By Con George-Kotzabasis
Suffered all the chances and changes of war Thucydides
Frank Rich, the theatre, film, and television critic turned political analyst since the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, in his latest op-ed on August 5, 2007, in the New York Times titled, Patriots who Love the Troops to Death, uses emotive words and language, as the title of his piece indicates, to make his “sober” and cool analysis of the war and its supporters or “credulous enablers”, to quote him, from both sides of the political spectrum. In a stream of lava pouring down from his theatrical volcanic eruptions he repeats the time-worn accusations of “Whitehouse lying and cover-ups have been not just in the service of political thuggery but to gin up a gratuitous war without end”. Rich sombrely states that “both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and both liberals and conservatives in the news media were credulous enablers of the Iraq fiasco”. He quotes with exhilaration, as if one held in view a peacenik four star general performing on the stage his No to War stand, the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen, saying that “no amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference” in Iraq if there is no functioning Iraqi government. And he lets fly his flaming arrows on Michael O’ Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, two political analysts and war experts of the Brookings Institution, accusing them of “blatant careerism” for their optimistic views of Iraq, “on the backs of the additional troops they ask to be sacrificed to the doomed mission of providing security for an Iraqi government that is both on vacation and on the verge of collapse”. Lastly, to clinch the seriousness of his argument he even places the name of the “ogre” Rupert Murdoch on the top of the bill of his vaudevillian performance.
It’s by such “blood-stained” dramatic statements that our former art critic forges his political analysis of the war and by which he impugns the Bush administration and its sundry credulous enablers of all political doctrines and persuasions. But in his rush to cast his thespian thunderbolts upon the administration and the supporters of the war, he is missing the fact that he is casting his bolts in an already dawning blue sky that is emerging over Iraq. Rich misses, or maybe he is dazzled by the shining fact that the surge is working, under the generalship of the able and imaginative David Petraeus, and slowly but methodically is achieving some of its strategic goals. Such as isolating al Qaeda from the mainstream of the Iraqi insurgency and winning over to the American side some Sunni leaders and their militias who are prepared to fight and are fighting al Qaeda.
Also, the new American tactics on the ground, such as operation Phantom Strike under the command of General Rick Lynch, is attacking al Qaeda and other insurgents in the middle of the night killing or capturing them and flashing them out of their safe havens. The insurgents to escape these devastating blows of the Americans are fleeing the towns around Baghdad abandoning their road bombs, rocket launchers and even in some cases their personal armaments, and moving further to the south for safety in an area of the Tigris river known as the Samarrah jungle. Tracked by intel the insurgents are presently highly vulnerable to the operations of Phantom Strike and in some cases are “sitting ducks”. Whereas before the surge they were the attackers and pursuers they are now the defenders and the pursued.
If this new counterinsurgency strategy of general Petraeus does not lose its momentum and continues to be successful against the insurgency, it will decisively deprive the insurgents of all initiative in the fields of their operations and lead them inexorably to their defeat. As the continuation and success of any insurgency rests on two tenets: (a) The insurgents are masters in the initiation of their own actions and (b) continue to have some support among the local population. Once their position slips from these two tenets and they are forced to find safety in jungles, as in this case, they will inevitably be prey to the latter’s environment and their strength and viability will be “devoured” both by the conditions of their survival in the jungle and by the “intel preying” of the American tiger.
In other words, the American military locomotive is finally moving forward on the rails of success. It’s precisely this success that critics like Rich are dubbing as a hopeless task and moreover hoping to derail. After investing so much of their grey matter to convince the American people of a pointless, futile, and unjust war, and making their “blatant” careers as celebrity pundits around the orbits of the media stars, now that the war shows the slow rise of a dawning success they are trying to find an escape in their state of denial. But they fully realize that the latter will be a noose around their necks if general Petraeus defeats the insurgency. And whose corollary is that from its ashes will rise the Phoenix of a solid democratic government in Iraq. Such an outcome will fully justify Bush’s invasion of Iraq while simultaneously tearing to pieces the professional reputations of all the pundits, academics and politicians who with such unprecedented intellectual shallowness and lack of moral resolve “cashiered” an American victory in Iraq.
After the brutal and ill-omened attack of 9/11 when “there was no room left for moral hesitation: the choice lay between salvation or destruction”, to quote Alexis de Tocqueville, all the effete nation’s disablers gathered together at the first signs of the difficulties of the war, as if ever war was easy, to passionately and vehemently criticize the Administration’s invasion of Iraq. While such a critique would be totally justifiable if it was focused and highlighted the initial and blatant mistakes of the Administration’s implementation of its strategy in Iraq and make suggestions how to correct them, the critics chose instead to condemn in toto Bush’s strategy against global terror.
But the conundrum for this ill-fated critique of the liberal professional establishment is why when there are visible and tangible improvements in the war against the insurgents and al Qaeda with the new strategy of the surge the critics of the war continue apparently to be unconvinced of the improvements and refuse even to admit the possibility that they might be wrong. Instead, like rolling stones they even crash people of their own liberal strand who assert that this war might be winnable, like they did with Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack. To have expressed a modicum of doubt about their position would have been the reasonable thing to do before the rudimentary favourable signs in Iraq. But it’s obvious that the critics of the Bush administration, like Frank Rich, are more concerned about their professional status than their intellectual integrity. That is why their main concern is to convince the American electorate and Congress for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and use the vitriol of their tongues and pens for this purpose. It’s by such means that they can save their reputations from being everlastingly tarnished if the war happened to be won. They are patriots who have lost their love for America for the love that dares not speak its name, the love of their careers.