Evading the “V” Word

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security.


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If, as the Roman historian Sallust once observed, “Every war is easy to begin but difficult to stop,” then President Barack Obama just completed a difficult task.

The president’s 18-minute address—call it a “declaration of conclusion”—laid out how the war’s objectives had evolved, as so often happens in war. “A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency,” he explained. The speech promised that America would “sustain and strengthen” its global leadership, offered to turn the page on the differences that divided the war’s supporters and opponents, extended a gracious word to President George W. Bush, pledged “long-term partnership with Iraq,” and paid tribute to America’s military forces, who “completed every mission they were given.”

Some will credit the president for this latter comment. But one wonders why. Praising this cohort of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines for their sacrifice and service is akin to declaring that the sky is blue. What else could be said of the men and women who defend us, tour after tour, battle after battle, in surges and withdrawals, in postwar wars and missions orphaned by panicky congressmen?

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the president’s address is not what it said about the end of this war, but what it revealed about him.

For example, the president’s observation that the war has been costly in “a time of tight budgets at home” would be laughable if the war in Iraq and the out-of-control spending in Washington weren’t such serious matters. The Obama presidency is many things, but one thing it is decidedly not is “a time of tight budgets.” Federal spending has mushroomed from $2.98 trillion in 2008 to $3.52 trillion in 2009 to $3.72 trillion by the end of this year—an increase of 25 percent in two years.

And even though the president extended a fragment of grace to his predecessor early in the address, he couldn’t help but return to his default position by the final half of the speech, declaring that “over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war…short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.”

In other words, not only is the Iraq war the bogeyman and scapegoat for America’s economic woes, the war and its architects are to blame for spiraling deficits. Never mind that it was during the Obama administration that the deficit nearly tripled.

On more philosophical matters, the address underscored yet again the president’s discomfort with the word “victory.”

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  • badaboo

    The world can "crush terrorism " ….but Sunnis will be killing Shia , and vice-versa , till the end of time . And Yes , stay away from the "V " word ….because there WAS none , nor WILL there be, as far as Iraq goes . Iraq could disappear of the face of the Eath , and it wouldn't affect terrorism one iota .
    Hearts and minds truly have to be won , but in Iraq we all should have known from the start ……..that is IMPOSSIBLE …this is a muslim thing , and has, since before , well before in fact the Iran /Iraq war .
    The Great Irony here is , we consider the REAL enemy , the Saudis …..lol…to be our ally !

    Oh , and btw , forget about any "moral high ground " …in war that is a highly relative term . Especially this one , where the people we have saved , are just as bad as the people we have saved them from .
    Time to wake up and recognize this reality .

    • kitsaid

      I think you're wrong about at least one thing: it's not a "Muslim thing". It's a very common human thing. With proper respect to hindsight, perhaps the more appropriate question was and remains, was it ever appropriately also an American thing?

      Americans and those in the world that stood with or opposed the US and those that chose to sit the fence were all responsible each to judge their respective decisions. Yes – this includes American Muslims too, but not especially.

      There is a residual responsibility including consequences for these decisions. Many of the best and brightest Iraqi's with the means to do so at the time, left. Many of them can't easily return. This is another thing and this is a complex issue.

      Regardless of whether or not America SHOULD have gotten involved, we did, and that single fact should have ended all the should-we-or-not debate. Now that we have acted, we need to own it.

      The overarching question I have for the world, both to the east and west, is can we get along and respect each other's differences on a "shrinking" planet? Regardless of our burden from our past decisions, what is the next RIGHT thing? America, for good or bad in Iraq was merely a temporary circumstance. The remaining burden for Iraq, now, then, and forever to come is no doubt primarily the Iraqis'.

