Cranial Contortions

Even on President Obama’s first full day in office, Bush Derangement Syndrome is still at the fore for many of the muddle-headed. Today, BDS is brought to us by Ralph Hitchens in the form of a letter to the editor of the Washington Post. The spark that ignites Hitchens’ BDS? An op-ed column in the Washington Post. Hitchens writes

Regarding Peter Beinart’s Jan. 18 op-ed column, “Admit It: The Surge Worked“:

Okay, I’ll admit it, given Mr. Beinart’s willingness to admit that the war itself was a colossal strategic mistake that cost more American lives than Sept. 11 did, not to mention an enormous number of Iraqi lives. But how can he say that the surge looks like Bush’s “finest hour”? When a man deliberately sets fire to his neighbor’s house, should we praise him for belatedly using an extra fire extinguisher? Even more important than the extra U.S. troops was the realization by Sunni and Shiite leaders that al-Qaeda in Iraq was a plague on both their houses and that it was far better to get rid of the “foreign fighters” and conserve strength for the power struggle that will inevitably follow a U.S. pullout.

The surge “worked,” but in the tragedy that is Iraq, it means very little.

Mr. Hitchens displays unsurpassed cranial contortion to come up with this analogy:

When a man deliberately sets fire to his neighbor’s house, should we praise him for belatedly using an extra fire extinguisher?

With 20-20 hindsight, it clearly would have been better had we simply contained Sadam. And, Mr. Bush was slow to make key adjustments in the strategy to deal with the insurgency. But it is BDS to assert that Bush alone is responsible for something like arson on a global scale. I’m sure that Hitchens thinks of this as a rhetorical question. But of course, it is not. The situation described is not a very good analogy for what happened. If Hitchens could check his BDS at the door, he might recognize this

While the man is contemplating using the fire extinguisher, there are many people in the neighborhood screaming that the house is totally burned down. The people screaming that the house is totally burned down are doing so because they stand to gain in the short term. The man, knowing that the house is not burned down, chooses instead to “win” against the fire by deploying the fire extinguisher. For that, he should be praised.

Hitchens administers the coup-de-grace

Even more important than the extra U.S. troops was the realization by Sunni and Shiite leaders that al-Qaeda in Iraq was a plague on both their houses and that it was far better to get rid of the “foreign fighters” and conserve strength for the power struggle that will inevitably follow a U.S. pullout.

But Beinart acknowledges that the surge, if defined only as the simple increase in troop levels, is not “solely responsible for the turnaround”

Is the surge solely responsible for the turnaround? Of course not. Al-Qaeda alienated the Sunni tribes; Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army decided to stand down; the United States assassinated key insurgent and militia leaders, all of which mattered as much if not more than the increase in U.S. troops.

It is a sign of BDS to pick a fight when two factions are in vehement agreement.

And then, to wrap things up, Hitchens finishes with

The surge “worked,” but in the tragedy that is Iraq, it means very little.

It “means very little”? Um, Mr. Hitchens, do you enjoy gardening? Perhaps you have some of these around the house?

One thing it does mean is that President Obama can begin to safely draw down troops and start devoting more resources to Afghanistan. It means that General Petraeus has been able to field-test his theories and has distinguished himself as a strategic thinker, and may be able to bring this thinking and lessons learned to bear in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan. It means that there is not a conflagration in the Middle East at the same time as a global economic meltdown. It means that Iraq has a chance with upcoming regional and national elections.

And it means that, for as long as the surge “means very little”, we will always have yardstick by which to measure BDS.

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