The Gambler

Fred Kaplan writes in Slate:

In his speech this morning before the American Legion’s national convention, President George W. Bush may have gone a bridge too far. It was the first of several speeches he plans to deliver in the coming days to rally support for the war in Iraq (and, not incidentally, for Republicans in November). But one passage in particular reveals that the campaign is getting desperate:

    The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq.

Here’s the question: Does anybody believe this? If you do, then you must ask the president why he hasn’t reactivated the draft, printed war bonds, doubled the military budget, and strenuously rallied allies to the cause.

If, as he said in this speech, the war in Iraq really is the front line in “the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century”; if our foes there are the “successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists”; if victory is “as important” as it was in Omaha Beach and Guadalcanal—then those are just some of the steps that a committed president would feel justified in demanding.

The Administration’s “fascist” campaign is desperation itself. At least twice before in the past year the President went on the offensive on Iraq, making highly publicized series of speeches in which he attempted to sound statesmanlike and resolute and sincere and all that. Both offensives failed. So if statesmanlike didn’t work, maybe mad dog crazy will. It’s all he’s got left.

But the morass in Iraq is the natural outcome of Bush’s weenieness. Ordering the all-out effort a “victory” would require is too politically risky. So he doesn’t do it. Admitting to the mistake and preparing to withdraw is, um, admitting a mistake. He can’t do that, either. George W. Bush isn’t man enough to either advance or retreat, and our troops pay the price.

Last week Julian E. Barnes wrote for the Los Angeles Times,

The Marine Corps said Tuesday that it would begin calling Marines back to active-duty service on an involuntary basis to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan — the latest sign that the American force is under strain and a signal that the military is having trouble persuading young veterans to return.

Marine commanders will call up formerly active-duty service members now classified as reservists because the Corps failed to find enough volunteers among its emergency reserve pool to fill jobs in combat zones. The call-ups will begin in several months, summoning as many as 2,500 reservists at a time to serve for a year or more.

The Pentagon has had to scramble to meet the manpower requirements of the Iraq war, which have not abated in the face of a continuing insurgency and growing civil strife. Earlier this year, the military called forward its reserve force in Kuwait, sending one battalion to Baghdad and two to Ramadi. Last month, the yearlong deployment of the Army’s Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade was extended by four months to provide extra soldiers to roll back escalating sectarian violence in Baghdad.

For much of the conflict, the Army also has had to use “stop-loss orders” — which keep soldiers in their units even after their active-duty commitments are complete — as well as involuntary call-ups of its reservists. Both actions have been criticized as a “back-door draft” and are unpopular with service members, many of whom say they have already done their part.

“You can send Marines back for a third or fourth time, but you have to understand you are destroying their lives,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “It is not what they intended the all-volunteer military to look like.”

Reuters reported yesterday that the U.S. recently increased the number of troops in Iraq, to 140,000. That’s 13,000 more than five weeks ago. Prediction: A week or so before the midterm elections, the White House will announce a big troop withdrawal and send 13,000 troops home.

Kaplan points to “the glaring mismatch between the president’s gargantuan depiction of the threat and the relatively paltry resources he’s mustered to fight it.” As a result, in many ways earlier gains are slipping away. For example, as Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay write for McClatchy Newspapers, al Qaeda and the Taliban are taking back Afghanistan.

Five years ago, the United States fired its first shots in the post-9/11 war on terror here in Afghanistan, evicting al Qaida and toppling the Taliban regime that hosted Osama bin Laden’s network.

Today, the United States and its allies are struggling to halt advances by a resurgent Taliban and al Qaida fighters in large swaths of this still desperately poor and unstable country.

“Things are going very badly,” admitted an official with the allied military forces, who asked not to be identified because the issue is so sensitive. “We’ve arrived at a situation where things are significantly worse than we anticipated.”

The trends in Afghanistan appear to mirror the global war on terror a half-decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Bush administration and allied governments have won battle after battle, but appear to be in danger of losing the war.

As a result of Bush’s half-assed warmaking, “the threat from anti-Western Islamic extremists has rebounded, mutated and grown,” say Strobel and Landay.

