Bourgeois Deviant

Monday, September 17, 2007

Take Your Medicine

A former neighbor I grew up with is a professional golf caddy. He works with a semi-well-known pro on the PGA Tour. This pro he caddies for, like any PGA golfer, is very good at the game. However, the guy has yet to win a major. At least that is true to the best of my knowledge to date. When asked what holds this pro back from clinching a major or sustaining a major winning record, he responded that the guy doesn’t take his medicine.

I am not a golfer. I did grow up with it and many in my family adore the sport. If you haven’t a clue what this medicinal reference means, simply put, if you end up in a bad spot on (or off, rather) the fairway and are left with no direct shot towards the green, you have two choices. Either you take a risky shot relying on your skill to dig your way out of a bad situation, or you take a short shot to improve your approach to the green. The latter is the conservative choice and known as “taking your medicine.” It adds a shot to your score, but insures against further catastrophe.

Many pros will rely on their experience and skill to get them out of trouble. This particular pro is among them and, in the estimation of his colleague, makes the more aggressive, poorer choice that ultimately prevents his ascension into the upper tiers of PGA success.

As a child, my Sunday mornings were for golf with Dad. Now, they are for listening to the Sunday morning talk shows. Yesterday, these made me think of the golf expression in relation to last week’s developments with the war in Iraq. It is obvious there is strong disagreement over how things are going with our nation’s efforts in the region. To my mind, all sides of the issue have kernels of truth to them. General David Petraeus gave testimony this week basically stating that while the United States’ efforts in Iraq area failing to meet the benchmarks set by our government, progress is being made and success is being achieved. Pundits and politicians can haggle exhaustively over the actual definitions of progress, success, and if the goal posts have been moved so as to give the appearance of a rosier picture for political purposes. No matter what your position, few would argue that our position is not good and could better.

Taking your medicine involves changing your perspective on your goal. It forces taking a stroke or a loss towards a better score to do, but if you take it, you’re much less likely to suffer another pitfall and larger losses. This analogy is perfect for our plight in Iraq. No one wants to lose this war. No one wants to say that our military failed. But, we have to ask the question: In order to win the *ahem* War on Terror, should we retreat, regroup and rethink our strategy in how we’ve handled our affairs thus far? It could be just the thing to do our body politic good.

No one is saying that the service men and women of the United States military have not performed well. And those that want to stay surely wish to do so because they wish to see the job to its finish. That is admirable and virtuous and what any nation would hope for in its citizens in uniform. However, it makes no sense to continue on this path if it is not the best, most effective rout to win the larger *ahem* conflict.

Nor do I advocate throwing the baby out with the bath water. We did break Iraq and it is primarily our obligation to fix it. Rather, it is our national penance. We let ourselves be convinced of a situation that never existed and, in the spirit of vengeance struck out against an obvious but incorrect target in Iraq. We need to refocus our efforts. Winning for the sake of winning isn’t enough here. Democracy is laudable but if it isn’t wholly embraced by a citizenry, as is apparent in Iraq, it is wasted blood and treasure. Simply, do what it takes to involve the international community, bolster the areas of the country that are “secure” and conduct our operations exclusively from there. This is too simple and therefore an impossibility, but so is victory and the establishment of a lasting democracy in Iraq.

So, chip out from the rock we are under (Iraq), get a better lie so we can see where we need to go (back to Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan), how far off our goal really is and what it will take to get there instead just hacking away pointlessly (Bush’s efforts), determined to get that one great shot off that will get us where we want to go (a “free and democratic” Iraq) even though we can’t see it.

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