Michael Barone on Rove and Iraq

Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Barone does an interesting post
about Iraq. He notes the remarks of Karl Rove at a political function and his continued belief in winning in Iraq.

In terms similar to those his boss, George W. Bush, has used of late (as noted in my U.S. News column this week), Rove declared that defeat in Iraq would be "the beginning of the beginning"–a terrible setback for the United States. He noted that Islamic terrorists trained tens of thousands of fighters in the 1990s "with little or no response" from the United States, and he asked, "What if we gave them a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East?"

I have noticed the usual hysteria about the Iraq Survey Group and it seems to me that there are some people in Washington DC {and the press that lives off of them} who are suffering from the same kind of mass hysteria which inflicted the screeching young maidens in the Salem Witch Trials.

And of course Bob Gates was not skewered by the Democrats in his confirmation hearings which can only mean he is worthless. I don't really care about some exchange between Bob Gates and Byrd. I am sure that the Democrats would like nothing better than to bait and batter the man, but if Gates refuses to take the bait that is fine with me. I think there is a desire to relive the Harriet Miers episode by calling Gates a drone with the same sneering pomposity with which Miers was called a bellhop. No wonder people hate politics. I hate to be unkind but a some of these folks are not always right, in fact sometimes they are dead wrong...so a little less finger pointing and a little more humility might be in order for a lot of self styled experts out there.

As usual the partisans are thinking only of getting their own way. Meanwhile Bush does not seem inclined to surrender in spite of the ingrate Right's insistence that sooner or later he will. Any day now.

Update: Taranto says the ISG does not mean defeat:

The recommendations of the Iraq Study Group are out, and those who are eager for a quick American defeat will be disappointed. The full report is here, and the Associated Press summarizes the findings:

President Bush's policy in Iraq "is not working," a high-level commission said Wednesday in a blunt, bleak assessment that urged an immediate diplomatic attempt to stabilize the country and allow withdrawal of most combat troops by early 2008. . . .

"Military priorities must change," the report said, toward a goal of training, equipping and advising Iraqi forces. "We should seek to complete the training and equipping mission by the end of the first quarter of 2008."

The commission recommended the number of U.S. troops embedded to train Iraqis should increase dramatically, from 3,000-4,000 currently to 10,000-20,000. Commission member William Perry, defense secretary in the Clinton administration, said those could be drawn from combat brigades already in Iraq.

Then, by early 2008, combat troops could begin to leave the country.

More than a year ago, Rep. John Murtha caused a stir when he said America should "immediately redeploy," though he later claimed this wasn't what he meant (another botched joke?). The ISG's recommendation is much more moderate: a partial withdrawal, beginning more than a year from now, contingent on the success of efforts to train Iraqi forces. It seems like a plausible approach.


Rick Ballard said...

I don't think there is any doubt that Gates is the perfect man to articulate the rationale for a withdrawal from an untenable position. His demonstration of his ability to speak from both sides of his mouth was amply demonstrated in his confirmation hearings.

The desperate search for consensus may well have found its true spokesman. His grasp of the Groucho Marx achool of principles should be a beacon to the true middle and I'm sure that that anyone who disagrees with his "on the other hand" analysis can be safely identified as an extremist.

"Find the course" has to be the rallying cry as we go forward (time passes?) and Gates is the man for the job!

terrye said...


Every since the Republicans lost the midterms you have been impossible. Grow up.

I tell you what, why don't we wait and see what happens? If someone as knowledgable as Barone thinks that Gates will not be a pushover maybe we should give him a chance rather than immediately attacking him. Novel concept I know.

terrye said...

And what is wrong with consensus? We could not have fought and won WW2 without it. Have we become so partisan that any attempt at mutual understanding is seen as a defeat in and of itself?

I heard Reyes has said we need more troops in Iraq, it seems he is not on the same page as Murtha. If he is serious and there are enough people like that we might be able to find some consensus.

Or we can just sit back and pout and make nasty comments about eveyone and everything.


terrye said...

And he is right, we are not winning or losing right now. And if the US has invaded Syria and Iran in the last three years I did not hear about it, so why make an issue of what Gates said about Syria? It is not as if Rumsfeld sent in the cavalry either.

Rick Ballard said...

Gates is the one!

Just close your eyes and cover your ears and all will be well.

Find the center and compromise - that's the only way forward.

Seneca the Younger said...

