The problem in the debate over the war in Iraq has suddenly clarified itself thanks to two people on the Left who demonstrate that their side has no idea what a successful military decision looks like. Between John Murtha and Frank Rich, both of whom argue that Iraq is a disaster, Somalia is either a brilliant tactical decision or a stunning loss for America -- and this within hours of each other.
On yesterday's Meet The Press, where Murtha followed the John Kerry strategy of criticizing Karl Rove's weight rather than his positions (I guess this kind of ad hominem insult attracts voters on the Left), Murtha has this to say about Somalia:
REP. MURTHA: He’s, he’s in New Hampshire. He’s making a political speech. He’s sitting in his air conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, “Stay the course.” That’s not a plan. I mean, this guy—I don’t know what his military experience is, but that’s a political statement. This is a policy difference between me and the White House. I disagree completely with what he’s saying.
Now, let’s, let’s—give me, give you an example. When we went to Beirut, I, I said to President Reagan, “Get out.” Now, the other day we were doing a debate, and they said, “Well, Beirut was a different situation. We cut and run.” We didn’t cut and run. President Reagan made the decision to change direction because he knew he couldn’t win it. Even in Somalia, President Clinton made the decision, “We have to, we have to change direction.
Those who are most enraged about the administration's reckless misadventures are incredulous that it repeatedly gets away with the same stunts. Last week the president was still invoking 9/11 to justify the war in Iraq, which he again conflated with the war on Islamic jihadism — the war we are now losing, by the way, in Afghanistan and Somalia. But as long as the Democrats keep repeating their own mistakes, they will lose to the party whose mistakes are, if nothing else, packaged as one heckuva show. It's better to have the courage of bad convictions than no courage or convictions at all.
So while John Murtha thinks that Bill Clinton did the right thing by abandoning Somalia to its warlords and Islamist rebels, including al-Qaeda, now Rich wants to blame Bush for its fall -- and for what? Not invading Somalia? Has Frank Rich stood on his soapbox and ever demanded a return in force for the US military in Mogadishu? Of course not, because Rich sees all military deployments overseas as another example of American imperialism at work. He calls Somalia an American defeat at the same time that Murtha praises our abandonment of the Somalians. That demonstrates why the Left cannot be trusted on national security and defense -- they have no concept of success or failure in military matters, and believe a defeat can somehow be a strategem that should be repeated.
Let's return to Murtha, however, because the Congressman kept getting more and more incoherent as the interview went on. Tim Russert even showed where Murtha had advised against just the scenario he now advocates two years ago:
MR. RUSSERT: But in 2004, you had a view that was much different than you had now, and this is what you wrote in your book: “A war initiated on faulty intelligence must not be followed by a premature withdrawal of our troops based on a political timetable. An untimely exit could rapidly devolve into a civil war, which would leave America’s foreign policy in disarray as countries question not only America’s judgment but also its perseverance.” Aren’t you now advocating that?
REP. MURTHA: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That’s what I said then. And I think in the early stages, you have to judge that. But there comes a time when you got to change direction. There comes a time when you have to say to yourself, “OK, we’ve done everything we could do, we can’t win this militarily.”
Uh, OK. So in 2004 it was wrong to make that kind of calculation, but in 1993 and in 2006, it's fine. Russert then asked where 135,000 American troops could deploy and still remain in a position where they could respond quickly enough to make a difference for the fledgling Iraqi Army and security forces if they needed our assistance. This has to be read to be believed:
REP. MURTHA: Kuwait’s one that will take us. Qatar, we already have bases in Qatar. So Bahrain. All those countries are willing to take the United States. Now, Saudi Arabia won’t because they wanted us out of there in the first place. So—and we don’t have to be right there. We can go to Okinawa. We, we don’t have—we can redeploy there almost instantly. So that’s not—that’s, that’s a fallacy. That, that’s just a statement to rial up people to support a failed policy wrapped in illusion.
MR. RUSSERT: But it’d be tough to have a timely response from Okinawa.
REP. MURTHA: Well, it—you know, they—when I say Okinawa, I, I’m saying troops in Okinawa. When I say a timely response, you know, our fighters can fly from Okinawa very quickly. And—and—when they don’t know we’re coming. There’s no question about it. And, and where those airplanes won’t—came from I can’t tell you, but, but I’ll tell you one thing, it doesn’t take very long for them to get in with cruise missiles or with, with fighter aircraft or, or attack aircraft, it doesn’t take any time at all. So we, we have done—this one particular operation, to say that that couldn’t have done, done—it was done from the outside, for heaven’s sakes.
Okinawa? Okinawa is five time zones away -- over 5,000 miles from Baghdad. And that's considering a straight flight, which unfortunately means we would have to violate Chinese airspace for about half of the trip. Do you suppose the Chinese would give us access to their airspace if we explained that this huge mission of military bombers and fighters would pass through quickly on their way to Iraq?
Is John Murtha really that dumb?
Anyone lacking even the geographical notions of strategic deployment, anyone who cannot read a map and see a very large hostile nation between a staging area and a target and not discern a problem, is someone who has absolutely disqualified himself as any sort of military expert. The question for Democrats is why they keep putting Murtha out as their defense expert when he can make statements like this with a straight face. It reveals the utter lack of military scholarship on their part when their two most hailed experts on military affairs are a man who cannot see why Okinawa might be a bad place for a staging ground for Southwest Asia, and a man who wants to turn over Iraqi sovereignty to Iran and Syria.
And Democrats wonder why they cannot gain traction against the Republicans in the age of Islamist terror!
UPDATE: Froggy at Blackfive has the same take on the Okinawa Option, along with a pretty cool graphic showing exactly how the shortest flight line would take our planes over China but also Iran, and the range of the planes necessary for that kind of mission. It is, one realizes, the kind of information a real military expert would have consulted before showing up on Meet The Press and winging it.
UPDATE II: It turns out that Murtha wasn't winging it at all with his Okinawa Option -- he proposed it last December:
They keep saying the terrorists are going to control Iraq -- no way. Al Qaida's only 7 percent of the people in Iraq and doing this fighting. The terrorists -- there's several factions, but let's say Al Qaida is 7 percent at the very most.
Iraq will get rid of them because they'll tell the Iraqis where they are and it will be the end of the terrorist activity.
Now, my plan says redeploy to the periphery, to Kuwait, to Okinawa, and if there's a terrorist activity that affects our allies or affects the United States' national security, we can then go back in.
Rather than just a misstatement on national TV, this shows that Murtha has no clue at all about deployments or strategic geography. As the Admiral Emeritus (who served in Korea) put it, deploying men takes a hell of a lot of preparation. Each man needs one gallon of water per day, especially in that area of the world. If you have to deploy 300 men for ten days, transporting 3,000 gallons of water is not a big problem. If, however, the US needs to send 30,000 men for just ten days, it needs to transport 300,000 gallons of water for them to survive their deployment -- and water is just one of the many critical needs that Logistics has to resolve in any deployment. Other nagging items include material such as ammunition, weapons, artillery, armored personnel carriers, tanks ...
This is why "over the horizon" usually means a tactical position just out of sight, not hundreds or thousands of miles away. This also demonstrates the severe cluelessness of the representative from Pennsylvania.