Bush’s Speech on Iraq

I didn’t watch it, for the same reason I don’t watch any of Bush’s speeches anymore, which is that the man is simply painful to watch when he tries to form vowels and consonants with his lips and tongue. My understanding from reading the analysis is that Bush managed to be even less persuasive than usual, a sentiment that seemed to be uniform save for those folks who could watch the man fillet a live kitten and intone gravely about how it exemplified his great leadership. It’s just as well I skipped the live show. I just paid a lot of money to repair my television; I would hate to have all that money go to waste when I threw a shoe through the TV screen.

I read it, as reading is my preferred way to deal with the President these days. There were a few moments of what I’m sure is wholly unintentional irony; the man of the “Mission Accomplished” banner on an aircraft carrier really ought not have a line in a speech that says “There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.” But overall it reads as perfectly reasonable.

Which in my mind is the problem. Every time you look at the words this administration uses in describing Iraq and their plans for the country, they look perfectly sensible, especially when you hold them in isolation. When you place them in context – factoring in the situation on the ground in Iraq, this administration’s track record executing this war, the administration’s overall track record with competence and Bush’s own truculent and petulant nature — you realize that words don’t mean much. Even if Bush and his strategists are absolutely correct in their planning — that adding 20,000 troops could stabilize Iraq and get troops on their path to home — my expectation that such a strategy could be competently executed is so low that my baseline assumption is that even if it could work, this administration will find some way to screw it up. I hate that this is my baseline assumption for my government.

As I’ve said numerous times before, this isn’t a red or blue issue, at least for me; it’s a competence issue. The Bush administration has precious little of it, and has never put a premium on it. Words are cheap; competence is dear, and I wish the Bush administration would invest a bit more in the latter (Bush is fortunate that our people in uniform are, by and large, as competent as he appears not to be).

I’ll be very interested to see how this shakes out in the next few months; the war is now deeply unpopular, as is Bush, and now Bush doesn’t have a compliant Congress to do his bidding. I have no illusions that Bush and his folks will go after those who question his plans and his competence, as they’ve always done, but this isn’t 2004 anymore and I wonder how far that will go this time around.

I think the one thing everyone agrees with is that in many ways this is Bush’s last stand on Iraq; what I wonder is whether this will turn out the way anyone expects. If experience is our guide, the answer will be: Of course it won’t.

74 thoughts on “Bush’s Speech on Iraq

  1. How the hell is it that — in a country that used to be a imperfect but still inspiring model of self-rule — a President with a 30% approval rating can blithely go ahead with a plan that only 11% of the populace thinks is a good idea? I mean, I understand the Constitution basis for it, in terms of him being Commander-in-Chief, but why is that the only part of that “goddamned piece of paper” that he seems to give a shit about?

    The Congress needs to bundle up their purse strings and make a garrote.

    (And before anyone gets their undies in a bunch, the purse strings are figurative, therefore the garrote would be as well.)

  2. So the escalation is deeply unpopular: If he’s lost Sam Brownback and Charles Krauthammer, he’s not that far from making a stand with Laura and Barney.

    But is there anything way to stop him? He can put troops in Iraq and dare Congress to cut their supply lines…

  3. Unfortunately I did watch it. While the President’s handlers have worked hard on severl of his “tells” he still has two; the tongue between the lips (or tightly pursed lips, it’s difficult to tell) and the thickness of his Texas accent).

    The one thing I was struck with, and I haven’t read the transcript to verify this, but did he just order a sovereign nation’s military (Iraq’s) to redeploy to Bagdad? And did we just force them to restructure thier government (Military Commanders and chian of command) by our order? I mean, we can ask, we can cajole, we can embed our trainers, but I don’t think the President is the CnC of the Iraqi forces.

    Anway, I’m just glad they can’t force me into uniform anymore. I need to check if my friend’s son received his Honor Discharge yet (the paperwork keeps getting misplaced). Then it’ll be how the Legion is helping with care packages.

  4. Steve, I’m not sure he ordered Iraq’s military to redeploy to Baghdad, but I do know that he essentially told Syria and Iran that we’re not going to have them interefering with us anymore. Which is just totally the wrong track to take with those two nations, regardless of how odious their regimes are, and potentially could lead to a widening of the war.

    Which is damn scary, if you ask me.

  5. I watched him. I don’t like getting boinked without some sweet talk first. My best friend is being surged as we speak. He is like my son. How many tours will these poor soldiers do. I feel ill. So much worst than when I was Vietnam. At least we had whiskey and hookers.

    As for Krauthammer—take his Strunk and White away and hang him. His crime? Criminal misuse of the 1st Ammendment and I don’t like that look in his eye. String him up.

    You’re right, John, it’s gone way beyond red and blue.

  6. One of the things that makes me angry is that now I have to root for the stupid plan to actually work, because if by some fluke it does work, it would be immeasurably better than if it didn’t. So while saying that I think it’s a terrible idea, and saying (as you point out) that even if it were a terrific idea, I wouldn’t trust them to actually do it properly, I am also rooting for some sort of miracle to make it all turn out all right. Somebody was saying it’s like watching a jerk at a bar get behind the wheel and drive off drunk and weaving. He’s a prick for doing it, and you wish you had found a way to stop it, but now that it’s started, you just hope to hell he doesn’t kill anyone before he gets home.

    Thanks,
    -V.

  7. Jenny, in case you haven’t heard this morning, around 4am local time we stormed the Iranian Consolate in northern (Kurdish) Iraq. Somebody remind me, please, that consolates aren’t sovereign property. Only embassies, right? Because if it is, we just gave Iran casus belli. One of the pieces of fall out from that were Kurdish Forces and US Forces engaged in a stare down over cocked (as the reporter told it) weapons. So not good.