      As an American having been there personally for a long time being told that it *was our responsibility to be there, after all the American sweat and blood we shed, another "V" word I'd personally hope to evade is "VOID". Perhaps this will not turn out to be the case. Time (as well as Iraqis) will tell.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    The Left would rather have seen Iraq descend into an orgy of sectarian bloodletting than for America's intervention paradigm to have been validated to the extent that it has. Funny though, ever since Obama's inauguration, have you noticed how your liberal friends stopped talking or caring about Iraq as an issue (just like the Patriot Act and other "evil" Bush-era initiatives). One gets the distinct impression the ferment was never about these issues in the first place, that they were just tools to bash Bush…that the 'derangement syndrome' was exactly that, an irrational hatred, generated and nourished daily by a partisan mainstream media.

  • http://first-edition-online.com Gene Williams

    I have long believed that the greatest threat to America is presented by those on the progressive left. There is nothing progressive about them and they have a visceral dislike for their own country.

    That is a basically irrational belief system, but rational thinking is subjugated to emotion to these people.

    America can not survive as long as the left has any control over policy. In this struggle with an enemy whose religious duty is to kill everyone on earth who does not believe exactly as they do, the progressive delusion about reasoning with them is insane.

    Personally, I am convinced that every person on earth should be dedicated to wiping the Wahhabi Muslim Jihadists out. Some will find that view offensive. I ask them what their alternative is.

    • bubba4

      You've been spun like a top.

      When you start thinking your fellow Americans are anti-american, you've swallowed the poison and said "yummy, give me some more". You fools…driving for war with a religion are doing Osama Bin Laden's work for him.

      Get your brown shirt…you may have to kill some of your fellow Americans…but you will be armed with cultic ways to get around normal moral imperatives.

  • waterwillows

    The looney left have become the horde of manipulated useful idiots. Their pie in the sky ideology of worthless merit, has set the course for war and destruction. They are so deeply entrenched in the foolishness of their ways, they notice not that they are the putty of evil, and have long lost their discernment.
    Having lost discernment, along with good judgement, they are incapable of any leadership. They can now only mouth empty platitudes belonging to the lost and confused.
    They have become self-haters in their empy accomplishments of socialism. So now what do we listen to? Not suprised at all: "It is now always someone else's fault".
    How very un-original.

  • Shirts r us

    Obammy is the GD devil, the anti-christ…he needs to be stopped ASAP.

    In the 6th grade we learned that In the USA there are 3 branches of Gov't.
    - Judicial
    - Executive
    - Legislative
    They were created in such a way that a ssytem of checks and balances would help "self-regulate" all affairs as not to allow any one branch of Go'vt to get to strong. Children, do you recall that? NO? I ask all of you:
    What is the legislative branch doing to stop the Executive branch? NOT A DAMNED THING!
    What is the judicial system doing to stop the Executive Branch? NOT A DAMNED THING.
    What are the people doing to stop the Executive Branch? NOT A DAMNED THING.
    Do you see a pattern here? He is steamrolling the will of the people!

    • Jim C.

      In what way is he doing this, pray tell?

      Do I need a tinfoil hat in order to see it?

  • Jeremayakovka

    "Reading" his remarks is simple: our president addresses himself to a global, not a national, constituency, with certain emphases on Muslim perspectives and interests. To declare Victory over an Islam-inspired enemy would risk upsetting our president's preferred perceptions and policies.

    All of his foreign policy remarks contain subtext that speaks to Muslim perspectives and interests. He and his advisors think that's the smart way to lead. The necessary controversy arises when forcing a determination of whether our president speaks *on behalf of* Muslim perspectives and interests.

    • bubba4

      I don't think your qualified to "read" secret meaning into Obama's words….just wait for FPM to tell you what crazy bizarro world stuff to believe.

    • Jim C.

      I just asked above if I needed a tinfoil hat to interpret the poster's extraordinarily vague and nebulous gripes.

      I now know Jeremayakovka is the tinfoil hat salesman! Thanks

  • bubba4

    Obama was generous with Bush….and although he made it clear he disagreed with Bush on the war and just about everything else, that Bush was a good American, a patriot, and he did what he thought was right. This is something you cultic loonies simply don't understand, because day after day you are beat over the head to hate "the left" and question the patriotism of anyone that doesn't agree with you….even if the subject matter of the argument isn't political.

    from the article:"In other words, not only is the Iraq war the bogeyman and scapegoat for America’s economic woes, the war and its architects are to blame for spiraling deficits. Never mind that it was during the Obama administration that the deficit nearly tripled."

