Iraq & the ISG Report: Serious Stuff
"Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." (From The Mudville Gazette, "the on-line voice of an American warrior and [his] wife who stands by him.")
The Iraq Study Group (ISG), also called the Baker-Hamilton Commission, has come out with its study, which is available for reading on www.cnn.com, as well as other web sites. I wrote a column about the subject on December 4, before the study came out, but I didn't post it. Perhaps I will at some point.
Somewhere in Phillip Larkin's writings (his poem about an abandoned church), he has a line that talks about (roughly) "a serious subject for serious people." That's how I see (1) the issue of Iraq and (2) the ISG report, and I'll resist the temptation to say anything flippant about either.
In wartime, good men and women lose their limbs and lives. It's a serious situation, and it doesn't -- or at least shouldn't -- lend itself to the usual political partisanship.
There's been a great deal of criticism of George W. Bush, whom I've called a great man although probably not a great President. A lot of the charges are reminiscent of the unfair and almost obscene condemnations of President Lyndon B. Johnson ("Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?")
Those kind of shallow criticisms often get made by people who wouldn't defend their grandmother if the enemy was kicking in her front door. People who aren't part of the "warrior nation" would, as the saying used to go, rather "make love than war."
Frankly, they don't really see much of anything as worth defending. They generally play no role in building or sustaining the nation. Since there is nothing for which they'd put their lives on the line for, they don't understand the modern military -- and secretly, they even hate it.
The other day, President Bush said there's no easy way out -- no "graceful exit" -- from Iraq, and he's almost certainly correct. There's also no graceful way to fight the War on Terror.
At times, it's going to be a sad, bloody mess. Some Americans -- especially those in the so-called Blue States -- can't accept this sad reality. They want the situation to be the fault of politicians they don't luck, especially George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Richard Cheney.
The effort to blame the defenders rather than the attackers (Al Qaeda and its friends) is sad. It makes very difficult for this republic to defend itself. It results in political opposition to such basic measures as the Patriot Act and the NSA wiretapping program.
I fear our enemies look at the partisan opposition to anti-terrorist measures and assume we're ripe for another 9/11. I hope not.
What happens in Iraq and the Middle East will go far in determining the safety of the United States. The ISG defines "success" as helping create an Iraq that can "govern, sustain, and defend itself."
That's a good goal for Iraq -- and for our own country.