  8. Steve,

    I’m absolutely not sure, but I think that only full-fledged embassies are sovereign property. Still, obviously provocative. I’m guessing that with this and the rhetoric and the naval moves, Bush is trying to get a reaction that he can respond to in force. And if he doesn’t get one, who’s dumb enough to claim that he won’t get one manufactured?

    (Kurdish Forces? Sweet Loki, is there anybody on the planet we haven’t pissed off yet?)

  9. I’m absolutely not sure, but I think that only full-fledged embassies are sovereign property. Still, obviously provocative. I’m guessing that with this and the rhetoric and the naval moves, Bush is trying to get a reaction that he can respond to in force.

    Respond with *what*? Him and what army?

  10. You know, the only thing I think Rumsfeld got right was having Special Forces in Afghanistan as advisors and supporting the air force, so that native Afghanis could do the fighting. But instead of using those types of insurgency tactics in Iraq, where it might work, we think that dumping more troops into the country will make things better.

    So, pretty much Bush and this administration is the most incompetent ever, they don’t know how to fight an insurgency, and now my brother is probably going to have to go to Iraq after already spending time in Afghanistan.

    Why did anyone re-elect this piece of crap, bellicose, disconnected, ignorant and arrogant jerk anyway? Nation building my ass.

  11. Respond with *what*? Him and what army?

    Hell if I know. Maybe he’s thinking he can keep it to an air and sea fight. Not that those folks aren’t already stretched as well …

    Sure, picking a fight with Iran right now seems like it’d be insane. But it’s not like the folks in charge have ever shown signs of being reality-based.

  12. “One day President Roosevelt told me that he was asking publicly for suggestions about what the war should be called. I said at once ‘The Unnecessary War’.”

    - Sir Winston Churchill

  13. Was I the only one who heard all of the glowing words about Afghanistan and thought “but all of the news stories out of there talk about how the Taliban is back as strong as ever and how the US is basically holding a few bases there and that is it”

  14. Consulates are subordinate to the Embassy. They are protected under international law, and are considered part of a sovereign state diplomatic mission.

  15. Re: “a sentiment that seemed to be uniform save for those folks who could watch the man fillet a live kitten and intone gravely about how it exemplified his great leadership.”

    I think you’re characterizing this position in an unfair light. Picture this: suppose that every day, over the entire course of his presidency, instead of going about the business of being the President, President Bush went in front of television cameras, and strangled a puppy.

    No war in Iraq. No new environmental ‘regulations’. We’d still have Habeas Corpus. No ‘extraordinary rendition’. No Guantanamo. No “Total Information Awareness”. No lip service to energy independence while providing huge tax breaks to oil companies. No turning the first budget surplus in my lifetime into the largest deficit ever. No tax credits for the rich. No thousands of soldiers and hundreds of thousands of civilians dead. No war expenditures approaching $1000 from every American man, woman, and child.

    None of that. Just a thousand-odd dead puppies.

    Animal shelters kill that many dogs every day.

    President Bush, I beg you: please strangle more puppies. And Scalzi readers: please join my letter-writing campaign. Urge the President to strangle puppies.

  16. “Why did we re-elect President Bush? Because President John Kerry would have been a far, far worse choice.”

    How?

    I ask this in all seriousness: how could Kerry have been any worse, in any semi-plausible way? (Barring him going insane in the Oval Office and starting a WWIII, for example.)

  17. I’m at the point where I have nothing to say about this anymore.

    I will say that the area I’m in has gotten a lot better since I’ve been over here. But I’m not sure if we’re actually controlling the insurgency or just pushing them outwards from our position; they keep hitting local IP stations pretty regularly.

    Did anyone else catch that quote from a Somali official today asking us to send ground troops over there now? (I’m assuming everyone knows we performed an airstrike over there against suspected Al-Quaeda leaders.) I saw that and said “Aw, hell no.” That’s the last thing we need right now. (Although, in fairness, no one on our side has even speculated that we might actually do that.)

    Huey: What’s funny is that that would not have gotten him re-elected.

  18. Why did we re-elect President Bush? Because President John Kerry would have been a far, far worse choice.

    How’s that alt-history novel coming? Did Regnery press send the advance yet? I especially loved the part where President-For-Life Kerry and Secretary Of Lesbianism Hillary Rodham ass rape a bussload of schoolchildren, and sell them to Osama Bin Ladin, using the profits to fund trial lawyers who are taking away our rights to arm ourselves against the salvering hordes of illegal immigrant abortionists.

    Did I miss anything in there? Oh yeah, the big ending where Kerry was about to cancel Christmas, but was killed by Bill O’Reillys’s FOX Commando Liberation Army.

  19. Patrick in the Phillipines:

    Someone might want to proofread that.

    “…sorted out them Sunnis from the Shits,” indeed.

  20. It would be more than a red/blue issue if Conservatives were capable of seeing that that emperor is not actually wearing any clothes.

    But they’re not, for the most part. there are a few token dissentors, btu they don’t make policy. Conservatives, and even liberal Republicans are following Bush off a cliff, an they’re taking the rest of the world with them.

  21. I didn’t watch it, or read the transcript for that matter and didn’t have to. I knew exactly what he was going to say. That man will not change his mind on anything no matter what.

    “who could watch the man fillet a live kitten and intone gravely about how it exemplified his great leadership” – these are the people who scare me most and are the most dangerous for this country.

    The sad thing is that there will be buildings and airports named after this guy and some will still talk about him as a “great president”

  22. I ask this in all seriousness: how could Kerry have been any worse, in any semi-plausible way? (Barring him going insane in the Oval Office and starting a WWIII, for example.)

    Which would only have been worse in that Bush hasn’t started WWIII. Yet.

  23. I mean don’t get me wrong people. I love my Country being born and raised in the SF Bay Area. But it is our current leadership that helped me to decide to live and work in Europe. I just got fed up with the stack of lies and a Republican dominated Congress on a 3 day work week that works more for “The Corporate Man” Than for the American people. So here I am in Vienna….
    Funny thing is I have not heard one person from Europe say one positive thing about the current US Goverment Administration. Hmmm… BUT IF I HEAR ONE MORE ARNOLD JOKE!!! Then…THEN….GRRR WHERE DID I PUT THAT MP35!?!?!
    j/k.I still laugh at the Arnold jokes ;)
    I think in about 75 years the EU will be just like the U.S. anyways.

