Reply to Russ Vaughn


I appreciate Mr. Vaughn taking the time to respond to my article but I fear that we are bloggers passing in cyberspace. Essentially, we are talking past one another.

First, I cannot quarrel with any of what Mr. Vaughn relates in his third and fourth paragraphs regarding the critics of our adventure in Iraq. Yes, all those things have been said and all those condemnations made. What I fail to see is any kind of a linear relationship between troop levels on the one hand, versus the frequency and intensity of that criticism and condemnation on the other. If we had used fewer troops would there have been reduced levels of epithet, distortion and hysteria? And in turn would there have been a less intense and shorter 'insurgency'? Somehow, I just don't see that.

I realize that there is, from some correspondence I've had with other former military men, genuine disagreement as to whether or not the numbers of combat personnel that we have in Iraq were or are sufficient to do the job. How you define the job, of course, having a major impact on that determination. But I would have thought that sealing the borders of Iraq, to the greatest extent possible, would have been an essential part of keeping out the jihadist bad guys. According to the article I linked to in the Washington Times , certainly not a leftist rag, there is no effort whatsoever being made to control the frontier with Iran. The border is wide open and we have no notion as to who and what are being funneled into Iraq. To me, this doesn't seem a sound tactic.

If we have enough troops in Iraq to control the country's borders, then why aren't we doing it? The assumption that we don't is implicit in my recommendations, for if we were sufficiently manned to do that job, I cannot imagine that we wouldn't be doing it. And if we don't, we'd better get them there pronto. Because the criticism of our actions and/or troop levels isn't the issue. Nor is the assumption on the part of the Democrats that the President's options are 'limited.' What's at issue is the internal security of Iraq. And right now, at least in the parts of Iraq that are of immediate concern, we don't appear to, and probably don't, have a substantive level of control. Neither do the Iraqi forces. We have the option of exerting greater control and I think that's what we should do.

The basic point of my article is that more of the same just won't work. We're thirty months down the road, and considering the current circumstances and level of violence in Iraq, my 'tipping' was that we need to do more, not less, to secure the country. Whatever the naysayers and unhinged critics of our actions in Iraq may say or do cannot determine our policies or military tactics. The realities of what's going on down on the ground must do that. If we come to the conclusion that our invasion of Iraq was folly, then the only rational choice will be leaving as quickly as possible.

I, for one, have not come to that conclusion. Nor have I concluded that the current approach is the only one available to us. If it is the only available option and it proves insufficient, we'll be just as deep in that proverbial smelly, brown organic substance as if we were to bail out now. And the longer we wait to get control of the situation — and I think we've already waited too long for anyone's benefit — the tougher the job will get.

Regarding Bush having 'out—dumbed' his political opposition, he has not been infallible. Social Security reform being the most salient example. That was a program too far, at least so far, and he did spend a lot of his political capital in that effort — capital that perhaps he should have saved for the situation in Iraq and for shoring up his plummeting approval numbers. It appears that the major factor currently in the Administration's favor is that the Dems' seem to be plummeting at an even greater rate. But all that is beside the point. The reality in Iraq is not.

As far as always having cooler heads prevail, I didn't realize that was prerequisite for winning a war. After all, didn't McClellan get fired for being a tad too cautious?

Dennis Sevakis   8 21 05