Wednesday, June 25, 2008

David Brooks: George Bush, the Surge, and surprising results

David Brooks came out yesterday in something like defense of George W. Bush and the surge in Iraq. 

Brooks points out that the same bullheaded traits that caused the failures of the first 5 years of the Iraq War, were the same traits that made Bush so sure "the surge" was going to work. Essentially, that the lousy traits Bush portrays in leadership, actually led him to the right decision on the surge in the face of vociferous opposition. From his column...

Bush is a stubborn man. Well, without that stubbornness, that unwillingness to accept defeat on his watch, he never would have bucked the opposition to the surge.

Bush is an outrageously self-confident man. Well, without that self-confidence he never would have overruled his generals.....

Bush is also a secretive man who listens too much to Dick Cheney. Well, the uncomfortable fact is that Cheney played an essential role in promoting the surge. Many of the people who are dubbed bad guys actually got this one right.

He makes a good point, one more about the pros and cons of any leadership style. I think in the case of the surge though, the jury is still largely out. What Brooks and other conservative commentators miss is why we were all so opposed to "the surge" and why even after it's measurable gains most Americans are still opposed to it, and George W. Bush in overwhelming numbers. 

People opposed "the surge" because it was seen as escalation. Not only in a fight we were losing, that was costing American lives, but in a cause we didn't understand. The essential problem with the war in Iraq has been and always will be in the eyes of many Americans, that we never should have been there in the first place. Many Americans, myself very much included, don't understand what "victory" really is over there. I recognize that "the surge" has created security, and that the country might even be rebuilding itself on some level. But when/if we leave aren't we just going to be left with another Lebanon? Another supposed beacon for Democracy in the middle east, that we will always worry will become a subverted strong hold for the Iran/Syria axis? 

No one ever understood the long term goal of going to Iraq because it's always been sold in short-term gains. We're going to get rid of WMD, then depose Saddam, then liberate the Iraqi people, then we were defeating insurgency, helping the government, building an army. All to what end? 

In the vacuum of a clear set of long term goals, the American people, with the help of satirists, authors, and cable TV, have ventured their own creative goals. Perhaps the Bush wants permanent bases, perhaps we want our own personal oil supply, perhaps we're there to support the military industrial complex. Pick your straw man and run with him because this administration doesn't explain it's actions, we just all deal with them. 

So maybe "the surge" is working...but I'd like to know what it's working towards.  

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