  24. RayI think in about 75 years the EU will be just like the U.S. anyways.

    In that the parts of both that aren’t jungle or desert will be under water?

    Sorry, feeling quite depressed about the future…

  25. Scalzi: “…fortunate that our people in uniform are, by and large…competent”

    It’s not fortune, it’s (mostly) by design, but I sincerely appreciate the compliment as given. Thanks, John. The ability of most Americans to differentiate support for the troops from support for the war (as opposed to the sentiments of the 60′s and 70′) is a great thing – despite Jon Marcus’ current gloomy feelings. Cheer-up Jon, nothing lasts forever.

    I say most Americans, this doesn’t include my asshat of a neighbor who took down his American flag and won’t speak to me because I refuse to take off my uniform and run away to Canada (He has also called me a murderer and put up no-trespassing signs on our mutual property line). But that’s okay, I’ll defend his right to be a jackass anyway (but mostly because THAT pisses him off even more…).

  26. Yes I too believe that NYC will be under water in the next 10 yrs. No snow in the entire month of December. Some how I’m sure George Bush is to blame, even if the weather people keep saying its a cold front and warm front cancelling each other out.

  27. Jon “Sorry, feeling quite depressed about the future…”

    Dude…No worries. I know a few good books that you might get lost in. ;-). OR…just be glad your not in the country that is receiving more troops. GREAT NOW I’M DEPRESSED..I think its typing on a Euro-keyboard thats causing it though.

  28. “The Congress needs to bundle up their purse strings and make a garrote.”

    They’d probably pay a political price for that in the long run as a narrative would be constructed blaming them for the failure of the War in Iraq. I think the Democratic leadership has made the strategic decision to criticize this president at every turn but to give him enough rope to hang himself. The last thing they want to do is take political ownership for Iraq away from George Bush.

    Ya I know, I’m pretty damn cynical.

  29. I’m not the least bit optimistic about this changing anything. I’m pretty convinced that this was destined to turn to shit from the very beginning.

    I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not we should have ever gone into Iraq, but I’ve always been of the opinion that the idea of “Liberating” Iraq was a stupid idea. Did we really think that if we got rid of Saddam and a few other “bad guys”, everyone else would rejoice in the streets and throw flowers at our feet?

    In WWII, we conquered the shit out of Germany and Japan and then we pretty much dictated to them how their new governments were going to work. And we hung around for a good long time to make sure that’s what happened. We also had a Marshall Plan that actually dealt with things like feeding people and getting the power turned back on.

    There’s just no such thing as a warm and fuzzy war, and that’s what Bush tried to sell us.

  30. Compliant congress? We don’t need no stinking compliant congress!

    “The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way.” – White House Press Secretary Tony Snow

  31. I have to wonder if there’s a race of brain-sucking, spine-and-testicle-eating alien slugs living under Capitol Hill? That would explain soooo much.

    Personally, I think Bush has committed just enough troops to lose (which sounds dreadfully familiar) but the lack of a workable alternative anyone wants to be held accountable for from Congress is equally dispiriting. Cranking up the fog machine on the campaign trail is depressingly predictable, but FFS people… you’ve got a majority, so what do you really think? Just forget the first Tuesday in November 2008 for a few minutes.

  32. Well, strange as this may sound there’s vast tracts of the planet whose inhabitants don’t spend every waking moment gazing into the United States’ navel.

  33. StarDragon:

    And with all due respect, I think there are many folks in America’s political/cultural and media elites who would vastly improved by having these words tattooed on the inside of their eyelids: IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU – and AFAIC, that applies equally to the mindless jingoism of the rabid right and the narcissistic self-regard of the loony left.

  34. There’s more than one way to filet a live kitten.

    Seriously, does anyone in the US listen to what their presidential office says, anymore?

    My prediction for 2007: the equivalent of the Tet Offensive will happen in, or around, Iraq that will be a turning point for many. Unfortunately, this prediction means plenty of body bags for the US (and plenty of “collateral damage” that always seems to be considered as an afterthought), so I’m not, you know, hoping this prediction comes true.

    I can’t even spell chaudenfruede. Shaundenfredue. Schoenburg.

  35. Something More To Consider

    I really don’t think this is a troop surge at all. I think the Administration is looking at several other developing factors and decided that we needed more boots on the ground.
    Iran doesn’t want us out of Iraq … no matter what rhetoric they spew. Iran likes the fact that this war is bleeding our country literally and financially.
    Iran has the ability to close off the Strait of Hormuz. Blocking all ship traffic out of the Persian Gulf (ie. OIL).
    The rebels in Nigeria are becoming more and more sophisticated in their weaponry and tactics. They are obviously being funded by deep pockets and it is their wish to disrupt/destroy the coastal oil operations.
    A coordinated attack on oil production and shipping would quickly push the price of oil well over $100 dollars a barrel (if not higher), effectively bringing our economy to a grinding halt. Massive job cuts and large jumps in the prices of goods that are transported (by truck) to retail.
    The Israelis are itchin’ to blast the hell out of Iran to, once again, disrupt their nuclear ambitions. It would be a whole lot smarter for them to do such a thing with a strong, American military presence right next door.
    Makes the sacking of the Iranian Consulate seem that much more ominous … doesn’t it?

  36. I won’t deny that the speech was… less than inspiring. But I definitely believe that a surge could help. Even more, a change in tactics can help–taking and HOLDING objectives instead of handing them over to the Iraqis who are clearly not up to the task, yet.

