Decider Can’t Decide
By Kevin Zeese
21 December, 2006
Bush, aka the Decider, seems to be struggling with what to do with in
Iraq. He can’t decide. He was supposed to announce his decision
on a “new way forward” last week. But, he put it off. Late
last week the indications were that he was going to increase the troops
in Iraq – a surge of 20,000 to 30,000 additional troops –
in an effort to get control of Baghdad and then move on to other areas
of Iraq. But then The Washington Post reported that the Joint Chief
of Staff unanimously opposes additional troops.
What is the decider to do?
Things began to unravel in
Washington, DC when the Baker-Hamilton Study Group put forward an honest
assessment of the failure on the ground in Iraq. What had been obvious
from reports from Iraq now was being said openly in Washington, DC –
things are bad and they are getting worse, “grave and deteriorating”
in the language of the Study Group – radical change was needed.
Bush prepared to dilute the
Baker-Hamilton report before their conclusions were announced by seeking
reports from the Pentagon and State Department. Now a debate is raging.
The president seems to have rejected the advice of Baker-Hamilton for
more diplomacy and a reduction in troops – advice that did not
go far enough because it still promised tens of thousands of U.S. troops
on the ground for many more years in Iraq.
With regard to the raging
debate different views are being leaked to push the debate in the media.
Last week it
was reported: “an advisor involved in White House
discussions said of Mr. Bush: ‘This is the direction he's moving
in. He understands we have to win and to do that requires more troops.’
“Mr. Bush is debating with his aides and outside advisors how
many extra troops there should be and for what period. His options range
from a temporary ‘surge’ of 20,000 troops to a ‘big
push’ involving more than 50,000.”
This is consistent with the
view of the leading Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain,
who has been urging more troops at every opportunity he can find. The
neo-con base of Bush’s foreign policy is also pushing for more
troops. The American Enterprise Institute put out a report
“Choosing Victory” urging an increase in troops.
And, at his swearing in as Secretary of Defense, Bob
Gates said “we simply cannot afford to fail in the
Middle East. Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that
would haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans
for decades to come.” Gates
who has a history of telling those in power what they want
to hear seems to have a hard choice – does he tell the president
what he wants, more troops, or does he listen to the Joint Chiefs who
oppose that view? What is a tell-them-what-they-want to hear guy supposed
A leak regarding the views
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in The Washington
Post describes an “intense” debate in the White
House: “The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge
in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting
the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.”
The Joint Chiefs have a number of problems with the strategy:
- The White House has no
defined mission and is latching onto the surge idea because they don’t
know what to do.
- Any short-term mission
may only set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends.
- A short-term mission could
give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq –
including al-Qaeda's foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias
– without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission
or to the Iraqi army
- A surge could lead to more
attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel
the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to go to Iraq to attack
- Shiite militias may simply
melt back into society during a U.S. surge and wait until the troops
are withdrawn – then reemerge and retake the streets of Baghdad
and other cities.
- The announcement of a time
frame for the mission could play to armed factions by allowing them
to game out the new U.S. strategy.
According to The Post, “the
idea of a much larger military deployment for a longer mission is virtually
off the table, at least so far, mainly for logistics reasons, say officials
familiar with the debate. Any deployment of 40,000 to 50,000 would force
the Pentagon to redeploy troops who were scheduled to go home.”
Then, the Democratic Party
leader in the Senate stepped into the debate on the side of increasing
troops. On the ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos on December
Reid said that a temporary surge in troops in Baghdad to
secure the city would be acceptable to him. And, the Democratic leadership
-- Pelosi, Reid, Emanuel, Biden – are all urging the Democrats
in Congress to approve the supplemental budget appropriation for Iraq
of $160 billion, expected to be voted on in February. And, the Democratic
leadership is also lining up to
expand the military by 20,000 to 200,000 soldiers! Hey,
didn’t the Democrats just get elected to end the war?
On the same day that Reid
came out for more troops, former Secretary of State and retired General
Powell told CBS’s Face the Nation the U.S. was losing
the war and more troops would not make any difference noting “I
am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes
of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work.”
And, while the Democrats
were sounding hawkish, a Republican hawk became dovish as his 2008 re-election
Gordon Smith (R-OR) a proud past supporter of the war said
he was “at the end of his rope” and described the war as
“criminal.” He urged getting out if we could not figure
out how to win. How many more of the 20 republican senators up for re-election
in 2008 will be distancing themselves from the debacle in Iraq for fear
of the Santorum effect, i.e. the end of their political career?
What we are seeing play out
in Washington is a government that has spent as much as the whole world
combined on its military now being unable to face reality – the
U.S. has been defeated and there is nothing the most expensive military
in the world can do to change that reality. The ill fated and illegal
invasion of Iraq has failed. Now, we just have to get President Bush
and the leadership of the Democratic Party to face the facts, and bring
the troops home.
is director of Democracy
Rising and a co-founder of VotersForPeace.
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