Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Giuliani: Not Fit To Be Commander In Chief

The leading Republican Presidential candidate has written an extensive article for Foreign Affairs Magazine. For me, there are several notable sections of this article which disqualify Giuliani from serious consideration for leader of the free world.

First is Giuliani's take on Palestinian statehood:
The election of Hamas in the Palestinian-controlled territories is a case in point. The problem there is not the lack of statehood but corrupt and unaccountable governance. The Palestinian people need decent governance first, as a prerequisite for statehood. Too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians -- negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again. It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism. Palestinian statehood will have to be earned through sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism, and a willingness to live in peace with Israel. America's commitment to Israel's security is a permanent feature of our foreign policy.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root cause for all the instability roiling the middle east. Somehow finding a peaceful solution to that problem should be THE major goal of any President in pursuit of a lasting peace in the middle east. Without a solution to that problem in particular, the only peace we will be given is by allying with repressive regimes, and occupying and suppressing those who do not agree with us.

The only hope for a Palestinian/Israeli peace is by a two state solution. The thought of an American President working to deny Palestinians statehood, after decades of American leadership at least paying lip service to the need for such a state, is really depressing. Giuliani would guarantee another several years of open ended conflict with American supporting Israel and working against Palestinian interests, further inflaming Arabian and Muslim opinion against us. Even the vast majority of Israelis understand the need for a two state solution, so I think Giuliani needs to stop pandering the the extreme rightwing of the Republican party and get on board with the rest of the world in this regard.

The next section to consider is from earlier in the article, under the heading of WINNING THE EARLY BATTLES OF THE LONG WAR. That section is too long to just copy and paste in it's entirety, but let us look at several misconceptions which further disqualify Giuliani from consideration as commander in chief as far as I'm concerned.
It is almost certain that U.S. troops will still be fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan when the next president takes office. The purpose of this fight must be to defeat the terrorists and the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and to allow these countries to become members of the international system in good standing.
It is notable that, from Giluiani's point of view, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are conflated. Repeatedly Iraq is paired with Afghanistan by Giuliani throughout this section. Never mind that the problems we face in the two nations are entirely disparate. Never mind that the growing trouble in Afghanistan can be traced directly to the transfer of focus from that theater to Iraq. Further into the article, when Rudy plays tough guy by promising to not rest until Osama and crew are hunted down, yet again he can not bring himself to mention Afghanistan, or Pakistan for that matter. It must be because it clearly would not make sense to mention Iraq in that context, and Rudy clearly MUST conflate Iraq and Afghanistan in each instance that one of those nations is mentioned.

Also in the above quote, note that Giuliani's goal in Iraq is to basically push for a military victory: "The purpose of this fight must be to defeat the terrorists and the insurgents in Iraq"... This type of language is great for pandering to the extremists of the party he is trying to win the nomination of. But that goal is not achievable, and don't just take my word for that. Listen to Ricardo Sanchez who was the first overall commander of American forces in Iraq. Even the much vaunted General David Petraeus says "there is no military solution" to Iraq. The most we can hope for under President Bush's and now, apparently, Rudy Giuliani's leadership would be an extended stalemate, with valleys and peaks in the level of violence. That is until Americans have had enough and force a recalcitrant President Bush or Giuliani to withdraw with a veto proof majority for sanity elected to Congress.

When Giuliani covers the consequences of withdrawal, he is careful to include his take on withdrawal from both Afghanistan and Iraq in the same sentence, as if there is equal pressure to withdraw from both. In Giuliani's world those calling for redeployment from Iraq were equally set on the abandonment of Afghanistan. By attempting to conflate the argument on withdrawal in such a manner Giuliani is being intellectually dishonest. The fact is that the vast majority of Americans calling for withdrawal from Iraq would like to see the mission in Afghanistan reinforced with more troops. We would like America to focus on the stability of that nation as the rightful focus in the "war" on terror. The last thing this nation needs after eight years of Bush will be another dissembler who relies upon tricky semantics to mislead the nation into seeing things his way, no matter how far off base his logic is. Giuliani is certain to score points with the rabid right with this type of rhetoric, but I honestly think the vast majority of the nation is sick of that type of dirty semantic jujitsu.

