Today I want to address some of the war-related rhetoric that's been blowing around both sides of the election. I'll try to be as fair as possible, and I want to do this because the media just isn't very good at reporting military affairs- especially as they relate to politics.
"We Can't Win the War on Terror" (Bush)
This was one of Bush's "word slips" that Kerry supporters welcomed with glee. Bush was trying to be honest, and that can sometimes be a politician's worst mistake. Because of today's hyperactive media spin machine, politicians have to be extra careful about how they form their words. Bush was trying to explain that we will never declare victory over the terrorists. There won't be a treaty signing and we'll never breathe a sigh of relief because we finally killed that last remaining terrorist on Earth. What we can do is get the situation under control, and eliminate terrorism as the significant global threat that it is today. I like to equate it with crime in America. We'll never declare victory over crime, because we know that crime will always exist in America. However, we don't feel threatened by crime every day because we have police, a working legal system, and a society that does not recognize crime as acceptable behavior. 150 years ago, this was not the case- especially in the "wild west" where people were running around shooting each other for whiskey, clothes, snoring too loud, etc. Brave people like Wyatt Earp went out there and eventually instilled law and order, but we still have people shooting each other even today. The Wyatt Earps of the west did not "win the war on crime" out there, but they certainly got the situation under control. That's what we're doing in the mideast right now, but it's a much bigger challenge because it's a global effort.
"Terrorism Needs to Become a Nuisance- Like Prostitution and Gambling" (Kerry)
The good Senator made exactly the same mistake that Bush made. It's funny to me, because both guys were trying to make the exact same point, but they used two very different attempts at explaining themselves- and both got skewered by the spin doctors from their opposing campaigns. The lesson here is "if you can't explain it- don't say it." It's a sad reality for politicians in modern America.
"I'll Speed Up the Training of Iraqi Security Forces" (Kerry)
Nice try, Senator. Here's a question you'll never hear Kerry answer- "Senator Kerry, how will you speed up their training?" He can't answer this question and here's why- there is no way to speed up their training if they are to be a viable force for their country. The most glaring error in this claim is the fact that speedy training is precisely the mistake we made last year. I remember this well- Iraqis volunteered to serve, we gave them some uniforms, ran them through a quick training cycle, and sent them into harm's way. Once on the street, these brave Iraqis were slapped around, beaten about the head and face, publicly flogged, and thoroughly humiliated. We said "Okay, that was a mistake" and called for LTG Petraeus to come to Baghdad to save the day. Last June, he started rebuilding the force from scratch. He emphasized training the leadership first and foremost. This was essential, because the key to their success is to have competent leaders with good soldiers and policemen who believe in their cause and genuinely want to build a better nation. This is why they brought in Petraeus- he's famous for rallying troops around a cause, and he's widely considered to be the most competent leader and strategist in today's Army. Petraeus is operating on an established timeline that won't be changed by anyone. Allawi has been calling for him to speed things up, but Petraeus doesn't even return his phone calls- he just won't deviate from his plan. Bush wouldn't even think about appeasing Allawi's wishful demands over Petraeus' proven judgment and neither would Kerry- especially when you consider that he'd be repeating our earlier mistake. Mistakes are forgivable in a war- repeating the same mistake is not. Kerry would be wise to back off this faulty pledge.
"Kerry Would Cut and Run" (Bush)
Not a chance, George. Yes, Kerry has shown a weak hand from time to time, but he wouldn't even think about pulling out of Iraq before the job is finished. He made a huge mistake a while back when he tried to imply that he'd get the troops out in 6 months or 2 years. Bush called him on it, and Kerry immediately backed off. Kerry was trying to imply that he would get the job done faster than Bush, but it came across as "I'll bring our guys home no matter what." As a would-be President, you can't even imply such a thing when you have a nation of 25 million people counting on you to succeed. If you want a better assessment of how Kerry would handle the war, I'd recommend Michael Totten's The Hawkish Case for John Kerry.
Tomorrow, I'll cover the Swiftees and Bush's Texas Air National Guard record...
Until then, I'd like to offer you a chance to pay tribute to Christopher Reeve. He's been a hero of mine since I was 6 years old, and I think he personified personal courage in every way. I will certainly tell my children about him...