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QUOTATION: People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing. - Walter H. Judd

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2004-09-15 - 5:53 p.m.

A More Sensitive War

Who’da thought Bush and Rumsfeld would decide to fight a more sensitive war? Or is there now a political motivation just before our election? Maybe they don’t want so many body bags to come home before November 2nd. Will those people in the Sunni Triangle be able to come out of their houses in January to vote?

  • An excerpt from an article in the N. Y. Times yesterday Hawk vs. Hawk By DAVID BROOKS speaks of a conflict between the hawks, one side opting for a more sensitive approach to the war in Iraq.

    The debate on how to proceed in Iraq is not between the hawks and the doves: it's within the hawk community, and it's between the gradualists and the confrontationalists.

    The gradualists argue that it would be crazy to rush into terrorist-controlled cities and try to clean them out with massive force because the initial attack would be so bloody there'd be a debilitating political backlash.

    The terrorists would fight as long as there were heart-wrenching scenes of dead children on satellite TV, then would melt away to fight another day. And if the U.S. did take control of, say, a newly destroyed Falluja, we would find that we didn't have enough troops to control the city and still hunt down terrorists elsewhere. We'd end up abandoning the city (as we have other places), and the terrorists would just take control again. We'd be back where we started.

    There is a reason, the gradualists point out, that counterinsurgency wars have tended to take a decade or more. They can be won only with slow, steady pressure. The better course, they continue, is to allow some time to train and build up Iraq's own security forces, and allow some time for the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, to build up a base of anti-insurgent political support. The lesson of Vietnam is that you can't win these wars via military means. You have to build a political structure that organizes public support and mix it with military might.

    The gradualists point to what just happened in Najaf as their model for how the Iraq war should proceed. First, Allawi laid down tough conditions: that Moktada al-Sadr's militia had to go. Then he convinced many of the locals that their lives would be better without lawless thugs in their midst. Then the U.S. attacked and weakened the terrorists. Then Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani brokered an agreement that led to the re-establishment of government control. Now development aid can flow to Najaf again. Aid projects worth roughly $6 million are resuming, and $37 million more is on the way.

    Najaf, the gradualists argue, showed it's possible to marginalize the extremists and rally the decent majority. Now the task is to build on that success in other towns, and slowly rob the terrorists of sanctuaries.

    The confrontationalists can't believe the Bush folks, of all people, are waging a sensitive war on terror. By moving so slowly, the U.S. is allowing terror armies to thrive and grow. With U.S. acquiescence, fascists are allowed to preen, terrorize and entrench themselves.

  • And Paul Krugman in his Op-Ed piece in the same issue of the NY Times Taking On the Myth writes that Kerry should lambast President Bush for the Iraq quagmire:

    On Sunday, a celebrating crowd gathered around a burning U.S. armored vehicle. Then a helicopter opened fire; a child and a journalist for an Arabic TV news channel were among those killed. Later, the channel repeatedly showed the journalist doubling over and screaming, "I'm dying; I'm dying."

    Such scenes, which enlarge the ranks of our enemies by making America look both weak and brutal, are inevitable in the guerrilla war President Bush got us into. Osama bin Laden must be smiling.

    U.S. news organizations are under constant pressure to report good news from Iraq. In fact, as a Newsweek headline puts it, "It's worse than you think." Attacks on coalition forces are intensifying and getting more effective; no-go zones, which the military prefers to call "insurgent enclaves," are spreading - even in Baghdad. We're losing ground.

    And the losses aren't only in Iraq. Al Qaeda has regrouped. The invasion of Iraq, intended to demonstrate American power, has done just the opposite: nasty regimes around the world feel empowered now that our forces are bogged down. When a Times reporter asked Mr. Bush about North Korea's ongoing nuclear program, "he opened his palms and shrugged."

    Yet many voters still believe that Mr. Bush is doing a good job protecting America.

    If Senator John Kerry really has advisers telling him not to attack Mr. Bush on national security, he should dump them. When Dick Cheney is saying vote Bush or die, responding with speeches about jobs and health care doesn't cut it.

    Mr. Kerry should counterattack by saying that Mr. Bush is endangering the nation by subordinating national security to politics.

    ---...This past April, U.S. forces, surely acting on White House orders after American television showed gruesome images of dead contractors, attacked Falluja. Lt. Gen. James Conway, the Marine commander on the scene, opposed "attacking out of revenge" but was overruled - and he was overruled again with an equally disastrous decision to call off the attack after it had begun. "Once you commit," General Conway said, "you got to stay committed." But Mr. Bush, faced with the prospect of a casualty toll that would have hurt his approval rating, didn't.

    Can Mr. Kerry, who voted to authorize the Iraq war, criticize it? Yes, by pointing out that he voted only to give Mr. Bush a big stick. Once that stick had forced Saddam to let W.M.D. inspectors back in, there was no need to invade. And Mr. Kerry should keep pounding Mr. Cheney, who is trying to cover for the absence of W.M.D. by lying, yet again, about Saddam's ties to Al Qaeda.

    Some pundits are suggesting that Mr. kerry should produce a specific plan for what he would do differently in Iraq. Mr. Krugman says that Kerry should demand to know what Mr. Bush plans to do about the "spiraling disaster." For one thing, Kerry could say he wouldn't have "ignored General Conway's warnings about

    about the dangers of storming into Falluja, or overruled his protests about calling off that assault halfway through."

    "On the other hand, he can argue that he would have fired Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary who ridiculed General Shinseki. And he would definitely have fired Donald Rumsfeld for the failure to go in with enough troops, the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and more.

    "The truth is that Mr. Bush, by politicizing the "war on terror," is putting America at risk. And Mr. Kerry has to say that."

    -------------------------

    Word of the Day: moxie (noun -- slang)

    [MOK-see]

    1. fortitude and determination: "Her moxie got her through school, work, and single motherhood -- all at the same time."

    2. energy; pep

    3. know-how; expertise

    Origin:

    Approximately 1930; from 'Moxie,' a trademark for a bitter-tasting soft drink originally marketed as 'nerve tonic.'

    "Fallows's report is particularly damning of Bush. The impartial counterterrorism specialists he consulted all agreed that the Iraq war has increased rather than decreased the threat to the United States. He explains how Bush squandered the global support necessary to crush the terrorists, quoting an ambassador as saying 'we should have focused like a laser on bin Laden and taken down Al Qaeda, breaking crockery in the neighborhood if necessary.' If John Kerry has any moxie, all of these real issues will soon become potent campaign issues as well. Then maybe we'll start debating the right subjects for a change."

    Jonathan Alter. "The Danger of Distractions: The first responsibility of government is to keep us safe, yet we talk more about flip-flops and Halliburton than missing nuclear material." Newsweek (September 20, 2003).

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