Giuliani thinks that the lesson of Vietnam is that we should stay in Iraq. This logic leads us to the conclusion that the lesson of the Civil War is that slavery is okie dokie. Seriously... the notion that America would have won the Vietnam war by just sticking it out a little while longer is simply goofy. Yet the parallels betwixt Vietnam and Iraq are legion and undeniable, so recently neocons (including even the President) have started combating that unfortunate truth by making noise about how America was actually on the verge of militarily winning that war. Somehow, from the neocon point of view, it was only our decision to pull out that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

To be fair about the subject, I searched the google tubes for evidence of Giuliani's claim that "historians" saw things his way. I did find several such cases, nearly all by neocon hacks and Vietnam vets with a bit of an axe to grind. I especially appreciated a review of the book Unheralded Victory: The Defeat of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army, 1961-1973. Author Mark Woodruff by a reviewer from the U.S. Army Infantry School for Infantry Magazine. The review is generally positive, but on the salient point of the entire book here is what the reviewer has to say:
[T]o declare military victory over the communist forces is superficial, naive, and--to invoke the famous rejoinder made to Harry Summers when he first ventured this interpretation to a North Vietnamese general--"it is also irrelevant." The novice reader will find some valuable statistical and explanatory detail, but one should treat the larger purpose of the book with the same skepticism that Woodruff demands of competing interpretations of the war.
Giuliani would be well served to give the evolving neocon interpretation of the Vietnam war more skepticism than to base his interpretation of how America ought to proceed in Iraq on those superficial, naive and irrelevant trips down neocon memory lane.

Finally, let us take note of Giuliani's opinion on the role of diplomacy if he is elected President. Giuliani takes a swing at Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria without actually saying her name. He covers his bases by merely fingering "members of Congress" for talking to rogue regimes. That amorphous designation does include the Republicans who accompanied Pelosi on the trip which earned her such opprobrium amongst the koolaid drinkers. But to the wingnut base he appeals to, the signal here is unmistakable: Giuliani is with you as you rave at the speaker.

Yet in that same paragraph Giuliani calls for unity of purpose by the entire government in the nations approach to foreign diplomacy. To be honest, how Giuliani expects to slog it out in Iraq until we achieve an unachievable military victory, but keep the rest of the Government on track with his diplomacy initiatives is beyond me. There can be no unity of purpose of any sort if a vocal minority, led by the President, insist on pursuing wrong headed policies which harm American interests. For that matter how can Giuliani call for a unity of Government in this regard even as he castigates Congress members for their actions? Giuliani would be well served at this stage of the game to practice what he is preaching. But that is just my perspective... from the perspective of your average Fox News vegetable, Giuliani must be hitting on all cylinders with that type of tough sounding non starter.

Also of note is the fact that Giuliani expounds on the use of diplomacy in achieving a "realistic peace", but not once does he mention Iraq in conjunction with diplomacy. Giuliani singles out Iran as a case study in how he would approach diplomacy from a position of strength and even disinters the creaking bones of Ronald Reagan (who will never rest in peace so long as a Republican is behind in the polls) as an example of successful diplomacy with the evil empire... but on THE major issue of war or peace in our time, Giuliani does not offer one tid bit as to how he would, or even if he would, use diplomacy regarding Iraq.

I see the opening salvo by Giuliani in the area of foreign policy as an appeal to the rightwing loonies who run the Republican party. Giuliani is with them, and will continue the wrong headed Bush policies which they have supported all along. I do not believe his stated outlook on world affairs comports with where the vast majority of Americans want to take this nation, but it is where he must be right now in order to win that nomination.

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