Our Next Senator
Jim Webb joined Senator-elect Tester of Montana on Meet the Press Sunday for a fairly wide-ranging interview (transcript here).Â It was a little disconcerting to bounce back and forth between the two gentlemen, but the interview was of sufficient length to be informative.Â What continues to be of interest to me is watching Mr. Webb fill in his issue card on matters other than Iraq.Â He’s a smart guy and I’m hoping that this little “class warfare” number that he tried on in a WSJ op-ed and again on MTP is discarded before he goes out in public very much with it.Â I sort of detect that he’s not entirely comfortable with it.Â It’s definitely not you, Senator.
On Iraq, Webb made an interesting comparison with Viet Nam.Â He said that to this day, he could make a cogent case for our decision to get into Viet Nam, however poorly executed the conflict was.Â Iraq, he contends, differs in terms of the wisdom of the initial decision to assert military force (Read it for yourself – I hope that is a fair paraphrase from memory).Â Personally, I don’t find those distinctions compelling.Â InÂ Viet Nam we slid slowly and stupidly down a long slope from having a few advisors on the ground to full-scale military involvement.Â Like people who feel that if they yell loud enough, they will eventually get their way, we kept turning up the volume of troop levels and air action looking for the point at which the other side would break.Â Â Webb is probably right in thatÂ in Viet Nam, U.S. decision-makers had hard, objective, uncontroversial evidence South Viet Nam was not dealing solely with indigenous unrest, but was also facing armed intervention from military forces of the Hanoi regime.Â Where things fell flat at a cost of tens of thousands ofÂ American lives and many times that number of casualties was theÂ national interest analysis at different levels of troop and military resource commitment.Â Â To this day I am convinced that a major part of the problem was LBJ’s psyche.Â He was used to having his way and could not stand the idea of having to reverse or even alter course.
Whatever the wisdom of the Iraq invasion, whatever the shortcomings of the executionÂ of the post-April 2003 phases,Â Iraq remains a problem without a clear solution.Â Webb seems to realize this and is treading very carefully around any particular prescriptions for exit.Â I was encouraged to hear him identify clearly that there are three problemsÂ that, while related, cannot be mushed together with any hope of success: 1. Stabilizing the Israel/PalestineÂ dispute; 2. Having an effective anti-terrorist policy; and 3.Â dealing with Iraq.Â Problem 1 has beenÂ abjectly and irresponsibly ignored by the United States for almost six years.Â Problem 3 distractsÂ and perhaps exacerbates Problem 2.Â Problem 2 is no nearer solution now than it was in 2003.Â In some ways, things are worse on that front.Â While Iraq had little to do with the threat to the United States from international terrorism pre-2003, a hurried exit from there by the U.S. military will leave an environment far more dangerous to us than Afghanistan was pre-2001.
Â Â No single United StatesÂ senator is going to get this sorted out, but they can stimulate discussion and debate.Â My hope is that Webb is enough his own man that he’ll protect us (and everyone in Iraq whose life depends on our presence) from the worst instincts of some of his colleagues in hisÂ adoptive Party.Â Â Â Â Â Â