Monday, April 30, 2007

"Are We Winning The War?" V. "The Only Way To Lose The War Is To Walk Away From It." - Subtitle: Substantial Bets Laid Out On The Iraqi Craps Table

The United States has a huge stake on the Iraqi Craps Table. Any one who plays the game knows that it's expensive to wager on the craps table. Before you know it, you have a massive outlay and sooner than later, some one will toss the 7 or 11 and Craps, you've lost by staying in. Being a good craps player means that you have to know when to take your bets off the table and walk away. Are the members of the W, Rove and Co so virtuous to not know this fact of gambling life?

Today, Tony the Snow job stepped back into the political fray as W's spokesmodel. And, he's back up to true obfuscation form. We can tell right from the outset that the W, Rove and Co have no clue about how to win in a situation which is an extreme gamble. And unfortunately, like the addicted gambler, they are likely to bet it all in a last ditch effort to win big. And we have all seen what happens to the addicted gambler, now haven't we? Destitute, strung out to dry, and some times killed by the mob for borrowing too much against the losses.

Let's start with the original premise laid bare for all to see. Yes, the fundamental question is honestly asked, "Are we winning the war?" Tony suggests, "the only way to lose the war is to walk away from it." Well, now, that seems to me like a rather myopic view on a very complex situation. Moreover, the successful gambler, if there ever was one, "knows when to hold 'em, knows when to fold 'em, knows when to walk away, knows when to run...."

Such common sense advice appears to be wasted on these people that have bet the farm on an impossible gambit. In the meanwhile, we know that 100 GIs KIA in April won't be able to cast a vote against this nonsense in the next election.

Let's unpack Tony's first gaggle back from the cancer treatments and see how he does:
Q Tony, are we winning the war?

MR. SNOW: Are we winning the war?

Q Welcome back. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Yes, exactly, welcome back. (Laughter.) You know, April, we're fighting the war, and it's an important thing to understand that the only way to lose the war is to walk away from it, and that this country not only has made a commitment to the people of Iraq, but the people of Iraq have made a commitment in blood and treasure, as well. And we are working to create a situation where that government, in fact, is going to be able to provide for its citizens, not only economically, but most importantly, a democracy that will respect the rights of all, that will protect those rights, and that will be able to stand tall among the community of nations.
Of course, he can't answer the affirmative to the query as the next question if he does is becomes thus: "If we are winning the war, why can't we consider leaving Iraq?"

A better question might be why is it that we should up the ante versus folding and taking our bets off the table, but the pool reporter doesn't have the benefit of hindsight here:
Q How long should we fight the war before we just turn tail --

MR. SNOW: The notion that somehow the United States walks away and there are no consequences I think is the sort of thing that -- it doesn't make any sense. Think of it this way: The United States walks away, who stands to benefit? Answer, terrorists, al Qaeda, the people who are fighting democracy.
For an organization that continues to suggest it doesn't like to talk about hypotheticals, they sure don't mind doing so when it's political advantageous to do so. Another good follow up question might be, "how can you be so sure that the terrorists will win if we leave?" Really, this doesn't show much faith in the Iraqi people and the fledgling government we have propped up.
One of the reasons -- furthermore, if you are thinking about what goes on within the region, if you are a Middle Eastern power, if you're anybody in the region, and you see this happening, you're going to lose confidence in the United States of America. Let me put it this way: Our allies do not want us simply to leave on a timetable. The Iraqis do not want us to leave. People within the region do not want us to leave, because it does create the possibility of chaos and bloodshed on a horrific scale.
It appears to me that there is already "chaos and bloodshed on a horrific scale" here, so you would have a hard time convincing me that staying is an improvement.
And, furthermore, what it will do is make us less secure as a nation. The fact that it is difficult does not mean that we should walk away from it. As a matter of fact, it is difficult precisely because you have a determined enemy, but we will demonstrate the determination to prevail in Iraq and to help the Iraqis prevail. This is the Iraqis' fight; we are there to assist. And we are building capability on the military side, on the security side, on the economic side and on the diplomatic side. That's part of what will happen in the Baghdad conference.
"Make us less secure as a Nation?" I'd like to see Tony and W prove that point. Even in the extreme, if we pull out troops out of Iraq and deposit them directly in the USA, wouldn't that improve our homeland security? Incidentally, I don't see how the Iraqis will ever be able to fully stand up unless we fully stand down, no? BTW, is W going to Baghdad for this conference? If not, he really should.
So the idea -- again, if we turn tail, to use your formulation, what it means is that we weaken ourselves, and we weaken ourselves not only over there, but on our own soil, as well.
I just don't see the logic. Simply because some one believes it to be so, doesn't make it a fact. Moreover, this is purely a hypothetical.
Q So you're damned if you do and damned if you don't; you're weakening yourself now, going through equipment, going through troops. And then if you pull out, you damage --