    What really burns my bacon is our ADD/ADHD MTV generation instant gratification attitude. “Wow, the war in Iraq has been going on for FOUR YEARS! That’s like, FOREVER! We should be done by now! Bring the boys back home!”

    Of course, we can’t be bothered to know things like, history. Like the fact that we occupied Japan for six years, and still have troops on Japanese soil 61 years later. Still have troops in Germany. Still have troops in Korea.

    BTW, I’ve seen the elephant, myself. Been there, done that. Personally, I’d prefer that we pull EVERYTHING out of the Middle East, stop buying their oil, drill for our own (until we can get alternative energy sources going) and just let the bastards choke on the sand. But that’s just a fantasy and has little to do with current reality.

    The reality is that the insurgent forces in Iraq cannot defeat us. The only place we can be defeated is here, at home, in our own politics. When Al Jazeera and Iran are cheering on the Democrats, you know you’re doing something wrong.

  37. Steve Buchheit

    The one thing I was struck with, and I haven’t read the transcript to verify this, but did he just order a sovereign nation’s military (Iraq’s) to redeploy to Bagdad? And did we just force them to restructure thier government (Military Commanders and chian of command) by our order? I mean, we can ask, we can cajole, we can embed our trainers, but I don’t think the President is the CnC of the Iraqi forces.

    That’s precisely what was done. The old way was to defer to the Iraqi’s in matters of security and that was part of the problem. The new way was to say: “Look, here is what needs to be done, Clear, Hold, Rebuild. And we need to disarm all militias including the ones that support you politicaly. Now, you can either agree with us or we will leave. Your choice.” So this is the result of that conversation.

    Vardibidian

    One of the things that makes me angry is that now I have to root for the stupid plan to actually work, because if by some fluke it does work, it would be immeasurably better than if it didn’t. So while saying that I think it’s a terrible idea, and saying (as you point out) that even if it were a terrific idea, I wouldn’t trust them to actually do it properly, I am also rooting for some sort of miracle to make it all turn out all right.

    I love you, man.

    This is the precise attitude I would hope any political opponent of the President would take.

    Steve Buchheit

    Jenny, in case you haven’t heard this morning, around 4am local time we stormed the Iranian Consolate in northern (Kurdish) Iraq. Somebody remind me, please, that consolates aren’t sovereign property. Only embassies, right? Because if it is, we just gave Iran casus belli. One of the pieces of fall out from that were Kurdish Forces and US Forces engaged in a stare down over cocked (as the reporter told it) weapons. So not good.

    I do believe that the Iranian consolate is Iranian territory. I also do not expect Iran to enagage us militarily. That would be foolish. We have moved two aricraft carrier groups into the region with a third on standby. Their forces would be sitting ducks.

    The reason for this raid was not to provoke the Iranians into a fight. The reason for this raid was to gather intelligence on the Iranian forces and supply lines already in Iraq. We now know for a fact (and I blogged about this a week or so ago) that Iran is shipping in arms, money and other material into Iraq. And they are coordinating these activities through the embassies. If you look at the reports, you will find that US forces removed all of the computers from the consolate. The intention is to get actionable intelligence that will be used to roll up the rat lines from Iran to Iraq to interdict those supply lines.

    It also seems, both from Bush’s speech and subsequent statements by others in the Administration, there will be a serious effort to defend Iraq’s borders from Syrian and Iranian operatives.

    This is one of the reasons for the added Carrier group: There will likely be one air operation group monitoring the borders at all times.

    Todd Stull

    You know, the only thing I think Rumsfeld got right was having Special Forces in Afghanistan as advisors and supporting the air force, so that native Afghanis could do the fighting. But instead of using those types of insurgency tactics in Iraq, where it might work, we think that dumping more troops into the country will make things better.

    There is no doubt that Rumsfeld got this part right. Look at what we just did in Somalia using this method.

    But this can’t work with counter-insurgency. With counter-insurgency you need to “clear, Hold, and Build” that takes lots of people. The old plan just left Iraqi’s to “hold”. That didn’t work. The new plan calls for Iranqis and a significat US force to “hold”. It also reinstitutes the CERP plan that was very successful at the beginning.

  38. CoolBlue,

    There’s a difference between saying, “We would really like it if you did this,” and undercutting the government we helped install by eliminating their command structure. Fortunately, in reading the transcript, the President did say that he asked Maliki and they came to agreement to institute the changes and redeployment we asked for. If the President were just giving orders, this would make all those elections the Iraqis held null and void. That may not be a bad idea from a practical standpoint, but we would then never had a stable nation state in Iraq because the people would never trust us again.

    “The reason for this raid was not to provoke the Iranians into a fight.”

    No, but we just gave them legal cause and justification. I agree it was probably to gather intelligence, but it was a stupid action. We already have fragments of munitions from two years ago to show Iranian involvement. Aren’t we watching the borders? We could gather this intelligence other ways. And by doing this we pissed of the Peshmerga, people who we really need on our side right at the moment.

    ” If you look at the reports, you will find that US forces removed all of the computers from the consulate.”

    There is also talk that we took prisoners. You don’t do that. If they’re on the road, and engaged in activities, yeah, sure, fair game. But you don’t pull people out of embassies/consulates. That’s bad states craft. By doing this we just opened a can of worms that won’t confine itself to Iraq.

    “But this can’t work with counter-insurgency”

    On this point we agree. It’s one of my criticisms about how this war was fought. It’s now going to cost a whole lot more than it would have back in 2004. And I still don’t’ trust Iraqi Forces. But the insurgency must have the feeling, even if they don’t see us that as soon as they move there might be a patrol of US Soldiers waiting with guns hot just around the next corner.

    The path to victory is now very narrow.

  39. Steve Buchheit

    There’s a difference between saying, “We would really like it if you did this,” and undercutting the government we helped install by eliminating their command structure. Fortunately, in reading the transcript, the President did say that he asked Maliki and they came to agreement to institute the changes and redeployment we asked for.

