Friday, February 29, 2008

R.I.P. William F. Buckley (1925-2008)


The nicest thing I can find to say about William Buckley, Father of American Conservatism, is that he broke with Bush on the endless occupation of Iraq.

Two years ago, Buckley said It Didn't Work:
One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed ... Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans.

The Iraqis we hear about are first indignant, and then infuriated, that Americans aren't on the scene to protect them and to punish the aggressors .... And the administration has, now, to cope with failure. It can defend itself historically .... The failure in Iraq does not force us to generalize that violence and antidemocratic movements always prevail .... It is healthier for the disillusioned American to concede that in one theater in the Mideast, the postulates didn't work .... Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements.

..... He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.
On 15-Jan-07, he published in the NRO a hypothetical questionnaire that a retiring Republican legislator might compose for himself before voting on supplementary appropriations for Iraquagmire. The final questions and answers went like this:

Is our Iraqi enterprise worth a corporate commitment by America?
That is the taxing question. If success in Iraq would bring an end to the movement of which Iraq is now the apex, the answer would clearly be yes. Has the president persuasively argued that it would do so? No. He has said that "failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States." He hasn't said why. Great countries do lose great engagements. We did in Vietnam and Korea, and the Soviets did in Afghanistan.
Then doesn't it follow that the American role in Iraq is indeed critical?
No, actually. America could help the Maliki government in Iraq fight the insurgents. But the evidence, in the last two years especially, is that the strength of the insurgents lies not in their military organization but in their techniques. Our losses are mostly from IEDs — improvised explosive devices. An elevation in American fighting forces in Iraq doesn't diminish, pro tanto, the number of IEDs that will be set off.

The threat in Iraq is from the apparently inexhaustible flow of insurgents who plant the IEDs and who engage in wanton killings of Iraqi defenders. What no strategist, American or Iraqi, has successfully addressed is the question of how to diminish that noxious flow. One American general petitioned the Iraqi government to be more forceful with captured insurgents, many of whom are simply released. But nothing like a galvanized rout of apprehended insurgents is in prospect, which problem touches on -
The sectarian character of the Iraqi population, which is the source of divisiveness extending beyond any dislike or resentment of America.
A geographical division of Iraq is inevitable. The major players are obvious. It isn't plain how America, as an outside party, could play an effective role, let alone one that was decisive, in that national redefinition. And America would do well to encourage non-American agents to act as brokers — people with names like Ban Ki-moon.
On the basis of this analysis I will vote against supplementary American involvement in Iraq.