Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Breathing Space

Signs that the retreat following the the November elections is starting to end is suggested not by a single dramatic event but by a succession of small ones. Often the change is simply atmospheric. Something feels different. People regain their confidence. But most of all it comes from the realization from those who have formerly been on the defensive that the opposition is not ten feet tall.


  • Pelosi passes on Hastings: " In a decision that could roil Democratic unity in the new House, Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi passed over Rep. Alcee Hastings Tuesday for the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee." (AP/Breitbart)
  • France 2 loses the second Mohammed al-Dura case. The French state broadcaster had filed for defamation against Charles Enderlin, who argued that France 2 had massaged its footage to make it appear that a boy, Mohammed al-Dura was killed Israeli fire by hiding the outtakes.
  • The Canadians ask the Europeans to put their money where their mouth is: A handful of European NATO countries offered minor concessions to a Canadian request that they allow their troops to reinforce the Canadian contingent, recently under attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan in “emergency” circumstances. But the NATO countries argued over what might constitute an “emergency”, according to the Canadian Press.
  • Who Is Captain Jamil Hussein? And why does he turn up constantly as a source in AP Baghdad stringer Qais al-Bashir’s stories? Curt at Flopping Aces has done some intensive investigative work, assisted by multiple other bloggers, and has turned up several “phantom policemen” repeatedly quoted in Western media, whom Centcom has never heard of. (Flopping Aces)
  • Can we say "admits?": Iran’s Hezbollah is said to be helping Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Iraq. “American officials say the Iranians have also provided direct support to Shiite militias in Iraq, including explosives and trigger devices for roadside bombs, and training for several thousand fighters, mostly in Iran. The training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, they say.” So says the New York Times.
  • The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the mandate of the 160,000-member multinational force in Iraq. The council acted quickly in response to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who said a top government priority is to assume full responsibility for security and stability in the country but it needs more time, according to the AP.

The retreat may not stop, but it is not inconceivable that it is beginning to stop. And that's good news because it means a balance is coming back into the picture. Two events were principally responsible for changing the atmospherics. The first was the ill-advised attempt by Nancy Pelosi, which she has since rectified, to place Alcee Hastings in the House Intelligence chair. The second was the Syrian assassination of Gemayel in Lebanon which heavily undercut proposals to obtain a Syrian and Iranian sponsored American withdrawal plan from Iraq. In both cases the public saw in the clearest terms what perils awaited and realized that not everything the anti-administration critics advocated was necessarily an improvement.

28 Comments:

Blogger Cruiser said...

This may be another hint.

www.http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/793887.html

11/28/2006 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

Maybe I was to pessimistic in this article questioning the very courage of the American public?

No it’s not our fault! We didn’t know. They lied to us. The nonsense of no-fault citizenship!

11/28/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

The NYTimes article (on Hezbollah) that Wretchard cites mentions the following about the current Director of CIA:

In Congressional testimony this month, General Hayden said he was initially skeptical of reports of Iran’s role but changed his mind after reviewing intelligence reports.

“I’ll admit personally,” he said at one point in the hearing, “that I have come late to this conclusion, but I have all the zeal of a convert as to the ill effect that the Iranians are having on the situation in Iraq.”

Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, offered a similar assessment in his testimony.


Initially skeptical about Iran's role in arming the Iraqi Shiites?? How could that be? Who's been keeping the DCIA (no longer DCI) in the freezer for the past four years? Is he really that isolated from area specialists?

I'm continually astounded by the widespread ignorance of the true nature and agenda of the Shiite Islamist parties we handed Iraq over to. I fear the realization, when it finally arrives, will be painful.

11/28/2006 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reocon said, "I'm continually astounded by the widespread ignorance of the true nature and agenda of the Shiite Islamist parties we handed Iraq over to. I fear the realization, when it finally arrives, will be painful."

The Kurds in the northern part of the artificial entity known as "Iraq" don't feel like their country has been handed over to Shi'ites at all.

11/28/2006 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Seneca the Younger said...

Wretchard, not to rub it in, butthere are two possibilities here: maybe the pendulum swung back this far in three weeks --- but maybe it hadn't swung quite as far as you thought?

11/28/2006 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The problem with making a public issue of the role of Syria and Iran -- within a regional conference or without -- is that it will compel the US to do something about it. Even before the November elections there was probably a reluctance in the Administration to "widen the war" because the political system would not support it. Maybe if OIF went perfectly then Syria and Iran could be intimidated into compliance.

