John Kerry's "joke" about losers getting stuck in Iraq added zilch, obviously, to any debate. But it triggered political adrenaline pundits say could boost GOP (Kerry-disgusted) turnout. This, in turn, could boost Democratic (Hate-Bush) turnout. Which makes the electorate sound like opposing flocks of geese, irritably voluble and confused.
Emphasis on confused. Americans are confused about Iraq. They are confused about Iraq because Republicans, from the White House on down, haven't figured it out, haven't girded themselves to burst through the PC filters to grasp that Islam is the insurmountable obstacle to remaking Iraq as a Western-style state, and to shift our strategy in the region from being emphatically pro-democracy to being emphatically anti-jihad -- the best strategy for all fronts in the "war on terror."
Since it's the GOP, in effect, that wages war (contemporary Democrats are hopeless at it), Republican confusion about Iraq explains why Republican control of Congress is slipping. It also explains why a sinking feeling is the emotion that best characterizes this election. In a way, conservative disgust at John Kerry, the embodiment of utter Democratic ineptitude when it comes to national security, is a welcome overlay.
Meanwhile, the American experience in Iraq becomes surreal. U.S. military trainers tell The Washington Post they have trained an Iraqi police force of which 70 percent is infiltrated by militias, mainly from the so-called Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr. And who in Iraq cares? The police chief of Baghdad is likely a Mahdi Army man, while the minister of the interior belongs to Moqtada al-Sadr's political bloc. In other words, it's High Noon in Baghdad, 24-7. There's more. "The American soldiers and civilians who train the Iraqis are constantly on guard against the possibility that the police might turn against them," the Post reports. "Even in the police headquarters for all of western Baghdad, one of the safest police buildings in the capital, the training team will not remove their body armor or helmets. An armed soldier is assigned to protect each trainer."
This isn't just surreal, it's insane. As one trainer put it: "We don't know who the hell we're teaching. Are they police, or are they militia?"
Good question, fella. But no one Stateside has an answer -- unless Condoleezza Rice's prattle about "the ideology of hate" (her vacuous phrase for Islam's more violent manifestations) ultimately losing to "the ideology of hope" (the stuff we're supposed to provide) constitutes an answer. She makes it sound as if what Sadr City really needs is a good Head Start program -- only don't forget the body armor.
Oh, for the days when Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur successfully ordered enemy commanders to disarm 250,000 vanquished troops on mainland Japan. But Iraq is not Japan, a historical example the Bush administration has used to show the beneficial results of American occupation on a former enemy -- namely, an enlightened constitution underlying an enduring democracy. What goes unmentioned is that before Gen. MacArthur basically wrote that enlightened constitution, Japan was completely devastated, with more than 1.2 million Japanese killed in action in the final years of fighting, with 670,000 civilians perishing in Allied bombings. Islam aside, Iraq's relatively carnage-free liberation (and unsecured borders) made for a dangerously adversarial occupation.
So what is Iraq like? Not South Vietnam -- or not in the way Henry Kissinger is reportedly counseling the president. (There is a disastrous resemblance to Vietnam in Iraq's porous borders to terrorist sanctuaries in Iran and Syria.) When Kissinger says victory is the only meaningful exit strategy, it's as if he's reliving an American defeat in Vietnam suffered ultimately at the hands of a Congress that would no longer fund our Saigon ally. But does the United States have in Iraq a pro-American ally like South Vietnam for whom to stay the course -- or, for that matter, to pull the plug on? No. We have Al Qaeda-sympathizing Sunnis and Iran-sympathizing Shi'ites, which sounds like an eminently exploitable Sino-Soviet-style split in the making.
This is hardly to suggest we have no strategic interests in the region -- a condition that would justify Democratic plans for speedy withdrawal. But Democrats, both by temperament and philosophy, seem incapable of figuring out what they are. And when it comes right down to it, not getting it at all (Democrats) is worse than not getting it right (Republicans). Which is probably one of the odder reasons to vote Republican. But it's better than being stuck with the party of John Kerry, in Iraq or anywhere else.