Salted Peanuts

Here is the BBC story Keith Olbermann mentioned in his special comments tonight. Justin Webb of the BBC writes,

US President George W Bush intends to reveal a new Iraq strategy within days, the BBC has learnt.

The speech will reveal a plan to send more US troops to Iraq to focus on ways of bringing greater security, rather than training Iraqi forces. …

…The BBC was told by a senior administration source that the speech setting out changes in Mr Bush’s Iraq policy is likely to come in the middle of next week.

Its central theme will be sacrifice.

The speech, the BBC has been told, involves increasing troop numbers.

The exact mission of the extra troops in Iraq is still under discussion, according to officials, but it is likely to focus on providing security rather than training Iraqi forces.

The proposal, if it comes, will be highly controversial.

Already one senior Republican senator has called it Alice in Wonderland.

Olbermann said that Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News had corroborated the part of the story about extra troops. Other reports say that General George Casey, the commander of US forces in Iraq, is about to lose his job because he has said he doesn’t need more troops.

Gerard Baker writes for the Times (UK; emphasis added),

In the coming days he [Pressident Bush] is expected to announce not the beginning of the US disengagement his critics want, but a deepening of the effort to build a stable and democratic nation there.

This likely new approach is not only fraught with military and political risks, but increasingly represents a very lonely furrow for the man in the White House. It is backed perhaps just by Mr Bush and a handful of close advisers, in the face of opposition from senior military commanders, a resurgent Democratic party that takes control of Congress this week, and even from many within his own Republican party.

Those close to the discussions say the President is leaning against the recommendation of the Iraq Study Group, headed by James Baker, his father’s Secretary of State, for a steady drawdown of US troops. Instead, advisers say, he favours a “surge” of American forces of perhaps 30,000 or more troops in addition to the 140,000 there, with the aim of restoring order in Baghdad especially. Senior military commanders have been sceptical. General John Abizaid, head of US Central Command, has publicly expressed doubts, and will be stepping down shortly. General George Casey, the commander of US forces in Iraq, is also known to be cautious — he too may soon leave his job. So entrenched have been the military doubts that one adviser said that there had been no serious discussion of the “surge” strategy until it was proposed by an outside group of military thinkers about a month ago. Mr Bush will be both bucking the views of senior military and taking a large political risk.

… Even more problematic for Mr Bush is that growing numbers of senior members of his own Republican party are against a significant troop increase in Iraq. Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska senator and a possible Republican presidential candidate, recently returned from Iraq to tell friends he was convinced a surge in US troops would be folly.

Here’s the punchline:

Aides close to Mr Bush say that he is determined not to repeat the mistakes of Vietnam.

And Mr Bush has been influenced heavily in his thinking, it seems, by Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State to Mr Ford and Richard Nixon. According to Bob Woodward’s book, State of Denial, in 2005 Mr Kissinger sent Mr Bush a copy of his famous 1969 “salted peanut” memo to Mr Nixon. In it the Secretary of State warned against troop withdrawals from Vietnam, saying that they would become to the American people like salted peanuts — “the more US troops come home, the more will be demanded”.

Salted peanuts?

I Haven’t Disappeared

My laptop crashed this morning, an event which sort of ate my morning blog time. It should be fixed in a day or two. Meanwhile I have an older (and slower) laptop as a backup, so I’ll get something posted eventually.