Sunday, December 18, 2005

Third and Eighteen in the Green Zone

Watched two seemingly different events today.  Early in the day, I saw the last quarter of the 49ers 10-9 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Later in the day, I watched the President call me a defeatist for not recognizing that the US is actually winning the war against terror.  Last year, the 49er’s got a new coach, Mike Nolan who as it happens is the son of a former 49er coach.  They had such a bad year last season that they wound up with the top choice in the draft, Alex Smith, a quarterback from Utah.  

At the beginning of the year, Coach Nolan predicted that the 49ers would win or at least contend for the division title with the talent they had.  Instead, they are tied for the worst record in the league for the second year in a row.  They also predicted that Alex Smith would be a star.  Today, I watched him go 0-9 passing in the fourth quarter of a close game.  With a minute left and the game at stake, Smith’s last two passes didn’t come within ten yards of hitting their target.  Coach Nolan promises that as soon as the talent gets better, the team will get better.  49er management talks about winning at some point in the future. Over the last few weeks, they’ve stopped telling the fans “when”, “how”, or “with which players.”

In football, winning means winning the Super Bowl or at least consistently getting close to making the Super Bowl.  Few fans accept anything less.  No one thinks it means getting the top choice in the draft for a second straight year or losing close games to playoff teams.  Certainly, despite the speeches we give our kids about trying hard, football fans do not settle for the players are still trying really hard regardless of the score.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see Mike Nolan and Alex Smith get another year, but no serious fan would confuse the 49er’s with a winning team or even a team that’s showing clear signs of say “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” Somehow those kinds of teams don’t get a delay of game penalty on fourth and three and forty seconds left on the clock.  

The President tells us that victory in Iraq is at hand, sadly I’m old enough to have heard that line before.  You know what they say about fool me once and at least LBJ had done things on the domestic front that I actually admired.  He tells me that the elections themselves are a sign of victory despite the violence that immediately preceded and followed the event.  He assures me that the Iraqis will soon be defending themselves, but somehow stayed very vague on the specifics.  Maybe it was  the line that more or less goes “Iraqi forces are already providing security for some Iraqi cities?”  Somehow when they name less than five cities and none of the cities are Baghdad, it doesn’t make me a whole lot more confident.  I ask this, when Dick Cheney visited this weekend was he ready to be guarded by Iraqi forces?  When Iraqi forces start taking a primary role in defending the Green Zone, I’ll feel more confident. I think the only air attack the Iraqi military could defend against right now might be the 49ers.  

Do I want an immediate withdrawal?  Is that really the only alternative?   Actually, if you’re not going to tell me what it means to “win” and in the meantime even more Americans and Iraqis die or are wounded not accomplishing anything in particular, then I have to wonder what the heck they’re dying for.  Does anyone remember how many more Americans died so the US could have Nixon’s “peace with honor”, it was roughly 21,000 of the total 58,000 American deaths in Vietnam.  And what happened to the “honor” part.  Last time I checked, all of Vietnam was still communist.  Oddly, it’s one of the last places in the world that still is, so what’s that tell you?   Had we known that would happen by 1974, what would you want to have done in 1969? If you happened to be a family member or friend of  one of the 21,000 Americans who essentially died for no reason while Nixon/Kissinger engaged in what they knew to be a charade, would you be a “defeatist” or would you prefer the illusion for another couple years.  I recently linked the mother of a son who already died in this war,  Gold Star Mom Speaks Out link,  I ask the President how many more grieving families are we going to make so he can hold on to his illusion of victory.

At different times, the administration says different things about what it means to win this war.  Sometimes, the President insists that it’s a war to eliminate terrorism completely.  As satisfying as it may seem to blow up terrorists for blowing you up, it can only be part of an effective strategy to end terrorism.  It’s a bit like thinking that the death penalty will end murder completely.  In both instances, you have to take a serious look at the conditions that make people become terrorists (often it’s because someone blew up their family) and why individuals become murderers (I mean the ones we convict, not the ones we seem to have elected).  Again, one finds a surprising correlation between experiencing violence and deprivation while growing up and a later propensity to kill someone else on purpose.

Other times, the President, as he did tonight, suggests that victory will take the form of a stable government in Iraq that can defend itself.  I don’t think this is impossible.  Saddam was corrupt, evil, and had bad taste in interior decorating, and he managed to do that for many years so I suppose it’s possible for W. and friends.  If this is going to happen any time soon, I assume that we’ll see some numbers.  How many Iraqi soldiers and police will it take?  How much will it cost for us to help them do that?  How long will American troops need to stay in Iraq and how many will need to stay there?  What are we giving up to have this happen?  Some argue that the price of escalating the war in Vietnam turned out to be the domestic war on poverty?  Is the price for us really something like social security, functional public schools, a functioning transportation system, or the rebuilding of our own Gulf Coast?  It’s quite possible that the real domestic price of this process might be actual protection at home from terrorism.  It’s more than a little shocking to find out what we haven’t been able to do about protecting Americans directly from terrorism in the United States.  

At the end of this season, someone’s going to ask Mike Nolan and John York exactly what they do plan to do to make the 49ers a winning team in the foreseeable future.  If they gave the sort of answers the President gave tonight, how much would you bet on the 49ers for next year?  


At 12/19/2005 01:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think GW has a month. If the levels of Eternal Explosions remain similar to the last year, I think the remaining 30% leave the sinking ship.

I'm interested to watch to see if the insurgents do a Rope-A-Dope & let the US pull out troops before they really ratchet up the violence? They live there. They don't have a time limit of any kind.

It's the extra 21,000 extra-uselessly (if that's possible) killed in Vietnam which must make the Gold Star parents extra-crazy.

At 12/19/2005 02:32:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I think it's possible that the 49ers will be a winning team again some time soon. It's just that I remember when Bill Walsh made them one several years back, he was generally very clear and specific about how he intended to do it. He certainly didn't seem to promise victory by denigrating sportswriters.


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