Friday, October 19, 2007

Gen. Sanchez Speaks Out On War

General Sanchez has done our country a service by noting the scorecard on the Iraq War:
• The media. "It seems that as long as you get a front-page story there is little or no regard for the 'collateral damage' you will cause. Personal reputations have no value and you report with total impunity and are rarely held accountable for unethical conduct. . . . You assume that you are correct and on the moral high ground."

"The speculative and often uninformed initial reporting that characterizes our media appears to be rapidly becoming the standard of the industry." "Tactically insignificant events have become strategic defeats." And: "The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas. What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war."

The media has been the worst culprit, though they wrap themselves in the First Amendment, the major networks and the New York Times has been assiduously undermining America's war against terrorists and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, and worldwide. But Sanchez blames others:
• The Bush administration. "When a nation goes to war it must bring to bear all elements of power in order to win. . . . [This] administration has failed to employ and synchronize its political, economic and military power . . . and they have definitely not communicated that reality to the American people."

Rumsfeld and Cheney won the war---or rather the military did---in no time at all. But they took the nation-building away from Gen. Jay Garner & Arabist regional experts and put it in the hands of a feckless Europeanist who insisted on de-Baathification as though Iraq were Germany in 1945. Bremer refused to have Khalilzad as Co-Adjutor or even Deputy Ambassador, as Khalilzad spoke the language, knew the politics and politicians, and Zal was kept out-of-country. Rumsfeld kept treating Iraq like any other inter-agency battle in his Beltway mode and Bremer in-country even kept the senior State officials like Neumann, Horan, and Chris Ross from important meetings, instead forming a kitchen cabinet of young loyalists who would not report back to colleagues in DC and dilute Bremer's command and control of the PA. But Sen Vandenberg's classic dictum that politics ends at the ocean's edge was completely forgotten by Democrat media whores and Republican baloney-slicers:
• Congress and politics. "Since 2003, the politics of war have been characterized by partisanship as the Republican and Democratic parties struggled for power in Washington. . . . National efforts to date have been corrupted by partisan politics that have prevented us from devising effective, executable, supportable solutions. These partisan struggles have led to political decisions that endangered the lives of our sons and daughters on the battlefield. The unmistakable message was that political power had greater priority than our national security objectives."

The high-handed tactics of Cheney & Rumsfeld also affected agenda-driven bureaucracies and other concerned constituencies:
• The bureaucracies. Gen. Sanchez argues that "unity of effort" was hampered by the absence of any coordinated authority over the war effort of the bureaucracies: "The Administration, Congress and the entire interagency, especially the Department of State, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure."

Lastly, his own Pentagon and its denizens and the boots-on-the-ground come under fire. But overall, the blame can be laid at the feet of...THE ENTIRE COUNTRY:
"Clearly," he says, "mistakes have been made by the American military in its application of power. But even its greatest failures in this war can be linked to America's lack of commitment, priority and moral courage in this war effort. . . . America has not been fully committed to win this war."

In a long and thoughtful postscript, Wall Street Journal editorial writer Daniel Henninger adumbrates the issues Sanchez raises:
He says leaving Iraq is not an option, and he has no doubt about the threat: "As a nation we must recognize that the enemy we face is committed to destroying our way of life."

In sum, what Gen. Sanchez is describing here is a nation that is at risk and is in a state of disunity. Does disunity matter? He is saying that in war, it does.

In politics, a degree of disunity is normal. But in our time, partisan disunity has become the norm. The purpose of politics now is to thwart, to stop.

We may have underestimated how corrosive our disunity has been on the troops in Iraq, and how deeply it has damaged us.

Those of us in politics--politicians, reporters, bureaucrats--are largely inured to all this, and we seem to have assumed that the system shares our infinite capacity for antipathy and tumult. But is this occupational toughness natural to politics, or is it cynicism? I don't think the soldiers or the American people see the difference.

Arguably it is the proper role of politics to intervene, to question. But during Vietnam and again now, we haven't been able to avoid simultaneously putting troops on the battlefield while fighting bitterly amongst ourselves at home for the length of the war.

The U.S. officer corps is aware of this. While no one is talking about a stab in the back, they may conclude that the home front and its institutions are unable to, or will not, protect their back.

One may ask: Will we ever want to do this again? Are we able to undertake military missions that prove difficult? Or is the projection of U.S. military power into the world an idea that now irreparably divides the American people? Before November 2008, we had better have some answers, from our presidential candidates and from ourselves.

For the time being, the physical and military threat posed to America by a determined enemy is minute if not miniscule. But perhaps the real threat is internal, and even existential, in that America may be losing the will to defend our borders, our values, and even our ability to conduct civil discourse---all because of what our Founders feared for any Republic, relentless and intense partisanship leading to hopeless factionalism and civil discord.

A recipe for implosion.

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