Bush's Stubborn Strategy

Following two days of testimony to Congress by his top soldier and his top diplomat in Iraq, President Bush announced today that he would accept their recommendations and keep 140,000 American troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Or at least until Jan. 20, 2009, when he leaves the White House.

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DoD Photo
In the president's words:

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have submitted recommendations on the way forward. After detailed discussions with my national security team, including the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I've accepted these recommendations.

The recommendation likely to receive the most attention is on troop levels. General Petraeus has reported that security conditions have improved enough to withdraw all five surge brigades by the end of July. That means that by July 31st, the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq will be down by 25 percent from last year.

Beyond that, General Petraeus says he'll need time to consolidate his forces and assess how this reduced American presence will affect conditions on the ground before making measured recommendations on further reductions. And I've told him he'll have all the time he needs.

I don't think this comes as any surprise to anyone. If nothing else, Bush is a man of stubborn faith in his policies. We heard nothing this week to indicate that the administration was second-guessing its course in Iraq. So the war grinds on, at least for the small sliver of American society that is shouldering the burden in uniform.

The president's strategic picture of the war on terrorism is like a photo negative -- the exact opposite of reality. Bush argues that "Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century." But that's not really accurate -- Iraq is the cause and the accelerant of these threats to America, the main reason we are losing the global fight for hearts and minds.

Bush also misperceives the strategic situation inside Iraq when he states that our goal as "a free Iraq that can protect its people, support itself economically, and take charge of its own political affairs -- no one wants to achieve this goal more than the Iraqis themselves." That may be true for the Iraqi government officials with whom the president speaks regularly, or the Iraqi exiles with whom our government has worked over the past six years. But it's not true of the average Iraqi, who has known war and suffering since 1980 and simply wants the violence and deprivation to end. At this point, Iraqis want order more than freedom, and a functioning government more than a democratic one. We need to find a way to leverage these sentiments -- not fight against them.

By Phillip Carter |  April 10, 2008; 4:00 PM ET  | Category:  Iraq
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how dare bush want to actually defeat the enemy. so the battle of the buldge was not really important even though the germans made it that way.
the islamic terrorists said iraq is the battle ground - so lefty do you want to run away? probably.
let me tell you something - you traitors lost the war in nam even though the troops were winning.
you lefties turned the victory over germany into a defeat by letting the ussr enslave 1/4 of a billion people from eastern europe and the commie scum of china got to take over 1/2 a billion people. both terrorist countieis killed over 30 million of their own people. it was this defeat given to America by the left that was the cause of korea and nam.
so why the heck should we pay attention to what you think of iraq?
oh i know - you want us to invade the sudan and chad because of darfur? now how bright is that? NOT VERY.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2008 3:48 PM

One cannot help but listen to Bush's tired repetition of the same hackneyed cliches about freedom, democracy (and did I mention freedom?) and not think of Leonid Brezhnev's arthritic pronouncements about the Soviet's doomed war in Afghanistan. Indeed, numerous though the analogies between Iraq and Vietnam are, the more appropriate comparison with America in Iraq should be with the USSR's failed efforts to subjugate Afghanistan. And our ultimated defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan(by any measure) will be in large part because of the same reasons the Russians lost, a stubborn refusal to change the paradigm that got them in that messhole in the first place. Brezhnev-Bush's entire presidency will boil down to the slogan: What, me change?

Posted by: Hardy Campbell | April 10, 2008 4:10 PM

One cannot help but listen to Bush's tired repetition of the same hackneyed cliches about freedom, democracy (and did I mention freedom?) and not think of Leonid Brezhnev's arthritic pronouncements about the Soviet's doomed war in Afghanistan. Indeed, numerous though the analogies between Iraq and Vietnam are, the more appropriate comparison with America in Iraq should be with the USSR's failed efforts to subjugate Afghanistan. And our ultimate defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan(by any measure) will be in large part because of the same reasons the Russians lost, a stubborn refusal to change the paradigm that got them in that messhole in the first place. Brezhnev-Bush's entire presidency will boil down to the slogan: What, me change?

Posted by: Hardy Campbell | April 10, 2008 4:13 PM

284 days and we can stop looking through
this looking glass of denial.

