Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tony Snow's Unclear Moment of Clarity

Get ready for a mental backflip, with a double-twisty, extra-crunchy, triple-axel.

Writing in today's New York Times, columnist Tom Friedman, observing the current spike in loss of American blood, opined:

..."I’d suggest that in time we’ll come to see the events unfolding — or rather, unraveling — in Iraq today as the real October surprise, because what we’re seeing there seems like the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive."

What does White House Press Secretary Tony Snow think about Friedman's analyis?

From ABC News:

Snow: "I think Friedman may be right, but we'll have to see."


Where to start?

First of all, I think Friedman's analogy is off the mark. The Tet Offensive was the signature turning point in the war in terms of American public opinion, underscored by Walter Cronkite's uncommon editorial comment at a conclusion of a broadcast that the United States was "mired in a stalemate in Vietnam."

Some important differences:

(1) Even with Uncle Walter's comment, American support for the war still hovered between 45 - 50%. It would appear that threshold was passed for the current war last December and unlike Vietnam, never bounced back in terms of public support.

(2) The US actually won the Tet Offensive -- the VC were routed. The only debate was and remains, whether if a huge, immediate troop increase could have decsisively won the war inside of 18 months or would have merely brutally prolonged it. There is no substantive military victory that the US can point to in the past 12 months of which I am aware. It seems that we have the ability to rout out insurgents/jihadists in a particular area but that troop levels and/or insurgent/jihadist levels make all gains highly transient. Again, given the fact that we are unable or unwilling to increase troop levels and/or the gazillion Iraqi troops appear to be unwilling to "stand up" in such a fashion as to ensure security tells me that we passed the Tet marker at least a year ago if not two.

So what's going on?

Well, for Friedman, he's out of "Friedman's". For those of you who don't hang out in Left Blogistan, that's the term we've satirically hung on a period of six months. Friedman, famously and fatuously, kept counseling that the positive turning point in Iraq was six months away. It appears after two years of issuing these ill-fated prophecies, he's given up: "It's Tet, baby, it's over, fat lady singing, yada, yada, yada."

So much for Captain Obvious (copyright enrevanche).

But Snow? Snow is saying "ballgame, it's over, fat lady's singing...?"

Was he just being his old flippant FOX self?

Was he trying to court some in the GOP who hate the war three weeks before the election?

Was he trying to prep us for the Administration's upcoming embrace of the Baker recommendations?

What's up with this?

UPDATE - I originally missed the last graf of the ABC piece - sheds a little light:

Asked several hours later to clarify his remarks, Snow said he does not believe that a Tet-like offensive will have the same result this time. The difference, he said, is that "Johnson … had uncertainty and the White House was not projecting a sense of confidence." Snow said today "you have a president who is determined to win and there isn't going to be any dampening of the will."
Plenty of ammo and Viagra....

Brother Snow might want to reconsider the Johnson White House not projecting confidence comment -- it wasn't up to Johnson and it won't be up to W either. The Tet Offensive started January 31, 1968. Three weeks later, the American forces had the upper hand on the VC and PAVN. Three weeks after that, unknown Eugene McCarthy polled 42% to LBJ's 48% in the New Hampshire primary, opening the door wide for the RFK challenge. It was game over for LBJ and in retrospect, it's tough to make a case that there was anything, once Tet started, that could have reversed his fate.

And other than allowing for some sort of re-working of strategy in the form of the Murtha/Baker paradigm, I don't see how either President Bush escapes the same fate, if it already isn't too late.

Support for War in Vietnam, by Age

Under 3030-49Over 49
May 1965615943
August 1965766451
November 1965756857
March 1966716348
May 1966625439
September 1966535639
November 1966665541
May 1967605342
July 1967625237
October 1967505035
Early February 1968514436
March 1968504635
April 1968544431
August 1968453927
Early October 1968524126
February 1969474331
September 1969363725
January 1970413725
March 1970484126
April 1970434025
January 1971413820
May 1971343023

Support for Operation Iraqi Freedom

June 21, 2005

CNN -- Nearly six in 10 Americans oppose the war in Iraq and a growing number of them are dissatisfied with the war on terrorism, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.

Only 39 percent of those polled said they favored the war in Iraq -- down from 47 percent in March -- and 59 percent were opposed.


October 16th, 2006 5:44 pm
Poll: Support for Iraq war at all-time low

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A poll conducted for CNN over the weekend suggests support among Americans for the war in Iraq is dwindling to an all-time low. Just 34 percent of those polled say they support the war, while 64 percent say they oppose it.