    What does Obama get for his trouble? This adolescent bullsh*t…the old FPM meme…which is a lie in everyway that such things can be lies.

    • Jim C.

      Right. Here's Obama's speech in a nutshell:

      "I'm delivering this speech today to mark an enormously substantial milestone– the wind-down of the Iraq War that has plagued this country for eight years. I said I would achieve this withdrawal and I fulfilled that promise. I'm not so stupid or simple minded as to think that Iraq is over and done with, but this achievement is of enormous importance for the continued health of this country. Unfortunately, I can't say any of that because the Republicans will accuse me of arrogance and exaggeration, and try to claim credit for my fixing their colossal ****-ups. So my arms are tied and I have to give this mellow talk with no self-praise and the right wing will trash me anyway."

  • Wesley69

    Obama is interested in withdrawal timetables, which makes him the terrorist's best friend. Our Community Organizer-in-Chief has no concept of what victory is, nor does he want it. That would enhance the power of the US in the world, which he is determined to reduce. He was handed a militarily stable Iraq. All Obama had to do was get an elected government up and running. Six months after the election, Iraq still has no government with terrorist attacks on the up tick. Obama claims that now he will throw everything into the Afghan war, but the Afghan government under Karzai is corrupt and double-dealing.

    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. Thomas Jefferson

  • Wesley69

    Obama could insure that Iraq does not relapse into chaos. It could be a democratic outpost that, in time. could destabilize dictatorships in the region. Its strategic significance is lost upon this Utopian Dreamer, who believed it was the wrong mission, costly in lives and treasure. Never mind, that Democrats and Republicans alike were urging Clinton in 1998 to take out Saddam Hussein. The claim of WMDs was unquestioned before Bush took charge, but this was conveniently forgotten by the Left and its subservient media. Obama has no stomach for war, but he has been trapped by his own statements about Bush neglecting the "good war." Obama will stick to his timetable in Afghanistan, give another speech, shift the blame to the previous administration, then go down in US history as having lost Iraq and Afghanistan. All hail the crafty genius behind the demise of the US and the ascension of his UN!!!!!!

    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. Thomas Jefferson

    • Jim C.

      Hold on. You say "Iraq could be a democratic outpost in time…" then you call Obama the "Utopian Dreamer?"

      That is called "cognitive dissonance."

      Not just in terms of the neoconservative pipe dream for a democratic, free Iraq, but in terms of people who won't spend an ounce more on, say, health care in their own country but will fund a gambit to turn Arabs into Thomas Jefferson without giving it a second thought.

      Otherwise, it is a fair point that the democrats were making noise about Saddam toward the end of Clinton's term, and that concerns about the likelihood of WMDs were not so loud. On the other hand, until the decision was made to make war, the presence of WMDs was not so crucial.

  • Wesley69

    I say "could" and Obama needs to realize that Iraq is of more strategic significance than Afghanistan because of its location, its resources He can't walk away just because it is in his timetable. Timetables only help the enemy. Time lines will lose Afghanistan. The best thing for Afghanistan is to create a confederation with each province semi-autonomous. If he doesn't keep a focus on Iraq, it could still be lost. It is true that the Iraqis have got to defend themselves and take care of al-Qaida. Pipe-dream, maybe, but a democratic Iraq will destabilize Iran in time. Since 1979, Iran has always been the thorn that must be removed and I believe Bush was aiming at Iran when he invaded Iraq.

    • Jim C.

      I agree that that is what Mr. Bush was aiming for. You'll note I am careful to not demonize Mr. Bush; in fact, when Iraq was being planned, I wasn't "for" it–but I had heard of worse ideas, and was caught up in that post 9/11 feeling of wanting to change things. I WANTED to believe Cheney and Rumsfeld knew what they were doing when they hatched this plan prior to 9/11.

      They clearly had no idea what they were doing, tactically speaking. But politically, they knew exactly what they were doing. "Cynical" and "manipulative" doesn't begin to cut it.

