December 5, 2005
Meat and potatoes. Metrics and specifics. That's what George W.
Bush provided, finally, for the American people in his speech
last week at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Metrics: "80
Iraqi battalions are fighting side by side with coalition forces,"
"30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of
their own areas of responsibility," "3,500 new police
officers every 10 weeks." Specifics: "Regional support
units and base support units have been created across the country";
"an Iraqi military academy, a noncommissioned officer academy,
a military police school, a bomb disposal school" ; "Iraqi
battalions have taken over . . . the area around Baghdad's Haifa
to the question: Why didn't we achieve this progress earlier?
"Because we learned from our earlier experiences and made
changes in the way we help train Iraqi troops." Less time
in lectures and more training in small arms. More firepower and
training for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. Redirecting Iraqi
Army units from border control to internal policing. Bush's critics
have long pressed him to admit mistakes. He has been reluctant,
for fear critics would pounce on any concession. But now he is
saying that our military has been doing what every competent military
does: learn from mistakes and adapt to circumstances. Franklin
Roosevelt's military learned from setbacks and blunders in the
Philippines and North Africa. Bush's military has been learning
similarly, and arguably more quickly, in Iraq.
should have a clear understanding of this strategy," Bush
said, and noted that a 38-page National Strategy for Victory in
Iraq has been posted on www.whitehouse.gov.
But many Americans don't have a clear understanding of that strategy
or what has been happening in Iraq. One reason is that adversarial
mainstream media have insisted on viewing Iraq through the prism
of Vietnam and seeing nothing but endless, pointless slaughter.
In fact, as influential blogger Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit.com)
points out, Iraq is a reverse Vietnam. The vast majority of Iraqis
want us to succeed and are confident things are getting better;
as Sen. Joseph Lieberman put it, this is a fight between 27 million
Iraqis and 10,000 terrorists. U.S. military personnel on the ground
are buoyant about the progress they've seen, and re-enlistment
rates have regularly exceeded quotas.
Roosevelt broadcast 13 of his fireside chats during World War
II. They were pretty candid about early setbacks and ongoing obstacles--but
Roosevelt did not have to worry about political opponents and
media critics who wanted to see America lose the war. Since the
major military action in Iraq, Bush has emphasized steadfastness
and insisted that America stay the course. Last week, he got more
specific and made what should have long been an obvious point,
"If by 'stay the course' [critics] mean that we're not learning
from our experiences, or adjusting our tactics to meet the challenges
on the ground, then they're flat wrong. . . . Our strategy in
Iraq is clear, our tactics are flexible and dynamic; we have changed
them as conditions require, and they are bringing us victory against
a brutal enemy."
press agenda. My sense from such occasional glimpses
that I get of life at the top of the administration is that people
there have believed for some time that Iraq is obviously headed
for success. But that's not how things have looked on the outside.
Bush came to Washington from Texas, where the political dialogue
was set by the Dallas Morning News and other newspapers
with not much in the way of an ideological agenda. But in Washington,
the dialogue is set by papers like the New York Times,
whose White House correspondent wrote in a front-page story of
"administration claims that Mr. [Saddam] Hussein posed an
imminent threat to the world" --despite the fact that Bush
in his 2003 State of the Union message did not say that the threat
was "imminent" but said it should be addressed anyway.
So deeply ingrained in the Times's newsroom are the distortions
and talking points of the anti-Bush left that its top people let
a howling error like this on their front page.
the days ahead, I'll be discussing the various pillars of our
strategy in Iraq," Bush said in his speech. About time. The
commander in chief needs to give Americans a steady diet of meat
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