MR. SNOW: No, the fact is, you understand that a military engagement -- if you describe yourself as weakening yourself every time you respond to an enemy, that doesn't strike me as the proper way to frame what happens in a military engagement of that sort. Americans don't like war. We understand that. But Americans also don't like the idea, I don't believe, of a policy that would strengthen al Qaeda, that would strengthen terrorists, that would weaken the United States, and would make us less secure.
Now that's a very big if. Sort of like basing a proof on a hypothesis that hasn't been proven. In the end, the whole argument falls apart. Oh, and here we see again the straw man being set up, only to be blown over.
It is a tough decision. The President understands that. And it is something that certainly does wear on the American people. But as Commander-in-Chief, the President has a solemn obligation to keep this country safe -- that is in tough times and in good times; that is also when polls are with him and polls are against him. But his obligation is to keep us safe, and he's determined to do that.
But an equally powerful argument could be made that what the president is doing is actually not making us safe but increasing our danger. If I use the same kind of reasoning as Tony, I could make that argument in about three sentences.
Q Why not set benchmarks with -- political benchmarks with consequences, given that there has been so little, if any, progress politically from the Iraqis?

MR. SNOW: Number one, it gets back to what you're saying. If you try to impose timetables, what you end up doing is you say to enemies, you know, all you have to do is create a little bit of chaos.
Now, Tony has attempted to speak for W, the American people, the Iraqi's and now the terrorists? How did he acquire such omniscience is beyond me.
Q Setting benchmarks, not timetables -- political benchmarks for the Iraqis.

MR. SNOW: Well, if you set a political benchmark with penalties, that would imply that you have a timetable, that you have certain deadlines. A couple of points -- and Secretary Rice made some of these yesterday.
But even Petraeus said that you need a military and political solution here, no? Setting some political deadlines wouldn't be imprudent here, would it?
First, the Iraqis, themselves, have set up benchmarks, and they share them. The fact that they do not make progress as rapidly as we might like is frustrating. The President has made it clear, and he said it many times, that the patience of the American people is not unlimited. Meanwhile, as you know, the Iraqis have said -- the Council of Ministers has passed an oil law, and there is still activity along those lines. Some of the other issues may take longer. But the Iraqis share the same goals, and we continue to make it clear to them that they need to do -- they need to take these seriously and they need to move forward as rapidly as possible.

Meanwhile, you also have the situation where terrorists are being pretty clever about it: When things seem to be moving in a certain direction, you go ahead and you set up a series of coordinated bombings that's designed once again to reignite old hatreds between groups, or at least suspicions, and therefore, stall political progress.

So you have a whole series of things that affect the political situation. The Baghdad security plan is designed in a comprehensive way to try to address situations so that you can have more rapid political progress. Do we want to see more rapid political progress? Yes. But do we want to be binding people on the basis of artificial deadlines? No.
But really, do the Iraqi's know enough about out situation as it pertains to America to set reasonable deadlines that work for us? I don't think so. What's the plan?
Q So you wouldn't rule that out in any sort of --

MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to negotiate. What's important right now, when we're talking about the supplemental is, let us give our troops the support they need now. We have already been forced to start reallocating money within the defense budget. By the 15th of this month, it's going to become more acute, and all of a sudden, people say they support the troops are going to have to explain why if they support the troops, number one, they drag their feet on sending a supplemental to the White House. Again, they passed it five days ago. It shouldn't -- it's a pretty simple procedure. In fact, I could walk down and pick it up today. But, apparently, it's still -- some difficulty in making its way from Capitol Hill.
If you can go pick it up, what's stopping you?
But the President understands that people wanted to make a political statement. Fine. Now step forward rather than having military families suffer and equipment -- not being able to replace equipment as rapidly as necessary or proper, let's go ahead and get on with this and get the bill passed. And the President has made it clear that he wants to sit down with bipartisan leadership, bicameral leadership on Wednesday. He's down at CENTCOM tomorrow, and we'll see how quickly we can get it done. He does feel confident and optimistic that we're going to get --
Here's where we find out that the President really just doesn't understand the people of the US of A. We don't give a damn about some politics. We care that our GIs, our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, are getting slaughtered on a daily basis for what? For some dream manufactured after the real reason for this war turned out to have no basis whatsoever? All promises made by this administration have been abandoned like a newborn on the street in a pool of blood by a mother who doesn't want the child.
Q Just a follow up. Isn't it possible, though, that the Bush administration could set up those political benchmarks for the Iraqis without necessarily setting up a military timetable or deadline --

MR. SNOW: Again --

Q -- but use, perhaps, resources, money to pull out some of that if the Iraqis --

MR. SNOW: Again, I think --

Q -- don't manage to meet those requirements.

MR. SNOW: I think what you -- in other words, what you're going to say is, we are going to weaken you if you don't move fast enough. I think the most important thing you've got to do is demonstrate -- number one, you're got to do whatever you can to assist the Iraqis to move quickly. You also have to demonstrate good faith.
I don't know about you, but I'm running a little shy on "good faith" in both the Iraqi's and this administration.
A lot of times, you have to ask yourself the question, who are you -- who's behavior are you really going to influence with certain actions? Will you encourage the Iraqis, or will you, in fact, give aid and encouragement to the people who are trying to make the government fail?

Having said that, I'm not going to get up here and start negotiating what may be discussed between the President and bicameral-bipartisan leadership. But he's made it clear what his position is, and he's made it clear for a very long time. People on the Hill have known for three months what the President's position is, and a clear veto message has been out for over a month. And so the fact is the symbolic vote has taken place, everybody come back now; once you finish this up, done your symbolic stuff, come back and do your real work.
There is a certain amount of responsibility that you can't shirk off on Congress here. The wheels of diplomacy work both ways and compromise is about meeting in the middle. Obviously, the W, Rove and Co. doesn't know how to make compromise happen. They had it too long where the Congress bent over and took it up the rear for them. And, we can see what kind of backlash that is getting them as the GOP ranks start to disavow the W, Rove and Co.
Q If the military can't be used as a leverage, then would the administration be willing to use financial aid as a possible leverage if the Iraqi's don't cooperate?

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to -- again, I'm not getting into sort of gaming this other than to say, we work to assist the Iraqis. And the assumption of the question is that the Iraqis don't want progress. They do. It's tough. And, therefore, what you're assuming is they don't really want to do it, but if we punish them, then that will change behavior. And what I'm saying is be careful, because if you set up punishments, you may change behavior for the worse by, in fact, strengthening the hands of the people who want the democracy to fail.

So you have to take all those into account when you're considering policy.
More hypotheticals. What's the plan Tony? Does any one have a plan to turn Iraq into a success or are we simply doomed to be married to that whore for eternity, or worse yet, until death do us part?
Q A point of order, if I may. You've inserted twice, and alluded a third time, that the fact that they want the same things we do. I would suggest that that's not at all apparent, from their behavior. And if it's not, in fact, the case, then how does --

MR. SNOW: First, you've got 20 million Iraqis. It is pretty clear that al Qaeda -- their behavior does not --

Q I'm not talking about al Qaeda, I'm talking Iraqis.

Q The Iraqi government.

