Friday, May 26, 2006
Americablog has a new commentator, AJ, who is a former DoD intelligence officer -- his first post is titled Iraq: Bush's plan for victory is really a plan for politics and it confirms what I had thought was happening with US troops in Iraq -- they're sounding retreat and pulling back to their super-"forts", leaving the Iraqi people to fight among themselves or starve or whatever.
Despite incessant rhetoric about the "Plan for Victory," and indefensible claims of improvement from his administration, Bush is quietly pursuing a "Plan for Politics" in Iraq by slowly but surely moving troops out of populated areas and into so-called superbases. These few huge bases, virtual mini-cities with tens of thousands of troops, are in isolated areas, meaning the troops have little ability (or responsibility) to affect daily life in Iraq.But they're not going to surrender, oh no, not at all. Sid Bluemthal updates us on where Bush is coming from these days:
This strategy clearly shows that the Administration has given up on true counter-insurgency tactics, which necessitate working with and among the people, and instead defaulted to focusing on preventing full-scale civil war and total governmental collapse. From the superbases, troops can deploy to stop major conflict, perform targeted strikes, and make large shows of force when necessary, but cannot regularly engage the population.
The mainstream media is not very good at explaining military strategy, and the shift to superbases was mostly covered as evidence that the U.S. isn't leaving anytime soon. While that is true, the shift is also a tacit admission from the Pentagon, if not Bush himself, that our objective has devolved from establishing a functional civil society to preventing large-scale sectarian battles in the streets. There are plenty of possible reasons for this -- the most likely, I think, being that the Pentagon realizes our nation-building efforts have failed and further needless casualties should be avoided, something the "shrill" among us have been saying for a while -- but the result will be more anarchy. Imagine, for example, if every police department in America decided they would only leave the station if there was a full-on gang war in the streets. Originally, American troops in Iraq were like the police, but now they’re more similar to our domestic National Guard units: primarily for emergency use. Nobody, however, is replacing the law enforcement mission.
This means that while civil society breaks down (crippled infrastructure, no electricity, oil production below pre-war levels, etc.), the overarching U.S. strategy is to avoid the kind of big eruptions that get media attention . . . in other words, trying to create an Iraq that American voters will ignore.
The shift may or may not be good strategy, but it would be nice if the Commander in Chief owned up to such a significant change so it could be recognized and evaluated. Assuming, of course, that he's even aware of it.
Bush continues to declare as his goal . . . the victory that the U.S. military has given up on. And he continues to wave the banner of a military solution against "the enemy," although this "enemy" consists of a Sunni insurgency whose leadership must eventually be conciliated and brought into a federal Iraqi government and of which the criminal Abu Musab al-Zarqawi faction and foreign fighters are a small part.And now I am wondering about the apparent disconnect between where the White House thinks this war is going, and where the Pentagon is actually taking it.
Bush's belief in a military solution, moreover, renders moot progress on a political solution, which is the only potentially practical approach. His war on the Sunnis simply agitates the process of civil war. The entire burden of progress falls on the U.S. ambassador, whose inherent situation as representative of the occupying power inside the country limits his ability to engage in the international diplomacy that might make his efforts to bring factions together possible. Khalilzad's tentative outreach to Iran, in any case, was shut down by Washington. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for her part, finds herself in Bulgaria, instead of conducting shuttle diplomacy in Amman, Jordan; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Ankara, Turkey; and Tehran. The diplomatic vacuum intensifies the power vacuum in Iraq, exciting Bush's flights of magical thinking about victory: I speak, therefore it is.
Bush doesn't know that he can't achieve victory. He doesn't know that seeking victory worsens his prospects. He doesn't know that the U.S. military has abandoned victory in the field, though it has been reporting that to him for years. But the president has no rhetoric beyond "victory."
Does the same disconnect exist with Afghanistan? Does it put our Canadian troops at risk?
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