As my momma used to say, "clear as mud"

Bush's new strategy for Iraq


The Decider deliberated for weeks before unveiling his new strategy for Iraq. His speech was not new, not a strategy, and might not even have been about Iraq. It was such a muddle there's no telling what he was saying — probably that was the point.

For some reason, W's handlers decided he should make the speech from the White House library instead of the oval office. If it was supposed to reassure us and enhance his ability to communicate with us, it didn't work — W had that deer-in-the-headlights look for most of the speech.

bush speech

Where to even begin?

A strategy is a plan to achieve something but W never tells us what that something is. He uses the word "success" (or "succeed") a lot, but what does that mean? What would be the result that W considers success?

Then there are the red herrings, meant to mislead us.

We benefitted from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel led by the former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton.

What rot! The ink on the Baker-Hamilton report was not even dry before the administration began rejecting the report's recommendations. To the extent that we can tell anything from Bush's speech about what he intends to do, his plans fly in the face of the ISG's most important recommendations! This was a specious platitude to make us think he had listened to the advice he got, to attach the names of two well-respected people to his plan without doing anything they recommended.

Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

"Iraqi plan"? Who does W think he's kidding? As for the agreement of the military, of course they agree — W is the Commander-in-Chief and he's already replaced the generals who in November told us it would be a mistake to send more US troops to Iraq. It seems pretty clear from the comments of reporters who have good access to the military there is in the Pentagon a lot of scepticism about this plan; they're just not talking publicly, probably out of fear for their careers. Bush makes a big deal of listening to his generals, but if he doesn't like what he hears, he finds himself new generals.

Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.... This time we'll have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.

It has been the problem all along that every time an area has been "cleared" violence and brutality broke out again as soon as the Americans left. Even twenty thousand troops are not enough to hold Baghdad, much less the country. And even if they were, they can't stay there forever.

America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan -- and we will not allow them to re-establish it in Iraq.

Citing Afghanistan as an example of success is stretching things quite a bit. Anyone who has been reading the papers or watching the news knows that Afghanistan is coming apart now also. The Taliban are finding their way back and, by the way, Osama bin Laden still hasn't been found, dead or alive.

Bush sets up impossible "benchmarks" for the Iraqis to meet.

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November.

And pigs will fly.

There isn't a clue in W's speech about plan B — What if they don't accomplish their objectives? What if things don't get better?

If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people....

That's it—lose the support of the American people? Is there anyone left besides W who hasn't noticed that this occurred long ago? Or is it saying that the US will pull out of Iraq if the benchmarks aren't met?

This sounds like W is setting up a "blame and run" exit stratey: set up impossible conditions for the Iraqis to meet, and when they fail to meet them, say it's all their fault and leave. (I got the term "blame and run" from Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor.)

But at the beginning of his speech, W went to great lengths to establish Iraq as the critical theatre in the war on terror.

Tonight in Iraq, the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror -- and our safety here at home.... Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.... For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.

If that's really the case, then it negates the implied threat to Iraq: Shape up or we'll leave. If that's really the case, then the US should be pouring everything it's got into the fight, including — not just troops — but shared sacrifice in the form of taxes to pay for it, drastic steps to wean us from the dependence on Middle East oil, even, shudder, talking to countries we don't much like. If that's really the case, we shouldn't be waging the battle on the cheap, all on the shoulders of the military and their families.

Brother Jeb's unemployed, he could go. The twins Barbara and Jenna could go without disrupting anything more serious than their party schedule. (The sons of the British royal family all spend time in the armed forces, an admirable example to emulate.) Send Cheney, for heaven's sake — he likes to shoot! OK, I'm being somewhat facetious, but the point should be clear: the bozos who started this haven't any skin in the game, and neither do most of the American people.

Scariest of all are the hints that W plans to enlarge the battlefield.

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

This sound a lot like "Bring 'em on" — and we know how that worked out.

In the end, Bush's speech raises more questions than it answers.

• Is he going to "blame and run"?

• Is he going to make "incursions" into Syria and Iran? ("Incursion" was what Nixon called it when he sent Vietnam troops into Cambodia and Laos.)

• Is he just buying time until he can hand this hot potato off to the next president?

I fear greatly that Bush is about to make a very bad situation even worse. I think Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has it right: "This speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder carried out since Vietnam."

It's gonna be a hard sell, W!
Washington Post-ABC News poll 10-Jan-07
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