Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

  Guardian: Bush proposing to up the ante in Iraq

I'm pretty tired of the media's endless speculation about what the Iraq Study Group will recommend. Pundits don't know; heck, the panel itself (comprising not a single Middle East expert, it's worth stressing) still doesn't know what it will propose. Anyhow, ISG won't discover new solutions that everybody else overlooked. There are no good solutions to the debacle, only (a) terrible options and (b) even worse ones.

In any case, no matter what ISG proposes, or Democrats suggest, Bush will do whatever he wants in the end--unless Congress dares to force his hand. If Bush does choose to do anything new in Iraq (a big 'if'), it will not be the best option available. Bush always wrecks everything he touches. It will be the option that offers the best chance of masking his failures.

Therefore I welcome actual news about what His Petulance has in store for us. The Guardian, at least, seems to be talking to some credible sources regarding this topic.

From tomorrow's edition:

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel's work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.

One of the goals of raising troop levels, the Guardian report implies, is to distinguish Bush's plans from those being advanced by Democrats. Tactically, Bush imagines (my verb) that 20,000 new troops will allow American forces to take back control of areas outside of Baghdad.

In turn, this will provide momentary cover so that Bush can accede to a proposal that Cheney and his band of neocons hate, without Bush appearing (heh) to reverse course: an international conference involving Iraq's neighbors.

While accepting that "sissy" proposal, Bush and Co. seem to think that they can use the breathing room to knock heads among the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds and force them to stop...well, pursuing their own perceived advantage, I suppose.

And then there is the fourth part of this plan, which strikes me as nearly incoherent and fantastically out of touch with the realities of life in Iraq these days. That suggests to me that The Guardian's sources may be pretty good, because those are the hallmarks of the administration's Iraq policies for the last three years.

Lastly, the sources said the study group recommendations will include a call for increased resources to be allocated by Congress to support additional troop deployments and fund the training and equipment of expanded Iraqi army and police forces. It will also stress the need to counter corruption, improve local government and curtail the power of religious courts.

"You've got to remember, whatever the Democrats say, it's Bush still calling the shots. He believes it's a matter of political will. That's what [Henry] Kissinger told him. And he's going to stick with it," a former senior administration official said. "He [Bush] is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is any more. But he is. But he knows he's got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work. If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall."

Part four, absurd as it sounds, is to spend more money trying to train Iraqis who we've armed and allowed to run amok that they must learn to stop running amok. Oh, and we're going to cut the religious leaders out of the deal too.

The implication of the article is that Bush is trying to influence Baker to bring him a proposal like this. The terms of the proposal are just crazy enough to be a real reflection of what Bush is 'thinking' (again, my term).

That appears to be strengthened by the story in today's WaPo about the administration's own review of the strategy in Iraq:

President Bush formally launched a sweeping internal review of Iraq policy yesterday, pulling together studies underway by various government agencies, according to U.S. officials.

The initiative, begun after Bush met at the White House with his foreign policy team, parallels the effort by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group to salvage U.S. policy in Iraq, develop an exit strategy and protect long-term U.S. interests in the region. The two reviews are not competitive, administration officials said, although the White House wants to complete the process before mid-December, about the time the Iraq Study Group's final report is expected....

One component of the larger effort is likely to be a military review initiated in mid-September by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. His assessment of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts, with a core focus on Iraq, includes 16 top commanders meeting daily to brainstorm on questions such as "Where are we going? What are we trying to do? Are we going to get there this way?" according to a joint staff spokesperson.

"Nothing is off the table. They are looking at the whole spectrum of less forces, more forces," a senior defense official said. But the military is keeping close control over its review, which "is completely separate from the Iraq Study Group and not connected with any political effort that might also be going on. This is the chairman's. . . . There is no intent for it to be folded in or incorporated in someone else's bigger product," the joint staff spokesperson said.

Two observations. First, the phrase "less forces, more forces" strikes me as pointing rhetorically, if unintentionally, toward the latter. Anybody who describes the "whole spectrum" of ideas this way is, to my mind, seriously considering sending more troops. Whether or not the troops exist won't matter ultimately; we are talking about the work of the President's lap dog, Gen. Peter Pace.

Secondly, the spokesperson protests too much that they're not trying to influence anybody else's analysis of what to do. A reasonably clear sign, I think, that Bush is trying to use this military study to nudge the ISG in the direction he wants to take.

So is Bush going to try to fall forward in Iraq? I think it goes without saying that if he does, he will fall flat on his face again. The prospect is gruesome.

The real stakes are these: If Bush takes this path then hundreds more of our soldiers and marines, and many thousands more Iraqis, will fall for real and forever during the next year. All of this to permit George Bush to try to shake off the blame for his own unmitigated failure.

From Unbossed


  • Isn't it obvious that the US will never fully leave Iraq? They don't build 14 military bases just to pick up and leave.

    Congressman John Doolittle (R-CA) told me that he expects Iraq to end up like Korea (I guess he is being optimistic that Iraqis will let us stay peacefully), but he said a "decades-long" stay in Iraq was likely. He seemed to know it - why doesn't everyone else just admit it? At least until the oil is gone, the US is in Iraq to stay.

    By Anonymous Wil Robinson, at 7:18 PM  

  • Wil, I've never seen any signs that Bush plans to pull troops out of Iraq, and he's said repeatedly he won't.

    The real questions are whether a successor will have sense to get our troops out of there, and whether the Iraqis will succeed in pushing us out. There's a real danger that the Iraqi government will become attached to or dependent upon our presense, even while the Iraqi people desire to drive us out of the country.

    One of the most interesting things to keep an eye on, will be whether the US can hang on to that monstrous embassy in Baghdad.

    By Blogger : smintheus ::, at 5:44 PM  

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