    Of course we don’t know, but I’m thinking we are both right here. I think we did get their input and agreement. But I also think that there were parameters that we set down within which the new plan had to fall or else we would take our marbles and go home.

    To some extent, maybe to a large extent, the political discourse in this country made the “bluff” possible. The Iraqi government had to know that the American people, or at least the political class, is ready to pull the plug if no progress is made.

    we just gave them legal cause and justification. I agree it was probably to gather intelligence, but it was a stupid action.

    We disagree here. It is essential to success to interdict the supply lines comming from Iran. And, we have to let the Iranians know that support for insurgency cuts both ways. Consider this report from al Jazeera today

    Three explosions have occurred in the south of Iran, an Iranian news agency reported.

    The explosions were recorded on Thursday in Khorramshahr in the Iranian border province of Khuzestan.

    “The three explosions were so strong that they shook windows of houses,” the semi-official Fars news agency said.

    Khuzestan is the centre of Iran’s oil industry, and has been an area of unrest with a majority Arab population.

    Now you have to keep in mind that Iran’s oil infrastructure is declining and the economy there is pretty bad. So it is quite possible that this was a homegrown attack. But the Iranians have to be thinking that the US is involved with supporting anti-government groups within Iran. The ISG group talked about negotiating with Iran. Well that’s all fine and good so long as there is something on the table for us to exchange other than conceding to their nuke program.

    I am all for a tougher stance against Iran that falls short of a military invasion. And to my mind, there is a lot of room between what we were doing and invasion that we haven’t, until now, exploited.

    There is also talk that we took prisoners. You don’t do that. If they’re on the road, and engaged in activities, yeah, sure, fair game. But you don’t pull people out of embassies/consulates. That’s bad states craft.

    Again we disagree. We know that Iranians comming through the embassies have been caught on the field of battle. To get actionable intelligence, we need to surprise them and get the info from the source quickly enough to use it. This falls within by statement above.

    On this point we agree. It’s one of my criticisms about how this war was fought. It’s now going to cost a whole lot more than it would have back in 2004.

    We agree on this. We should have taken out al Sadr in 2004. And there shouldn’t have been two battles for Fallujah in 2004. But the politics thatlead to the two battles is indicative of the problems of the strategy as a whole up until now.

    Bing West excellent book “No True Glory” details this.

    And I still don’t’ trust Iraqi Forces. But the insurgency must have the feeling, even if they don’t see us that as soon as they move there might be a patrol of US Soldiers waiting with guns hot just around the next corner.

    With regards to trusting Iraqi’s, the Iraqi General incharge of Baghdad reportedly has picked his troops” And they are Kurds. Which I think is a wise choice for going against the Sunni and Shi’a militias. The whole ethnic thing get sidelined.

    Also I think the new US General, Patreas is a good choice. My guess is if anyone can do it, he can. Conversely I feel that if he can’t do it, no one on team can.

    And it also seems, the new rules of engagement have been in effect since last Saturday.

    And now we are coming for al Sadr’s group directly.

  40. This surge is also a set-up. The Democrats are between a rock and a hard place. If they don’t support the President’s plan, failure in Iraq will be blamed on them. If they do support the plan, they can’t run on Iraq in 2008 without the flip-flop label being slapped on.

    Either way, Iraq loses and the President can say “mission accomplished.”

  41. Justme

    This surge is also a set-up. The Democrats are between a rock and a hard place. If they don’t support the President’s plan, failure in Iraq will be blamed on them. If they do support the plan, they can’t run on Iraq in 2008 without the flip-flop label being slapped on.

    I don’t think it’s a setup at all, at least not by Republicans.

    Here’s the deal: The Democrats used Left wing and “Progressive” groups to help them take power. Now the more the Democrats appeal to the center, the less they need the Left wing: they will replace them with “Security” Independents and Moderate Republicans (remember, neo-cons for the most part are disaffected Democrats.)

    So you will see some bluster on the part of the Democrats, but no real action. Why? Because while many are dissatisfied with the war, very few want us to lose.

    If Bush fails, Democrats will use that. And their bluster will keep the Left wing contributing money and voting. But if things get better, Demcrats will claim they forced Bush to accept many of their proposals (and they will be able to make an acceptable case for this as I blogged yesterday) and capture the center and abandon the Left altogether.

    The center is always the key. Democrats know this as do Republicans.

    The Left, on the other hand, thinks they are the center.

    But then they wouldn’t be called Left if that were true.

  42. CoolBlue, “And they are Kurds. Which I think is a wise choice for going against the Sunni and Shi’a militias. The whole ethnic thing get sidelined.”

    Actually I think the opposite is true. This smacks of Soviet tactics. In Afghanistan we broke down clan and tribe by mixing the army in training. That’s what we should have been enforcing with the Iraqi military. If the troops in Baghdad are all Kurdish, my guess is that it will expand the ethnic conflict to a three-sided war. It might also have the benefit of temporarily uniting sectarian factions between Sunni and Shia to fight the Kurds. The benefit of that would be to continue to sideline al-Qaeda’s influence over the Sunni. It would have been better if we had a professional Iraqi force composed of Sunni and Shia deployed to Baghdad. The presence of that type of force, along with the living example of co-existence, would have been so much more effective.

    I’m not sure keeping border-states (Syria and Iran) in line with fear is a good plan. It worked for Saddam, but was short term and lead to the economic sanctions and eventually was justification for the war. However, Saddam also ruled internally through fear as well. He only had one trick. Fear didn’t work very well for Rome. The best strategy was keeping the border tribes at each other’s throats.

    And I still will say that raiding the consulate was bad states craft. It shows the mindset of the administration that “we are in the right, so all we do is right.” That’s a bad thought process. The consulate grounds shouldn’t have been crossed militarily. We have all sorts of ways to eavesdrop, and off the grounds the officials are fair game if they’re involved in illegal activities. Inside the grounds, you don’t go there unless you declare war. Even then you give them time to evacuate. By doing this we sent a signal to the world that we neither care for nor will honor international agreements and convention. That’s a dangerous escalation that won’t be confined to Iraq.