Posted by: canaldoc | April 10, 2008 4:15 PM

Dear above anonymous commenter,

To answer why we should listen to Phillip Carter, here is my response. He spent a year in Iraq in a terribly violent town called Ba'qubah, where I was also a maneuver platoon leader. He worked and lived in one of the worst areas in Iraq. He is well versed on the realities of Iraq, the law, and military intelligence. Your comment is ignorant and, just because somebody voices an opinion about the war with which you disagree, does not make him a commie or "lefty". I agree with Mr. Carter- his observations are well thought out and his perspective is a blend of real politic, international legal analysis, and common sense. When, sir, was the last time you set foot in Iraq? There is still sand and blood on my boots- most likely on Mr. Carter's as well. What's your story?
Also, you seem to mix several very different conflicts, and different political climates into one confusing analogy/argument/rant. There can be no comparison between international terrorist groups (i.e. Al-Qaeda) and State actors such as China and Germany. They abide by very different rules and I would try and refute your argument concerning these, but there is no argument to refute. So, bottom line- this blog is well thought out and informative. I suggest you educate yourself before you decide to rant against a man with an impressive and honorable military career or, at the very least, think about your argument before you post.

Phillip- glad you have a new website that was picked up by the Washington Post! Congrats! The only sad part is that the comment section will now be filled by uneducated, strange rants instead of those who care about international law, OIF, OEF, and the current developments in these areas. All in the name of progress, I suppose. Best of luck!

Posted by: Chris LaCour | April 10, 2008 4:20 PM

I really enjoyed Hardy campbell's comment and agree with his conclusion. It gets so tiresome to hear the Senate and beribboned soldiers talk empty phrases while men die. Although I was just a girl when WWII was fought, I still remember clearly what it was like in America when a real President fighting a meaningful war led the country. High morale, ultra cooperation, real shared sacrifice (gas,shoes,butter were rationed), every shoulder to the wheel. It was glorious, and we won. Today I read that Bush wants to keep soldiers in Iraq until the day he leaves office. Let his departure come soon.

Posted by: zaney8 | April 10, 2008 4:22 PM

"The president's strategic picture of the war on terrorism is like a photo negative -- the exact opposite of reality."

Excellent.

Posted by: trev | April 10, 2008 5:07 PM

Looks like our "Nam" vet, "battle of the bulge" authority, forgot his meds today.
You need to stop fighting the war from your computer.

Posted by: JP Daly | April 10, 2008 5:07 PM

Bush's speech was notable for claims that wouldn't stand up to more than 30 seconds of scrutiny.

For instance, "Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century: al-Qaeda and Iran."

Well, even he would have to concede that before we invaded, al-Qaeda wasn't in Iraq, and Iraq was a bitter enemy of Iran which we encouraged to contain Iran.

So this horrible convergence of threats, if it exists, was a direct result of Bush's decisions. So he didn't head off that supposed threat; he created it.

That took less than 30 seconds. Here have another one, it'll still come to less than a minute of your time.

Bush claims the cost of the war "pales when compared to the cost of another terrorist attack on our people."

But of course if anything, it's the other way around. As you note, and as has been widely recognized, including by our own intelligence services, almost everything Bush has done in Iraq has increased support for terrorists who want to attack the U.S.

So the cost of the war is hardly an investment against the cost of future terrorism. It's more like hiring a hit man to kill you. Not your best investment, somehow.

Ding! All right, thanks for a minute of your time.

The bottom line: Bush's talking points these days are a parade of claims that couldn't stand up to a hard look. He cannot open his mouth without coming up with another whopper.

This is a notable characteristic in the highest elected official in the land. And you might think it would be newsworthy.

But it is seldom noted in reporting. Apparently they're afraid of being accused of having opinions. But interestingly most of this is just fact checking, or basic analysis, providing context, highlighting contradictions. Two examples cited above. How hard is that?

Posted by: Jon | April 10, 2008 5:20 PM

Well finally talking about strategy, that is without all the fluff . . .

Signs of the times. What can I say?

Theory and praxis . . . My war was more about theory, and yours was more about praxis. Mine never came anywhere near to praxis, which is perhaps sort of a guide. Let's hope so.