But both Syria and Iran knew they were protected by the wall of political reluctance and exploited it by attacking. After the election it became possible to acknowledge both Syria and Iran's role within a conference only because the political establishment was finally prepared to do something about it -- that "something" being a surrender to them, now that confronting them seemed politically impossible.

Unfortunately neither Syria nor Iran could restrain themselves and their recklessly aggressive actions undermined the credibility of those prepared to concede to them. So the situation today is balanced on a knife's edge. The US can't brandish a stick to beat them off because the Dems won't let it. But the US can't hand the show over to the Iranians and Syrians yet because it would be too embarassing for politicians to try that stunt just now.

The way it will break depends on what happens next. Here the dynamic of the situation disadvantages the antiwar people because the wider war simply will not stop. Afghanistan is going to heat up; the Horn of Africa will cook off; Western Europe will be rocked; Lebanon will become engulfed in a new war, absent a miracle. So there will always be something to keep the White Flag from being handed over and worse, Rumsfeld isn't there to kick around any more.

Islamists were perfect from the standpoint of projecting the meme of "chaos in Iraq is Bush's fault", but after that it simply becomes "Islamists creating chaos everywhere". The asset becomes a liability. The underlying dynamic will not support the pacifists because peace is not busting out all over. We are in the middle of an epochal conflict and even the MSM will have a hard time spinning it away.

11/28/2006 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Seneca,

Objectively it never swung that far. The Dems margins were not all that big. But for a while they enjoyed a real psychological edge, fueled perhaps by a real disappointment with President Bush's leadership.

The MSM really wrote up the Dem victory like the Second Coming and I think the Dems might have engineered a full reversal had it not been for the two crucial mistakes I mentioned earlier. Hastings and Gemayel. There were others, but those two boo-boos stand out.

I think Nancy Pelosi realizes this and has ruthlessly cut her losses. But she will eventually be trapped between two fires because she has to appease her left supporters without coming off as a complete moonbat, and on the other extreme come off as Hillary-lite.

So as I said, the pencil is standing on its end and which way it will fall depends on the underlying topology. My bet is that the topology doesn't favor the "surrenderists" -- since everybody is coining new words.

11/28/2006 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wretchard wrote, "Islamists were perfect from the standpoint of projecting the meme of 'chaos in Iraq is Bush's fault', but after that it simply becomes 'Islamists creating chaos everywhere'. The asset becomes a liability."

On the contrary, the fact that the Democrats in Congress have fully funded the War on Terrorism, and are on the record stating they will continue to fully fund the War on Terrorism makes it impossible for Bush to shift the blame from his own inept policies to a general unrest in the Muslim world.

11/28/2006 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

This just in from the AP:

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the mandate of the 160,000-member multinational force in Iraq. The council acted quickly in response to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who said a top government priority is to assume full responsibility for security and stability in the country but it needs more time. (AP)

11/28/2006 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wretchard wrote, "The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the mandate of the 160,000-member multinational force in Iraq."

A UNSC mandate extended unanimously is quite a neat trick for an "illegal war in Iraq" we hear about so much on Air America.

11/28/2006 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Cruiser said...

Does anybody else get the feeling that the "Drive By Blogger" is Teresita/Woman Catholic?

She retires and the next day we have a new sniping commentor.

11/28/2006 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger herb said...

I think that most people with a nodding acquaintance with the players knows that any outcome of a "deal" with the Iranians and the Syrians is that we will abide by the outcome and they will ignore it despite the frowns and grumbling from the NYT toward both sides.
There is no purpose to be gained by talking to Amanidij%$^**&^ or Ass**. Ledeen had om ideas on how to proceed against these (dare I say it) enemies?
http://www.nysun.com/article/43875?page_no=1
But any takers on who will proceed?

As an aside are we doing anything on the PSYWAR front? Or have we decided its not polite?

11/28/2006 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

The Democrats never intended to vote against the war right away. The whole point is that they will be conducting a propaganda campaign, including hearings to point out all the mistakes which Bush has been covering up. Indeed, most Democratic politicians don't really care to stop the war, but rather want to use it as a lever to win the Presidency and more of Congress in 2008.

So just as it has been all along, support for the war depends largely on the Bush Administration. The media and some Democrats will continue their propaganda campaign to stop the war. If President Bush wants the country behind him and the troops, then he needs to speak up instead of letting Cindy Sheehan and Murtha be the only voices on Iraq.

