Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush Makes A Strategic Retreat

...From his generals. He also invents a new title for himself, although frankly I think "The Strict Adherer" lacks pizzazz.
When President Bush goes before the American people tonight to outline his new strategy for Iraq, he will be doing something he has avoided since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003: ordering his top military brass to take action they initially resisted and advised against.

Bush talks frequently of his disdain for micromanaging the war effort and for second-guessing his commanders. "It's important to trust the judgment of the military when they're making military plans," he told The Washington Post in an interview last month. "I'm a strict adherer to the command structure."

But over the past two months, as the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated and U.S. public support for the war has dropped, Bush has pushed back against his top military advisers and the commanders in Iraq: He has fashioned a plan to add up to 20,000 troops to the 132,000 U.S. service members already on the ground. As Bush plans it, the military will soon be "surging" in Iraq two months after an election that many Democrats interpreted as a mandate to begin withdrawing troops.


It may... be a sign of increasing assertiveness from a commander in chief described by former aides as relatively passive about questioning the advice of his military advisers. In going for more troops, Bush is picking an option that seems to have little favor beyond the White House and a handful of hawks on Capitol Hill and in think tanks who have been promoting the idea almost since the time of the invasion.


There is little question that more troops for Iraq seemed far from the conventional wisdom in Washington after the beating Bush and the Republican Party took in the midterm elections Nov. 7....


Another problem for the administration was the Iraq Study Group, the prestigious bipartisan panel headed by former secretary of state James A. Baker III, a Republican, and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.). Soon after Bush returned from Jordan, the group delivered its recommendations, including proposing a high-level dialogue with Iran and Syria to help stabilize Iraq and setting a goal of early 2008 for the removal of almost all U.S. combat troops.

Although the president was publicly polite, few of the key Baker-Hamilton recommendations appealed to the administration, which intensified its own deliberations over a new "way forward" in Iraq. How to look distinctive from the study group became a recurring theme.

As described by participants in the administration review, some staff members on the National Security Council became enamored of the idea of sending more troops to Iraq in part because it was not a key feature of Baker-Hamilton....


In the end, the White House favored the idea of more troops as one visible and dramatic step the administration could take. One senior White House official said this week the president concluded that more troops are not the only ingredient of a successful plan -- but they are a precondition to providing the security the Iraqi government needs for political reconciliation and other reforms.

Tonight, this source said, the president will explain "that we have to go up before we go down."
Fascinating stuff. the surge is nothing more than a combination of psychodrama and political theater. Surgio has apparently become completely obsessed with his grandiose self-image as the Bold, Resolute Decider Who Bucks The Overcautious Conventional Wisdom, With History His Only Judge (And He Doesn't Even Care About History 'Cuz We'll All Be Dead. So now he can't listen to anyone who doesn't agree with him, not even 70-90% of the American people, because that would be weak. (Yes, only in BushWorld can ignoring dissent be viewed as courageous...)

In addition to demonstrating his Trumanesque independent spirit, Bush also wants to make it clear that he's an original thinker. So not only are the Iraq Study Group's recommendations too timid for his tastes, but they also have the fatal flaw that they're not his. For Bush, the only thing worse than failure would be success with someone else's plan.

So if you add the two imperatives of "Must Be Original" and "Must Be Biggest Possible Fuck-You To Stupid Wimpy Pacifist Voters" together, with a little "Run Out The Clock Until 2009 And Hope Something Good Happens" thrown into the mix, the surge is the inevitable result.

As for the surge itself, I think it's possible, though not probable, that there was a window of time (now closed) where additional troops might have eased Iraq's transition from secular dictatorship to Shi'ite theocracy (anyone who sincerely thought post-Saddam Iraq was ever headed anywhere else is naive or delusional), but the numbers would have had to be a lot bigger, in the ballpark of Shinseki's 400,000, or even more. There would need to be enough troops to seriously inhibit insurgent activity, and they would need to be trained and disciplined enough not to create potential terrorist recruits every time they encounter live Iraqis. This megaforce would also have to include enough trainers to provide intensive training to Iraqi troops and police. Flying motorcycles would be good, too.

Of course, this is all hypothetical pie in the sky, as there would be no way to muster that many troops without a politically suicidal draft, and even then, everything would have to go just right, which is an impossibility under the current administration. The reality is that we're coming up short by a hell of a lot more than 15-20%, and a small bump in troops isn't going to mean squat.


charley said...

Flying motorcycles would be good, too.

not as good as flying monkeys.

Toto, I've
got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

Eli said...

I think flying motorcycles are easier to find, and potentially much more useful militarily.