"Where theory seeks to connect cause and effect in the mind, praxis endeavors to link means and ends in the real world. Where theory deals in catagories of cases, praxis focuses on the case in hand. Where theory draws on the practice of the past, praxis may not employ theory at all. Indeed, one might imagine theory and praxis entirely separate. 'Pure theory' would consist of scientific laws applicable to all wars. 'Pure Praxis' would mean wars conducted with no conscious or unconscious reliance on theory by the commander - possible only if war is unthinking ritual or sheer passion . In reality as Clausewitz puts it . . ."

Hugh Smith, On Clausewitz, p 185.

Posted by: seydlitz89 | April 10, 2008 5:33 PM

Sure, the lefties lost this dumb war, not the dumb President and his dumb administration. Those darn lefties are everywhere.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2008 5:40 PM

...and as one more way of promoting democracy, I'll be attending the Olympics in Beijing. In honor of democracy in Tibet. Which has been halted. By the Chinese. Whose guest I'll be. Next question?

Posted by: DFC | April 10, 2008 6:24 PM

Let me play the contrarian for a moment.

What reason does President Bush have to change course? What reason would he have to believe that the Surge did not work? (or at the very least, that multiple favorable events in Iraq occurred in parallel with the surge causing favorable results). Based on the metrics he uses, things are going pretty darn good.

1. His Generals are telling him that things are getting better and that we need to stay the course.
2. Casualties and violence are lowest in years
3. AQ is truly getting beat up in Iraq (this is more than just a perception, this is ground truth).
4. Leaders of Iraq's government are asking for more help (let's assume that from the President's perspective, that is a legit government).

Everything seems to be going to plan from his perspective and from what he is being told. For what reason should he change course now? What metrics should he be using to make a decision to change course?

(and before we start throwing out metrics he should consider, remember from his speech, he considers blood and treasure, albeit a great tragedy, to be very small relative to previous wars, so those won't persuade him).

Posted by: bg | April 10, 2008 6:29 PM

Bush said nothing today which is noteworthy. We're staying the course. January, 2009 can't come soon enough unless, of course, John McSame is elected and we stay the course some more.

Please - we must elect a Democratic president and end this fiasco that has diminished our image around the world and made us much less safe.

Posted by: Diane W. | April 10, 2008 6:29 PM

Well, to "no name" that was #1. Were you alive when we invaded Europe? You weren't even thought of for years after,is my thought. We didn't ask for war, but it was thrust on us, & we united 100% in our thought to survive.
We will unite once again in '08 & kick out the neocons that made us attack a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11.
Today we are spending 12 billion a month
for a war that never should have began. Our young are killed, & losing limbs for what? Each death recepiant gets half a million dollars for life lost. And what about those that have lost, arms, legs, minds? We'll pay their disability for the rest of their lives, & I thank them all.
Do you war mongers want to pay for this?
Next time, be brave enough to give us a name, or shut up! Dick, a Korean Vet

Posted by: Dick | April 10, 2008 7:04 PM

We have met the enemy and they is us.

Posted by: patrick | April 10, 2008 7:09 PM

To Chris LaCour - Thank you for your well written, non-inflammatory post. The beauty of the internet is also its flaw, it allows a forum for the educated and the uneducated equally. Always remember the best remedy to free speech is more free speech. Anonymous is a idiot. You came across as intelligent and rational.

Posted by: William Nathan | April 10, 2008 7:20 PM

Bg:
Let me play the contrarian for a moment.
.... Everything seems to be going to plan from his perspective and from what he is being told. For what reason should he change course now? What metrics should he be using to make a decision to change course?
****

Good point. Let me take a shot at it.

There is data, and then there are facts. These are not the same thing.

Datum: Saddam denies he has weapons of mass destruction.

Does this mean that A) in fact he doesn't have WMD, or that B) in fact he is only denying the possession of WMD because he actually has them and doesn't want us to know?

Bush famously looked at the data and chose B as the fact.

Psychologists have found that people tend to accept the data that support their preconceptions and ignore/deny the contravening data.

So, yes, there are always people who are willing to tell the president what he wants to hear, and this president in particular has powerful psychogical guardians blocking inconvienent data.

You are perfectly right, "Everything seems to be going to plan from his perspective", but he is not passive in the process. I doubt any conceivable metrics could convince him to change his plans; full-fledged civil war or a total halt of violence would only confirm his belief that the answer is to extend the occupation.

Posted by: LowHangingMissles | April 10, 2008 7:25 PM

And, most of all, thanks to Chris LaCour for his service in the war, politically misguided though it may be. Odd that our political leaders and generals lack the common sense that the platoon leaders routinely display.

