by Richard Stern The long-awaited Baker-Hamilton report is out, all 160 pages of it. It was introduced by a news conference presided over by James Baker with his familiar mix of witty condescension ("we has-beens") and aristo impatience (telling a reporter he could answer his question but "as it's answered in the Report it would be a waste of time"). Baker's co-chair, Lee Hamilton, the icon of gravitas, came close to the brink of pompous, if not senile garrulity.
Newsweek's Michael Isikioff and Mark Hosenball have a fascinating piece on Silvestre Reyes, who is soon to be the next chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. In an interview, Reyes said that he wants to increase troop levels in Iraq: "We’re not going to have stability in Iraq until we eliminate those militias, those private armies," Reyes said. "We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq ...
It's fun, if predictable, when pundits make bad analogies between current political trends and historical circumstances. But White House stenographer Fred Barnes's book review in the new Weekly Standard sets a high (low?) water mark. The book under discussion is Jennifer Weber's history of slavery-friendly Northern Democrats who opposed Lincoln's war policy, known as Copperheads. Here's Barnes: They undermined the war wherever they could. ... More broadly, the antiwar faction's vituperative opposition hurt the ability of the Union army to carry out the war effectively. ...
The New York Times tells us in Saturday' paper that Nancy Pelosi has chosen a Texas congressman, Silvestre Reyes, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee because he was "more combative" against the president than Jane Harman, the person who by seniority and expertise would have gotten the post had the soon-to-be speaker not despised her. Actually Reyes's combativeness toward the administration would be OK with me if anything in his resumé had shown he has experience in fighting terror. And anything also that showed he was particularly combative against terror and its practitioners.
Yesterday, George Will weighed in on the Bush-Webb brouhaha. He blasted Webb, writing: Wednesday's Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq." When the president again asked "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy." [snip] Webb certainly has conveyed what he is: a boor.
This morning's Washington Post has what seems like an unrealistically optimistic piece on North Korean sanctions. There isn't much of a news peg here--the U.S. has published its list of restricted goods, but the U.N. sanctions were passed more than a month ago--so the Post's strategy is to claim that the measures, which are supposed to limit (among other things) the flow of Kim Jung Il's favorite luxury items, are "effective this holiday season" and will thus ruin Kim's Christmas: The U.S. list of more than 60 items reads like a letter to Santa from the dictator who has everything.
The war in Iraq is lost--at least the original one, which was to make the place and then all of Arabia safe through democracy. The "democratic peace"--the idea that only despots make war while democracies are basically pacific--is as old as the republic itself. But not even Woodrow Wilson, the most fervent believer in the idea, went to war against Wilhelmine Germany in 1917 for the sake of democracy. That was the ideological icing on a power-political cake. The Kaiser's U-boats were sinking U.S.
I can't even imagine Iraq anymore. It exceeds my capacity to visualize horror. In a recent interview with The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid, a woman named Fatima put it this way: "One-third of us are dying, one-third of us are fleeing, and one-third of us will be widows." At the Baghdad morgue, they distinguish Shia from Sunnis because the former are beheaded and the latter are killed with power drills. Moqtada Al Sadr has actually grown afraid of his own men. I came of age believing the United States had a mission to stop such evil. And now, not only isn't the United States stopping it--in
U.S. troops must leave Iraq--but not just yet, and not in the manner many Democrats have suggested. Islamists in general, and Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in particular, are always pointing to past U.S. military retreats--Vietnam in 1975, Lebanon in 1984, Somalia in 1994--as evidence that the American will to wage war invariably collapses as conflicts drag on. As a result, retreating from Iraq now would simply encourage Islamists to attack U.S.
Of all the exasperations of this war, the most stinging is that its beginning is not all you need to know about its ending. The high reasons for the war were attended by fantasy, ignorance, and deceit. This cannot be denied. And in view of such origins, the temptation to insist upon a swift evacuation is very great. Almost 3,000 Americans have been killed, and more than 20,000 Americans have been wounded; and 150,000 Iraqis have been killed, according to the Iraqi government, in the fratricide that the war unleashed. 150,000: we are approaching a Saddam-like magnitude for the murder of innocen