THE NAVAL OBSERVATORY FOLLIES
January 26, 2007 - Last week the President said that operations in Iraq had amounted to “slow failure”. For once the President was right but his Vice President does not agree. Remember the prediction that American troops would be welcomed as liberators? Remember the assertion that our army’s way would be strewn with rose petals? Remember the insurgency languishing in its last throes? Well the Vice President. "Bottom line is that we've had enormous successes and we will continue to have enormous successes." That is the way Dick Cheney described the Bush Administration’s record in Iraq nearly 4 years after the President declared that major combat operations were over on May 1, 2003. Clearly the Vice-President has avoided becoming part of the reality based community that his staff derided just four years ago.
By Mr. Cheney’s standards Pearl Harbor was “an enormous success” for America followed by the string of enormous successes in the Philippines. It took a long time for the nation to recover from those successes but by the end of 1942 the tide had turned. The war in Iraq has now lasted longer than did America’s participation in World War II and there is still no glimmer of light to signal the end of the tunnel.
It is hard to imagine that the view from the Naval Observatory is so far different from that from the Oval office. In the White House the President is beginning to see the reality in Iraq for what it is even if he is still at sea when he considers what to do about it. Over at the Naval Observatory the Vice-President does not see the continuing escalation of anarchical violence in Iraq as anything but a string of American victories. It is hard to imagine a sharper departure from reality than Mr. Cheney’s distorted view of the situation faced by the Coalition Occupation Force in Iraq.
General David Petraeus sees the situation in his new command more realistically than does the Vice-President. The General’s assessment is that “the situation in Iraq is dire. The stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard, but hard is not hopeless." General Petraeus does not see Dick Cheney’s enormous successes.
Senator Jim Webb is no stranger to war. His war was strikingly similar to the struggle in Iraq. His realistic view of the matter is this: "We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq."
Some of us remember the Saigon follies, those over optimistic news briefings well in the rear of those whose lives were on the line in Vietnam. What we are hearing from the Vice-President is today’s equivalent – The Naval Observatory Follies.
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