Much has been written about how Bush boldly rolled the dice on his presidency by invading Iraq. But what he threw on the table wasn’t his presidency, it was our nation. He has squandered our military resources; the lives of our troops; our moral authority; and the respect our nation earned through two world wars, the Cold War, and a century or so of foreign policy and diplomacy. Big stakes. But when the risk is personal, he loses his nerve. He hasn’t antied up enough of his own chips by taking the personal and political risks real leadership sometimes requires.

I’m sure you’ve seen the warning signs that the Bushies are preparing for military action against Iran. Glenn Greenwald has a good post up that reviews some of the signs, and concludes:

All of that means one of two things (or some combination of both): (1) the President has decided already that we are going to wage some sort of military attack on Iran and is saying the same things as he said once he decided to wage war on Iraq while pretending to have not yet decided pending “diplomatic efforts”; and/or (2) the White House is trying to have its top officials, including the President, sound like Michael Ledeen because that’s necessary to (a) motivate its crazed warmonger base itching for more wars and/or (b) enable Karl Rove to create the warrior/appeaser dichotomy that has worked so well electorally for Rove for two straight elections (and for Republicans for 35 years).

The only way to stop this fool is to take away his chips and evict him from the casino.

13 thoughts on “The Gambler

  1. “the only way to stop this fool is to take away his chips and evict him from the casino”
    How true.The mid term election may provide the tool, enough people have had quite enough of this madness, as the Salt lake City demonstration clearly shows.
    Even Chris Shays is doing some back- pedalling on the Iraq war.
    When the true state of our economy (without the cooked-books) is realized, expect his base to really turn on him. I have some inside information that the big time country club elite have lost “that loving feeling” for Mr. Bush.

  2. So if statesmanlike didn’t work, maybe mad dog crazy will. It’s all he’s got left.

    Exactly! he’s on the ropes. I don’t think the Bush Doctrine is going to fare so well in history.

  3. Pingback: The Heretik » Blog Archive » The Mission

  4. Regarding the options available to the Bush administration: what options? The situation that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld have created in the Middle East is much more complicated than either of them can fathom. It is more than just a military situation, or a foreign policy situation, or an international relations problem. For the first time in our nation’s history, we are held at bay by our own greed, arrogance, and hubris.

    The administration refuses to make the connection between domestic policy and foreign policy. Today, much of our manufacturing capability, information management capability, and customer service is located outside of this country where it is at the mercy of any number of threats.

    Here, we are faced with a staggering illegal immigration problem that is becoming economically disastrous by its effects on health care, social security, educational programs and schools, homeland security, and public safety. Good paying jobs have long since gone outside the borders of this country where they are now done by lower paid workers while we, on the other hand, become a nation of burger flippers.

    Others have already observed that our military is in a state of decline due to the stress of constantly rotating in and out of Iraq or Afghanistan. Equipment to fight the present conflict and to deal with situations here at home is in an extremely poor state of repair or has not been replaced.

    Diplomatically, we have lost so much credibility in the world that no self-respecting country will dare to associate with the U.S. in a coalition of the willing–save Great Britain perhaps, and that may be questionable now. UN sanctions, most of us feel are laughable attempts at strong-arm diplomatic action.

    On top of that, we can’t afford any of this. We have a huge and growing trade deficit with China–one of the countries that may veto UN sanctions against Iran, and we have a huge and growing budget deficit with Japan and an assortment of other countries. In other words, we don’t own anything anymore. Our potential enemies have a stranglehold on us and unless we are committed to a plan of national suicide, we must compromise at some point and do our lieges’ bidding.

    And let’s not forget what the Bush administration has done to our Constitution, our laws, and our civil rights.

    To summarize, our option-challenged President needs to pull his head out of his dark place and understand that we just don’t go to war. It is not a simple matter to march troops into battle. All America will be harmed because we have given up our rights to American sovereignty. Bush’s ill-conceived–nay stupid schoolboy bully campaign against the Middle East will come back to harm us all and you can take that to the bank. But, you say, we can recover and overcome these hardships. Maybe, maybe not. What we had that allowed us to do that at the start of WWII is now gone. The fascists in Washington have done this to us. It is now time to get rid of them.

