I wonder what gave Bush his sudden sense of urgency? For three years Iraq spiraled into chaos and as recently as this summer the only response from our government was stay the course rhetoric and bizarrely counterfactual happy talk. Now suddenly Bush has settled on a plan that he calls the “Last Big Push.” You could call the new plan a day late and a dollar short, if you define a “day” as three years and a “dollar” as 300,000 troops and $100 billion.
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.
Two problems come to mind with the president’s “strategy.”
First, compared with the numbers we really need 20,000 troops is a cruel joke. Given a solid postwar strategy and competent leadership we would have needed at least severalhundred thousand to handle the occupation from the outset, before anything resembling an insurgency began. We didn’t stop the looting in Iraq simply because we didn’t have the boots to do it. Even a bizarro-world Rumsfeld who cared about ordinary Iraqis would have been able to do squat with the forces we had in theater. By now the forces needed to bring the daily bloodshed under control could be many times the estimates given by realists like Shinseki and Colin Powell.
Think about it this way. Our last big initiative, the “inkblot” strategy, redeployed thousands of troops into Baghdad. It didn’t work. Maybe we missed the number of troops needed by a little or by a lot, or maybe nothing can stop the bleeding now. Either way the idea of moving troops into Baghdad so that the current troops can redeploy elsewhere won’t do the capitol any good and won’t distribute enough forces elsewhere to matter.
Second, we don’t have the troops. Whoever the president plans to sent to Iraq won’t be properly trained and equipped regulars from the Army or Marines.
At least we all now agree that “stay the course” amounts to losing, slowly. I bet that the Republican minority feels awfully grateful to Rove for last summer’s political stay the course orgy in Congress. However, while I’m glad that even the duller knives recognize the need to fish or cut bait I guess we will wait a little longer for some to realize that the fishing pole’s gone and the pond dried up.
Keep this in mind when some pundit claims to be a “serious” foreign policy thinker. Serious thinkers recognize that a choice between the impossible and the inevitable isn’t a choice at all. Picking the impossible, or punting via a endless series of Friedman Units, is the opposite of serious. It is what the vain and the stubborn do to escape admitting failure to the world and, more importantly, to themselves.
Also proposed: “tilting” US policy in favor of the Shiite majority. That should ease sectarian tensions.