MR. SNOW: Well, the Iraqis -- well, no, again, you take a look -- the Council of Ministers has passed an oil law. Now you have to go through the business of getting something passed by the parliament. I would just point you to Capitol Hill, where things are not moving as rapidly as leaders there thought would happen when they convened this year. No, I'm just saying democracy is not always as prim and predictable as one might think.

The second thing is, if you take a look at the Baghdad security plan, there are 80,000 people providing security in Baghdad right now; the majority of them are Iraqis. Iraqis have been laying down their -- laying their lives on the line. They still continue, after numerous attacks on police and military sites --
Now we know that the W, Rove and Co is prone to lying with statistics and here they go again. 80K? Is that a lot? Is that enough? Who are these people? Blackwater? The W, Rove and Co.'s dirty little secret is that the amount of cash we are pouring into Blackwater and Halliburton is enormous....and have they been effective? The reporter has a point. The Iraqi's don't seem to want the same things for themselves as the Americans would wish upon them.
Q Yes, but where does the security work? The security works where there are American troops.

MR. SNOW: Well, but you also see that there has been -- well, go to Anbar. What you have seen there is a shift on the part of tribal leaders -- it's been documented in a number of places in recent days that there has, in fact, been tangible improvement because you have seen a change in the behavior on the part of Iraqis who in the past had not been so assertive against al Qaeda.
Just because you say it is so doesn't make it thus. I say prove it. Oh, and I'm not going to Iraq to find out. The burden of proof is on those who favor this war, not the other way around.
So I think it's very difficult to generalize.
Bull shit. You've generalized a great number of times. What you mean to say here Tony, is that you won't allow us to generalize, but for you, it's okay.
There are situations that -- there are differences in situations, neighborhood to neighborhood, within Baghdad. But if you take a look at what the Iraqi people have done -- risking their lives to vote, risking their lives to serve -- I think it is pretty clear that they do, in fact, want a stable democracy, and it is a tough thing to do.
Really? Who is doing the insurgency? Al Queda or actual Iraqis?
Q Let me follow up on that. I think it was either today or yesterday in the Post, a story about the removal of some Iraqi commanders who had gone after Shiite militias. I mean, so --

MR. SNOW: And there have also been stories of fractures within the Mahdi army. But let me put it this way: We're aware of the stories and we're concerned about them, and those are the kinds of things we do discuss with the Iraqis. It is vital for the success of an Iraqi democracy to have security forces that will enforce the law fairly, regardless of who you are or regardless of what group you belong to. We've said it many times, and that continues to be a point of emphasis.
I see. The fact that you repeat this as a point of emphasis proves the point that your policy isn't working otherwise it would actually improve rather than necessitate more rhetoric around your suggestions for improvement.
Q But then do you guys -- that example, do you see that as lower down the ranks, or is that the Maliki government not wanting to go too aggressively after Shiite militias?

MR. SNOW: Again, it's -- if you've taken a look at what's gone on, there has been aggressive action within Baghdad in Shia neighborhoods. At this point, I don't want to get too far into trying to prospect what may happen.
But you are perfectly willing to suggest that if we leave, they will follow us here? Surely. That's because it is not politically advantageous to hypothesize in this case so you don't.
Keep in mind, we are not yet halfway into full deployment within the Baghdad security plan, and we're continuing to work with the government of Iraq. But, again, we're aware of the reports, we're concerned about them, and that will be a focus of conversations.
Concern does not become manifest in results.

Q Tony, is the President at all taken aback by what George Tenet is writing and saying? Is he surprised that Tenet feels scapegoated?

MR. SNOW: I don't know -- I can't -- I haven't had a chance to talk with him about it, Mark, but I think -- Secretary Rice made it clear that she was a little surprised, because George Tenet is somebody who served the nation well. And it is a tough business to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But the idea that you're scapegoated was a surprise.
Not to us it wasn't.
He felt strongly about the pre-war intelligence, as did people on both sides of the aisle -- Jay Rockefeller, as well as Jon Kyl. You know, you had three-quarters of the United States Senate standing up and talking -- voting on a war resolution, many people talking about imminent threats. And the intelligence was shared not only within the intelligence community in the United States, with the White House and our intelligence agencies, and the intelligence committees on Capitol Hill, but also foreign intelligence operations.

