It was difficult to listen to the president describe the coming troop “surge” in Iraq — to give his proposal a fair hearing — because there’s so much water under this bridge. And 20,000 troops hardly sounds like a surge; I’d put it more along the lines of a burp.
But I listened.
It was a lousy speech. There was nothing exciting, or hopeful, or uplifting there, but then again, what could one possibly say about Iraq at this point that would inspire?
Still… I listened.
I was angry with him when he talked about preventing Iraq from becoming a “safe base of operations” for al Qaeda; they weren’t operating there prior to our invasion. And when he mentioned “spreading liberty” throughout the Middle East as the best way to keep Americans safe, I almost turned off the television. That’s how we ended up where we are right now, as I recall.
We are where we are, though, and tuning out all the noise won’t change that reality. I listened all the way through and tried to keep the sound of my teeth grinding to a minimum.
It wasn’t until I listened to the Democratic rebuttal immediately after, though, that I came down off the fence — because what Senator Durbin described as the alternative struck me as both impossible, and unacceptable.
Contrary to the pipe dream Durbin described, the Iraqis are not going to suddenly wake up and smell the coffee if we “redeploy”; they’re going to slaughter one another out of hand. Thousands — tens of thousands — hundreds of thousands of innocent, ordinary people are at risk there. Families. Grandmothers. Children.
I hate the position we’ve been placed in, but I hate the alternatives worse.
We have to to try.
* * * * *
More: The Washington Post (and others) say that there’s nothing new here. That would be true – will be true, in fact — if Bush’s description of what the Iraqi government will deliver on their end doesn’t hold up.
However, there were a number of hugely important Iraqi points in tonight’s speech, and one that stood out was a commitment to distribute oil revenues throughout the provinces.
The fear by many Iraqis (specifically Sunnis) is that because they are a demographic minority, they will be cut out of the economic loop. Such a commitment from al Maliki is a big step toward reconciliation.
And: TMV co-blogger Marc Schulman brings out another of those important Iraqi points:
As far as I’m concerned, the most encouraging part of the President’s speech is that, with the agreement of the Maliki government, U.S. and Iraqi forces will conduct military operations in all — not just Sunni — neighborhoods.
Bush hit this several times, which indicated (to me) that al Sadr has overplayed his hand and is being marginalized. Here’s hopin…