Thursday, November 16, 2006


All knowledgeable people appear to agree that the outcome in Iraq is going to be an utter disaster, no matter what. The realistic choice lies between awful alternatives.

For politicians, of course, this means the key to success is to make sure the other guy gets the blame.

Now Bush reportedly wants to send 20,000 more troops there for "one last push." Anyone with half a brain should realize that the chance of this succeeding is zero - not one in a billion, but zero. I am not so fondly reminded of the serial escalations in Vietnam during the 1965 to 1968 period. Each time, we now had enough force. Only, Vietnam in truth was going much better than Iraq. There actually was a South Vietnamese government and army, and the mass murder was between organized political forces that could in theory agree to stop.

Joke I saw on-line recently: Q: "What's the difference between Iraq and Vietnam?" A: "Bush had a plan to get out of Vietnam."

Something else I read on line recently noted that you'd need 500,000 to 600,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for there even to be a chance of success. Even at that troop level, we almost certainly wouldn't succeed. But it would at least make the U.S. forces relevant. At lower levels, the U.S. troops simply do not matter so far as resolving the basic civil war issues is concerned.

Bush is cynical enough to play the blame game by making sure that he asks for more than he can get, so that when he doesn't get it someone else gets the blame.

But I gather he is delusional enough to think that the extra 20,000 actually will work, and thus to demand something that he can actually get. But when it doesn't work, I imagine he will be looking for ways to make sure that the Democrats get the blame.

It's not very edifying for the Democrats to respond by saying to themselves: We need to give him more rope, so he will hang himself instead of us. Probably the best they can do, however, at least until he ups the ante further.

Generally speaking, I think Bush's current strategy is one of deliberately trying to provoke the Democrats. That would be one interpretation of the Bolton renomination (sent to the Senate just 7 minutes after he finished meeting with Pelosi), and of his renominating all the most extreme judges that even the current Congress wouldn't approve. Bush is acting just like the little kid who pinches the boy next to him while the teacher isn't looking, with the plan of starting to screech if the other boy pinches back.

Childish, yes, but certainly more sophisticated strategically than anything he has tried in the Middle East.

There's a lot of stupidity in this country, with a disproportionately large share of it lying inside the Beltway. So it will be interesting, though painful, to see how all this plays out.


Brant said...

What perhaps is most galling about our military strategy in Iraq, highlighted by the apparent call for an additional 20,000 troops for a “big last push,” is the cavalier indifference to the well being of members of our armed forces. I don’t know if you heard the NPR segment a couple of weeks ago, where the reporter interviewed soldiers as they were deploying for their second or third tours of duty. One guy described how his 5-year old daughter had given him her favorite Winnie-the-Pooh doll in hopes that it would keep him safe. That sort of interview would be moving under any circumstance, but in this context it is infuriating. Our soldiers are being exposed to grave risk, ordered to pursue a futile goal so that politicians can save face. I have seen clips of President Bush emphasize that we have a volunteer Army, references which I guess are intended to imply that soldiers/reservists/guardsmen being called up are happy to serve (or, if they are not, do not have standing to complain). True these soldiers understood the risk of being deployed when they enlisted, but there also existed an implicit agreement that they would be called to do so in good faith. In recent years, I feel like our armed forces have been used as pawns in the domestic political struggle to hold power for the sake of holding power. What a shame. I just hope the guy on the NPR interview ultimately returns home safely to his family.

michael livingston said...

Hi Dan,

I'd be interested to see some discussion in your column of what you see as the likely consequences, notably for Israel and the Iranian nuclear issue, of an early US withdrawal from Iraq. For example the pullout from Southeast Asia was followed, within two years, by the deaths of one to two million Cambodians and a decline of US influence which led, somewhat paradoxically, to the election of a much more conservative US Government five years later. Do you think that the Democrats are taking this kind of issue into consideration, or does the desire to discredit the Bush Administration trump these other considerations?