Kick the Can

David Ignatius writes in today’s Washington Post:

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 Ignatius’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 “sectarian violence is not a problem we can fix.”

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.

As Jonathan Chait explains,

    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.

7 thoughts on “Kick the Can

  1. I think the Bushies need some mass marketing help from Protor and Gamble. They could put the old strategy in a new box labeled, “Train the Iraqis! Now with Blue Crystals!”


  2. Does anybody really believe that, when September comes, there will be some resolution of the Iraq war? Petraeus will, in my opinion, present an “appraisal” that will say, in effect, ” We have made some progress, and we are making progress every day. But there are still many problems that we must address”. Many in the press believe that September will be “The Answer”. How can they be so stupid?

    In other words, does anyone believe he will give a one sided report–either way?? He will leave everything to the politicians–and then Bush and his cronies can say–“See, the General says we are making progress So, we must STAY and send more troops”
    Do YOU really think that September will solve anything???If so, you are dreaming! Just wait and see..Another Bush promise/lie that drags it out while more young Americans die every day!

  3. J. Wade — Bush will never agree to withdrawing troops no matter what General Petraeus says. I can’t imagine anyone who thinks otherwise. The point is not what Bush will do, but what Congress will do.

    Congress does have the constitutional authority to step in and stop the war, if it chooses to, but a veto-proof (2/3) majority is required. We’re a long way away from that now. The rumor (and I’m not saying this will happen) is that a substantial number of Republicans in Congress will drop their support of the war in September if there isn’t a substantial improvement in the situation in Iraq by then. This may be making Bush nervous. I speculate that he’s sending out feelers for a possible new PR offensive to keep Republicans on the reservation.

  4. This is classic Bush strategy. Tell people what (he thinks) they want to hear, while you continue to do what you want to do.

    There is a simple counter. You link signing on to the ‘new” plan to specific troop withdrawls. “Mr. President, what a GREAT idea. Since the emphasis on trining up the army will require less involvement in combat operations, when can we draw down troop levels and by how much. We are certain you are sincere and will have no objection to committing to a phased redeplymnet.. That is the idea, right?”

    When Bush hedges, you dig in your heels and ask how the new plan, which sounds like a phased withdrawl from combat in the civil war, differs frpm the old plan which is costing GIs and billions every week?”

    We are playing the bigger asshole game, and we need to be agreeable to new plans which reflect the will of the people as expressed in the last election. Make it clear Bush, not Congress is the bigger asshole.

  5. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, added, “Democrats have finally conceded defeat in their effort to include mandatory surrender dates in a funding bill for the troops, so forward progress has been made for the first time in this four-month process.”

  6. Pingback: The Mahablog » The White House Jive

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