Daily Wisdom

November 26, 2007

Dem Conundrum: Dealing With Success

The Democrats have been peddling defeat so long, they are now confronted with a new reality they have dreaded since turning to the path of surrender and failure... potential success in Iraq. It is simply amazing that the NY Times would publish a story suggesting that the Dems ought to be careful how they handle the situation. I mean, who would have ever thought you'd hear words like these...

As violence declines in Baghdad, the leading Democratic presidential candidates are undertaking a new and challenging balancing act on Iraq: acknowledging that success...

Advisers to Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama say that the candidates have watched security conditions improve after the troop escalation in Iraq and concluded that it would be folly not to acknowledge those gains...

While the Democratic candidates are continuing to assail the war - a popular position with many of the party's primary voters - they run the risk that Republicans will use those critiques to attack the party's nominee in the election as defeatist and lacking faith in the American military...

"If Iraq looks at least partly salvageable, it will be important to explain as a candidate how you would salvage it - how you would get our troops out and not lose the war. The Democrats need to be very careful with what they say and not hem themselves in," (said Michael E. O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who is a supporter of Mrs. Clinton's)...

This is a delicate matter. By saying the effects of the troop escalation have not led to a healthier political environment, the candidates are tacitly acknowledging that the additional troops have, in fact, made a difference on the ground - a viewpoint many Democratic voters might not embrace...

Delicate indeed. How do you acknowledge success without acknowledging success? Well, you can shift the goal posts further away - a typical Democrat strategy. You can deny the importance of that success - another typical Democrat strategy. You can find something else to harp on - another (dare I say it?) Democrat strategy. So that's what you're seeing now and will see, ad nauseum.

Simply pathetic.

November 24, 2007

A New Route To Success In Iraq

By Charles Krauthammer

From IndyStar.com: It does not have the drama of the Inchon landing or the sweep of the Union comeback in the summer of 1864. But the turnabout of American fortunes in Iraq over the past several months is of equal moment -- a war seemingly lost, now winnable. The violence in Iraq has been dramatically reduced. Political allegiances have been radically reversed. The revival of ordinary life in many cities is palpable. Something important is happening.

And what is the reaction of the war critics? Nancy Pelosi stoutly maintains her state of denial, saying this about the war just two weeks ago: "This is not working... We must reverse it." A euphemism for "abandon the field," which is what every Democratic presidential candidate is promising, with variations only in how precipitous to make the retreat.

How do they avoid acknowledging the realities on the ground? By asserting that we have not achieved political benchmarks -- mostly legislative actions by the Baghdad government -- that were set months ago. And that these benchmarks are paramount. And that all the current progress is ultimately vitiated by the absence of centrally legislated national reconciliation.

I can understand Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, saying that the central government needs to seize the window provided by the surge to achieve political reconciliation. We would all love to have the leaders of the various factions -- Kurd, Shiite, and Sunni -- sign nice pieces of paper tying up all the knotty questions of federalism, de-Baathification and oil revenues.

What commander would not want such a silver bullet that would obviate the need for any further ground action? But it is not going to happen for the same reason it has not already happened: The Maliki government is too sectarian and paralyzed to be able to end the war in a stroke of reconciliation.

But does the absence of this deus ex machina invalidate our hard-won gains? Why does this mean that we cannot achieve success by other means?

Sure, there is no oil law. But the central government is nonetheless distributing oil revenues to the provinces, where the funds are being used for reconstruction.

Sure, the de-Baathification law has not been modified. But the whole purpose of modification was to entice Sunni insurgents to give up the insurgency and join the new order. This is already happening on a widening scale all over the country in the absence of a relaxed de-Baathification law.

As for federalism, the Kurds are running their own region, the Sunni sheiks in Anbar and elsewhere are exercising not just autonomy but control of their own security, and the southern Shiites are essentially governing themselves, the British having withdrawn in all but name.

Why is top-down national reconciliation as yet unattainable? Because decades of Saddam's totalitarianism followed by the brutality of the post-invasion insurgency destroyed much of the political infrastructure of the country, causing the Iraqis to revert to the most basic political attachment -- tribe and locality. Gen. David Petraeus' genius has been to adapt American strategy to capitalize on that development, encouraging the emergence of and allying ourselves with tribal and provincial leaders -- without waiting for cosmic national deliverance from the newly constructed and still dysfunctional constitutional apparatus in Baghdad.

Al-Qaida in Iraq is in disarray, the Sunni insurgency in decline, the Shiite militias quiescent, the capital city reviving. Are we now to reverse course and abandon all this because parliament cannot ratify the reconciliation already occurring on the ground?

