Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush’s Surge More Like a Ripple.

Somewhere I read or heard that it will be admitted that mistakes were made in the initial invasion, and the surge (20 something thousand) to be announced tonight is the action that comes in response to that admission. I'll call it the unmistaking strategy. It will be sold as doing the job right. You know, like, now we’re going to get serious and shit.

Numbers vary, but current troop levels in Iraq are in the neighborhood of 120,000. Add a liberal 20,000 to that, and let’s call the surge increasing troop levels to 150,000. That’s still less than half of the initial invasion force of 315,000, and not even a third of the 660,000 H.W. had when he balked at toppling Saddam.

So those are the numbers. If more troops are what’s going to fix Iraq, 20 something thousand extra simply isn’t enough. Not by any standard. So why so few? Because that’s all we can spare. Is there any doubt that our lack of troop depth was the primary factor in coming up with 20 something?

But there has to be some logic that makes sense of sending too few troops too late. I suppose if Bush hadn’t squandered his 9/11 mandate on telling us to shop, and had instead mobilized the country, he’d be more than happy to send the hundreds of thousands of troops we’d have by now to Iraq to win that war. But he didn’t, and so doesn’t have that option. It’s also true that he probably believes a large helping of his own rhetoric, which predicts that an Iraq lost will be more of a problem than an Iraq war. They’ll never put it in those exact terms, but the point remains the same. Losing is worse than never winning.

So Bush comes up with a new strategy for one simple reason. He has to keep selling the war. After tonight, he should be good for at least another year.


Dawn Coyote said...

Well, it depends, of course, on what those 20,000 troops are going to do. Like, if they were going to operate gas chambers, for instance, that might make a difference.

TenaciousK said...

You know, I’m thinking this may be an attempt to save face – I’m not so sure Bush does believe his own rhetoric, in this case. Looking at this, I wonder if Bush is looking to be able to scapegoat a Democratic congress, thus attributing the inevitable failure in Iraq to a lack of congressional commitment or courage; "If only those cowards hadn’t blocked my brilliant plan, then everything would’ve worked out ok."

It’s sort of a brilliant double-bind to place Congress in – they either capitulate to his “leadership” (and sacrifice the well-being for another twentysomething-thousand troops), or they move to block, and face some of the fallout for the military failure in Iraq.

Just a disturbing thought I had today that’s entirely consistent with my impression of the political strategy characteristic of this administration.

JohnMcG said...

I gotta think that dog won't hunt anymore.

Bush has gotten this far by equating support wiht his policies with support for the troops the flag and opposition to terrorism.

Well, he's had his chance, and it's now apparent that those are not the same thing.

Perhaps Bush's delusions spread over to his domestic policy solution.

TenaciousK said...

I dunno, John - it's a very Karl Rove kind've move to make.

In a related story, Bush showcases his diplomacy skills with the new congress.

JohnMcG said...

I don't doubt Rove would do that, I just don't think it'll work anymore.

Kind of like running a play-action pass in the fourth quarter of a game when you haven't been able to run the ball all day. Nobody's should buy the fake.

TenaciousK said...

Uhm, I don't really think it's about the fake at all.

If the Republican party is truly in damage-control mode, what they need to provide is a means for their Republican constituency to save face for having supported them in the first place. So the trick isn't really trying to convince a skeptical audience; the trick is providing a comforting fiction to people who are already highly motivated to believe it.

Frankly, it's a smart thing to do, in the Machiavellian sense. But the motive has little to do, directly anyway, with the war, to soldiers, or the Iraqi people.

Ender may very well be correct - that the man believes the story he's been spinning. But it's also a mistake to discount the compelling power of underlying motives, because even the "purest" of heart may find it desirable to manufacture justifications for an outcome that seemingly contradicts their stated position. In Bush's case, I'd fantasize that would be to further a course that provides benefits to his friends and allies, even if at the expense of the well-being of our country or theirs, because it is in some way "noble" to do so. It's entirely possible (maybe even likely) that Bush believes in spreading Democracy, without having much understanding of exactly what that means or entails, in the practical (or ethical) sense.

The banal truth is that the stuff of conspiracies rarely involves active collaboration. Instead, you have an aligning of selfish interests, and coalitions with organized plans formed on the basis of tacit collusion. Though far less interesting or exciting to talk about than vast underground conspiracies, this is the stuff of politics in all arenas. Thus, idealistic Reagenesque Republicans and Evangelical Christians join forces with rapacious business interests - groups that seemingly share little in the way of philosophy or thoughts about morality. Once the motivation to join forces is there, however, all parties begin to focus on areas of agreement, ignoring their differences. If Bush is an idealist, then this is the type of game he might be playing.

I doubt, however, that either Rove or Cheney is of this ilk, requiring little in the way of justification to pursue their desires - and perhaps not Bush, who as far as I’m concerned could alternatively be malign, incompetent, or idealistic and malleable. Who knows? About the only thing that seems clear to me is that this is a misguided move made for dubious reasons, and that rather than being the time for decisive action, this is a time for thorough and sober reflection on why it is we’re there in the first place, what exactly it is we intend to accomplish, and how closely this maps onto reality.

Unfortunately, this administration seems as poorly suited to this task as any this country has ever burdened itself with.

JohnMcG said...

The other play is to blow a gaffe from the other side and blow itn out of proportion to make the other side's rhetorical excesses the story rather than the merits of the Administation's work.

They did it with Dick Durbin's comments.

They tried to do it with John Kerry's joke, and it didn't really work.

Now, they're trying to do it again with Barbara Boxer's comments toward Condi Rice, and I think it's going to fall flat again.

Don't know if you've been folowing the comments from Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher who supported the war but are now sharply critical of Bush.

They've received some ribbing from those who opposed it from the start. Their response is that their initial error was in part because the anti-war movement was so unserious.

I disagree -- I think serious anti-war arguments were out there, but war proponents chose to focus on the weaker arguments.


I honestly don't have the slightest idea whether the surge is a sound strategy. All I have to go on is the record of those who support it and who oppose it.

JohnMcG said...


I think I understand what you're saying now -- it's not so much that Bush's sales job will work, but that we're wasting time, money, and resources pursuing a policy that has more to do with rehabilitating the Administration's (self-)image than in accomplishing any real objective in Iraq.