Rick, have you been noticing any unusual urges recently? Say, obsessive thoughts about death? Or an urge to hurt yourself somehow?

You've got my email.

Rick Ballard said...


You been noticing any urges towards pumping libertarian gas lately?

Posting without any tie-in regarding your own thoughts? Searching for anything that might confirm a linkage between a libertarian outlook and reality?

I've already sent my money money in support of those damaged in the war effort. I don't need your help in determining what constitutes support of anything meaningful.

If you'd like to make an argument that Gates is anything more than the person chosen to fulfill a "consensus" view then make it in your own words. Until he provides evidence to the contrary he has to be judged on past actions and based upon what is known of those he's just perfect as a man willing to abandon principle in pursuit of the correct posture.

I haven't "quit" on Bush but his quitting on Rumsfeld isn't a sign of strength.

I've been to the funeral of a young friend who sacrificed his life in defense of this country - in Iraq. I need no help in evaluating the meaning of his sacrifice. He didn't die so that Iraqis might lift a purple finger and then run for their basements. He did not like being in Iraq. He did not like the Iraqis and his father has no fondness for any concept of his son having died so that cowardly Iraqis, unwilling to fight for their own freedom, might enjoy the benefit of his sons sacrifice.

My interest lies in minimizing the deaths of Americans. I have no concern whatsoever in the number of muslims dying. That's their choice and their business. If our ROE hold the preservation of American lives as the highest goal (and I believe that current ROE serve that function) then remaining in Iraq is viable. At the moment in which our ROE change to "promote" any objective other than preservation of American lives, count me out. No muslim is worth the cost. No multitude of muslims are worth the cost.

madawaskan said...


Politics is war-war is politics.

Clausewitz and Mao tse Tung.

As soon as the Democrats won the Senate-it was impossible to defend Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld was who they were bound and determined to go after-it was in almost every mailing of theirs.

Seriously-you could not expect the DoD to defend Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld to defend himself-and conduct Iraq, Afghanistan, the Korea watch and the Cold War that's-erh, heating up.

Jeebas-I love Rummy but when the Democrats declared war on him and the War on Mexico Republicans enabled them by sitting it out AND turning off moderates-"Double Jeopardy"! even I knew it had to be over.

Cripes- I know guys about to go on their fourth tour in Ramadi and Republicans who are still whining about Reconquista, Miers, Dubai, and Schiavo-are so selfish in comparison and duplicitous-hell at least we saw the Democrats coming they weren't in the damn foxhole with the guys that are trying their damnedest to stay prioritized on the bigger and more present dangers.

Oh and--every guy I know who has been over there can't stop talking about the kids-ya you know one guy that hates them.

madawaskan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rick Ballard said...


Joey loved the kids. He was indifferent to their parents. He didn't (as far as I know) hate any of them.

He knew he wasn't there to fight for the kids and he would never have fought for their parents. He fought for the US - that he knew.

The kids become what the parents are, and the parents aren't much.

You need a much better heart-tugger for your argument.

Buddy Larsen said...

pretty bitter, guys and gals. i hate to see people feeling so bad. wish i had an idea of something to say, but i don't.

Syl said...


forget heart tuggers.

Republicans blew it. They turned too many people off with all that other stuff.

As for the Iraqi people, I don't care whether I'd like them or not. My concern is al Qaeda and other Islamic militants and political Islam.

And the only way I see for that problem to be solved is through marginalization by the muslim world itself.

They simply don't know how. They're not even sure WHY.

Iraq is giving them a pretty good lesson.

But, dammit, it will take TIME for them to learn it and be able to act on it and the American people are too impatient.

Syl said...

And, no, the problems in Iraq are not all due to Islam. Tribalism goes deeper. Power struggles have a life of their own as well.

But all that just adds to the complexity and the difficulty.

Unfortunately when you're in the middle of something big, something huge, that's masked as something else, it takes somebody very special to recognize it. There are some in Iraq but they don't seem to have all that much influence now.

Rick Ballard said...


If one looks at transitions from feudalism to democracy imposed by force, Iraq lacks certain prerequisites in comparison to successful endeavors. Japan had a transition marked by the establishment of proprietary right granted to peasants de jure by the occupying power. India had the intra-sect and intra-class status equivalency granted by the occupying power both de jure and de facto. For the most part South America has had neither, which just might be the reason that Chavez is so popular.

