Yesterday Baghdad suffered its worst day of carnage in more than a month. Most of the violence appears to have been at the hands of Shiites, targeting Sunnis.
MSNBC reports that the Sunni nation of Saudi Arabia is thinking about sending troops into Iraq “should the violence there degenerate into chaos.” Would the Saudi troops favor the well-being of Sunnis, while Iran is backing the Shiites? Is this really a good idea?
No one outside the Bush Administration seems to think the so-called “surge” — which Senator Clinton said today is a “losing strategy” — will have any significant impact on the violence. Still, Congress is not moving all that fast to stop it. Renee Schoof writes for McClatchy Newspapers:
Although most Democrats and some Republicans oppose Bush’s 21,500-member troop increase, Congress isn’t moving very fast to try to stop or alter the plan. Democratic leaders in both houses want their first step to be a resolution calling on lawmakers to go on record as being for or against Bush’s Iraq plan.
Democrats say they have a solid Senate majority against the plan, including perhaps one dozen Republicans, so the resolution is effectively a symbolic vote of no confidence in Bush’s war plan. Only after that vote will they look at ways to use Congress’ power over funding as a hammer.
This may make sense as political strategy, but I fear that by the time Congress does anything concrete the “surge” will be a fait accompli.
On the other hand, this was just posted at WaPo —
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) announced legislation today capping the number of troops in Iraq at roughly 130,000, saying that lawmakers should take an up-or-down vote on President Bush’s plan to send additional troops to the country and not settle for the non-binding resolution several Senate leaders prefer.
But for the moment, let’s look ahead to post-surge Iraq. Paul Krugman’s column on Monday called the surge/escalation/augmentation the “Texas Strategy.”
Mr. Bush isnâ€™t Roger Staubach, trying to pull out a win for the Dallas Cowboys. Heâ€™s Charles Keating, using other peopleâ€™s money to keep Lincoln Savings going long after it should have been shut down â€” and squandering the life savings of thousands of investors, not to mention billions in taxpayer dollars, along the way.
The parallel is actually quite exact. During the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s, people like Mr. Keating kept failed banks going by faking financial success. Mr. Bush has kept a failed war going by faking military success.
The â€œsurgeâ€ is just another stalling tactic, designed to buy more time.
I wrote something along the same lines last April, although I wrote about Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling. I wrote then:
It would have worked out if weâ€™d just stayed the course, the chief executive said. Everything would have been fine if people had had more faith. We failed because we were attacked by people who wanted us to fail.
Bush in Iraq? No, Jeffrey K. Skilling in court.
The former Enron CEO, on trial for multiple counts of conspiracy and fraud, told the court yesterday that Enronâ€™s slide into bankruptcy was caused by a loss of faith.
The Enron execs genuinely seem to have believed that if only they could have kept their losses hidden and maintained the illusion of success a little longer, the Good Profits Fairy would have come along and bailed them out eventually. (And who’s to say that the Bush Administration wouldn’t have given them enough war and disaster profiteering contracts that they’d be riding the gravy train today?) So, in their own minds, they did not fail. As for the bad decisions that put them in a hole to begin with — hey, stuff happens.
Bush’s plan seems to me even more cynical. He just wants to keep the illusion going on long enough that the failure doesn’t happen on his watch. The fact that the “illusion” has already mostly evaporated doesn’t seem to bother him.
On the other hand, maybe he still thinks the Victory Fairy will turn up after all. Robert G. Kaiser wrote in the Sunday New York Times:
In other words, the national security adviser told the president 42 months after this disastrous war began that we can still fix it. A few well-placed bribes plus Yankee ingenuity — pulling this lever, pushing that button — can make things turn out the way we want them to.
Kaiser’s article is really good; you should read it all.
Along the same lines, as John Cole of Balloon Juice points out today, the “Who lost Iraq” mythos is already being written. Be sure to read the whole post for examples from rightie blogs. John Cole concludes,
So they have all the bases covered, you see! If we win, it is because these brave stalwarts stuck it out on their blogs, and lavished unrelenting praise on the troops and the President. They stayed the course, you see, and because of them the troops could get the job done!
If we lose, it wasnâ€™t because of anything this administration, the Pentagon, or their blind support for a leadership that didnâ€™t deserve it. It is because of the lying ass media and those pussy Democrats.
Heads, I win; tails, you lose.
Outside the Bush Administration and its True Believers, conventional wisdom says winning in any meaningful sense is no longer an option. The real questions revolve around disengagement (how’s that for a euphemism?) from Iraq — when, and how? And then after that, we’ll all be wallowing in the political fallout for some time.
Harold Meyerson has an excellent column in WaPo today discussing how that fallout might fall. He looks at the last two presidents who bailed the nation out of unpopular wars — Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.
As the first Republican to occupy the White House since the coming of the New Deal, Dwight Eisenhower could have chosen to divide the public and try to roll back Franklin Roosevelt’s handiwork. In fact, he didn’t give that option a moment’s consideration. Social Security and unions, he concluded, were here to stay; any attempt to undo them, he wrote, would consign the Republicans to permanent minority status. Ike also ended the Korean War without attacking Democrats in the process.
And then there’s Nixon —
For Nixon, politics was about dividing the electorate and demonizing enemies. Even as he drew down U.S. forces, he did all he could to inflame the war’s already flammable opponents in the hope that however much the people might dislike the war, they would dislike its critics more.
Do we even have to ask which way the Bushies are likely to go? And consider that the damage Nixon did lived on long after him; much of it is still impacting politics (and hurting Democrats) today. I realize that a lot of people, including me, are impatient with the Dems for being cautious. But they have good reasons to be cautious.
It is possible to lose even if we win. By that I mean that it’s possible the Dems could grow the spine to confront the President and force a withdrawal from Iraq, and yet get the worst of the post-war fallout, which would put the Republicans back in business.
It’s likely that the aftermath of our Iraq adventure will be a nasty business, both here and in the Middle East. Please note what I’m saying here. I’m not saying we should stay in Iraq, but that it’s possible the violence and destabilization will escalate after we leave and create new foreign policy problems that we cannot ignore, the way we pretty much ignored Southeast Asia after Vietnam. I ask again, please read this carefully and don’t whine at me that I am some kind of Bush supporter, because I think these bad things are likely to happen if we stay, also. But the Right is not going to make that distinction, and all crises that arise from the Middle East for the next quarter century are likely to stir up fresh howls about Who lost Iraq? You can bet the Dems in Washington realize this and are thinking hard about it right now.