Today’s must-read is Senator Joe Lieberman’s Opinion Journal op-ed comparing the surreal debate in Washington to the reality in Iraq:
“What is remarkable about this state of affairs in Washington is just how removed it is from what is actually happening in Iraq. There, the battle of Baghdad is now under way. A new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has taken command, having been confirmed by the Senate, 81-0, just a few weeks ago. And a new strategy is being put into action, with thousands of additional American soldiers streaming into the Iraqi capital.
“Congress thus faces a choice in the weeks and months ahead. Will we allow our actions to be driven by the changing conditions on the ground in Iraq–or by the unchanging political and ideological positions long ago staked out in Washington? What ultimately matters more to us: the real fight over there, or the political fight over here?
“If we stopped the legislative maneuvering and looked to Baghdad, we would see what the new security strategy actually entails and how dramatically it differs from previous efforts. For the first time in the Iraqi capital, the focus of the U.S. military is not just training indigenous forces or chasing down insurgents, but ensuring basic security–meaning an end, at last, to the large-scale sectarian slaughter and ethnic cleansing that has paralyzed Iraq for the past year.
“Tamping down this violence is more than a moral imperative. Al Qaeda’s stated strategy in Iraq has been to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war, precisely because they recognize that it is their best chance to radicalize the country’s politics, derail any hope of democracy in the Middle East, and drive the U.S. to despair and retreat. It also takes advantage of what has been the single greatest American weakness in Iraq: the absence of sufficient troops to protect ordinary Iraqis from violence and terrorism.
“The new strategy at last begins to tackle these problems…”
One of the most illuminating pieces on the current debate was this by Mark Steyn. Steyn compares the ingenuity of Americans now and in the 1880s. Using the assassination of Garfield, he contrasts the attempt to solve problems creatively and ability to look forward prevalent then with the ethos of today:
“You don’t need a metal detector to see that in 1881 an extraordinary event galvanized a nation’s finest minds. All was energy and inventiveness, in the private sector, the military, even the bureaucracy: If you’re looking for ‘root causes,’ Charles Guiteau was said to have shot Garfield because he’d failed to receive a federal job handed out as patronage baubles by the Washington spoils system. The new president had already complained of being stalked by wannabe federal officials ‘lying in wait . . . like vultures for a wounded bison.’ Two years later, his successor signed the Pendleton Act creating the modern civil service…
“America is now five years on from an even more extraordinary event. How have the private and public sectors responded? With longer lines at the airport and the cutting-edge technological innovation of making you bend down and remove your shoes (and even your gel-filled bra) while bored officials wander up the line barking incomprehensible lists of prohibited fluids: that would be a state-of-the-art system for boarding the Mayflower. The government failures of 9/11? They’ve taken the Department of Bureaucratic Timeservers and renamed it the Agency of Homeland Patriotic Vigilance: same great service, new hat. The continuing torpor of State, the dysfunctions of the CIA are unthreatened by anything beyond the merest cosmetic reform. Minor border security changes such as requiring passports for travel to and from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean take the best part of a decade to introduce; meaningful border security is scheduled for mid-century, though they won’t say which one; as for support from the private sector, the Border Patrol’s mission — prevent the entry of terrorists and their weapons into the United States — is so offensive that the NFL banned them from advertising in the Super Bowl program. “The ad that the department submitted was specific to Border Patrol, and it mentioned terrorism,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Washington Times. “We were not comfortable with that.”
“When my book came out, arguing that the current conflict is about demographic decline, civilizational will and globalized pathologies, a lot of folks objected, as well they might: seeing off supple amorphous abstract nouns is not something advanced societies do well. You’re looking at it the wrong way, I was told. Technocratic solutions, new inventions, the old can-do spirit: That’s the American way, and that’s what will see us through.
“Well, OK, so where is it? The glamor boys of the moment — Obama, Edwards — run on watery pabulum from the easy-listening oldies playlist. Five years after 9/11, we’re not looking ahead, we’re looking back — in the legislature, in the courts, in the media: Bush’s ‘lies’ about WMD, the Senate vote to authorize the ‘use of force’ against Iraq, Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger, Joe Wilson’s self-leaking of his mischaracterization of his trip to Niger . . . rear-view mirror stuff, all of it, endlessly. On the dark shapes looming in the windshield — Iran, Sudan and much else — we operate ineffectually through yesterday’s institutions, like the U.N. and the EU. Two billion dollars from American taxpayers go to the government of Egypt and in return they give Hezbollah’s TV network a slot on the state satellite system. At the gas pump, we fund Hugo Chavez and the Saudi radicalization of Muslim populations around the planet. The obvious transformative technology — an alternative to the global economy’s oil dependence — is as far away as it was on Sept. 10, and the Alexander Graham Bells of our day are busy inventing the “self-repairing condom” — a marvel of nanotechnology to be sure, but not one with much strategic use unless you can supersize it and unroll it down every Wahhabi mosque.”
I can’t help thinking that the global warming debate is quite similar. Why isn’t somebody trying to figure out how to clean up the ozone? Instead, we focus on Al Gore and ethanol.