Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Soldierly Political Musings

Before moving on to matters of more importance, I want to wax empathetically and briefly on the little intricacies of my life. Concerning this life of mine, I have made two observations that reek both of insignificance and personal amusement.

First, during my occasionally daily run today, around mile 2 of 4, it began to rain. This wasn’t drizzle nor was it a salacious downpour but something in between; just steady sheets of refreshingly, cool rain. It rarely dips below 85 degrees in my neck of the woods and more typically the temperature hangs around a muggy 95 degrees. During this run, wet and satisfied, I realized that I really, genuinely appreciate rain.

Observation number two may explain the sporadic nature of the first reflection: my sleeping pattern is remarkably peculiar. Last night, for example, I laid for rest at four in the morning. My roommate entered the room simultaneously as I attempted to sleep and his movement caused my lofted bed to sway in the most annoying manner, bouncing against the wall that it skirts against. Moreover, I am a fellow that enjoys sleeping to the company of music and, unfortunately, my lofted bed prohibited me from being able to stretch headphones down to the only source of tunes; my computer.

So, this afternoon, after the aforementioned run, I completed a total rearranging of my room, removed the loft bed, and placed my bed in such a way that I would be able to utilize my headphones at night. All this activity, ultimately, made me very tired. I began to nap at six p.m. At 7:30 p.m. my alarm stirred me which I disregarded. Eventually, I would wake again- at ten p.m. This four hour excursion into much needed sleep promises me another late night characterized by insomnia.

Welcome to my world… moving on.

The Commendable Attributes of Senator Biden

During the inaugural posting here at Educated Soldier, I voiced my own solution for the war in Iraq. It was a plan that included the separation of the country into three nearly autonomous states that answered to a central government for only the most basic of needs. I wrote this totally unwitting that legislation was in place suggesting almost exactly this plan.

The bill in question was developed by Democratic Senator Joe Biden, along with some outside assistance, and was deemed the Biden-Gelb Plan for Iraq. After more thorough scrutiny, I have come to my own conclusions that cause me to be less warm to such a plan.

However, tonight I want to give credit where credit is due, despite opposite political affiliation. In this regard, there is much to like about Senator Biden’s overall stance concerning the War in Iraq. However, I will get to Senator Biden momentarily. First, I would like to point out why exactly I have strayed from my own conviction in such a plan for Iraq.

Ground Experience-Based Strategy

The idea that Iraq could survive as a three-state, federalized nation nearly fully hinged on at least one of the states being completely stable. The state in question would be the Iraqi north, a so-called “Kurdistan.” This area seemed the least conflicted when compared to a Sunni western Iraq and a Shiite southern Iraq. However, it is this same Kurdish area that might be most susceptible to trouble if such a plan is enacted. Recent news such as this proves that, even in Washington, observers are wary that an autonomous north would cause conflict between its citizens and military opposition in Turkey. If a highly independent Kurdistan proved unachievable, little is left to lead one to believe that a similarly independent Sunni region would stand any better of a chance; especially given the aggressive nature of a Shiite Iran remaining so strong and so close.

Moreover, upon reflecting on my experience on the ground, I was given more evidence that such a federation was unneeded. Let me explain. While times may now be different because my experiences are based on time spent in Ar Ramadi from 2004 through 2005, the basic idea, I am sure, remains the same. When I interacted with the local populace and we discussed the problems that they had with terrorist actors in their communities, the discussion wasn’t about their evil neighbors or the bad guys up the street. Instead, our Iraqi friends would tell us stories that went much like this: after American presence would leave the area, the neighborhood would be plagued by masked-men who would use threatening means to negate any progress that our unit had achieved. This isn’t to say that the opposition was always successful in this regard, nor is this the point of this observation.

Instead, the importance lies in the fact that these enemy forces were described as being outsiders. While their identities were thoroughly concealed, most Ramadi residents were able to categorize them as being from outside of their own neighborhoods. This may suggest that the opposition was foreign in nature, and it may not. Ultimately, what I concluded was that the general populace within Ramadi was fully ready to embrace peace and was also willing to accept a nationalized Iraq. The people that were causing the strife were outsiders in their location of origin and their mindsets. If my observation proves true – if the “sectarian” violence in the country is really generated by a small ostracized segment of extremists – then the need for a defined separation of states based on ethnic and religious ties becomes less necessary. Recent developments in Ramadi give credit to my accounts.

A Republican Soldier's Positive Sentiments for a Democrat

Now this all comes back to my recognition of Senator Biden. First, I have to make a few important declarations.

I am a Republican. I fully intend on voting for Fred Thompson should he run for President. If he decides not to then my allegiance belongs to Senator McCain. However, I am partial to the G.O.P. mostly because of domestic issues. For example, Senator Thompson has stated that he would sign into law the Fair Tax act should it pass Congress during his Presidency. I have no fantasy that this will actually come to pass. However, the basic attitude regarding taxes that allows someone to endorse the Fair Tax Act is an attitude that is very much akin to my own. Moreover, Senator Thompson has proven a strong advocate on issues important to me such as his continued support for Pro-Life legislation. However, he has been much less clear on his stance concerning the situation in Iraq.

And this is where I must give Senator Biden his just due. Most Republicans are taking the angle that they are awaiting General Petraeus’s September progress report to develop advanced strategy for our troops in country. This makes sense. However, it is also a weak answer. One could simultaneously exhibit patience while taking a decisive stand on the issue. The acknowledged Republican candidates are not doing this and, to my knowledge, Fred Thompson has not either. Senator Biden has developed a plan that he seems committed unconditionally. For this, he should be commended.

However, Senator Biden’s plan does have a further weakness. His strategy for a three-state nation in Iraq goes hand in hand with his ideal of a slow withdrawal of American troops. This is a fallacy. Developing such a state would read much like starting from scratch. We have seen how long it has taken to gain the limited progress that we are now observing in Iraq, and it goes to say that a new beginning would require a similar prolonged commitment of American troops.

And this is precisely where a gap exists that I eagerly hope Senator Thompson exploits. Not all Americans are aghast at the idea that Americans may be needed in Iraq for an extended period of time. Moreover, some of these Americans that recognize the time commitment that is required for greatest success in Iraq are the ones most willing to participate actively in this commitment. For example, I am doing everything in my power to allow for my return in a more educated capacity to the region. I know that our presence in Iraq is going to be required for years to come. I am a fervent believer that a stable Iraq benefits the country itself and the global community as a whole. I am willing to sacrifice certain luxuries in life to be an active enabler of such an achievement.

So, here is to hoping that Senator Thompson details a stump speech that clearly states that he has a plan for Iraq. It is my hope that the Senator steps forward and declares unapologetically what many of us already recognize as an unmentioned pink elephant: Troops are going to be in Iraq for many years to come. We promised the citizens of Iraq a better life and we should not turn our backs on that promise regardless of the time and sacrifices it might require. Moreover, we promised the world that we would be the leading entity in developing a global climate less prone to terrorist activity. Let’s also make good on that promise.

I get the sense that Senator Thompson is an individual of great pride. He seems to embody the southern gentleman custom of holding to a handshake deal. Senator Thompson, as a soldier myself, I have one request: Let’s show the terrorists as well as our Iraqi brethren that we are not the nation sans backbone that they may take us for. Show them that we have made a commitment and we intend to fully follow through on it. In turn, this dedication to our obligations will ultimately lead to a safer world. People will recognize America for the leader that it intends to be.

I genuinely believe sustained travel down a path of commitment will make America the harbinger of peace that today’s world so thoroughly requires.

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