Monday, August 22, 2005

Who's Side is Chuck Hagel On?

I saw a bit of Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-NE) comments on ABC's "This Week", and I am understanding why ABC elected to have George Allen (R-VA) sit in on the interview.

And I wonder if it's too silly to expect a Hagel-Feingold (or Feingold-Hagel) ticket for 2008. Hagel is a war hero who did his time in Vietnam, but that does not make him a credible policy maker for Iraq. He is best when dealing with tax and spend issues, and business regulation. But when it comes to National Security and foreign policy, he has not a single credential to give authority to his opinions, save his office as Senator, which we all know means nothing.

Hagel, like Feingold is trying to make himself relevant for 2008. But the funny thing is that Hagel misses a lesson that Howard Dean knew too well (for all the good it did him): you have to win the nomination first. Granted, Dean lost because there was a very realistic perception that he had no chance in the general, but his effort to sweep the primaries collapsed because he was over the top insane.

But while someone like Hagel may attract the swing voters, if one comes across as a dove or disloyal to Republican primary voters, they will end up in the same position in Iowa and New Hampshire as Gary Bauer did in 2000 or Dennis Kucinich in 2004.

The problems with this whole rush to formulate a timetable are multiple. Russ Feingold thinks that it would take the fire out of al Qaida's invitation to come to Iraq to fight American occupiers. But that argument is infantile in the extreme. It presumes that once we pull out, 1) the terrorists will immediately disband and let the Iraqi people govern themselves, and 2) if problems erupt, the Iraqi military will be able to deal with any uprising against the popularly elected government. But that's just the problem.

The terrorists aren't getting their kicks from hitting Americans. They are going after the much easier targets of Iraqi police recruits, members of the provisional government, judges, civilians and the like. Hagel's and Feingold's ignorance of that fact evacuates any logic from their positions. Beyond that, it is more or less an axiom that the Iraqi defense forces cannot keep up with al Qaida terrorists' hit and feint techniques. It is nearly impossible to prevent every single car bombing or suicide bomber. An upstart military group will be overwhelmed. And then any hope of a democratic--let alone U.S. friendly--government in Baghdad is gone.

The President has already made clear that he doesn't believe in artificial timetables, because the terrorists, being smarter than the politicians calling for such schedules, will know that they have been armed with a very politically useful tool--a clock to wait out.

The terrorists know that any withdrawal estimate from the White House will be treated as a hard date, regardless of how emphatic the president is to the contrary. A failure to meet the date will result in the same shrill hyperbolic cries for impeachment, that Iraq is a quagmire, etc. that we have come to expect, and a very serious effort by the media and the Democrat-left to turn the public sentiment decidedly against the war. Not that this isn't already happening, but with a "commitment" from the President to pull troops, these efforts will gain traction, given his Administration's woeful inability to communicate. Our soldiers' morale will fail, and that of the terrorists will strengthen.

Similarly, if Bush actually kept to such a foolish timetable, the terrorists would go dark until the last C-130 left Baghdad airport, and then they would feast upon Iraq and its people.

In either case, it would be Vietnam II--the left and the media elite turning success into a failure simply by twisting perceptions and instilling the notion that each and every war must be quick and painless, and that hard jobs are not worth the effort.

Chuck Hagel may think that his curious dovishness helps him, but he'd be incorrect. Republican voters would reject him. But it does help the terrorists. And it would be better for Hagel to remember that he is elected by one of the most red states out there. And it would be equally helpful if he stuck to the things he knows, rather than pretending to have the first clue about foreign and military policy.

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