Do the critics forget their own arguments about the irrelevance of formal political benchmarks? The transfer of power in 2004. The two elections in 2005. The ratification of the constitution. Those were all supposed to be turning points to pacify the country and bring stability -- all blown to smithereens by the Samarra bombing in February 2006, which precipitated an orgy of sectarian violence and a descent into civil war.

So, just as we have learned this hard lesson of the disconnect between political benchmarks and real stability, the critics now claim the reverse -- that benchmarks are what really count.

This is to fundamentally mistake ends and means. The benchmarks would be a wonderful shortcut to success in Iraq. But it is folly to abandon the pursuit of that success when a different route, more arduous but still doable, is at hand and demonstrably working.

Krauthammer is a Washington Post columnist. Contact him at letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

November 17, 2007

Life Returning To Normal In Baghdad

From Chicago Tribune: Since the last soldiers of the "surge" deployed last May, Baghdad has undergone a remarkable transformation. No longer do the streets empty at dusk. Liquor stores and cinemas have reopened for business. Some shops stay open until late into the evening. Children play in parks, young women stay out after dark, restaurants are filled with families and old men sit at sidewalk cafes playing backgammon and smoking shisha pipes.

Shorja Market in Baghdad - Nov 3, 2007

To be sure, Baghdad is still a violent and dangerous place. Pockets of territory remain under the control of the Al Qaeda in Iraq organization. Bandits and gangsters roam back alleyways. Explosions still rumble, though far less frequently than they did a few months ago. Many issues remain unresolved and much still could go wrong.

I feel completely safe.

But for the first time in years, Baghdad's residents are starting to remember what an ordinary life is like. "I used to close my shop at 6 p.m. but now I stay open till 9 or 9:30. Then I walk home and I feel completely safe," said Jawad al-Sufi, 64, who runs the House of Hijab head scarf shop in the much-bombed district of Karradah. He had to replace his windows five times because of bombings outside his shop, but there has hardly been an attack in Karradah since September. "It happened very suddenly," he said. "There was a sharp turnaround, right after Eid," the Muslim holiday in late October. "Since then, security has improved 85 percent."

It happened very suddenly... security has improved 85 percent.

It's not only that Baghdad is starting to feel normal. Statistics compiled by the U.S. military and the Iraqi government show that the violence has fallen significantly countrywide. Most of the figures are not broken out for Baghdad, but the capital has in the past accounted for a high percentage of the violence.

The number of explosions of all kinds has fallen sharply, to a level not seen since September 2005, according to the U.S. military. Mortar attacks also are down, from an all-time high of 224 in June to 53 in October. A senior U.S. general said Thursday that the number of bombings in the country had dropped by almost half since March. Reliable casualty figures have been hard to come by since the government stopped publicizing monthly tallies earlier this year, but inevitably the reduction in attacks also has reduced the number of deaths. According to an Associated Press tally, 750 people were killed in Iraq in October, down from 2,172 last December. Iraq's Interior Ministry gives an even lower figure for the month: 506 civilians killed nationwide. U.S. military casualties also have dropped recently, from a year's high of 126 in May to 38 in October.

Students at Al-Mustansiriyah University - Nov 5, 2007

U.S. and Iraqi officials attribute the improvement to a variety of factors. The surge of nearly 30,000 extra U.S. troops sent to Iraq undoubtedly has played a part, as have the increased capabilities of the Iraqi security forces. Whereas it was normal in the past to travel across Baghdad without encountering any security forces, now there are checkpoints every few blocks, and smartly dressed Iraqi police stand guard on street corners.

the real change has been that the populace rejects Al Qaeda.

Far more significant than the increased troop presence, officials say, is the revolt that has taken place within Sunni neighborhoods against Al Qaeda in Iraq. Echoing the successful tribal rebellion against Al Qaeda in Anbar province, local Sunni insurgents have turned against their former allies, driving Al Qaeda operatives out of their strongholds and ending the reign of terror that the extremists had perpetrated. "There's obviously our offensive operations to strike against those extremist groups, but the real change has been that the populace rejects Al Qaeda," Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the U.S. commander of ground forces in Iraq, said at a Pentagon briefing earlier this month.

(al-Qaeda) will not have a safe home here anymore.

Iraqi officials already are declaring victory. "[Al] Qaeda has been defeated completely. And soon they will cease operating completely," Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said in an interview in his office. "We expect them to have some attacks, they will make huge efforts and maybe they will succeed in one or two instances. But now they're shifting their operations outside Iraq. They will not have a safe home here anymore."

U.S. officials are more cautious. Al Qaeda has rebounded from past setbacks, and it almost certainly is trying to regroup, they say. "Al Qaeda, though on the ropes, is not finished by any means," Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, the U.S. commander in Baghdad, told reporters in a Nov. 6 briefing in the capital. "They could come back swinging if they're allowed to."

Applause at a play in al-Mutanabi Street - Nov 8, 2007

now there is no need for sectarianism.