And, obviously, there were some real problems with that intel, which is one of the reasons why there has also been, on a bipartisan basis, an effort to overhaul in a very comprehensive way the way we go about the business of intelligence. So we do not believe he was scapegoated, but he certainly has his first amendment right to lay out his view.

Q Tony, what Tenet is saying publicly now is what we were being told privately at the time, which was that the CIA's intelligence was not nearly as strong as the advice the President was getting from the Defense Intelligence Agency and others, and that their admonitions were not being listened to, if you will, by the White House.

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to go back and flyspeck, but the fact is that everybody got listened to. And Secretary Rice -- no, Wendell, it's interesting. The notion that somehow going into a time of war that the President would not take seriously every piece of intelligence or opinion he would get from qualified people is preposterous.
Which is why it is so astonishing that there were no WMD in Iraq, right?
Q That's one way of putting it, Tony. But the other way of looking at it is the President would not take as seriously what he did not want to hear.

MR. SNOW: Well, that' not the way he operates. I'm sorry, but the President is not the kind of guy who says, tell me what I want to hear. As a matter of fact, you sit in a meeting and you try to do that, you're not going to get very far. What the President wants and demands of his people is -- are their best opinions and their best advice, and that's the way it operates. So --

Q He got a lot of lousy advice, didn't he?
Which one of the fundamental flaws in the W, Rove and Co administration. They only listen to people they respect, and you can not trust that they are going to get good intel.
MR. SNOW: Well, he got some advice that -- you know, it's interesting, Bill, you can say about any war that Commanders-in-Chief got lousy advice, because wars never work out quite the way you planned. But what does have to happen is that you have to follow through so that you do have success.
Now we see Tony trying to reshape history. In fact, the generals and civilian leaders in WWII did a fantastic job winning that war. There is a large difference here, but we have to insist that he not reshape history for political gain. In fact, we can actually argue here that, with the amount of experience gathered about the Whitehouse (in the shape of Cheney in particular) the war aught to be going much better than it is. It's saying something that given all the supposed "skills" gathered about the W, that they haven't been able to "win" this war, don't you think?
Q Tony, two for you. One is, could you share with us some thoughts about the White House's view of Prime Minister Olmert? The report on the war in Lebanon just came out fairly critical of his handling of it. How important is he to the Middle East peace process? And what does the President make of him as a leader?

MR. SNOW: Well, obviously, he works very closely with Prime Minister Olmert, and thinks that he's essential in working toward a two-state solution. The President remains committed to it. We're not going to comment on, obviously, internal investigations within the Israeli government.

Q The other is that on January 11th, Secretary Rice said that the Iraqi government had two to three months to convince the population that it would apply security fairly, treat everyone fairly, whether -- regardless of their religious or ethnic background. Do you think it's met that timetable --

MR. SNOW: I don't know, it's -- again, I would defer questions like that, at this juncture, to folks who are closer to the realities on the ground. It is clear that there has been some progress in some areas. But on the other hand, as General Petraeus has also said, it's going to take a while to continue not only deploying folks in support of the Baghdad security plan, these things do take time.

But, Olivier, the core of your question, is this a violent essential element in having a successful Iraqi democracy? The answer is, yes.
In my view, unless we exterminate the problematic segment, violence only begets more violence, which brings us full circle to the top of the post. Are we winning the war? Hell no. Is the only way to lose it by leaving? Certainly not. Where's the plan? Definately no where in this round of speechifying.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Think of it this way

MR. SNOW: The notion that somehow the United States walks away and there are no consequences I think is the sort of thing that -- it doesn't make any sense. Think of it this way: The United States walks away, who stands to benefit? Answer, terrorists, al Qaeda, the people who are fighting democracy.

Assume that the US leaves Iraq and al Qaeda takes over the whole country including its oil resources:

1. Who buys Iraq's oil?

2. Who provides water, sewer, and electricity in Iraq?

3. How long will al Qaeda last if they can't deliver oil to the world market, and provide water, sewer, and electricity to the country?

Al Qaeda should fear winning more than the US should fear losing.