Friday, September 14, 2007

...Are Condemned To Repeat It

Fifteen years ago this December, President George H. W. Bush, having just been upset by a former Arkansas governor, William Jefferson Clinton, in the presidential election, decided to send a combination of U.S. military forces to Somalia. The operation, known as "Restore Hope", was a United Nations - sanctioned humanitarian effort to stop the massive displacement and starvation of the Somali people, whose society had begun to descend into an absolute decay that persist to this day. As President Bush deployed the troops, he knew full well that they would stay there beyond President-elect Clinton's inauguration day. In fact, the last man would stay until March, 1995.

Listening to President Bush's speech Thursday night made me recall what I learned about the Battle for Mogadishu. Iraq is in peril, we're nation-building, the U.S. military are fighting urban battles against militia, among many other similarities. But none stands out more than the political convenience of an outgoing, lame-duck president.

Now, I've been on record as opposed to an immediate withdrawal, because whatever the consequences may be, it will be devastating to the region and America's foreign policy and influence. Yet, to infuse politics in decision-making in a war is exactly what H. W. Bush did, what Clinton did later on, and what the current Bush is doing now. Bush threw troops in Somalia and never detailed an exit plan. Clinton saw American troops dragged through the streets on CNN, and made the quick decision to leave Somalia for good. This president sees poll numbers for his Republican incumbents (despite what he claims), and, hiding behind yet another professional, decides to withdraw troops.

Here's the paradox: If the "Surge" is working, but political gains have been marginal - at best - why withdraw troops? If the "Surge" needs more time, as General Petraeus indicated earlier this week, why send over five thousand marines home by Christmas, then send another twenty-five to thirty thousand troops home by next summer? Shouldn't we sustain the troop levels, or even increase them? What of the Clear-Hold-Build strategy?

If there's one thing he's good at, Barak Obama can sure state the obvious, that there are no good choices in Iraq. But for the President to find some political middle ground in order to ease the political hemorrhaging Republicans have been enduring is despicable, if not downright cowardice. Either push forward, and leave the next president with something to work with, or pull out and have the next president redevelop our foreign policy. It's a shame the president is cowardly enough to hide behind Congress, generals, and, yes, polls - effin' polls.

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