Did you ever notice that the first four letters of analyze are a-n-a-l?
Just one of those weird quirks of the English language I guess, but it fits with what follows.
A friend sent me an email the other day linking to a New York Times Op-Ed piece that painstakingly went through President Bush's speech on Iraq last Wednesday, dissecting it paragraph by paragraph. I read it in its entirety, which probably says more about me than the writer, but I felt I at least owed him that much.
Normally I would have responded to my friend, and let it go at that, but as it turns out this was only one of many, many analyses of the speech, most of which were in the same basic tone ... "Well, he is missing this point, or he is missing that point, or the polls say this, or the Sunnis are doing that, or the Shia won't go along with something else, there are too many troops, there aren't enough troops, Congress is opposed, Republicans are wavering, the public doesn't support him, etc. etc."
I believe it is one of the more wonderful aspects of life in the United States of America that anyone from the newest arrival to a multi-generation descendent of the Mayflower voyage can weigh in on matters of this nature and take the president to task privately or publicly without fear of retribution.
I also believe that the bulk of such opinions, writings, and discourses are no more or less valid than the opinions voiced by the regulars at the neighborhood bar at 9 p.m. on a Friday.
In the case of the President's speech and his actions, two things matter. First, he said we will now enter Sadr city, the sector of Baghdad ruled by Muqtada Al Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia, with or without the approval of the Iraqi government, especially Prime Minister Maliki.
Second, the president said we are going to eliminate the threats and the actions of both the Syrians and the Iranians who are providing manpower, materiel and expertise to the terrorists and the religious warriors who are wreaking havoc on Iraq's capital.
Those two issues are the most important. They signal major shifts in the diplomatic arena, but most important, they signal that the gloves are off. No longer will our troops be exposed to terrorist warfare from inside and outside of Iraq without the means or approval to set matters straight.
Don't think there are enough new troops going? These are riflemen, mortar men, machine gunners, and grenadiers. In other words, infantrymen. One man, many shots. The last report I heard on the strength of the Mahdi army put it at about 12,000. Some of them to be sure are fanatical followers of His Rotundness, and will fight fiercely. But you also can be sure that many of the militiamen are there because there is no other security in their neighborhoods, and they either feel compelled to join to protect their homes and families, or they have been coerced.
Either way, that element will not be all that anxious to mix it up with American infantrymen with an attitude. I don't know the percentages of each type of fighter, but that division will be a factor in any fight with our forces.
On the second front, the president didn't say we would invade Iraq or Syria, but he didn't say we wouldn't either. He said we will be attending to them (my words) which leaves a host of options open. We already have started dealing with Iran. Syria is next. It is good to hear an American president finally come right out and tell the world that if we have to cross an international border to protect our troops and disrupt our enemies, we will.
The real issue here is one of execution, and by that I don't mean Saddam or his half-brother. I mean execution of the battle plan that will eliminate the interior, secular militias, and execution that will stem the flow of outside interference. Gloves off, no-holds barred, keep the diplomats and media at the feeding trough somewhere else so we don't have to listen to their whining, and kick some ass.
If we execute that plan, President Bush finishes up on the plus side of the effective presidents' scale when his second term is over -- and we will have won in Iraq to boot. If he throws in more Rules of Engagement, or let's the media get away with that "civilian casualties" crap that they just pulled in Somalia, the effort will wither on the vine. This is all or nothing, and if we go all in and all out, we win. Anything less is unacceptable.
So for those who enjoy dissecting speeches, hey, have at it. At the very least these are great intellectual exercises.
But in the real world of battlefields and street fights, that speech is nothing more than an overall guideline. Events and circumstances will change by the hour if not the minute once we start rolling, and the individual field commanders and riflemen will win or lose the day. My bet is on our side. I have seen these guys before when no one is holding them back. They are the best.
As for the response to president's speeches and other emanations from Washington, well, I guess it's interesting and a nice use of time to tear them up and second guess them.
Personally, I prefer crossword puzzles.
Monday, January 15, 2007