  43. I’ve got a nephew in the Marines in Baghdad, and thought that I should really try to watch the speech, since, if nothing else, this could effect him. However, after about 30 seconds, I had to turn it off. Except for one state of the union address I watched with friends, wherein we drank every time W stumbled over a word, said “weapon of mass destruction” (doubles for ‘nuke-u-ler’), I think I’ve watched a sum total of about ten minutes of Bush speaking since the kindler, gentler coup d’etat.

    Being a Detroiter, I know a lot of Iraqis, and like just about every other people on Earth, the vast majority would rather just have a decent job, watch TV and raise their kids. I wish we could find a way to get the US out of Iraq without an Iraqi civil war, but I’m afraid that time has passed.

  44. “Yes I too believe that NYC will be under water in the next 10 yrs.”

    Nah (Unless you mean storm surge or a tsunami). The worst case scenario gives about a 15 meter rise (and not over ten years). A good chunk of NYC is above the +15 meter line. Here’s a fun toy to play with:

    http://flood.firetree.net/

    [Usual disclaimers]

    And the potential sources of sea level rise are:

    Location Volume Potential sea-level
    (km^3) rise (m)
    East Antarctic Ice Sheet 26,039,200 64.80
    West Antarctic Ice Sheet 3,262,000 8.06
    Antarctic Peninsula 227,100 0.46

    Greenland 2,620,000 6.55

    All other ice caps, ice
    fields and valley glaciers 180,000 0.45

    Total 32,328,300 80.32

    Note that the EAIS seems to be pretty immune to climate change.

    The places not to live in the US during a warming period are found in the south (relatively low elevation, relatively shallow slopes).

  45. I agree the surge isn’t a setup, but not for exactly the reasons CoolBlue lays out. It’s not a setup simply because the jig is up. Everyone outside Sean Hannity’s head realizes the endgame in Iraq is now simply a matter of degrees of defeat. The question is whether the ruin of Iraq can be contained within its borders or will ensnare the rest of the Middle East. Either way, 20,000 more troops are too many to put at risk and too few to make a serious difference. The bipartisan lashing Condoleezza Rice sustained in the Senate yesterday indicates the emerging nature of the debate. More than ever, it’s the president against a growing phalanx of sane people. Everyone (or 70% of everyone, anyway. and heading north) knows this is Bush’s war and Bush’s failure. There’s no trap for Democrats here, and the only trap for Republicans (particularly those seeking the presidency) is failing to disassociate themselves sufficiently from the Bush debacle.

  46. My fear is that the appropriate humorous reference for our “new strategy” isn’t Python but Futurama, with the president apparently mistaking the Iraqi insurgents for killbots:

    Zapp Brannigan: You see, Killbots have a preset kill limit. Knowing their weakness, I sent wave after wave of my own men at them, until they reached their limit and shut down.

    As for the actual speech: from what I’ve been able to stomach, it sounds like the president has simply adopted the tried-and-true strategy of seeding an inoperative and incompetent local army with our troops and weapons in order to fight insurgent forces committed to forcing us out of the country and unifying the country under their own ideology. You know, the same basic strategy we employed so effectively in Vietnam… hey… hold on a minute…. That strategy didn’t work in Vietnam at all. What’s going on here?

  47. Actually, our military was doing pretty well in Vietnam. We were killing the crap outta the NVA. But we had a couple of big obstacles: they kept running across an imaginary line into Laos where our politics kept us from pursuing/bombing the crap outta them (oh yeah, we did eventually, but too little too late, and we eventually stopped again). AND social change back here in the States affected politics enough to pull our troops out. The resulting slaughter should serve as a poignant reminder of what happens when we leave before the job is done.

  48. John Wright:

    The ability of most Americans to differentiate support for the troops from support for the war (as opposed to the sentiments of the 60′s and 70′) is a great thing – despite Jon Marcus’ current gloomy feelings. Cheer-up Jon, nothing lasts forever.

    Fair enough. One question I do have is how am I to interpret those (usually retired) military guys who try, in the letters column of small-town newspapers, to squelch anti-war opinions by saying, “I fought for your right to free speech!” (That is, their intentions seem to be, “I fought for your right to free speech…now please have the consideration to never exercise it!”)

    I agree, Mr. Wright: Most Americans have figured out the distinction between being anti-war and being anti-military. But there seems like a hard, bitter little gallstone of ex-military men who have not figured it out.

  49. But we had a couple of big obstacles: they kept running across an imaginary line into Laos where our politics kept us from pursuing/bombing the crap outta them…

    Riiiiiiight . . . Of course, our solution to THAT problem was to try and topple the Pathat Lao by recruiting the Green and White Hmong into our own local army. Yeah, that was a smart and ethical move on our part. It’d be like someone giving the Navajo rifles, whiskey, and incendiary leaflets and then sending them off to try and topple the U.S. government. At least we were good enough to offer hundreds of thousands of Hmong (the fraction who weren’t wiped out in the EASILY foreseeable Pathat Lao retaliation) refuge in the United States.

    …where our politics kept us from pursuing/bombing the crap outta them (oh yeah, we did eventually, but too little too late, and we eventually stopped again).

    We dropped more tonnage of bombs in EACH of the years 1967 through 1971 on the North Vietnamese than were dropped by ALL nations in all the years of WWII combined.

    But who knows? Maybe another bajillion megatons would’ve made the difference.

    AND social change back here in the States affected politics enough to pull our troops out. The resulting slaughter should serve as a poignant reminder of what happens when we leave before the job is done.

    Damn social change. Damn literate voters who decided that Judeo-Christian principles were incompatible with an open-ended war with no good end in sight. Damn citizens intuiting Orson Scott Card’s idea for the Eleventh Commandment: “We have no quarrel with our neighbor’s neighbor’s neighbor. When they argue, shut the door and do no listen.”

