Okay, I admit it: the world as I thought I knew it has been turned upside down and left me all confused. Dig this:
Henry Kissinger, one of the hawkiest of hawks whose pugnacity dates back to Richard Nixon's glorious years as President, told BBC on Nov. 19 that a full military victory in Iraq is not possible.
This from the optimist who designed our victory in Vietnam. You remember, the victory that ended with Americans going to the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon where our helicopters managed to rescue some of them and get them back home.
But this time, Kissinger seems to have a better grasp on the meaning of "victory."
"If you mean by 'military victory,'" he told BBC, "an Iraqi government that
gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes will support, I don't believe that is possible."
Get that? What the Bush administration says is its goal, Kissinger says isn't possible.
And Kissinger's statement is only one of the surprises.
Rep. Charles Rangel, one of the doviest of doves, was quoted in the Nov. 20 Washington Post saying that he's going to propose restoring the military draft for Americans, both male and female, when they turn 18.
"There's no question in my mind," he says, "that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way."
Rangel, a Korean War vet, went on: "If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft."
And after I get through being puzzled, my wife tells me what Rep. Rangel is up to.
"If he can make the draft universal so that all the 18-year-old kids, no matter how much money and influence their parents have, are equally susceptible to getting drafted and going off to risk their lives," she tells me, "the war would be over in a week."
"Hah?" I say.
"And if the draft applied to females as well as to males," she says, "the war would be over the day after the bill was passed."
"But," I explain. "But, but, but
"And," she says, "I've got an even better idea than Rep. Rangel has."
"I suppose," I say, "you're going to tell me about it."
"You bet your boots," she says. "Ready?"
The Truth, Mainly
"Do I have a choice?" I say.
"Sure," she says. "You've got a choice every four years. You can continue to vote for guys who promise they won't reinstate the draft, or you can vote for a maverick who says she'll reinstate the draft if we need it."
"Am I hearing you right?" I say. "Are you really arguing for the draft?"
"I've been thinking," she says, "and I think I've just come up with a very good reason for having a draft."
"Hah?" I say. "What could be a very good reason for having a draft?"
"Well," she says, "one very good reason might be that we'd think a little harder the next time we were considering going to war. Especially if we have friends and relatives of draft age."
"Hah?" I say.
"And here's the crux of my plan," she says. "Under my system, to be drafted you'd have to be registered in the same political party as the President."
"Hah?" I say.
"You know," she says. "If you vote for a Democrat president and heor shewins, then only Democrats would be susceptible to being drafted. If you vote for a Republican president and heor shewins, then only Republicans could be drafted."
"That," I say, "would be the most unfair draft I could imagine."
"But look at how it would affect the way we vote," she says.
"Hah?" I say, breaking into a cold sweat.
"There, there," she says. "It's simple: if you don't want to get drafted and go off to war then you vote for the candidate you think is less likely to get us into a war."
but," I say. "Aren't the president and Congress supposed to decide whether we go to war or not?"
"And," she says, "aren't the president and Congress supposed to carry out the will of the People? Especially the People who elected them?"
You can't argue with a woman.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail