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The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check

Four Corner Petraeus
James Campion
Cowboy-In-Chief Plays Keep Away Until He's Safely Out Of Dodge

Before a knuckle-dragging mutant by the name of Bobby Knight surpassed him, Dean Smith commandeered more victories than any coach in college basketball history. He was not a particularly articulate man, nor did he possess anything close to a personality. He claimed to be religious and like girls, but no one knew anything about that. Dean Smith was a basketball coach, nothing more. Still, they called him a genius and not only named a building after him while he was still alive, he actually coached in it.
For a long time, a really long time, Smith could not win the big one, even with a ton of talented teams at North Carolina University, which was and is by all sane accounts a basketball factory. It wasn't until a kid named Michael Jordan showed up and hit a jump shot in the waning moments of a championship game against Georgetown University in 1982 did Smith finally win the big one, 21 years after he began what turned out to be an illustrious 36 year career.

    Smith may never have won the big one if not for Air Jordan and something called the Four Corners Offense, a ridiculous nightmare of a strategy that simply spread a rotation of players on the corners of the court to pass the ball around in a kind of bizarre pitch and catch keep-away fest until the clock ran out. Earlier that March, North Carolina defeated the favored Virginia Cavaliers for the ACC championship by holding the basketball for the final 12 minutes of the contest, an exhibition in stalling so painfully boring the National Broadcasting Company's network switchboard received a record number of complaints by game's end.

    The next season the NCAA, deluged with ridicule over Smith's mockery of the sport, reluctantly adopted a shot clock and the three-point field goal.

    Smith may or may not have been a genius, but he sure as hell banked his reputation, his livelihood, and his entire legacy as a coach on one enduring, immutable fact: as long as you've got the ball, you cannot lose.
    No one, not even his most ardent sycophants, has ever accused George W. Bush of being a genius, but without a unified congress to override a veto and an unchallenged control of the United States military, he has the ball, and he's going to keep it until the clock runs out.

    Even a feckless weasel like Harry Reid knows there is no shot clock in the colonization of a sovereign nation. Shit, there's no clock at all. It can go on for a long time. How long? Well, unless my high definition signal failed me, I heard our Boy President say this Thursday night: "Iraqi leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America. And we are ready to begin building that relationship."

   Enduring. Begin. Building. Relationship.  Pass to the corner, back to the top, over to the other corner, back to the top, over to the corner...

    In a staggering eighth Oval Office address since the beginning of military action in Iraq, the president went on to list further benchmarks for a "return on success" set to unfurl in March 2008 after another "fresh assessment of the situation" and then later in July for a ramp-down of a few thousand troops to approximately the pre-surge level of 130,000. What happens then is as clear as it has ever been these past four plus blood-soaked years.
    "This vision for a reduced American presence also has the support of Iraqi leaders from all communities. At the same time, they understand that their success will require U.S. political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my presidency."

    Absent the slightest hint of an end game or definition of victory beyond not losing Iraq to radical Muslim fundamentalists, there will be much passing of the ball around until the president either hands it off to another Republican who might be stupid enough to endure the bad guys or a dumbfounded Democrat who will either yank the troops in disaster or engage in almost certain doomed negotiations with a tattered make-shift government.

    Either way, by "extending beyond my presidency", Captain Shoo-In cannot lose Iraq. Therefore, in some kind of warped homage to Dean Smith's b-ball abomination, Bush wins. Somebody might lose, but not him, bubba.

    For months the coming of David Howell Petraeus was as anticipated in Washington D.C. as Julius Caesar's triumphant return from Gaul. The news was not good for the Senate then, and it's not good for the Democratic-controlled Senate now. "All is well," Petraeus told a dubious congressional tribunal this week. "But not so well that we can leave."

    So The Surge now becomes a Wait, just like the expunging of a tyrant and the stripping of his not-so weapons became democratizing the Middle East. It's been a stall all along. The Four Corners.


    A sedentary shell game is the finest strategic ploy this mangled foreign policy has showcased. What else could a lame duck commander-in-chief with dismal approval ratings and a daily bloodbath half a globe away expect to gain but to play keep-away from those who would pin this lunacy on him while he was still "in charge". As my friend Pat Buchanan said late last week; "The Democrats have been defeated horse, foot and dragoons. There will be no cutoff of funds. There will be no deadlines imposed. What they're likely to get is a token withdrawal maybe of one brigade around Christmastime."

    Pat, who knows a thing or two about hair-brained presidential foreign policy wig-outs first hand, continued; "The president of the United States will have a major army in Iraq by the time he leaves office. He has won this battle. And I'll tell you what's next. He's gearing up right now. Having defeated the Democrats, he's looking at phrase three, which is the attack on Iran."

    Holy shit. Yes, from Four Corners to Damn The Torpedoes, a neck-wrenching u-turn if there ever was one.

    Now Captain Shoo-In can sit back and chuckle like LBJ did at Dick Nixon's escalation of a war in South East Asia he foolishly campaigned to end. Maybe dump the whole shebang on another Clinton as his daddy dumped Saddam Hussein on Big Bill.

    Junior might never win the big one, and General Petraeus is no Michael Jordan, but not losing is a kind of winning.
    Pass to the corner, back to the top, over to the other corner, back to the top, over to the corner...

© James Campion September 15th 2007

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