Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Short Takes...

I'm on the road again this week, so my blogging opportunities are limited. Here are a few headlines that have caught my eye over the past couple of days.

Let's begin with those courageous Senate Republicans. If someone was recasting The Wizard of Oz, a number of GOP senators could fill the role of the Cowardly Lion, with their own signature song, "If I Only Had a Spine."

In their latest episode of political cowardice, Senate Republicans have offered a proposal which calls on Iraqi security forces to take the lead in securing their country, and for the Bush Administration to spell out its plan for ending the war.

If you listen to the spin from Majority Leader Bill Frist and other Republican senators, the GOP proposal is better than the Democratic alternative, which calls for the White House to establish a timetable for getting out of Iraq. Apparently stung by the President's declining poll numbers (and last week's election results), the Senate Republicans seem to believe that some sort of weasel-worded proposal, discussing an overall exit plan from Iraq, will somehow blunt Democratic attacks.

Here's a novel idea: how about standing on principle and proposing that we stay in Iraq until we defeat the terrorists. That's the only viable strategy. By committing to a withdrawal strategy (vaguely or directly) we only embolden our enemies, and make conditions more difficult for our troops. Unfortunately, taking such a stand requires political and moral courage, qualities that are clearly lacking among the majority party and its so-called leadership. The road to political hell (and electoral defeat) is paved with half-hearted compromises, like the one offered up by Senate Republicans.

It's old news in military circles, but the International Herald-Tribune is reporting that U.S. forces are using attack drones to protect convoys in Iraq. Are the UAV's having an effect? It's hard to say, but the number of effective enemy attacks has declined by at least 20% over the past two months. I'd say the drop is probably the result of several factors, including better intelligence, more aggressive patrolling along high-risk corridors (including the Baghdad airport road), and more effective high-tech tools, including the drones. As I've written before, there will never be a single, "magic bullet" solution to the problem of IEDs and VBIEDs, but a broad effort, encompassing technology, tactics and intelligence, can help mitigate the effects of those weapons.

From the "It's About Time" Department, President Bush is finally taking on critics of pre-war intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and his decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The President has delivered a pair of forceful speeches on that topic, the most recent at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska on Monday.

Still, I can't help wondering why the Administration waited so long to take on its critics--many of whom reviewed the same intelligence reports, and voted for the war. Perhaps its something in the Bush family DNA. In 1992, Bush #41 allowed Clinton's War Room operatives to define him, with characterizations and charges that were demonstrably false (remember "It's the Worst Economy in 40 years?). The elder Bush didn't start counter-punching effectively until the latter stages of the campaign, and he lost.

Thirteen years later, the Democrats are using the same tactic, tarring the President with charges that are easily disproved. Yet, the White House let the accusations linger--largely unanswered--for months. During that period, the President's approval ratings have declined, and a majority of Americans now question Mr. Bush's honesty and integrity. True, President Bush won't be on the ballot in 2008, but there are other issues at stake, namely our ability to sustain the war effort in Iraq. That's why the President needs to keep taking the wood to his critics, and tell those cowardly Senate Republicans to get on board--or else.

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