefining Success in Iraq

I recently posted on the difficulty of taking the long view of things in Iraq. Since that time, in the past week, the Bush administration’s communications team has done a remarkable job of clearing my head. Last week was the week of redefining “success” in Iraq. I guess, according to the White House’s logic, the delinquency of the press corps justifies the PR blitz. Here’s Press Secretary Tony Snow on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday:
“[I]t's a funny war because ... that becomes the big story, rather than the fact that you've got almost 60,000 forces on the ground going after bad guys.”
Snow went on to lament the lack of a Battle of the Bulge “moment” by which to measure success in Iraq.

It’s no coincidence that Snow chided the media and made an inept attempt at historical analogy in the same breath. This is part of a two-pronged effort to reverse the downward slide of American support for the war. Take for example, Donald Rumsfeld’s commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute on May 16, 2006:
“You enter the world at a complicated time. Today's world is freer than it has ever been, but those freedoms are threatened as never before. We are a nation at war, but it is a war unlike any other we have fought. For the first time in American history, the full view of war -- its glories and its horrors -- is on display to the world -- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Today's war fighters are conducting battles in an era of digital cameras, satellite phones, the Internet, blogs, and Google. As a result, the American people are seeing things they never saw before about the realities of major conflict and postwar violence. And they will need the help of those of you who have studied military strategy to better understand what it is they are seeing. And to become more aware that war requires continuous adjustments and calibrations, just as the enemy constantly adjusts its tactics.

Today, for example, we remember the D-Day Invasion as a great American victory. But many historians also remember it for a series of strategic and tactical errors and decisions based on imperfect intelligence, difficulties that cost thousands of lives, and delayed the Allied advance. Actually, it was undoubtedly both. Which of course is the nature of warfare."
Perhaps times are just too complicated for Dick Cheney. He stuck with his story today, insisting he stands by his statement of a year ago that the Iraq insurgency is in its “last throes”:
“Cheney predicted that 10 years from now people will look back at 2005 and say, ‘That's when we began to get a handle on the long-term future of Iraq.’"

But let’s meet the Administration on their terms – and perhaps this is exactly what Democratic leaders should be doing! How shall we define “success?” The Sunday NYT broached this question in an editorial. Take success one issue at a time, says the Times; start with: police, sectarian violence, reconstruction. On all three counts, it’s a pretty grim scene over there. But is it getting worse or are we “turning the corner” as the White House would have us believe? A Week in Review graphic demonstrates the difficulty of getting the raw empirical data one needs to see just how much worse it seems to be getting.

So what about anecdotal evidence? It’s ugly. The Washington Post ran a little noticed story Sunday about a cable from the US embassy in Iraq. The missive is “a stark compendium of its local employees' daily hardships and pressing fears cable from the US embassy.”

Meanwhile, a reinvigorated Karl Rove indicated in comments in New Hampshire last week that the Republicans not backing away from the issue of Iraq in the run-up to midterm elections in November. And House Republicans pushed through a non-binding measure on Friday declaring that an “arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment” of American forces is not in the national interest.

If the Republicans haven’t redefined success in Iraq yet while the Democrats scramble for the Alternative, the GOP has certainly made headway in un-defining it.

1 comment:

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Funny that Snow would call the current phase of the Iraq fiasco a “funny war”…

This expression (“drôle de guerre”) was first used in 4Q 1939 by hapless French officers caught in a quagmire along the border with Germany, patiently “staying the course” behind the Maginot line while the Reich’s forces prepared the massive Blitzkrieg of May 1940.

History seems to be repeating itself as Al-Qaeda’s minutemen quietly take control of Mogadishu, Qandahar and Quetta before Tony Snow’s eyes…