Monday, September 10, 2007

Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

Matt Yglesias - riffing off a Charles Krauthammer column (Matt suffers, so we don't have to) - succinctly describes the neocon's rhetorical game plan:

And such is the war in Iraq as seen through neocon lenses. Mistakes are always in the past. The current policy is always working. When the mistakes are being made, those who point out the mistakes are tarred as near-treasonous. Then, after another year or two of pointless, futile bloodshed, it's conceded that mistakes were made in the past. But now we're right on track. And the liberals, once again, just don't get it.

As odious and pernicious as this approach is in terms of degrading the level of political discourse, the larger problem is that it has not been relegated solely to the realm of domestic political demagoguery. The Bush administration's policy apparatus has also internalized this narrative, rewarded policymakers and military personnel that adhere to its doctrinal tenets and stifled internal debate to the extent that "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" has been the compass guiding the ship of state. Predictably, the lack of a dialectical approach to crafting policy, and the stifling of any means to identify, debate and correct policy mistakes, has compounded numerous blunders (and created at least as many on its own).

Little has changed within this vicious circle of incompetence, ideological purity, willful blindness and dolchstoss. Most recently, when the Joint Chiefs and other military brass objected to the escalation of the occupation, Bush simply replaced them with military leaders that supported "The Surge." In line with this pattern, The Surge has already been declared a success by the Bush administration and its allies based on a combination of tendentious misdirection and misinformation. Those that point to the inconvenient facts and empirical evidence undermining the dubious story of success are being labeled anti-American defeatists - sometimes, explicitly, accused of treason and "stabbing our troops in the back."

Regardless of the mendacity and intimidation engaged in by the The Surge's many salesmen, though, media blitzes and the quashing of dissent cannot rectify the fundamental flaws in The Surge's overall blue-print. Even its architects concede that a much larger surge of troops was needed in order to have a shot at success, that the current (already-inadequate) level of troops is unsustainable, and that even if fully manned (which it's not) this approach has likely come too late in the game (the civil wars' momentum is impervious).

With this shaky foundation underlying the approach, The Surge has produced nothing in terms of tangible gains. Petraeus has said repeatedly that without the large-scale political reconciliation that The Surge is supposed to deliver, there is no military solution possible in Iraq, and that no temporary, Surge-related improvements in the security situation will be sustainable. Yet despite this overriding objective, political conditions have actually deteriorated.

Predictably, given The Surge's unimpressive results (itself unsurprising considering its flaws), its proponents are touting, instead, some modest security gains (which are meaningless and temporary without that political reconciliation stuff) and an unrelated development in the Sunni Anbar province that began before The Surge, has nothing to do with the Surge (it was not facilitated by an increase in troop numbers) and actually works against the stated purpose of The Surge: political reconciliation between Iraq's major ethnic/sectarian factions. Naturally, the Bush PR machine is calling this policy of fragmentation "bottom-up reconciliation" (a beleaguered George Orwell continues his 6-plus year spin cycle).

In a year or two, the sage Charles Krauthammer and his ilk will deign to inform the masses that, in retrospect, pushing a "bottom-up reconciliation" actually further entrenched and armed the civil war combatants, weakened the Iraqi central government and, ironically (or not), worked against anything resembling actual reconciliation between the major factions (in fact, that particular approach couldn't even reconcile the folks in charge of authoring our larger Iraq policy). At that time, no doubt, Krauthammer will be assuming an authoritative and dismissive tone while touting the latest and greatest deus ex machina, and explaining why those with the capacity to observe reality are unserious America haters.

Will the then-current occupant of the White House break the cycle?

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