  50. J

    Actually, it’s just hard to have spent years of your life leaving blood, sweat, and tears in various crappy parts of the world and then to hear so much negative press from the media. We know better.

  51. John

    Actually, our military was doing pretty well in Vietnam. We were killing the crap outta the NVA. But we had a couple of big obstacles: they kept running across an imaginary line into Laos where our politics kept us from pursuing/bombing the crap outta them (oh yeah, we did eventually, but too little too late, and we eventually stopped again).

    This is true. Today, think Iran and Syria. And in Afghanistan: Waziristan.

    Also, for the vast majority of our time in Vietnam, we never really attempted to destroy the North’s warmaking capability. So you could essentially add North Vietnam to Loas and Cambodia as safe havens.

    I would also argue that we never did the counter-insurgency thing in Vietnam. We never did the Clear, Hold, and Rebuild. Instead, we went for a war of attrition which, it was felt, we would eventually win. Given that we lost 54,000 while the enemy lost over a million, that may have eventually been true. But its a heluva way to run a war.

    AND social change back here in the States affected politics enough to pull our troops out. The resulting slaughter should serve as a poignant reminder of what happens when we leave before the job is done.

    True enough. But the stakes are higher in Iraq. The dominos could (and did) fall in SE Asia, and at the time it didn’t really affect US security interests. Vietnam was more of an “altruistic” exercise. In Iraq, if the dominos fall, it will be a disaster of staggering proportions and repercussions.

  52. CoolBlue,

    I definitely agree that the stakes are higher in Iraq. All the more reason to stick it out.

    It sucks. Believe me I know. I have buddies over there, guys I call by their first name, guys I’ve hoisted many a brew with. I feel their pain, I fear for their safety, and I know their loneliness and homesickness. But I also know that they are doing what they joined up to do. And I know how important it is, for us, for them, that we succeed in Iraq.

  53. John

    I definitely agree that the stakes are higher in Iraq. All the more reason to stick it out.

    It sucks. Believe me I know. I have buddies over there, guys I call by their first name, guys I’ve hoisted many a brew with. I feel their pain, I fear for their safety, and I know their loneliness and homesickness. But I also know that they are doing what they joined up to do. And I know how important it is, for us, for them, that we succeed in Iraq.

    I’m with you. My son spent 13 months in Iraq with the 25th. (Here’s some pictures from his deployment.) And he is currently in the Army Guard and may have to go again.

    Being involved with Soldiers Angels, I hear whats up. The biggest complaints I hear is that the rules of engagement were too stringent. That seems to have changed.

  54. J: “John Wright” it’s Jim Wright actually, but I’ve been called worse, no worries.

    I can’t speak for any body else, and wouldn’t try to, whether they are active duty like me or retired, as I soon will be. So, this is ONLY my personal opinion: people are people, whether former military or not, but career military folks as a group are by nature pretty damned opinioned and strong willed, our profession tends to attract (or maybe create) type-A personalities and we tend to speak bluntly. We generally feel pretty strongly about certain things, such as the US Constitution, since we’ve sworn to give our lives in direct defense of the ideals embodied in that document. I, for one, tend to be damned outspoken about it – and that’s one of the reasons I feel that the devil bedamned Patriot Act is an ominous harbinger of the future, but the fact that some Americans (AMERICANS!) so passively accept, or even welcome, the erosion of the rights (and responsibilities) we’ve risked our lives to defend is an outright abomination. I love the military, but I don’t want to live in a military police state. I love the military, but it’s not for everybody, and I am foursquare against any kind of compulsory service. I am proud to have served, but I don’t look down on anybody who hasn’t (I’ve been married to one for fifteen years, and I respect her more than anybody on the planet, past or present) and I don’t know anybody in the military who does. I love the military, but I also admire those who serve the human race in a different way, such as Greenpeace, the ACLU, or the Press. I respect anybody who stands up for what they believe, even if I don’t agree with them, that’s why I do what I do. Most of the military people I’ve served alongside for the last 20 years feel the same way. It may surprise you to know that I personally don’t know anybody on active duty that cares one way or the other about idiotic issues like gays serving openly – and I know a lot of people. We need people who can do the job, who believe in the ideals of Honor, Courage, and Commitment, frankly I don’t care who they sleep with.

    As to how you respond to retired military who you feel are telling you that you have no right to your opinion? Simple: express your opinion anyway, that’s your right. Stand up for it. Refuse to be offended. Live your life, your way. Most of us will respect you for it, and if some old military retires don’t – screw ‘em. There are jerks everywhere, but there’s a hell of a lot of good people too, it’s just that the jerks tend to be more vocal I think. Like I said people are people. And, in America, they are entitled to be who they wish to be, which is what I was trying to imply with my comment above regarding my shithead of a neighbor. I don’t like his opinion of me, but I don’t loose any sleep over it either, and I would live up to my oath even if everybody in America felt the same way he does. Though I admit I sometimes enjoy antagonizing him – for example I use my big honking snowblower to throw frozen moose turds over the fence into his driveway. Childish, I know, but as one who believes in the theory of evolution, and is actually proud of being descended from monkeys, I take gleeful delight in flinging poo at other primates – though being, somewhat, more evolved I’m not adverse to using technology to do it! :-)

    Hope that answers your question. //Jim

  55. Robert:

    Actually, it’s 24 years come my retirement date.

    And no thanks are necessary, though I certainly appreciate the thought. The things I’ve seen and done, there are days I would have paid THEM!

    J: just curious, is that short for Jon Marcus?

  56. I always try to remember when I see someone in uniform, that uniform say to everyone, “I will die for you.” So thank you, Jim, for your 24 years of service.

