Charles Kesler wrote:
[T]he GOP has its own looming problem. Sticking with the surge buys time but little else. What comes after the surge? The answer is the 2008 elections, which the party will lose, and deserve to lose, if it doesn’t separate itself from the administration’s stand-pat case for the warâ€¦. Conservatives have to prove that they can reason their way to an improved policy on Iraq, as on other issues. And they need to do so soon, before the primaries are over effectively in February or March.
Wehner at Commentary‘s Contentions blog responds:
Professor Kesler insists that “sticking with the surge buys time but little else.” But how does he know?
Most of Wehner’s post is a detailed demonstration that he doesn’t actually understand what Kesler meant by this. When Kesler refers to “time,” Wehner takes him quite literally, as if the time being “bought” were somehow separate from improved security. He takes him so painfully literally that you have to wonder whether this is another exercise in the new Contentions blogging habit of deliberately misconstruing others’ statements and then reacting vehemently against the falsified version that the Contentions blogger created out of thin air.
I imagine that Prof. Kesler knows this because “buying time”–for political reconciliation, training of Iraqi security forces and reconstruction–through moderately improved security was the entire rationale of the “surge.” If there are some additional benefits arising from the “surge,” they were unexpected and unintended. (If unrelated things happened, such as the Anbar Awakening, that’s all very well, but is something quite distinct.) Buying time was the goal of the “surge.”
In other words, even if you credit that the “surge” has succeeded, you have to have something with which you can follow the “surge,” because the “surge” was necessarily a temporary, stopgap measure designed to shore up a deteriorating situation. Improved security (the “calmer and safer nation” bit of Wehner’s response) is the temporary benefit that is what actually buys time. Because the improvements are going to be temporary, the time that has been purchased at great price needs to be used constructively and wisely. What is the standard response to this? It is: the “surge” is working!
Wehner then thinks that he has somehow undermined Kesler by saying that the latter probably did not anticipate the Anbar Awakening, but then essentially no one in America anticipated this “Awakening,” which was why it was especially remarkable. He then demonstrates that he doesn’t know what the word strategy means:
But of course the administration does not have a “stand-pat” policy; the Petraeus strategy is a significant break with the Rumsfeld-Sanchez-Abizaid-Casey strategy that preceded it.
He is referring to plans of tactical deployments and operations. He is not referring to different strategies. His response is a perfect embodiment of what Prof. Kesler calls the “stand-pat case for war” and a good example of the kind of thinking that will sink the GOP come next year.