The drop in the kind of mass-casualty bombings inflicted by Al Qaeda on the Shiite community that ignited Shiite rage has also removed one of the chief motives of the Shiite militias engaged in retaliatory death-squad activity against Sunnis. The Mahdi Army militia loyal to cleric Moqtada Sadr, blamed for much of the killing, declared a six-month cease-fire in August, and U.S. officials and Iraqis say they mostly appear to be adhering to it. "The militias were created as a reaction to what Al Qaeda was doing, but now there is no need for sectarianism," said Sheik Ali Hatim Ali Sulaiman, the head of the Dulaim, the biggest Sunni tribe and a key figure in the Awakening movement that has transformed the Sunni community. "There is still sectarianism, but hopefully it will go away eventually."

I think it's over.

For some, the Mahdi Army cease-fire has played a more significant role in making the city safer than the dispersal of Al Qaeda. Liquor store manager Hazim Hameed, 27, used to receive one or two threatening visits a day from Mahdi Army representatives, until he finally gave up and closed nearly a year ago. Sensing the new mood, he reopened his shop on the once-desolate Saadoun Street running through the city center last month. Not only has he received no threatening visits, but the local representative of the Sadr office summoned him, gave him his phone number and told him to call if he had any trouble. "He told me the Mahdi Army has no problem with what we are doing anymore, and that if anyone threatens me or asks me for money I should tell him immediately, because those people are not Mahdi Army, they are gangsters," he said. "I think it's over," he said of the violence. "Soon, I expect even the bars will reopen."

"Anything could still go wrong," said a Sunni resident of the former Al Qaeda stronghold of Dora, where local insurgents turned against Al Qaeda just in the past month. They lifted the Islamist rules banning smoking and requiring women to wear head scarves, and encouraged shops in the once-shuttered streets to reopen, bringing a semblance of life back to what once was regarded as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Baghdad.

Exotic birds on sale in al-Ghazl Market - Oct 19, 2007

First we thank God, and then we thank the Americans.

"First we thank God, and then we thank the Americans. But the politicians have played no part in this," said Sulaiman, the Sunni tribal leader, who is concerned that the lack of progress at the national level could frustrate the Sunni tribes and prompt them to return to the insurgency. U.S. officials are mindful that another major attack such as the one that destroyed the Shiites' Samarra shrine in February 2006 could ignite a fresh round of bloodletting. Though U.S. commanders have said it may be possible to start sending back the extra U.S. troops deployed for the surge by the middle of next year, military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said last week that the military plans to sustain the Baghdad security plan at its current levels "for the foreseeable future."

the country can go back to its normal self.

But at the Iraq Casino on the bank of the Tigris River, where men crowd the tables sipping tea and smoking shisha pipes until shortly before the midnight curfew, proprietor Dhiya Nsayef, 49, says he thinks Iraqis have learned their lesson. Photographs of his three brothers killed at an Al Qaeda checkpoint south of Baghdad in May 2005 hang over the doorway. There was a time, he said, when he thought only of revenge for their deaths. "But not now. Now, whom do we take our revenge against?" he said as the sun slipped below the horizon and the tables began to fill up. "I think we already took our revenge because Al Qaeda has been defeated. And when Al Qaeda is completely gone, Sunnis and Shiites can go back to their original neighborhoods and the country can go back to its normal self."

November 11, 2007

Veterans Day 2007

Throughout our history, America has been protected by patriots who cherished liberty and made great sacrifices to advance the cause of freedom. The brave members of the United States Armed Forces have answered the call to serve our Nation, ready to give all for their country. On Veterans Day, we honor these extraordinary Americans for their service and sacrifice, and we pay tribute to the legacy of freedom and peace that they have given our great Nation.

In times of war and of peace, our men and women in uniform stepped forward to defend their fellow citizens and the country they love. They shouldered great responsibility and lived up to the highest standards of duty and honor. Our veterans held fast against determined and ruthless enemies and helped save the world from tyranny and terror. They ensured that America remained what our founders meant her to be: a light to the nations, spreading the good news of human freedom to the darkest corners of the earth.

Like the heroes before them, today a new generation of men and women are fighting for freedom around the globe. Their determination, courage, and sacrifice are laying the foundation for a more secure and peaceful world.

Veterans Day is dedicated to the extraordinary Americans who protected our freedom in years past, and to those who protect it today. They represent the very best of our Nation. Every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman has earned the lasting gratitude of the American people, and their service and sacrifice will be remembered forever. In the words of Abraham Lincoln: "... let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the Nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle ..." On this Veterans Day, I ask all Americans to express their appreciation to our Nation's veterans.

...in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.


November 06, 2007


I ran across this and was moved...

November 05, 2007

Perfect Storm

So what do you do when several anomalies strike your blog at the same time creating unmitigated havoc? Well...

