December 30, 2007

Excerpts of the Day: Barone on the Surge; Petraeus Looks Forward

Filed under: Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 1:15 pm

As only he can, Michael Barone, at on Friday, put the Surge into historical context:

There are lessons to be learned from the dazzling success of the surge strategy in Iraq.

Lesson one is that just about no mission is impossible for the United States military.

A year ago it was widely thought, not just by the new Democratic leaders in Congress but also in many parts of the Pentagon, that containing the violence in Iraq was impossible. Now we have seen it done.

We have seen this before in American history. George Washington’s forces seemed on the brink of defeat many times in the agonizing years before Yorktown. Abraham Lincoln’s generals seemed so unsuccessful in the Civil War that in August 1864 it was widely believed he would be defeated for re-election. But finally Lincoln found the right generals. Sherman took Atlanta and marched to the sea; Grant pressed forward in Virginia.

Franklin Roosevelt picked the right generals and admirals from the start in World War II, but the first years of the war were filled with errors and mistakes.

Even Vietnam is not necessarily a counterexample. As Lewis Sorley argues persuasively in “A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam,” Gen. Creighton Abrams came up with a winning strategy by 1972. South Vietnam fell three years later when the North Vietnamese army attacked en masse, and Congress refused to allow the aid the U.S. had promised.

George W. Bush, like Lincoln, took his time finding the right generals. But it’s clear now that the forward-moving surge strategy devised by Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno has succeeded where the stand-aside strategy employed by their predecessors failed. American troops are surely the most capable military force in history. They just need to be given the right orders.

Petraeus, as would be expected of the man who is 2007′s real Person of the Year, is still looking foward, as seen in his year-end letter to the men and women under his command:

It is now imperative that we take advantage of these improvements by looking beyond the security arena and helping Iraqi military and political leaders as they develop solutions in other areas as well, solutions they can sustain over time.

At the tactical level, this means an increasing focus on helping not just Iraqi security forces — with whom we must partner in all that we do — but also helping Iraqi governmental organizations as they endeavor to restore basic services, to create employment opportunities, to revitalize local markets, to refurbish schools, to spur local economic activity and to keep locals involved in contributing to local security.

We will have to do all of this, of course, while continuing to draw down our forces, thinning our presence and gradually handing over responsibilities to our Iraqi partners.

Meanwhile, at the national level, we will focus on helping the Iraqi government integrate local volunteers into the Iraqi security forces and other employment, develop greater ministerial capacity and capability, aid displaced people as they return and take the all-important political and economic actions needed to exploit the opportunity provided by the gains in the security arena., as of this moment, shows that 20 US soldiers have died in Iraq in December — 14 due to hostile causes (modify graph at link to view hostile data result). If they hold, these will be the lowest monthly figures since early 2004.

USAT Reporter Caught in Distortion, Portrays Thompson as Unambitious

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:25 am

Erick at Red State reports that USA Today reporter Jill Lawrence distorted what she reported Saturday on a statement made by Fred Thompson to a Burlington, Iowa audience.

Here, per Erick, is how Thompson actually responded to the question, “Do you want to be President?” –

The first place, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I wouldn’t be doing this. I grew up in very modest circumstances. I left government and I and my family have made sacrifices to be sitting here today. I haven’t had any income for a long time because I figured to be clean, you’ve got to cut everything off. I was doing speaking engagements and I had a contract to do a tv show. I had a contract with ABC radio…and so forth. A man would have to be a total fool to do all those things and to be leaving his family which is not a joyful thing if he didn’t want to do it.

I am not consumed by personal ambition. I will not be devastated if I don’t do it. I want the people to have the best president they can have.

But here is what Lawrence posted:

Bill Theobald of Gannett News Service has been following Republican Fred Thompson around Iowa. In a dispatch today from Burlington, Bill quotes the former Tennessee senator as saying he doesn’t like modern campaigning, isn’t that interested in running for president and “will not be devastated” if he doesn’t win.

This makes it appear as if Thompson is just going through the motions, doesn’t it?

To her credit, Lawrence updated within an hour when Theobald called “to clarify that Thompson said he doesn’t like the process of running for president but he does want to BE president. He told the Burlington audience he would not have given up his acting career and time with his family to run if that were not the case.”

She then posted a link to a transcript of Thompson’s remarks at the Corner at National Review, and Theobald’s original story (which I could not find elsewhere). Theobald’s report began thusly:

Fred Thompson said Saturday he does not much like the modern form of presidential campaigning and that he “will not be devastated” if he doesn’t win the election.

“I’m not particularly interested in running for president,” Thompson said, but rather he feels called to serve his country.

But what originally caused Lawrence to take that bolded sentence and turn it into what she did? Was it “easy” because of the “lazy, uninterested” meme Old Media has been developing on Thompson ever since (perhaps even before) he entered the race? Is it, as Erick seems to believe, that Lawrence is “feeling slighted by the campaign for not getting a one on one with FDT”?

Regardless, it was clearly an error, in an answer to a question about Thompson’s ambition for the presidency, to skip over the full context of his answer.

Cross-posted at


UPDATE: The Iowan who asked the question provides full context. I am copying it in full from The Campaign Spot because it’s a keeper:


Positivity: Christmas miracle for adopted girl given days to live

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From Hong Kong:

Posted : Sun, 23 Dec 2007 05:08:05 GMT

It was just after Christmas 2003 when 6-year-old Chinese girl Kailee Wells looked up at her adoptive mother Linda and said: “Mummy, I am going to miss you when I die.”They were words no mother would want to contemplate. Linda felt like crying, but held back her tears to reply: “Sweetheart, mummies usually die before their little girls.”

She knew, however, there was was a very strong possibility Kailee would die before her. She had been diagnosed with severe aplastic anaemia when she was 5, and on many occasions doctors had told the couple their daughter had only days or weeks of life left.

But they never gave up hope.

“We always believed we were going to keep our girl and we had to keep fighting for her. If she was going to make it through then by God we were going to save her,” Owen Wells said.
Their journey took them from New Mexico, across the world to Asia, where the plight of Kailee touched the hearts of thousands of people.

And this Christmas, what seemed an impossible dream has been realized after a Chinese donor who heard of her plight stepped forward and provided the marrow that has given her the gift of life.

In 2002, Kailee had been diagnosed with the rare and potentially fatal blood condition similar to leukaemia, in which her bone marrow does not produce enough blood cells.

A bone-marrow transplant was her only chance of survival. A biological sibling would have had one in four chances of being a match for the transplant. But Kailee’s case was complicated by the fact that her biological family were unknown. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.