Posted by: Cdt | April 10, 2008 7:26 PM

Speaking of judgments that are exactly opposite of what they should be: someone please explain why it was a big mistake to withdraw rapidly from Afghanistan and allow the extremists to make a comeback, but how it is the essence of wisdom to do the same thing now in Iraq? Also -- if we pull out of Iraq quickly, and extremists regain momentum, killing another 3K American men,women and children -- how will history judge us?

Posted by: Curious | April 10, 2008 8:42 PM

Bush is doing the best he can with a broken occupation strategy. His vision of freedom, and democracy for a Islamic culture misses the mark. If some white folks were upset by the preaching of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, imagine how Muslims must feel about Bush's occupation of Iraq.

Posted by: Richard | April 10, 2008 8:44 PM

The Israelites had Moses to deliver them from the plagues. Will it take that long to deliver us from the plague of Bush and his neocon friends.

Posted by: Israelites Had Moses | April 10, 2008 9:08 PM

Holding force levels at the pre-surge numbers is a guarantee that increasing numbers of the all-volunteer force will be back for third and fourth tours in Iraq. As the equipment and more importantly the people in the all-volunteer force are stretched beyond any reasonable standard, we will be compromising overall national security to prop up the misguided effort in Iraq. The Congress has the last word on funding this effort, and it needs to exercise its authority under the Constitution.

Posted by: Karl Shipps | April 10, 2008 9:20 PM

Bush has found his perfect solution. He has a General who can keep the lid on the situation in Iraq by keeping enough troops in some areas to hold down the violence and can bribe the Sunnis in other areas to stay quiet and oppose the international terrorists. With this "progress" (which has really only gotten us back to 2006 status) they can get away with doing nothing more through the election date and into next year. Then it will be up to the next President to figure out what to do as the present 'surge' can't go on forever. But Bush can avoid all responsibility for any loss or crash in Iraq by saying that we were on the path to victory when he left. It would be ironic if the last thing he gives to McCain is a disaster that John will get the blame for from the Conservatives.

Posted by: atp2007 | April 10, 2008 9:28 PM

Dear "Israelites Had Moses": You have it all wrong -- the plague afflicting us developed steadily in the 1990s, culminating on 9/11, and it was not on the neocons watch. Enough of the whining and hand wringing.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2008 9:34 PM

Belated congratulations to Phil Carter, first of all, for moving the Intel Dump blog to the Post's site. His writing deserves wider exposure, and while the format here tends to encourage ranters and the willfully uninformed it is also more open than the comments section on his former site. That tended to resemble a group of seniors at the neighborhood tavern, going over the same arguments in the same language over and over: a reassuring ritual for them, perhaps, but not terribly informative for anyone else.

Here's a question: about this "free Iraq" President Bush says he wants, what does such an Iraq give us? I can imagine what it, or something like it, might be worth to the Iraqis, but the United States is paying an awfully high price for it now, and President Bush is committed to continuing to pay that price into the indefinite future. More optimistic scenarios that describe a democratic Iraq being a beacon in a reforming Middle East tread the line between vision and fantasy, in some cases veering wildly toward the latter. Say, though, for the sake of argument that we're just talking about a "free Iraq" that does only the things President Bush listed today.

What's in it for the United States? How is it worth the price we have already paid in blood and treasure, let alone that price plus whatever will be spent in the next couple of years?

Posted by: Zathras | April 10, 2008 9:38 PM

Zathra: Can't believe that you don't get it. It is about Al Qaida and keeping them back on their heels. Do you remember 9/11 and the bodies falling!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2008 9:58 PM

"culminating on 9/11, and it was not on the neocons watch. Enough of the whining and hand wringing."

Last time I checked, Bush was President on 9/11. Had been for some time, by then. It WAS on his watch, you ignorant loudmouthed buffoon!

Posted by: tom | April 10, 2008 10:19 PM

200 proof truth. WaPo needs a permanent link on its homepage to Mr. Carter's distillery.

Posted by: jhbyer | April 10, 2008 11:33 PM

BG: I have to say that you take on this is the most realistic I've read so far. While most of us view this war through our personal or political perspective, I think we have to try and seperate the "Is the Iraq War a Good Thing or a Bad Thing" question from the "Whose Agenda Is The Iraq War Serving?" question.