So here's the scoop. For some unknown reason, my Project 2996 tribute article to Neil Shastri (dated 9/9/06) has been getting pounded in recent days by "visitors" with links to porn sites. No less than 25 in the last (2) days alone. Don't ask me why. It's an old article. They're almost certainly being auto-generated. So why they're directed to this article is beyond me. But it was getting annoying having to go in and delete all those bogus comments.

Secondly, a certain Ms. Judy Bennington-Dykes, who teaches English Composition (of all things) at the University of West Florida, directed her students to come visit my humble blog strictly for the purposes of antagonizing me (or so it would seem). According to one "Kelly L" whose comment I really appreciated...

The reason you are seeing so many anti-war comments is because Ms. Benny has many more anti-war students this year (trust me, I know) and you were a suggested pro-war blog for all the anti-war students. (Isn't it great to be popular?) All the pro-war students are off somewhere posting on the anti-war blogs.

Thanks Kelly. It would have been nice if Ms. Benny had given me some kind of warning herself before she turned loose the "dogs of anti-war". So, it seems then that "Ms. Benny" is a real "MIXER", eh? She sends her "anti-war" students to "pro-war" blogs, and conversely, she sends "pro-war" students to "anti-war" blogs. Just to stir things up I guess. Gee, well thanks Ms. Benny... NOT!

[EDITOR'S NOTE: By the way, I don't consider myself "pro-war". I am not in favor of war for the sake of war. I consider myself to be anti-terror, anti-mass murderer, anti-totalitarian, anti-Islamofascist, pro-democracy, pro-security, and pro-American.]

I didn't mind it so much at first. So what if a few anti-war protesters register their disagreements at my blog. No big deal. No problem. But then it started to get REALLY boring. I kept hearing the same thing over and over again, like these kids are some kind of automatons... "The U.S. is not the world's police. Iraq is not our responsibility. It's not our problem. Leave it to the Iraqis. Leave it to the UN"... ad nauseum. If you don't believe me, read through some of the comments at my article "26 Reasons For Staying In Iraq". After a while, it gets mind-numbing (no reflection on "Mind-Numbed Kid").

Then, the vulgarities started. And that was the last straw. It's bad enough to have 50 some liberal students telling me how they disagree with me. It's another to have them throwing cuss words around.

So, what's a fella to do...? Well, I turned on Comment Moderation of course. Sorry about that folks. I know it's a real pain in the neck, but (as they say)... this too shall pass. Hopefully the sunshine will return when the storm has passed.

And if you're really up for a "treat", consider Ms. Benny's curriculum for English Composition...

TAKE-HOME WRITING ASSIGNMENT #1 -- In not less than 250 words, write about why you agree or disagree with the following statement: America is the greatest country in the world.

TAKE-HOME WRITING ASSIGNMENT #2 -- In not less than 250 words, write about why you agree or disagree with the following statement: Sadam Hussein was complicit in planning and/or financing 911, and he manufactured and hid weapons of mass destruction; therefore, the Iraq War was an essential action of combating the War on Terror.

TAKE-HOME WRITING ASSIGNMENT #3 -- In not less than 250 words, write about why you agree or disagree with the following statement: It is no longer disputed that there were no weapons of mass destruction, so was the Iraq War based on an assumption? If not, then explain why, and cite at least two (2) quotes from the alternate source (other than the NOW program) that informs your claim.

TAKE-HOME WRITING ASSIGNMENT #4 -- In not less than 250 words, write [about] why the reasons the Bush Administration has given as justification for the Iraq War are valid or not valid to you. If you believe the reasons the American public has been given for the war are valid, then cite at least two (2) quotes from the alternate source (other than "16 Words") that informs your claim.

TAKE-HOME WRITING ASSIGNMENT #5 -- You need to really put some time into this writing assignment, as this one is crucial to developing the seeds of your Annotated Bibliography and your Academic Research Paper. I want you to write an argument that is either for or against the Iraq War.

Interestingly enough, according to Kelly L...

Ms. Benny is definitely anti-war, and isn't afraid to show it...

Hmmm. That got me thinking. Which position on the war do you think the "suck-ups" will take? But according to Kelly...

you don't have to agree with her to get a good grade. We had this discussion in class because of the many misunderstandings. I am a pro-war student... I've been getting A's now due to the fact that I got rid of the stupid mistakes that made my argument weaker, not because I changed my standpoint. I wouldn't have, even if it meant my grade.

Way to go Kelly! Stand up for what you believe in. And good luck. Keep up the hard work and best wishes for your success in college and in life.

Oh, and thanks everybody for "Viewing"...

UPDATE: Things seem to have settled down so Comment Moderation has been turned off as of November 7th at 7:10 PM.