Control your destiny or someone else will control it for you.

11/28/2006 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger ghoullio said...

What can this do but embolden our enemies?

Nov. 28, 2006 — ABC News has learned that Pentagon officials are considering a major strategic shift in Iraq, to move U.S. forces out of the dangerous Sunni-dominated al-Anbar province and join the fight to secure Baghdad.

11/28/2006 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

I think President Bush should just say "We talk to everyone" and let it go at that. It's the truth that in one way or another, maybe through third parties, we communicate with everyone. So Bush just takes political hits by making it sound otherwise.

I'm not saying he should give concessions, but just point out the reality that if we have anything to say to Iran, we know how to get the message across, and they know how to contact us. Otherwise the MSM makes a big phony deal that if only we talked to North Korea, Iran, ... then all the world's problems would be solved.

11/28/2006 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

herb wrote: There is no purpose to be gained by talking to Amanidij%$^**&^ or Ass**. Ledeen had om ideas on how to proceed against these (dare I say it) enemies?

While I prefer to relate to them as Ahmadinejad and Assad, I'm sure we can agree that it is pure folly to depend on Iran and Syria for stability in Iraq.

wu wei wrote: Otherwise the MSM makes a big phony deal that if only we talked to North Korea, Iran, ... then all the world's problems would be solved.

True, this is part of the propaganda war we should be actively and commensurately engaging in, aside from our very visceral military commitments on the ground.

What is needed is to forge the facade of diplomacy with these murderous tyrants. They know that the US protocol of isolating and sanctioning their regimes absolves them of any responsibility or fear of reprisals, because no matter how apocalyptic their rhetoric may sound, the US has effectively constrained itself into a corner where it is averse to bargaining or compromise.

By actively propagating the fiction of diplomacy, Iran and Syria may be lured into a false sense of security that we truly believe in their "peaceful" intentions. These regimes thrive on confrontation to stir up resentment within and without their borders against us. We should deprive them of such a potent propagandistic tool.

Under such diplomatic guise, we shall show the scheming Iranians and spineless Syrians just how capable we are of blatant violation of the rules of engagement as they do day in, day out. At least we'll have more of the advantage of surprise than we have now.

11/28/2006 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Well, first Bush is an idiot because he won't "have talks" but then when he *does* want to have talks--like the 6-party talks with the people involved in the issue, he's an idiot, again, for the opposite reason!

11/28/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

Wretchard wrote: "Often the change is simply atmospheric."

W -- the coverage has ALL been atmospherics, largely promoted by the view of the media and the idiot wing of the Democrat party that the election was a referendum on Iraq. (And ignoring, of course, Ned Lamont's stinking anti-war political corpse).

Of course, for some people the election was indeed about Iraq (meaning the US should never have gone in), and for others the election was about Iraq (meaning that the US should start wielding a much bigger stick). And for others the election was about overspending Republicans. And for yet others ....

Setting aside the hyperventilating hypocrites in the media, the election had two major effects:
1. It embolden the enemies of the US, encouraging them to overstep in ways which will ultimately hurt them.
2. It put the Democrats in the awful position of actually being responsible for the future, instead of being free endlessly to criticize the past.

It is a messy process, but both effects may have beneficial consequences in the longer term.

11/28/2006 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

ghoullio, I am not fit to make the estimation whether it is safe or not, but I will point out that there has been enormous progress in Anbar province recently. Perhaps the judgement is that the coalition of tribes there can indeed assert control and cooperation.

11/28/2006 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Most ethical Congress ever" Pelosi passing on Hastings after weeks of floating him as her pick for Intelligence Committee Chair means that the average House Dem IQ just rose from body temp to a feverish 101. Wish I could say this is a hopeful sign, but golly.

Cruiser,

Shhh. Speak in code to avoid being listed, since "thgir er'uoy".

11/28/2006 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

How come everybody but me knows about the retirement:
Is there a specific thread, did you have a party?
What did I miss?

11/28/2006 07:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buddy Larsen said, "Well, first Bush is an idiot because he won't "have talks" but then when he *does* want to have talks--like the 6-party talks with the people involved in the issue, he's an idiot, again, for the opposite reason!"

They called Bush a chicken hawk for sending soldiers into harm's way from safe in his nest, but in 2003 he brought a turkey out to the troops and all the birds of the Dem feather ate crow.