So in the case of the Decider, hell, yes, this glorious little war is doing just what he needs it to do. It's not killing enough GIs to get the porcine masses out of their Barcaloungers, it IS killing enough wogs to keep things stirred up and General Miracle's One Hundered and Forty Four Thousand on the ground to throw the U.S. weight around to the extent possible, and it gives us several casi belli in case we need them for further adventures in Southwest Asia.

Still, I would argue that, like any fool who can shoot off his own foot but suffers a serious disavantage in a real firefight, the Bicycle Chief's metrics suffer from some logical flaws...

1. His Generals are telling him that things are getting better and that we need to stay the course.

Of course they are. They always will, You don't get to be a general by not liking the sound of your own voice or doubting your own abilities. General de Clerc and General Haig and Generals Paulus and Varro probably told their political masters that their campaigns were a slam dunk, too. The essence of political acumen is to be able to differentiate between political success and mere military success. Bush has shown a tin ear for the former and a great and abiding lust for the latter.

2. Casualties and violence are lowest in years. True: but casualties and violence are just symptoms - they may mislead you about the progress of the disease.

3. AQ is truly getting beat up in Iraq (this is more than just a perception, this is ground truth). True. But, OTOH, there WAS no AQ in Iraq before we went there, and the probability of AQ surviving, where we leave or not, is problematic. Calling this a positive metric is like congratulating your neighbor on his wife's health ever since he stopped beating her up.

4. Leaders of Iraq's government are asking for more help (let's assume that from the President's perspective, that is a legit government). A big negative, unless you suspect (as I do) that the whole point of this exercise IS to stick around and continue to whack the Allah-pesterers. If we had genuinely managed to construct a functional IG they'd already be begging us to get our combat guys the hell off their streets - nothing says "I don't really govern my own country" like a hundred thousand or so foreign troops wandering about heavily armed shooting my citizens...

BUT - the whole notion that we were ever going to create the Israel-loving, free-market, multiethnic democracy that the public relations flacks tried to spin this thing was ALWAYS a fantasy. The only way to avoid that reality is to keep the pot boiling but not boiling over. And that we can do.

At least until the Chinese cash in their T-bills...

Posted by: FDChief | April 10, 2008 11:47 PM

Nitpick the nitpickers; wordsmithers, Forw-a-r-d! Ain't never done seen nary one of them thar oilmen w/ black gold on the brain turn humble or show like they're 'fessin up or stepped in it. Gotta keep this show going, ya know, since after all, we're the bestest and the badest tho just a wee mite tuckered & spent out. But now don't you pay no never mind to that rot you see seeping from the inside out, we'll just print us up sum dollar bills & sign us up some more of 'em good 'ole boys who just dun minor stuff. Nutin to it. The Decider has decided and le roi le veut.

Posted by: 1% | April 11, 2008 12:12 AM

It's hard for Americans to believe that our leaders will actually lie to us, and to the world. But they do. And ...it becomes clear to us, and to the world, that our leaders lie. As a result, the United States has lost its leadership position in the world, lost its influence and lost its credibility.

We are at risk, militarily and economically. Why? Because president Bush lies, breaks the law and pours our money into the rat hole of Iraq. Our schools, roads and hospitals are falling apart. Our people go without health care while European British and Canadian people have fine health care. We do without because our money has been spent on Iraq, on Haliburton and on well connected corporations.

See you all in November. I'll be at the polls, voting. Good luck, Republicans.

Posted by: Ned | April 11, 2008 1:47 AM

"But it's not true of the average Iraqi, who has known war and suffering since 1980 and simply wants the violence and deprivation to end."

We do not continue the fighting. It could stop in a moment if the other side wanted to stop.

That is an uncomfortable truth.

Posted by: Gary E. Masters | April 11, 2008 4:59 AM

Gary E. Masters
"We do not continue the fighting. It could stop in a moment if the other side wanted to stop.

That is an uncomfortable truth."

Your rhetoric reminds me of the perpetual violence machine known as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. By stating that everybody on the other side must unilaterally renouce violence you are ensuring that the conflict will never end.

