Sunday, June 19, 2005

Hagel Gets Blunt

In this week's issue of U.S. News & World Report, Nebraska Republican senator Chuck Hagel tells it like it is on Iraq, taking Bush Administration officials to task for their rosy estimates of the state of events on the ground: "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Tough talk from a man looking toward "outsider" status for 2008?


At 8:21 PM, Blogger Mark said...

So you agree that we're losing? Your problem is you pay too much attention to liberally biased media outlets like the New York Times, L A Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, and CBS. want to know what's really happening in Iraq? goto this blog and try for once to be objective:
you really need to balance the liberal propaganda you get from those outlets with FOX news and the National Review etc.

At 8:51 PM, Blogger JBD said...

Mark: Several thoughts.
1. I've never claimed objectivity, and never will. Like every single person, be they journalist, blogger, commenter, or otherwise, I approach things with my own views. Objectivity is in the eye of the beholder, and I haven't yet found a source that can provide it.

2. In answer to "so you agree that we're losing?", frankly I'm not sure whether we are or not. But if this is winning, I'd hate to see what losing looks like. I also know Chuck Hagel knows alot more about the situation on the ground than I do ... at the same time, I agree with what McCain said today, there are many hopeful signs, and I really anticipate seeing more and more good indicators as we move forward.

The most important thing at this point, I think, is for the Administration (from the President on down) to talk straight with the American people, and tell look, this is not going to be an easy thing. We've got more work to do, and we're going to stay the course until it's done. This talk of artificial timetables is silly, but some concept of a "success strategy" expressed to the American people wouldn't be a bad idea.

3. I read (online) a minimum of five national newspapers each day (NYT, WaPo, USAT, WashTimes and LAT); check the major news outlets (CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and BBC) frequently, and have a list of approximately thirty blogs ranging from The Corner to dKos that I flip through on a fairly regular basis. Sure I get liberal propaganda, but I also get my fair share of the same from the conservative end. None of it from either extreme is particularly useful, which is why I focus to the extent possible on sources from the center.

Chuck Hagel's not a liberal propagandist, Mark; he's one of the more conservative Republicans in the Senate. This isn't John Conyers saying the war's not going well, this is a major presidential ally. I wish the members of the Administration would be as candid about the situation in Iraq as Hagel has been; we'd be much better off for it.

At 10:47 PM, Blogger James said...

Mark -- You've gotta recognize that the issue isn't whether Jeremy or you or I think the war is going well, it's more critically what the people in the know say about the war and whether it represents "reality" as nearly as can be determined.

For example -- Vice Pres Cheney recently stated that the insurgency, terrorists, "dead-enders" (whoever -- I never liked the term insurgents -- gives them too much credit, IMHO) was on their "last throes", yet just today, there was another report of a major suicide bombing -- killing another 23. The attacks have (apparently) accelerated in the recent weeks (judging by the recent reporting from Iraq -- don't know how it benchmarks against other times). In addition, there seems to be evidence of a higher degree of coordination (based on the recent multiple car-bombings which occurred right about the same time). Greater tactical minds than mine have suggested that the Iraqi anti-coalition attacks are exhibiting signs of increasing organization and strategy.

Based on the data at hand, perhaps our leadership should be engaging in a serious discussion of how to defeat or coopt this force (as they seem to be less opposed to the gov't in Iraq than to the presence of coalition forces). Of course, some are just "anarchists" (who would rather see Iraq descend into sectarian squabbles) -- these are the ObL types. But there are likely also disaffected ex military and govt types, not all psychos like Saddam and his boys, but disenfranchised and unemployed and resentful of the coalition forces. If we can intelligently engage, we could potentially utilize these individuals to help in the destruction of the "al Qaeda type" group(s).

But, the admin continues to gaze at Iraq (at least in public) with rose colored glasses. This leads to an increasing percentage of the US population questioning whether we should have been there in the first place and whether or not things are going well. In this way (and, so far, this way ONLY) it's similar to Vietnam in the mid to late 60's, with the Johnson admin saying that things were going well, while things were worse than Johnson was saying -- but NOT not fixable. Unfortunately, much of America lost their will due to the failure of the admin to play it more straight with them about things. (Of course, there were other issues as well -- but then, as now, nothing happens in a vacuum)

A little more brutal honesty from the admin would go a long way to allaying the fears of some (like Hegel, and some of the American electorate) that this admin is not properly focused on the challenges that NEED to be faced for a successful completion of the Iraq war. Don't get me wrong, I think that they should trumpet the successes (transfer of power, elections, drafting of constitution, opening schools, etc.), but they need to be honest with themselves (and the American public) when things don't go as expected, and explain how they intend to fix them.

At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Stygius said...

Great replies to the first comment. It seems that Cheney, through his own fault, is becoming a convenient lightening rod for Hagel and McCain to lodge criticism of the administration. At least they'll get the reality-based vote.

If that begins to spread into the lower levels of the GOP, the White House is going to have a real problem on its hands.

But it's not to concede that "we're losing" just because your critical of Cheney for saying something stupid. There may have been some small, cynical excuse for this 2+2=5 logic before the election, but when it appears that the guy believes his own BS, then we have a real problem on his hand. Cheney's credibility problems can't be blamed on anyone but himself.

At 11:04 PM, Blogger Andrei Berman said...

I agree with you regarding the general simplicty of Mark's comments. However, we differ when it comes to Hagel. It seems you are painting him as 2008's outsider. In actuality, Hagel clings to an utterly rigid interpratation of a realist foreign policy, despises Bush's essentially pro-democracy, internationalist (albeit a fairly unilateral one)foreign policy and is attempting to widen his base of supporters for a 2008 run. Hagel is trying to capture a wide swath of the Republican Party electorate: fly-over country folks who can often most aptly be characterized as isolationist-lite. Although this is a generalization, recent polls clearly suggest that American popular opinion is beginning to oppose the war and gaining the early support of the Iraq-wary Republicans (Read:less extreme Buchananites) as well as skeptical independents and maybe some libs will clearly help the Senator in the primaries--Iowa and NH have often gone to Hagel-style candidates.

Ironically, I see a race shaping up between two seemingly maverick-style candidates in McCain and Hagel. In actuality, though, it is a race between two men who subscribe to fundamentally different notions of where American foreign policy needs to be directed.

Also...regarding your comment on Bush being more forthright with the American much as all us wonks (or pesudo/aspiring wonks) might like that, it simply isn't politically feasible. And to act like Hagel is some kind of pioneer for capitalizing on rising anti-war sentiment is rather ludicrous. It's politically beneficial and quite possibly part of a conscious strategy to capture that ever-so put-off base I spoke about earlier.

Your analysis is appreciated as always. Keep up the good work.



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