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October 09, 2008

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I agree with Brendan to a point. The Chicago Democratic establishment includes unrepentent terrorists, America-hating ministers, and swindlers. As a part of that establishment, Obama naturally associated with such people.

However, the question for voters is whether Obama shares these people's values. The evidence says he does, at least in part.

I think his casual offer to meet one on one, without preconditions, with terrorist leaders of nations may be a sign that terrorism isn't that big a deal to him.

He participated with Rezko to get a sweetheart deal on a house. He didn't have to do that. There probably was some favor that Obama did for Rezko, in exchange for Rezko's help.

I think Obama's wife's comment about not being proud of her country is telling. Obama also bad-mouths America in his speeches. He sugar coats the criticism by claiming that he looks up to the America of 50 years ago. Since his comparison period was when Jim Crow was in effect, I cannot take seriously his praise of past America.

Obama's campaign has taken few strong positions. Mostly he's running on being a change from George Bush. Many voters see a bright, attractive man who speaks very well. People are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After he's elected, and I think he will be, we will finally find out what he believes. The uncertainty worries me.

>>that doesn't mean that Obama is somehow associated with or responsible for Ayers's loathsome past, as McCain/Palin and their conservative supporters have charged.<<

Please point to one example of McCain or Palin charging that Obama is "responsible for" or "associated with" Ayers past, apparenty meaning Obama has terrorist tendancies.

Every criticism I've seen from maintream conseravtives on this issue focuses on what his easy association with Ayers and the subsequent "fibs" about it say about Obama's judgement. Not once have I seen it implied that he is some sort of terrorist and wants blow things up.

I have my own concerns about McCain. I think his refusal to pursue terrorist cells in Pakistan, without pre-approval from Pakistan, may be a sign that terrorism isn't that big a deal to him.

Could it be that he actually doesn't want to capture Bin Laden?

Could that be part of a plan to justify an open-ended occupation in Iraq, another point he is inflexible on?

Where is his concern for America? How is that "putting America first".

His honesty is questionable. If not his honesty, then his judgment.

Howard Craft, who should we trust to plan for Iraq? The person I trust most is General Petraeus. Not only because of his superb educational credentials, but more because he succeeded beyond expectations when others had failed. Americans are fortunate to have a military leader whose judgment we can rely on. McCain's plan for Iraq is to rely on Petraeus's evaluations. That sounds right to me.

It's unclear to me what either candidate's policy is for Pakistan. I'm not sure they actually have a fully thought-out policy. Obama said he would attack Osama bin Laden in Pakistan without Pakistani approval. Fine. But, as far as I know, Obama has not said whether or not he would make war against all the Taliban and al Qaeda in Waziristan without Pakistani approval.

McCain would try to get Pakistani approval for us to make attacks in Waziristan. Fine. But, I don't think he has said what he would do if we didn't get such approval.

Frankly, I don't know the answer either. It's important that we not undermine the current elected government by ignoring their national sovereignty. OTOH it can't be right to leave the terrorists in Wasziristan alone.

General Petraeus has had successes because he recognized that political objectives in Iraq were just as critical as military force. He recognized that there was benefits to working with the Iraqi people and that there were negatives to acting in isolation. He identified that passively tolerating civil war was unacceptable, as was engaging against insurgents on their own terms. He realized that the US needed allies on the ground, or co-operation and coordination from Iraqi factions.

Praise goes to General Petraeus for his insights. He has adopted a better strategy and better tactics. I commend him for his ability to execute but his successes also show us how very wrong Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were in the strategies they initially brought to the encounter. (Keep in mind that Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense for nearly four years and served during Desert Storm.) We are on a better track, but I can’t over-praise him for doing more of what should have been planned for in advance or implemented earlier.

Peace and security will come to Iraq when there is political stability, but there is a limit to what our military commanders and their forces can do. We may be close to having reached that point. Having a "timeline" for Iraq can actually be a force to promote political change in Iraq on a broader basis – on the national level.

Obama has a plan for Iraq, but clearly it differs in some degrees from McCain. Some would like us to accept that having a different plan is the same as having no plan. Some would like us to believe that his plan is to work toward defeat. I disagree.