There are thousands of militia organizations with differing goals in Iraq. In total they employ hundreds of thousands of fighters. By your logic, all of these organizations and all of the fighters in these organizations will have to agree to stop fighting each other and us and permanently lay down their arms. If even one of their fighters attacks us then we have to attack them and the whole vicious mess keeps spiralling down.

The only ways to stop the violence using your logic are to:
1. Persuade the opposition via nonviolent means that their cause is no longer worth fighting for (COIN)
2. Kill anybody who disagrees with us (this also includes killing all of their relatives and neighbors) until nobody disagrees with us anymore (Sometimes known as going Roman, works for a while but really irritates the locals)
3. Leave (Solution to Vietnam)

That is the sad truth

Posted by: Pluto | April 11, 2008 7:27 AM

To whomever posted this:
"how dare bush want to actually defeat the enemy. so the battle of the buldge was not really important even though the germans made it that way."

Go join the Army and serve at least three tours of duty in Iraq. Then come back and tell us what you think.

Posted by: Pluto | April 11, 2008 7:29 AM

One, whether Bush has a realistic sense of the Iraq situation that admits to doubt is unknowable since no politician is ever going to publicly admit such a thing. Does Obama have doubts concerning his stated plans for Iraq? If he's half as smart as he likes people to think he is I'm guessing he does - but you sure as hell aren't gonna hear him admit to it, are you? So this is a bogus charge against Bush.

Two, suggesting that the average Iraqi just wants some peace and quiet no matter how it comes about argues as much if not more in favor of America staying rather than America pulling out since what you're really saying is some form of Shiite oligarchy or dictatorship would be fine just so long as it brought 'stability', and since it would be much better for us if that dictatorship is not headed by Sadr and we already have a strategic arrangement with Maliki and his boys - well, you get my point.

Nothing in this post Phil supports your belief that withdrawal is the best option on th table.

Posted by: rusk | April 11, 2008 7:46 AM

Well FD, I don't think we need to worry about the Chinese cashing in their T-Bills anytime soon.

Posted by: Keith G | April 11, 2008 8:28 AM

Rusk -

Your first comment is quite accurate. The only problem is that we expect the President to lead and that includes changing course when he's made a mistake. At the risk of throwing gasoline on the fire, I'll note that an example of this happened when Clinton gave up his nation-building efforts in Somalia and pulled out.

Imagine what history would have had to say if he'd decided to "stay the course" and we'd stayed for 16 years of tribal skirmishes.

Taking your second point literally, you've got a good idea. If we can stand up a militia that is effective enough to govern the country, even at the point of a rifle, it would allow us to get out of Iraq. JAM or the Badr force would be my first candidates.

The problem with Maliki is that his government is so incompetent and corrupt that they can't run the country, forcing us to do it instead. Indeed, if you think about it for a couple of minutes, you realize that it is in their best interests to be so incompetent that they blackmail us into staying.

Posted by: Pluto | April 11, 2008 11:22 AM

It is a great country that encourages and allows platoon leaders, grunts, division commanders, and even flag officers to question the strategy, honesty, or intelligence of its military leaders. Even more so that armchair pundits who have never worn a uniform or obeyed orders they did not fully understand.

As many current observers who have put boots on the ground in the last 18 months have observed, and which the Petraeus/Crocker report discussed, a remarkable transition is happening. It is tenuous, but it is happening. It still has a long way to go, but it is.

Here is Another analysis which has a military expert who has been in Iraq recently -- more recently and with greater context than I understand Mr. Carter has done.

Posted by: EntropyIncreases | April 11, 2008 12:02 PM

Never forget this is Bush Math, and that's a bit like figuring out your pet's age.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld told us in March 2003 that the war would be over in three months.

Five years later, Petraeus is asking for another five years. So let's apply the formula, shall we?

Five years divided by three months = 20

Five more years in Bush Math: 5 x 20 = McCain's 100-year occupation!

Posted by: PW | April 11, 2008 1:59 PM

BG, thanks very much for your perceptive post. Let me try to answer a couple of your points:

1) His Generals are telling him that things are getting better and that we need to stay the course.

Bush has a history of ignoring what Generals or Admirals are telling him unless he agrees with them. If you don't agree, you're out: Fallon and Shinseki are well known examples, but he, Rumsfeld, and most of all Cheney have had 8 years to shape the General officer corps. It's at the point now where any public statements from Generals toe the administration line.

2) Granted.