Iraq is a petty state (as are Iran, Saudi Arabia and you name it in the muslim slum) which have never enjoyed anything approaching de jure or de facto equality between liege and tenant.

It's a pretty conceit to think that a plant might grow without roots but it's a stupid bet. Venezuela provides proof of that.

Of course, pigs might fly at sunrise tomorrow. Popper would assure us of that possibility.

I'm just reluctant to place earned money upon the wager.

Let alone American lives.

Buddy Larsen said...

Dead young people can surely rack the conscience--the loss is elemental and grinding.

If we are not saving greater losses in the future with the losses endured now, then you're right--the project is off course.

The question is, are we, or aren't we?

History provides the only clues. But history only tells what happened. What didn't happen is the dark matter that comprises most of our universe.

The only answer is to trust our leaders--and when that falters, it is true trouble we are in.

Our leaders don't have to hit the bullseye, not necessarily, depending on the effectiveness of the enemy.

But our leaders do need to be followed, or else we have no leaders, and are hence being rounded up, like a herd of prey.

Rick Ballard said...


Lots of people have buried young friends. It's not a new condition whatsoever.

My young friend did not die so that some halfassed volley ball team could wear shorts rather than burkhas. He died defending the USA.

I won't denigrate his death with the idea that he died so that some muslim shithole of a country could make an attempt at a halfassed sharia governed semblance of a democracy.

That's not what he signed up for and it's not what I support.

Killing muslims of the jihadi variety is a worthy endeavor. It's really a shame when the non-jihadis get killed as a consequence but the non-jihadi deaths have a value of zero in confrontation with the death of an American defending his country.

If they want to fight for freedom or liberty they might start with tossing that little green book in the nearest urinal. If they can't quite make themselves do that then their best use is as a shrapnel barrier for their betters.

Buddy Larsen said...

Rick, what if USA is fighting a small war now in order to prevent a larger war later? Such a logic would be independent of the morality of nation-building, it would over-arch nation-building, and frame it as a strategy, not the war-goal per se.

I really think USA is fighting a spoiling action, an attempt to prevent or forestall a much larger world war over control of OPEC. If this is it, then the nation-building is just a strategy--or even a tactic.

Idea being that ceding control of OPEC is only a few decisions in a few minds away, and without an American army astride the lands, almost a given, and only a matter of time.

But you know all that, Rick. The damn thing stretches out before us into the distance, with few ends in sight.

Syl said...


I won't denigrate his death with the idea that he died so that some muslim shithole of a country could make an attempt at a halfassed sharia governed semblance of a democracy.

This is what you signed up for.
The end goal isn't democracy itself, it's how democracy changes people. Good grief, Rick, even zarqawi knew that.

And don't ever forget the violence the Christian world went through and made others suffer for. Centuries, rick.

terrye said...


I have had relatives fight in this war. I have relatives who are career military for that matter and their attitude is that they go where the government sends them.

Our military defeated the military of Saddam Hussein and now they are trying to keep AlQaida from getting a foot hold in that country so that there will not be another 9/11.

The Shai are the majority, that is just the way it is. And in Japan? I can remember my father talking about how upset the Japanese men were after the war because they were afraid that if their country became Americanized the women would walk alongside their husbands rather than behind them. We did not fight that war for the sake of female emancipation in Japan, but it happened.

I am sorry for the loss of every American in that war. For the loss of all life as far as that is concerned, but we have a long term goal to keep in mind here and I think we need to think about rather than assuming Gates is the enemy.

People wondered why Reagan and Carter did not go after the jihadis years ago? This is why.

terrye said...

And you know what else Rick? When 200 people in a place like Sadr City are killed by car bombs that have been set off in all likelihood by AlQaida trying to make trouble they did not die by their choice. They did not volunteer for that duty. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And for the men who are signing up for duty in that country and dying, they deserve some respect. Just like our people do.

terrye said...

And I will say one more thing before I end this one sided conversation, I know plenty of right wingers who never gave a damn if we won the war. As far as they are concerned we could build a wall around the US and be done with it. Their far more worried about same sex marriage than they are AlQaida. So don't blame Gates. There is a reason he got voted in 95-2 and one of the two was the loser Santorum.

The moderates people like to sneer at make up a self described 47% of the population, almost as much as conservatives and liberals comined. And those moderates are getting fed up with the constant bitching of the extremes.