      Mr. Bush–to his credit–realized this early in his second term and marginalized those two risible creatures from his administration and began straigghtening things out. Obama–to his credit–has continued in this vein, while also honoring the promise on which he was elected.

      Of course Iraq is strategically important. Not at the price we've paid.

  • Wesley69

    Personally, I agree with you about wasted dollars. If the US suffers an attack, I don't believe in taking over a country and rebuilding it. I would give them warning an attack is coming, then I would bomb their cities into dust. No money, no aid to rebuild. No occupation army. Now this, my friend, is a neocon pipe dream. You are right about health care for OUR OWN PEOPLE, not the illegals. But that is another story.

    I call Obama the Utopian Dreamer because of his desire to transform the US into a socialist-marxist state. He said you will know me by the people I surround myself with. Check out his "czars." He has said the Constitution is outdated. He has sued the state of Arizona and sent to the UN a report about Arizona's hum,an rights violations. He is a liberal, right!!!!!!
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. Thomas Jefferson

  • badaboo

    Of course it was .

  • badaboo

    wesley69 , if the strategy in Iraq was to remove Saddam , that would have been easy , a competent intelligence network , , sooner or ;later Saddam and his two sons would be located , 1 cruise missle = problem solved . You say Bush was aiming at Iran ? Really . You must;ve forgot the Iran Iraq war , caused in great part by Iranian meddling in the south ….Shia Iran . With Saddams Army decimated , Shia and Sunni now killing each other far more easily …what do you think that does for Iran ?
    Democracy ? Iran ?? Surely you jest ! Iraq ? …same same .

  • badaboo

    "Evading the V word " , indeed , and that will hold true even if Sara Palin is the next President . There's a reason no government has formed in Iraq , and that's because there is NO DESIRE for Democracy , merely a struggle over whose religious , tyrannical theocracy will prevail …Sunni or Shia .
    I guess people , here in the US , simply don't understand the islamic ETHOS , which has absolutely no place for democracy of any sort . And that goes equally for Iran . The Shah in his day , provided no democracy , nor does the present opponent of the regime.

  • Wesley69

    Badaboo, this is why you don't walk away from Iraq. Iraq has never had a history of democracy. Developing the culture for a democracy to root will take time. Turkey had no history of democracy under the Ottoman Empire, yet it has one today. Fundamentalist Islam really got started with Khomeini's Revolution in 1979 and with the Wahhabi brand of Islam centered in Saudi Arabia. With the US out, Iraq would be a battleground between Iran and Saudi Arabia. A three way division of Iraq under a federal system, where each region – Kurds – Sunni – Shai have powers like our states may work only if these three groups learn to work with one another. We need to finish what we have started and help Iraq become a stable country.

  • Wesley69

    Badaboo, Iran has been a problem since they seized our hostages in Tehran. In the Iraq-Iran war, the US supported Saddam Hussein. Iranian sponsored terrorists were behind the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. They are the sponsors of Hezbollah and Hamas. both of which have continued to attack Israel from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. When George Bush became president, the violence between the Palestinians escalated, particularly by Hamas in Gaza. Democrats in Congress were demanding that the president do something., Then 9/11 occurred. Bush gave his axis of evils speech (Iran, Iraq, N Korea). Congress had pushed Clinton to take care of Saddam Hussein & his WMD. Bush took out the Taliban in Afghanistan and then proceeded against Hussein. With the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran is surrounded on two sides. If Bush got a democracy up and running in Iraq, it would destabilize Iran and possibly end the threat of Hamas and Hezbollah. But Bush miscalculated the Iraqi insurgency and he also lost Iraq if he didn't order the surge. But Iran is still the thorn. There will be no peace in the Middle East until Iran is dealt with.

  • Jerrag

    There will only be peace in the mid-east when the echo's of our nuculear bombs subside, when the sands of the mid-east turn to glass, and the smoke rising from that area disipates, it is only the wait for one with the balls to set this in action that we wait for.

    Only then can we get on with life in our wonderous nation of wealth and power.