3) A look at explanations for the "major blow" dealt to AQI reveals that this was mostly the result of the Sunnis turning against AQI. One could argue that this is the result of a COIN strategy working. But look closely: what happened is that we established extra-governmental Sunni militias, armed and paid them and in return they ratted out AQI. A questioning President might ask "What happens next with the Sunni militias"?

4) Yes, to solidify their power base before the October elections. If you think of the GOI as a representative, broadly-based entity attempting to exert control over its soveriegn territory, it makes a lot of sense to back them up. Another way to look at it is we're siding with a Shi'ite faction, and not the strongest one either, as it attempts to consolidate its power.

Here's some reasons why Bush should not stay the course:

1) Staying in Iraq will only increase Iranian influence in that country. The longer we stay, Shiite opposition to Maliki becomes more indebted, and probably more radicalized.

2) The "local solutions" approach is devolving power away from the central government. The longer this goes on, the more difficult it will be to reintegrate militias (Sunni and Shiite) into the government.

3) The current reduction in violence gives us an opportunity to declare victory, and remove ourselves from internal Iraqi politics. Guaranteeing their territorial integrity is not the same thing as continuing involvement in domestic affairs.



Posted by: DanPatrick | April 11, 2008 2:17 PM

Does Austin Bay do lapdances as well? Lol.

Posted by: fnord | April 11, 2008 2:30 PM

By the way, don't think shaping the General officer corps was NOT high on Dick Cheney's agenda on Inauguration Day 2000. The guy has a long memory from his time at the Pentagon.

Posted by: DanPatrick | April 11, 2008 2:41 PM

Great post from BG, here is my stab at answering:
Points 1-4 are all true, yet we should still leave as soon as possible. I offer an argument based on a geopolitical approach.

Let's take as a premise one of Bush's: The US must attempt to reduce Iranian influence in Iraq.

Suppose Iranian influence was only sought in Iraq to counter US backing of your political opponent. Then the logical course for the US is to withdraw from the "competition for resources and power" and let it find it's own level. If that turns out to be a government hostile to US, then leave when we're asked to do so.

The main point is that we must follow a strategy that maximizes US interests in the region while minimizing the cost to us.

Backing a government against an Iranian-led/influenced/supplied insurgency is assuredly not in our interest:

1) It may lead to a direct US-Iran conflict. You think AQ has a lot of recruits now?

2) Involvement would drain US militarily, economically, and use a lot of political capital. All things that Russia and China would like to see, leaving them more space to pursue regional or global ambitions. Therefore, they would have an incentive to back Iran diplomatically and with behind the scenes military technology, as well as an overt military buildup based on Iran's oil wealth.

3) Involvement would provide the best possible recruitment for AQ worldwide, as many Muslims would view this as US backing of a puppet government to control oil wealth, as well as protect the Saudi monarchy and our other client states in the ME.

For those reasons, we should withdraw, and soon. I submit the best possible way to do this is a withdrawal from internal Iraqi affairs after the election in October.

We would continue training government forces, and protect the territorial integrity of Iraq. We may have advisors in embedded in their units for 18-24 months. But direct US involvement in Iraqi internal security would be over. We also announce that we will abide by the results of any subsequent election (this last is very important given our spurning of Hamas).


Will this result in a democratic, free Iraq? I don't know. That's up to the Iraqis. Will they offer a harbor to AQI? Probably not, as they are foriegners and this is an Iraqi problem.

Let's not forget: Bin Laden was able to put together the 9/11 plan without any real state sponsorship.

Will they become clients of Iran? Again, probably not. Their best bet is to play Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia off each other.

It's not a very fully fleshed out argument, and I welcome your thoughtful comments.

Posted by: DPC | April 11, 2008 4:04 PM

"Last time I checked, Bush was President on 9/11. Had been for some time, by then. It WAS on his watch, you ignorant loudmouthed buffoon!"

