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The Tentacle


January 17, 2007

"NUTS!"

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Thursday President George W. Bush addressed the nation with his long awaited "New Way Forward in Iraq."

The war has not gone well in the last year. Back benchers and Monday-morning quarterbacks are all full of themselves saying "I told ya so;" however, the second definition of war is unintended and unpredicted consequences of the best laid plans.

History is replete with examples of wars and conflicts in which there were enormous set-backs, lapses of intelligence and dark days. In the end, as long as Congress and our nation's leadership maintained their resolve, America prevailed.

Thank goodness the prophets of doom did not pull us out of World War II after the mistakes of Kasserine Pass; or the Battle of the Bulge - one of the American military's greatest failures in intelligence, not overlooking Pearl Harbor. Fortunately we learned from our mistakes, adjusted our approach and in the end, prevailed.

At the drumbeat of hints, threats and suggestions that Congress simply deny the troops in the field - and our president - funding for the effort, many have conjured-up vague revisionist historical references to the Vietnam War with no memory of the consequences. It is estimated that two million more subsequently died in Indochina.

In that conflict the duty and sacrifice of our military was abandoned for political expedience. The North Vietnamese knew they could not win on the battlefield and went for the political solution successfully. A lesson which is not lost on those who wish us defeat in Iraq.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D., CT) said: "If you cut off funding for these additional troops, then you've got to accept the consequences of what I fear will be failure, collapse, full-blown civil war, ethnic cleansing on an enormous level, Iran dominating half of Iraq, al-Qaeda setting up a base in the Sunni area, and our allies throughout the region, Fatah, among the Palestinians, the government in Lebanon, the moderates, taking a beating because of the loss of Iraq to the radicals."

Sen. John McCain (R. AZ) recently remarked: (the American public is) "understandably frustrated; they're understandably saddened; but if you can show the American people that there is a way forward to success, and also describe to them the consequences of failure, I believe this policy can be supported."

"We were able to walk away from Vietnam. If we walk away on Iraq, we'll be back, possibly in the context of a wider war in the world's most volatile region."

What is largely unspoken, at the moment, is that we have less than two years to clean up this mess.

In a year's time, the 2008 presidential race will be in full swing and if Iraq is still a quagmire, someone like a John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and current Democrat candidate for president, will begin leading the charge for the White House with comments calling for an immediate withdrawal of 50,000 troops from Iraq - with no regard for the consequences.

On Martin Luther King Day at Riverside Church, Mr. Edwards shamelessly hijacked the occasion for political expediency to say: "Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war - use it." (Read: surrender.)

If the presidential election were held today, chances are we'd be looking at the specter of Mr. Edwards as our next president.

Everyone wants to find some example in history to extrapolate expedient conclusions; but fighting the last war - or wars long past - is a sure way to lose this war and the next.

However, if one wants to reach for an example of the past, perhaps the Battle of the Bulge is as good as any place to provide food for thought.

If you believe the main stream media, the war in Iraq has been one unmitigated disaster after another. The facts on the ground present a different picture. There have been many successes tempered by setbacks. It's called a war.

On December 16, 1944, the war in Europe was within 6 months of being over. Adolph Hitler wanted to re-create the 1940 Battle of the Ardennes, precipitate a stalemate and sue for a separate peace with the British and the Americans.

The resulting German offensive caught the Americans off-guard and caused a perilous bulge in the Allied lines. When the battle was over, the Americans prevailed, but there were 80,987 American casualties.

Thank goodness we did not have Katie Couric, CBS or CNN in those days or much of Europe would speak German to this day.

On December 21, 1944, the 101st Airborne Division and a portion of the 10th Armored Division were completely surrounded in Bastogne with little hope. When the German commander asked General Anthony McAuliffe to surrender, he wrote out his response: "NUTS!"

History subsequently tells a great story about General George Patton's Third Army coming to the rescue. (A portion of Patton's command is currently on duty in Kuwait.)

Fast forward to today and a just released AP-Ipsos poll says 70 percent of Americans want us to surrender in Iraq. (Let's call a withdrawal of our troops what it really is.)

Marine veteran and current representative, John Murtha (D. PA) - the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee, said recently on ABC's "This Week: "the war "can't be won militarily" and that "we need a heavy diplomatic effort." (Read: surrender.)

Last Thursday President Bush in his speech to the nation on Iraq repeated General McAuliffe's famous reply - in so many words - "NUTS!"

When Senator McCain was asked if his position on the war in Iraq (he has called for an increase in the number of troops for quite some time) would cost him a presidential bid, he responded by saying that he would rather lose a presidential election than lose in Iraq.

In other words Senator McCain said - "NUTS."

This is who America needs to be president in 2008 - after we prevail in Iraq.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org



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