The person I trust most is General Petraeus.

Why do you trust General Petraeus and not the half dozen other generals that George Bush fired for not getting with the program? Anyone can find his favorite general to support his view of the world, but they're as diverse in opinion as the rest of us.

Presidents make military policy, not generals and McCain's Petraeus fetish puts unfair responsibility on the general's shoulders.

Republicans should stop pretending that the generals call the shots in wartime. They never have and they aren't supposed to.

"Victory" requires a president who has an objective and a means to accomplish it. Petraeus or any other general can only buy us time to work a political solution.

Obama said he would attack Osama bin Laden in Pakistan without Pakistani approval.

Understand that this is literally the argument we used to go into Afghanistan in the first place. Bush declared that OBL should have no safe haven. It was pretty much the last thing that virtually everyone in the country agreed about.

Do you really believe that any responsible president would not act if he had "actionable intelligence" about OBL's whereabouts?

Howard Craft -- It's fair to blame the Bush Administration for choosing the wrong occupation strategy. By the same token, I think McCain deserves credit for publicly disagreeing with Bush's policy and calling for more troops.

The Democrats' behavior during this period was not helpful. They carped about any problem they could point to, real or imagined. E.g., remember the fuss they made about the allegedly looted museum artifacts? But, they didn't take the right position on the overall occupation strategy.

You suggest that having a "timeline" for Iraq would be a force to promote political change. I think it's the opposite. Both theory and actual results show that political accomodation took place when various groups felt secure enough to put down their weapons and negotiate.

If we withdraw before full security is established (or if we announce that we will do so), both sides are apt to re-arm and there could be a renewed civil war.

Jinchi, I trust Gen. Petraeus because he was an expert in counter-insurgency, and because his strategy worked brilliantly. I agree that the President as CIC calls the shots. In this case, Bush chose to follow Petraeus's advice, and it worked.

I would quibble with your comment, "Petraeus or any other general can only buy us time to work a political solution." I would say he bought time for the Iraqis to work a political solution. At the moment, they seem to be moving in that direction.

My point wasn't to necessarily blame them for their failures. My point was to say that you are giving General Petraeus generous praise for doing what should have been done earlier.

So, not to lessen any credit he deserves for his execution, I think he is only being sensible in his approach. That it is a better approach than the one we took earlier doesn't mean it is all we should rely on.

That Obama has a plan of his own indicates to me that these two statements are false -

"Obama's campaign has taken few strong positions. Mostly he's running on being a change from George Bush."

Howard Craft, the word "should" is ambiguous.

I agree that the surge stratege should have been used from the beginning, in the sense that we now know it worked.

But, you appear to be saying that in 2003 it was already clear that the current surge strategy should be used. I cannot agree with that. The majority of the Joint Chiefs didn't agree with the surge strategy when we implemented it in 2006, nor did the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, nor did the overwhelming majority of Dems in Congress.

In my book Petraeus (and Bush) deserve a lot of credit for implementing the surge, not only for being right, but for being right when so many around them were wrong.

I would say he bought time for the Iraqis to work a political solution.

I disagree. America either has a desired outcome to this conflict or we have no reason to be there. I don't mean simply who's ultimately in charge, but how the country functions, whether it exists as a single state, whether Iran gets a foothold with the government, whether it collapses into a kleptocracy, etc.

We created the Iraqi government out of whole cloth, effectively deciding who the leadership would be. It's not acceptable to simply sit around and hope that the Iraqis in power achieve "victory" because they often don't have the same goals we do.

It's the job of the political class to create long term solutions. George Bush deserves the greatest blame for the chaos that's happened there because he insisted that he alone had authority over Iraq and cut Congress out of the loop. Congress deserves blame for not insisting for a seat at the table.

"But, you appear to be saying that in 2003 it was already clear that the current surge strategy should be used."

Yes, but they wouldn't have had to call it a surge. They probably would have called it a mission plan.


A chronology of liberal reactions to the surge:

Jan, 2007 -- Bush announces the surge, Dems say it won't work, call on Congress to reject it. MoveOn accuses Petraeus of treason.