    I a vet, and spent some time during the so called Secret War in and around Laos. I have such mixed feelings and memories of my experience there near the end of the war. I loved Laos and the people–loved the Hmong–what great people. One of the worst things we did was leave those poor people in Laos when we pulled out. We should have carried every man, woman and child out of there and given them a nice house in the US and a monthly check. They fought for us, as if there were no tommorrow and for them, I guess there was there was no tommorrow.

    I’m of the opinion we can’t win againt insurgents, especially in Iraq. There is no central government like in North Vietnam. Where is the Hanoi in Iraq?
    We can’t bomb their capital until they come to the Peace table. I we can do is clear and hold, and we don’t have enough troops to do this and hold for any time. I don’t think the Iraqis will ever build a real Army as long as we’re there to take the hit for them. Who knows about the Iraqi police but it seems most of them are uncommitted and many may very well be with the insurgency when they’re not wearing their uniform and sometimes when they are.

    This is such a tough fight for our soldiers. I get the immpression they are fighting harder and make a lot more contact than we did in Vietnam–not to make a sweeping generalizations about Vietnam or Iraqm but it seems like our guys are fighting it out over there every day. In Vietnam, there would be long periods of time when we did not see the enemy. For most of the war we could walk around in Saigon or Danang and stay fairly safe. Try that in Bagdad and you’ll end up without a head.

    As for military types who disagree with my politics–that’s OK with me. I do know several serving military who agree with me. Though they’re on repeated deployments, they don’t agree with the war, but like all good soldiers they go where and when they are told, and that’s what makes them heroes to me.

    Our soldiers have to be rigid in their efforts and though they defend our Democracy, their own rights are suspended and they don’t enjoy the same freedom to speak and act as civilians do. Nevertheless, our military is a long line of men and women who throughout our history have stood and fought at the governments behest. Though I don’t support this war, I fully support each and every one of our soldiers. They are the best of us. They fight, they die and when they come home, this country will forget them just like they did in after Vietnam.

    God bless them all.

  57. J: just curious, is that short for Jon Marcus?

    Nope. Jeremy.

    But the stakes are higher in Iraq. The dominos could (and did) fall in SE Asia, and at the time it didn’t really affect US security interests. Vietnam was more of an “altruistic” exercise. In Iraq, if the dominos fall, it will be a disaster of staggering proportions and repercussions.

    Nope. Sorry. Not buying it. Vietnam was portrayed as “the battle of our times” for the decade-and-change that it went on, and anyone who questioned whether it was that big a deal was called a traitor. And the consequences of “failure” were . . . um, Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization. Benefitting from offshored R&D work (Bell just set up a big new lab there). Nascent capitalism. An open, friendly people who seem to bear no grudges whatsoever. Tenative steps toward greater democracy and civil liberties. Real horrible consequences, huh?

    In Iraq, if the dominos fall, it will be a disaster of staggering proportions and repercussions.

    Like . . . what? The idea that “they’ll” “have” “all” the oil is serious, until you remember that to actually be an “oil-rich nation” you can’t just have oil, you’ve got to sell oil. And as the world’s biggest consumers of oil, the odds are on “they”–whoever ends up in charge–will end up selling it to us no matter what. Iran sells us oil, why wouldn’t the new nation of Southern Iran?

    As regards ethnic cleansing, remind me how we’re going to stop that? Sunnis and Shiites seem desperate to be allowed to kill each other. I find both sides pretty repugnant so why not let them do it? On principle, I’m disgusted by ethnic and religious violence. As a matter of practicality, I have no idea how to stop it. And since it seems to me that everyone’s hands are bloody over there, I’m at a loss to understand who is worth befriending.

    Bushco keep spinning this as a “war between moderates and extremists”. Really. Who the hell and where the hell are these supposed legions of “moderates”? Seems to me that any and all Arab moderates got up and fled to the U.S., Britain or France a good 50 years ago. Why would they stay in this relentlessly bloody-minded, mentally impoverished, misogynist, fundamentalist part of the world?

    Finally, this bit:

    The biggest complaints I hear is that the rules of engagement were too stringent. That seems to have changed.

    Fiasco (the nonfiction book by Thomas Ricks, not the sci-fi novel by Stanislaw Lem) says that probably the number 1 thing that has tripped up the U.S. in Iraq has been the kick-in-the-door-in-the-middle-of-the-night tactics. Yeah, that’s good: Systematically violate Arab sensibilities about the sanctity of the home. Shame the male head of the family in front of his children and female relatives. That sure won’t put him in mind of revenge and insurgency.

  58. Actually, our military was doing pretty well in Vietnam. We were killing the crap outta the NVA.

    Sure. We won every battle, as the old saying goes, and lost the war.

    War is a political act, winning a war means achieving a political end. Destroying a country, bombing the Hell out of a capitol, and expanding the scope of the war into neighboring countries does nothing if you don’t have an attainable (or even clear) political end.

    In the case of Vietnam, propping up the ineffectual South Vietnam regime against a nationalist movement intent on uniting the country wasn’t attainable: how do you know that the nationalists have quit, and for good? The best you can hope for is an awkward peace with less shooting, and if the government you’re propping up is incompetent, you’re looking at an indefinite military presence in the country even if the shooting stops altogether for a long period.

    Meanwhile, every victory costs a few more American lives, and brings the war no closer to a conclusion.

    At this point, our agenda for Iraq, like our Vietnam agenda, remains unclear and/or relatively unattainable. I don’t see any prospects for the government becoming stable and the civil war ending anytime in the near future. Which means Americans are dying a few at a time for something which is almost certainly doomed to failure–not because of any failing on the part of our soldiers, but because our leaders failed to clearly define what we were doing and why we were doing it, and deluded as to the how.

    If it were simply a matter of skill and will and bravery, I have no doubt that American soldiers are well-trained, committed and valorous. Which is why it’s a damn shame those qualities have been and are being squandered by unimaginative, uncurious, blind, foolish CEOs who have utter faith in themselves (or their deity) and no comprehension of history or diplomacy.

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