Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Let the debate begin. Seven and a half years late might be better than never.

Like much of the World, I'm trying to calibrate my reaction to President Obama's prime timer last night on the end of combat operations in Iraq.  And since what is blogging if not therapy writ wide open and unedited for everyone to go rooting around in, here's a few thoughts.  

Most importantly, it's about time we started debating what our 7+ years and $1Trillion+ in Iraq truly boils down to.  Or whether we're truly at long last on our way "home" from that War.  Every available metric paints a lousy current picture - the best rundown I've heard was on Harry Shearer's "Le Show" this weekend.  Save the only one that everyone in support of going to War still mentions straight up - no more Saddam Hussein.  Instead of getting stuck there, I'd suggest that we all should think back to the actual "debate" that came prior.  Take the ol' chestnut defined as the "Pottery Barn" rule attributed to then Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Supposedly, "if you break it, you own it."  Set aside the fact that no such rule exists at Pottery Barn and you're still left with us shattering that "rule" even beyond it's false meaning.  So here we are as combat troops are redeploying.  And over there?  We did, indeed, break it.  And now we do not actually own it.  Much worse, we had to pay for the cost of doing so.  Those that do now own it, I think, could be defined as exactly the sort of people we would have preferred not have possession after said breakage.  I believe that Nuri al Malaki, Ahmed Chalabi and the others still wrangling over the results of an election from six months ago don't care about democracy.  For them it's the spoils of victory that are still worth fighting over.  And thanks to the grand wisdom of Richard Perle (ooh, I just got a chill), Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld (to touch on just a few obvious raw nerves), that's who we've now got to work with in place of Saddam in Iraq.  So yes, now let's at long last have that enduring historical debate.  Oh, and we will.  For decades.

In terms of Obama's speech, I think he struck the tone that we should expect from him.  Elegiac.  Frustrating in its willingness to give up too much to the presumed opposition.  Painted deep deep into a policy corner.  For all his obvious intellect, I'd bet Barack plays crappy poker.  In the past I've claimed he's a chess man.  But it's more obvious - he's a baller.  Put up your best defense and he'll shoot right over the top of you.  He uses deception only insofar as a fake pass or the political equivalent.  No cheating and if he's bluffing about how strong he feels or where he's going, a smart opposing player will see it telegraphed.  Right now, Obama's legs are still strong.  And the opposition should be seen as a joke.  That, however, might be exactly the wrong lesson to take into halftime of this term.  These midterms are going to be almost as brutal as the prevailing momentum's forecasting, I think.  Calling this play right now is a baller move.  Because no one's on the lookout for a finesse game right now.   But it could show that the game Obama's playing isn't nearly as dominant as people thought just last season.  Enough with the basketball analogy.  It does, though, still constitute my assessment of where this speech and this policy choice fits into the larger picture for the Obama Administration.  They may truly be a one-term Presidency.

My only other comment right now is to say that no family that's had to endure a deployment wants to be told that we owe Dubya some credit now.  Or ever.  Hearing that revisionist crap tumble from the Bushies, John McCain, John Boehner and all the lesser chickenhawks is just salt in the wounds that aren't going away.  And there are lots of wounds out there.  A million and half military personnel have been deployed in Iraq.  The ballpark number I heard reported this weekend of post-action mental issues is 30% of those people.  So over 400,000 people would have something to say about the wisdom of giving Dubya credit for what he did to them.  'Nuff said about that.

Well, like I said - this debate is just starting.  I hope we all get a chance to let some of it out, while actually taking the time to listen across the divide.  Be well.

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