Calm down, Tom. My point was that Islamic extremist attacks developed well BEFORE Bush took office (the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, attacks on our Embassies in Africa in 1998, the attack on the US COLE in 2000, etc.). 9/11 culminated and "capped" that building threat. When folks talk about the "plague" that is troubling the US this Islamic extremist war on the West is what they should have in mind -- it is the strongest independent variable. Of course Bush was in office on 9/11 -- that is understood -- but he went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq AFTER 9/11, not before. To say that Bush and the neocons are the key problem (the plague) is simply to fail to understand what is happening. Bush has been reacting. You may feel he has gone to far, but I'm inclined to accept Gen Petreaus' view that only "relentless" pressure can contain those fanatics. I know it has become fashionable to say that Al Qaida is happy to see us bleed in Iraq and has us right where they want us. This is buying the AQ propaganda line -- they desperately want us to leave with our tails between our legs so they can declare that they have not only defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan but the USA in Iraq and they are the wave of the future in the Middle East and beyuond.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2008 11:14 PM

Dear Chris LaCour,

Thanks for posting. Your comment proves not all that fill this thread need be uneducated, strange rants. Your kind of reality check very few of us can provide, so hope you'll be back. Thanks for serving. I'm very glad you made it home safe from Iraq.

Posted by: jhbyer | April 12, 2008 7:38 AM

Didn't the President's top general on the ground and his proconsul tell Congress all they needed to know?, i.e., "modest progress that is reversible." Given the time spent thus far, the money expended, the lives lost, plus a plan of doing more of the same, with no end in sight; enough evidence for the elected representatives of the people to decide that further war funding is no longer worth additional costs to achieve minimal gains, yet reversible gains ... without end?

We do not pay the military to tell us they cannot get the job done. We do not pay them to tell us they have no viable plan. (Although, the General has said there is no military solution to Iraq). Then why is the Congress waiting for the military to tell them enough is enough?

At what point does the Congress assume it's Constitutional responsibility to decide whether further war funding is worthwhile? How long will "the suits" responsible for making policy continue to abdicate their responsibilities to the military?

The General and the proconsul could not have made it plainer, without saying it. Our efforts in Iraq are no longer worth it because progress, after 5 years, has been modest, is still reversible and there is no end in sight. Period.

Posted by: that said | April 13, 2008 8:04 PM

Greetings All;From my upper west side of Jerusalem @8:27 PM ET +7.

I'm sure that when you read 'My 'messianic' resume 3 of 4 Elements till today. You felt something was missing.

That's Right!

You see diplomatics knows,while our Humanity doesn't.

Fellow Humanity I'm relating that it's real Hard to get a countries Intelligence agency to want to kill a tourist!

But if they do,& that tourist manages to get diplomatic protection to escape from that country.He our she is not rescued from being killed.

All Intelligence agences have the worldwithall ability to carry out that killing abroad that they wanted to do domestic.

Sorry for my spelling.

But you have much more to read of my 'Living On for Life:AGAINST ALL ODDS'

But for now;Good Jerusalem Monday evening.

Michael לחיים=To Life! PRIORITY 1 LIFE

Posted by: Michael of up west.Orig. Manhattan.Now Jerusalem | April 14, 2008 12:42 PM

Rusk,

You say,

"One, whether Bush has a realistic sense of the Iraq situation that admits to doubt is unknowable since no politician is ever going to publicly admit such a thing."

That is very true, but we've seen the other side of this coin. Bush "admitted" in 2004 that he can't think of a single mistake he's made -- this in the face of convincing evidence to the contrary, even in 2004.

And I don't understand why you say this:

"Two, suggesting that the average Iraqi just wants some peace and quiet no matter how it comes about argues as much if not more in favor of America staying rather than America pulling out since what you're really saying is some form of Shiite oligarchy or dictatorship would be fine just so long as it brought 'stability', and since it would be much better for us if that dictatorship is not headed by Sadr and we already have a strategic arrangement with Maliki and his boys..."

First, Sadr is a Sunni. Second, my understanding is that the Iraqi "man in the street" has a lot more respect for Sadr than Maliki because Sadr stayed in the country to resist Saddam while Maliki only returned to Iraq in 2003, after Saddam's fall. So some would say Sadr is a much better candidate for the job of unifying the country. And third, because he is a Sunni, Sadr is less likely to get into bed with Iran.

Cheers,

JP

Posted by: almost drafted | April 16, 2008 2:16 PM

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Posted by: jimelyyes | May 2, 2008 11:44 AM

there is the professional world of warcraft power leveling here. welcome.

Posted by: jimelyyes | May 7, 2008 9:07 PM

there is the professional world of warcraft power leveling here. welcome.

Posted by: jimelyyes | May 10, 2008 8:21 PM

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