11/28/2006 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Db2m said...

Well, it certainly isn't Mr. Dieter!

*********

Why don't we all meet at the Super Bowl, 50-yardish, both sides, and chant a TOTEM.

TAKE OUT THE MULLAHS, TAKE OUT THE MULLAHS...popcorn, peanuts...TAKE OUT THE MULLAHS...

11/28/2006 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Yeah somehow I doubt the Russians and Chinese would invade Germany and Japan if we surged troops in for a big fell swoop against Syria and Iran.

I'd bet part of the equation is wondering how we're going to deal exactly with all the batshit Arabs and Persians devouring eachother in the aftermath...

11/28/2006 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

For a brief but fecund exploration of Ledeen’s truth telling, read TigerHawk, now.

The trouble with Michael Ledeen

As a treat, you will also see Mr. Ledeen’s comment.

11/28/2006 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger IceCold said...

No - the momentum and gloom were over-stated from the outset. It's not that things have shifted much. There was never any chance that Bush would make serious changes likely to please our enemies, or war opponents, whether nominally the idea of the silly "commission" or otherwise. In fact any major change at all is still unlikely. Any team (Bush/Abizaid/Casey) that could watch their strategy of extremely spare military operations in support of very limited objectives fail for years on end and stick with it probably won't junk it just now.

And they don't have to, as it will probably "succeed" in some sense if given enough time. Things might change, but all the talk in the MSM (well, the recent, very hysterical talk - they've been flogging the concept for months, at least since the Golden Dome went bye-bye) about a slide toward civil war is b.s. The level, or barbarity, of sectarian violence in a given location or in a few (and it's always been a few) can wax and wane, and it really has little relevance to the likelihood of a civil war. So long as the army does not split along sectarian lines, it's hard to see a real civil war in the making.

Even then, I see no evidence that most of the populace has the stomach or desire for such a war.

Bush in Riga today said what he's been saying all along, and past experience suggests he'll do as he says. And he said, in effect, "no big course correction."

Hard to see what such a change would involve, anyway. The rigid attachment to non-security and non-military approaches to security problems seems hopelessly robust in the Army, and if Bush has found a way to tolerate the disastrous results so far, he'll probably continue to do so.

A very common and instantaneous response to any question about the war from DOD types on the ground in Iraq is "it isn't our war to win". This is how far we have detached ourselves from the concept of serious warfare aimed at getting results. Casey first publicly talked about drawing down troops in March 2005 - the astonishment of even some of the reporters present - we have been doing a version of cut-and-run going on two years. Given this, a sudden Bush conversion to common sense when it comes to actual war-fighting seems unlikely. What we'll see is some inconsequential variation on the tired theme of focus on Al Qaeda, hand over to the Iraqis.

End of topic. Security IS the only topic in Iraq, for them and us. There aren't any other areas of consequence in which we could change course.

But don't expect the breathing space to continue for long. The Dems and their media wing probably won't be able to resist spouting off some silly new meme or version of panic - and the administration will as always be utterly silent, leaving the electorate and the world to figure things out for themselves. The pathetic political class, including notably the GOP, will continue to do the opposite of fill the vaccuum left by the invisible WH. They'll make it worse thru a continuation of the cowardly and clueless display we've seen for years (OK, that metaphor doesn't work, as you can't really make a vaccuum worse, but you get the idea ....).

And things will all work out in the end, more or less ....

11/28/2006 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

icecold,

I believe you have captured the moment; well said.

11/28/2006 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

icecold,

I think your post deserves a better response than that originally given.

Everyday, I have the chance to see hundreds and occasionally thousands of service members. Having served and from my anecdotal observations, the United States has never fielded a more superb force. That is the good news that made possible the speedy annihilation of both the Taliban and Baathists. As you have no doubt guessed, where there is good news there most also be bad news. Here it is: From my own experience and that of an officer spouse, as well as my reading of American history, the military has never been so deplorably led, and that is saying something, given the long line of gold braided dipshits who have worn stars. Definitionally, this assessment must include the President.

Like you, I sense little substantial change of direction under this administration. Mediocrity and a vacuous lack of imagination are the administration’s hallmarks. Consequently, the US will remain a reactionary force until such time as the Muslims go so far off the reservation that action becomes unavoidable. Just what the requisite provocation might be is anyone's guess. I am certain only that it will occur.

Oh, are you frosty?

11/29/2006 12:32:00 AM  

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