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 Guadalcanalâ€”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.
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 â€” 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” â€” which keep soldiers in their units even after their active-duty commitments are complete â€” 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.