  5. I’m still cringing at the thought that Bush will attack Iran, and soon (before November; afterward there might be unpleasantness).

    The consequences will be severe, far-reaching, and completely unexpected by the Bush administration.

  6. merciless — I think the Bushies will wait until after November, or at least after the midterm. Even they must have noticed the war thing isn’t as popular as it used to be.

  7. George Bush has embarked on a campaign of saber rattling to hype an intended military policy in Iran. Though we hear about all of their so-called diplomatic efforts that amount to nothing more than UN sanctions–maybe, the fact is that the recent Israeli attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon was the de facto start of the US-Iran war. Israel, using American supplied weapons, logistical, and intelligence support, invaded Lebanon in an attempt to disarm, dismantle, or otherwise make Hezbollah an ineffective tool of Iran. Iran, if you will recall, has threatened to use terror on our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan if we should invade Iran or in any way threaten the security of their nuclear program. Israel, of course, failed miserably. Therefore, the Israeli attack can be considered a proxy war between the US, Iran, and Syria.

  8. It may take the administration that much time to get ready for a war in Iran. Just a few months ago, our commanders in Iraq were saying that the Iraqi army was not ready to assume control of their own security and that it would be 18 months or more before that would allow US forces to withdraw. Now we are hearing that the Iraqi forces are very quickly assuming their own security and will very soon take over entirely, thus allowing US troops to withdraw. If this is all true–and I seriously doubt it–it represents a tremendous improvement in Iraqi capability in an extremely short time. Reality is that it is all BS and nothing more than another fabrication of the administration to weasel out of their committments their so they will have the available force to use in Iran.

  9. Iran, if you will recall, has threatened to use terror on our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan if we should invade Iran or in any way threaten the security of their nuclear program

    I don’t think I’ve heard Iran ever threatened terror..That possiblity is implied by an understanding of the situation,but I don’t think it has been spoken by Iran.

  10. I’m under the impression covert ops are already underway inside Iran.
    Our leaders had better be very careful. By creating more destruction and Chaos in the region, Kurdish nationalists may be emboldened with the conflict spreading to Turkey, Iran, and throughout Central Asia.

  11. Swami-I recall a statement by Iran to that effect, but I will admit to not remembering a specific statement threatening terrorist activity against our troops. However, the noticeable increase in Shi’a and Sunni insurgency, much of which is supported by Iranian agents in Iraq is geared toward tying the US down in Iraq. The goal of Iran being that we will not have the wherewithal: force, arms, logistics, or popular will to pursue operations in Iran. A possible Kurdish revolt will likely cause involvement by the Turks, a NATO country. I wonder where it might end.

  12. Preston, you offer a lot of information that leads to the possibility of ‘war with Iran’………I read the signs, too but come to a somewhat different suspicion about all this:
    The repugs are up against it in this year’s election and they know it. I think the plans are already being orchestrated [which includes slowly building the hype about Iran] to try to subvert the election outcome via diebold, et al. There would need to be an immediate and particularly strong and sustained attention grabber to divert the masses from even having time to think about what hit them electorally.
    A ‘crisis with Iran’ timed for election day and the following days would be the repugs’ ace up the sleeve as the perfect ‘change the subject’ diversion. I still remember in ’04 when the election results were so far off from exit polls, but here comes the media, johnny on the spot the very next day, to talk up ‘values voters’ making the difference! And yes, this was supposed to explain it all and to offer disoriented minds ‘a new focus’ AWAY FROM the statistical improbabilities of exit polls and actual tallies being in stark disconnect in key states.

  13. Donna, I couldn’t agree with you more. The repugs–I like that name–will do whatever their devious little brains can think of to defeat the will of the American public. Unfortunately, they see politics as a continuation of war by other means (Clausewitz turned upside down). They don’t realize, and they certainly don’t understand the true ramifications of what they are doing. I won’t belabor the point, but one’s foreign policy cannot be divorced from one’s domestic policy. The very important point that you make about electronic voting machines is one more issue of domestic policy that propels this country down the road to perdition.

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