Sunday, September 28, 2008

strategy vs tactics

The title of this article will be applied in two different areas today.

First, more about the debate. Debates are tactical engagements, by and large, but in certain instances they CAN BE strategic in value. Think of Kerry's "global test", and how that sound bite became synonymous with his election meaning a loss of American sovereignty in foreign affairs. So the question is: was there such a moment on Friday night? Well. . .maybe. We don't know yet exactly how either campaign will package soundbites from the debate (well, we know what McCain has already done, with the "John is right" ad--which is somewhat underwhelming to me), but I think there may be some opportunities here. Whether letting ride with Obama's tacit agreement that he is the most liberal member of the Senate, or showing him to be an insincere poseur because he had to look at his bracelet to actually remember the name of the soldier in who's honor he supposedly wears it--there is some potential here. But to me, the biggest ad won't be about the debate, but rather about what happened before and after the debate. The Federal government appears poised to pass this HUGE bailout that will have an impact on both Main street AND Wall street--and a huge impact on the next president's plans, as Jim Lehrer pointed out. McCain, of course, was IN DC, doing his job and, although details of this are somewhat sketchy, apparently saving the day on this plan (at least that was the case on Friday). Obama mailed it in, leaving DC after he took the stage to make an opening statement that essentially served no purpose other than to let him take credit for being there--and THEN had the nerve to try to hit up his supporters for more campaign cash IN THE MIDST OF A CREDIT MELTDOWN that found him NOT in DC doing his job. SO how's this for an ad: McCain is a man who works for solutions; Obama is a man who works to take more of your money. THAT could be a big strategic move, and one that just wasn't ready to spring on Friday. Today though. . .after Obama spent all day yesterday in North Carolina complaining that McCain never mentioned "the middle class" on Friday. . .well, I've got news for you Senator Obama: McCain just ACTED in the interests of ALL classes of Americans, while you let your proxies take care of it for you. Leadership vs. optics--the choice couldn't be more clear.

Topic # 2: McCain said on Friday that Obama doesn't get the difference between strategy and tactics. Which is pretty obvious, if you watched that part of the debate--but I'll let Obama pass on this, because he essentially admits that such thinking is not his turf, but rather defers to Sen. Biden.

So what does Sen. Biden say in an interview with Chris Wallace after the debate on Friday night? Oh, if only I could find the transcript.

He was awful.

He seemed to say--at least this is what I heard--that our MILITARY strategy in Iraq needed to be about political reconciliation of the different factions of Iraqis within a central government.

No, I'm not making this up.

I know that foreign policy is a difficult, multi-stage thing. But this guy's supposed to know about this stuff--isn't he?

So let me make it simple for him.

Our government has many instruments to utilize to get desired results in certain policy regimes. When dealing with a foreign policy question, our government can utilize a wide range of these instruments, but two of the most notable are diplomacy and military action.

They are individual components WITH THEIR OWN STRATEGIES that can sometimes be overlapped in order to bring about a foreign policy goal--but they are not the same.

So here's Iraq in a nutshell: the foreign policy GOAL was to rid the world of Saddam while establishing a viable democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

The diplomatic STRATEGY to make that happen was : a) temporarily fill the void created by Saddam's exit while b) trying to help form a new government (Iraqis governing Iraqis) based in democratic principles.

The military STRATEGY was multi-faceted, too: a) overthrow Saddam; b) train Iraqis to defend themselves; c) minimize the "presence" of coalition troops, as otherwise we might offend the Iraqis.

Simple, right? Well, something happened on the way to Tipperary, as they say: the insurgents were making life awful difficult for us to accomplish the second of the two diplomatic strategies. We were accomplishing (or had accomplished) the military strategies, as we were training Iraqi troops, we were retreating to the green "zones" every night so that Iraqis weren't forced to deal with an overwhelming presence, and we had obviously overthrown Saddam--but something was still amiss. And that something led to such violence that some news outlets--and even US Congresspeople--said Iraq was in the midst of a civil war.

So in order to make more progress in our diplomatic strategies, we HAD TO CHANGE OUR MILITARY STRATEGY. Enter John McCain's surge. Gone were the days of "minimizing our presence", which led to certain locations where AQI and other insurgent bands held forceful sway over the population. Dawned were the days of "clear and hold", where these insurgent stronghold cities were attacked one by one, always resulting in coalition victories that were NOT followed by the troops immediately leaving, which helped secure peace (and piece of mind) for the law-abiding locals.

And suddenly, BECAUSE OF THE CHANGE IN THE MILITARY STRATEGY, we were able to start making progress on the diplomatic strategies that feed into the overall policy goal.

Now as they say, we are a long way from being done in Iraq. But that's because the POLICY--not the strategy, as Biden would have you believe, but the POLICY--is so all-encompassing and REQUIRES IRAQI PARTICIPATION--which is NOT something the U.S. can force to happen.

And that's why political reconciliation is NOT part of our strategy. While it is essential to the establishment of a viable democracy, it is NOT something that we can effect alone. Iraqis had to step up to the table. . .and increasingly it is looking like they are.

But that's because McCain urged a change in military STRATEGY--a change that was so successful that it allowed great progress to be made on the diplomatic front as well.

Once again, Biden proves to be an enormous windbag who has no idea what he's saying.

I know people are starting to worry about Palin in the upcoming VP debate. I am not one of those. She doesn't have as much to prove as does Biden, who is, after all, billed as the real experience on the Democratic ticket. If he does what I think he'll do, then Palin could get away with everything short of cursing or picking her nose.

Next Friday we'll be talking about what an idiot Joe Biden is, and how that reflects so poorly on Obama's executive skills and judgement. And THAT opens up ads about Ayers, Rezko and Wright.

Yes, there's still a LOT of campaigning left before the end of this road!


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