President Bush and his senior military and foreign policy advisers are beginning to discuss a “post-surge” strategy for Iraq that they hope could gain bipartisan political support. The new policy would focus on training and advising Iraqi troops rather than the broader goal of achieving a political reconciliation in Iraq, which senior officials recognize may be unachievable within the time available.
In other words, they’re warming over the “strategy” from ca. 2004-2005.
The revamped policy, as outlined by senior administration officials, would be premised on the idea that, as the current surge of U.S. troops succeeds in reducing sectarian violence, America’s role will be increasingly to help prepare the Iraqi military to take greater responsibility for securing the country.
“Sectarian violence is not a problem we can fix,” said one senior official. “The Iraqi government needs to show that it can take control of the capital.” U.S. officials offer a somber evaluation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: His Shiite-dominated government is weak and sectarian, but they have concluded that, going forward, there is no practical alternative.
I concur with the Carpetbagger’s analysis:
Indeed, reading Ignatiusâ€™s piece is a thoroughly frustrating exerience. He explains in one sentence that the surge strategy is predicated on reducing sectarian violence, and then explains in the very next sentence that â€œsectarian violence is not a problem we can fix.â€
In the next paragraph, Ignatius notes that the Maliki government is overtly sectarian, which leads to additional violence, and the Bush administration is content to empower the Maliki government further, in order to help reduce sectarian violence.
You can read the whole bleeping column if you like. Essentially, there’s not a dadblamed thing in the “post-surge plan” that the Bushies haven’t been talking about since 2004. This doesn’t surprise me. What amazes me (and I realize it shouldn’t) is the gee-whiz earnestness with which Ignatius presents the “new” plan as if it really were new. Does he not notice it isn’t? Does he think we won’t?
Ignatius compares the “new” plan to the Baker Commission recommendations. But I’d be willing to bet the “new” plan is a rewrite of the “Strategy for Victory” document the Bushies unveiled with such fanfare in 2005. Even now Bushies are huddled in the West Wing, brainstorming new packaging concepts for the old product.
The Baker recommendations weren’t innovative. As I wrote last December, the whole point of the Baker Commission was to provide Bush with a way out of the Iraq hole he’d dug for himself.
Most analysis of the ISG report that I’ve seen says pretty plainly that it gives the President about as much butt covering — a way to exit Iraq without looking like a flipflopper — as he is likely to get. In fact, it’s obvious that the report was crafted more as a political gift to Bush than an actual Best Possible Plan for getting out of Iraq (clearly, it isn’t). I can’t think of any president in American history who has been given such a gift when he’s been in trouble.
In return for these considerations, the commission generously avoided revisiting the whole question of who got us into this fiasco and how. As the Washington Post put it, “The panel appeared to steer away from language that might inflame the Bush administration.” Of course, “inflame” is a word typically associated with street mobs or other irrational actors. The fact that the president can be “inflamed” is no longer considered surprising enough to merit comment.
If Bush had more smarts than he has narcissism he’d find a way to embrace the ISG report and work with what supporters in Congress he still has. Instead, it’s obvious he’s going to blow it off and continue to do whatever it is he’s doing.
The “surge” plan was Bush’s way of stealing thunder from the Baker commission. I sincerely believe that was the whole point of it. When Bush realized he was being maneuvered into ending his war, he whipped together some generals and others who would endorse doing just the opposite of what Baker et al. proposed, and he played that like a trump card. Whether the escalation would succeed was never the point.
All the talk about Republicans withdrawing support from the war in September must have Bush spooked. Now that he thinks he might be backed into a corner once the “surge” doesn’t work as advertised, he’ll make some show of accepting the Baker Commission recommendations. Except that it won’t be those recommendations — as tepid as they were — but some substitute made with dextrose, sorbitan monostearate and artificial flavors, and labeled “with real Baker Commission taste!”
And if Dems don’t accept the “new” plans, they’ll be accused of being “partisan.”
See also Sam Rosenfeld.