Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election 2006 Post-Mortem


Finally, the consequences of the Bush Administration's mishandling of the war have come home to roost. But color me apprehensive, because I'm still not totally convinced that the Democratic leadership isn't totally eaten up with the galloping stupids. A few quick, day-after observations follow:

Numero Uno: Christian conservatives, realizing that Rove has been selling them a bill of goods, took their ball and bat and went home. I've been expecting this for a couple of years now. What finally tore it, I think, was the Miers nomination. Once it finally became crystal-clear that no one in Bush-land was really, truly serious about overturning Roe v. Wade, well, what else was there? They've had a year and change to chew on that, and we've seen part of the pay-out.

Numero Two-O: Middle America is still in the War on Terror, but they'd really prefer it was waged more competently. This was an obvious, stinging rebuke to the Bush Administration's handling of the war. SecDef Rumsfeld is resigning today in response. While that is a good start, the changes need to go farther. I'm not entirely sure how much farther, or what the changes should be. James Baker and company ought to serve up their report pretty soon now. Hopefully they'll make some helpful suggestions. More on that later.

Numero Three-O: Divided government is a good thing. We always seem to do best when the branches of government aren't all in one party's hands. So, I'm guardedly optimistic: we won the Cold War with a Republican President and Democrat Congress, after all.

Numero Four-O: But is Pelosi eaten up with the galloping stupids? I'm not sure yet. We'll see, come January, if she starts baying for investigation after investigation, and stumping up the fires for impeachment. If that happens, we're screwed. America has no interest in that sort of spectacle. Yes, there ought to be some investigation into how we got into this mess. But that's the work of a long afternoon. There was some misleading going on, but the deceived was Bush, and the deceiver is set to dance his last waltz at the end of a rope. Chewed bone, guys. Let's spend our energy figuring out how to go forward from here. But is Pelosi smart enough to know that? We'll see.

Numero Five-O: That the Republicans have lost Congress doesn't mean that we've lost the War on Terror. It means that we're liable to have to do some re-focusing. This may be a good thing.

You see, the fundamental truth is now just as it was when Lincoln first said it: there is not a Power on Earth that can so much as take a sip of the Ohio River without our leave. There's no way they can get here in Army-level strength unless we provide them with visas and transportation. They can harass, but they cannot conquer. Not without our help and consent, anyway.

And we've done some good work. Hussein's regime is toast. We booted the Taliban out of Afghanistan -- but we might have to put another push together to make sure that sticks. And, perhaps most importantly, we've put paid to one of the myths Al-Qaeda goes to sleep by: the myth that we'll run screaming from our first blood. Their playbook was based on our behavior after Vietnam, and especially Somalia. We've shown them now that, if the stakes are high enough for us, we'll come and fight them on their own turf. And beat them.

So ... one probable result of all this is that we're going to do some sort of re-structuring of forces, reducing the number of troops in Iraq. That's fine, it's the Iraqis' fight anyway at this point. We can't win it for them, they'll have to win it themselves. We might want to send some of those guys over to Afghanistan, to put the beat-down on the Taliban. Again.

But the main thing is that we've come to the point where we simply have to admit that some mistakes have been made, and that we need to have a frank and open discussion about what needs to be done next. That was never going to happen until the Republicans were dealt some kind of beating at the ballot box. Now, nursing a few lumps on their heads, they have to ask themselves how they came to this.

And now, we all need to be alert, and participate in the discussions to come. There are three main questions. I don't think they've been seriously discussed yet.

One: Who are we? What is America in this new world we find ourselves in? For fifty years, we were the chief opponent of international Communism, the arsenal of Democracy. What's our role now? And knowing that role, how best do we fulfil it?

Two: How do we deal with the threat posed by Islamic extremism? How do we continue to wage war against Al-Qaeda and its adjuncts?

Three: How do we help our friends and allies abroad to deal with that self-same threat? They're more aware of it than they were five years ago, that's for sure. And this threat's big enough that we all need to pitch in together, or we'll be torn up piecemeal.

But those conversations can, at least, take place now.

Despair is a sin. Remember, this enemy can only win if we lose our nerve.

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