Sept. 2007 -- Peretraeus testifies that the surge is beginnng to work. Hillary Clinton says he's lying.

Jan - Oct., 2008 -- Despite overwhelming evidence that the surge has succeeded beyond anyone's expectations, Obama continues to assert that it failed.

Oct. 10, 2008 morning -- The New York Times finally admits that the surge worked

Oct. 10 2008 evening -- Howard Craft says we always knew that the surge strategy would work.

October 11, 2008 afternoon -- David ignores the role that the Sunni Awakening has played in decreasing violence in Iraq, and seems not to understand that the surge is not ultimately successful if, in reducing U.S. troops to (at least) pre-surge levels, the violence escalates again.

Going back to the prior point -

I don't see what debates and discussions about what path to follow going forward, (held in 2007 or 2008) demonstrate with respect to this topic.

I think they are irrelevant.

I think you may be confusing foresight with foreknowledge. You also may be confusing tactics and strategy.

In 2003 it was clear the conditions on the ground did not meet projections and that the strategy was insufficient. The passage of time further confirmed that that was true.

I also believe that the strategy was too limited - that we had failed to formulate a comprehensive approach that could address either probable or less probable conditions or developments.

Despite overwhelming evidence that the surge has succeeded beyond anyone's expectations, Obama continues to assert that it failed.

Iraq is currently suffering on average 20 documented civilian deaths due to political violence every day. Over 100,000 Iraqis have died in this war. 20% of the population has fled from their homes. The country has been largely ethnically cleansed. Baghdad is divided. The Kurds and Arabs are facing off over Kirkuk. At the current casualty rate, Iraq can look forward to over 7000 dead a year. And that only costs us about $100 billion or so per year. This would have been considered an intolerable outcome a few years ago.

I get tired of hearing Republicans take victory laps over the surge at the same time they warn that everything will collapse if we leave (the definition of a quagmire).

What you're calling success is pretty much the worst case scenario many of us were warning of when your idiotic war started.

Jinchi --

Iraq's murders are horrible, but let's put the number into context. Iraq's current murder rate is slightly lower than Washington D.C. (28 per 100,000 vs. 30 per 100,000.)

The average murder rate under Saddam was perhaps 5 times as high as it is now. Saddam killed perhaps as many as 1 million Iraqs over a 25-year period. That was 40,000 deaths per year or a murder rate of 160.

From a selfish US POV, the war succeeded in ending the possibility of Iraq builidng a stockpile of WMDs. That's a big deal, because Saddam came close twice. Israel stopped him once by bombing the Osirak reactor. George Bush Sr. stopped him the other time by invading the country to liberate Kuwait.

I only wish we had found a way to stop nuclear development in NK and Iran.

David, you're mistaken. The numbers of Iraqi dead due to political violence (car bombs, assassinations, etc.) is not the same as Iraq's murder rate.

As for your WMD justification, I can think of many better ways to blow a trillion dollars than to chase after ghosts in the desert. Iraq was no threat to the US and simply claiming that it might have been in some alternate universe doesn't make the justification. The Iraq war was and continues to be a huge diversion of men and resources away from the country's real security concerns.


Jinchi, I will conceded that we might be better off if we had left Saddam in power (although I think the Iraqi people would be worse off). However, given that Osama bin Laden chose to make Iraq al Qaeda's major focus and given Iraq's oil wealth, I cannot agree that there's some greater security concern out there.

Jinchi, could you please expand your last comment and state what you believe our country's real security concern is -- the one from which you believe Iraq is diverting men and resources.

-- Do you think we should use our military personnel in Iraq to invade the part of Pakistan where OBL is probably holed up? Can we do this without Pakistani government approval?

-- Should we move our military from Iraq to Afghanistan? If so, why, since the main al Qaeda and Taliban centers are in Pakistan, rather than Afghanistan?

-- I suppose there's a case to be made for overthrowing the government of Iran, since Iran is behind much of the current violence in Iraq and Iran is building nukes. But, I doubt that this is what you had in mind.

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