Saturday, September 15, 2007

Republican Marketing Tactics

Since General David Petraeus returned from Iraq with his report on the progress made there by President George Bush's troop "surge," it's been remarkable to watch the language of Republican campaigns change to reflect the president's new goals -- which include a somewhat vague notion of reducing U.S. troop numbers in Iraq to pre-surge levels.

What's remarkable is that the G.O.P. has stolidly denounced any Democrat-led notion of reducing troop levels there as being tantamount to "admitting defeat," and that bringing the troops home "precipitously" would be conceding to "the enemy" we're supposedly fighting in Iraq. More polemical members of the legislature, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have either implied or stated explicitly that this would lead to us having to fight this ghostly enemy (one can safely assume he means al Qaeda) here at home. Vice President Dick Cheney referred to al Qaeda as "the enemy we may face" in a speech Friday in Grand Rapids, Mich.

I heard McConnell speak to a host on NPR's All Things Considered. He said that he doesn't think it's a coincidence that we haven't witnessed another terrorist attack in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001.

Gen. Petraeus, has been a combatant commander in Iraq more than once, including a tour (as a major general) as the commander of the 101st Airborne Division. In testimony, he warned against the kind of rapid pull-out favored by vocal Democrats, but he in turn has been accused of "cooking the books" on Iraq progress in order to support the delayed timetable that the White House seems to have begrudgingly accepted as policy.

By the White House's own report card, the Iraq government is making what would be considered a failing grade at any educational institution. Out of 18 benchmarks set by the administration in July, satisfactory progress is being made in eight of them. In eight others, progress is "unsatisfactory," and the remaining two can't be evaluated yet.

While this evaluation is still less than 90 days old, it's in keeping with the Iraq government's history thus far of being incapable of governing anything. Even with the increased troop levels (now up to around 160,000 U.S. soldiers), violence remains a definitive part of life in sectarian Iraq.

It's been accepted as read that total U.S. withdrawl from the country would result in catastrophe, but now that Republicans have decided that withdrawl is indeed necessary, we're going to be treated to some amazing lingual gymnastics from the party -- the G.O.P.'s strategy for troop pull-out will be a "carefully-considered plan for reduction in troop levels, in keeping with Gen. Petraeus' recommendations, where we still support the troops and their mission," while the Democrats' desire to pull troops back will be painted as a spineless call for unconditional surrender.

Never mind that both strategies amount to the same thing -- bringing troops back from the front lines of a "war" that the American public has lost any interest or faith in.

It's clear that the Iraq government is willing to take advantage of every dollar and uniformed body the U.S. is willing to send its way -- and demonstrating independence from that aid is a good way to have it removed. It's like in any business or bureaucracy: you have to use your entire annual budget each year (or overspend), or your budget will get cut. And no one wants their budget cut, least of all a fledgling government surrounded by bloodthirsty sectarians.

But the U.S. can't afford to continue funneling money into the country without some demonstration that the treasure and lives we're spending there is actually accomplishing something. It's time to wean Iraq from the American tit.

Nothing gets a creature moving on its own like the threat of starvation. Baby tigers figure out quickly how to catch their own dinner once their mother's milk has been taken away.

Of course, there are American companies who have it in their best interest to see hostilities continue in Iraq and Afghanistan. These include former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR), which has demonstrated a level of greed and disregard for ethics I wouldn't have believed possible.

We'll see what happens, won't we?


UPDATE: I meant to mention, in regards to Gen. Petraeus, that the top of his chain of command is the president -- the Defense Department falls under the Executive Branch, and therefore Petraeus, regardless of his long and admirable record of service, is hardly an unbiased source of information. This should be considered when weighing the content of his report against accusations of pandering to the White House's goals and objectives.