Monday, April 09, 2007

Bacevich's questions for candidates

David Seaton's News Links
Professor Andrew Bacevich is one of the clearest thinking political analysts working in the United States. As a graduate of West Point he knows that strategic thinking begins with asking the right questions.

Answers to those questions themselves may change with the circumstances, but woe to the strategist that asks the wrong questions.

Obviously to ask the right questions you have to have a realistic idea of who you are, where you are and what you hope to achieve. For example, if you are in Paris and ask a passerby directions to "Times Square", you will probably find that unproductive.

As Professor Bacevich points out, all serious discussion of Iraq and post-Iraq revolves around recognizing that the United States has failed in Iraq. All presidential candidates should then ask themselves, "who we are, where we are and what we hope achieve". If they don't have plausible answers to those questions they have no business asking Americans for their votes. DS

Bacevich: 'Your Iraq plan?' is a pointless question - Los Angeles Times

Abstract: For today's presidential candidates, the question is unavoidable: What is your plan for Iraq?(...) However sincere, such questions are also pointless. To pose them is to invite dissembling. The truth is that next to nothing can be done to salvage Iraq. It no longer lies within the capacity of the United States to determine the outcome of events there. Iraqis will decide their own fate. We are spectators, witnesses, bystanders caught in a conflagration that we ourselves, in an act of monumental folly, touched off. The questions that ought to be asked now — but so far have not been — are of a different order.(...) Recall that Bush saw Baghdad not as the final destination of his global war on terror but as a point of departure. He imagined that liberating Iraq might trigger a flowering of Arab democracy.(...) None of that has come to pass. Baghdad has become a cul-de-sac. Having plunged into a war he cannot win, Bush will not relent. Iraq consumes his presidency because the president wills that it should. He has become Captain Ahab: His identification with his war is absolute. As a consequence, the "global" effort aimed at eliminating Islamic terror, launched back in September 2001, has narrowed in scope. Today the global war is global in name only. In reality, it has become a war for Mesopotamia.(...) Ritualistic allusions to freedom as the antidote to terrorism still occasionally crop up in presidential speeches, but rhetoric no longer translates into action. An administration that once touted its expansive and principled approach to preventing another 9/11 has abandoned principle. Now there is only Iraq and the effort to ensure that today's news out of Baghdad isn't any worse than yesterday's. Our political attention, then, needs to turn to whether the president's would-be successors can do what Bush cannot: acknowledge our failure in Iraq and look beyond it. Candidates who still find merit in an open-ended global war on terror should explain how we prevail in such an enterprise. Given the lessons of Iraq, what exactly does it mean to wage such a global war? Where can we expect to fight next, and against whom? What will victory look like? Candidates who, in light of Iraq, have become skeptical of open-ended global war as a response to violent Islamic radicalism should be pressed to describe their alternative. How do they define the threat? How do they propose to deal with it? Will they isolate it? Contain it? Subvert it? Relying on what means and at what costs? "What's your plan for Iraq?" was the right question back in 2002 and 2003 — although it went largely unasked and almost completely unanswered then. But as we approach the 2008 presidential election, though the tragedy of Iraq continues to unfold, that question is moot. The one that matters is this: As President Bush departs and leaves the United States bereft of a coherent strategy, what should fill that void? READ IT ALL

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