Friday, April 20, 2007

Secret Strategy Change in Iraq


Nancy A. Youssef, most recently McClatchy Newspapers' Baghdad Bureau chief, yesterday filed a report suggesting the U.S. has changed strategies in Iraq more dramatically than the Bush administration will admit.

Out is the training Iraqis "to stand up for themsleves" strategy:
U.S. officials said they once believed that if they empowered their Iraqi counterparts, they'd take the lead and do a better job of curtailing the violence. But they concede that's no longer their operating principle.
In is ... well, according to one of Youssef's State Department sources, the "strategy now is to basically hold on and wait for the Iraqis to do something." Writes Youssef:
[E]vidence has been building for months that training Iraqi troops is no longer the focus of U.S. policy. Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to dispatch 28,000 additional troops to Iraq.
* * *
U.S. officials don't say that the training formula - championed by Gen. John Abizaid when he was the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and by Gen. George Casey when he was the top U.S. general in Iraq - was doomed from the start. But they said that rising sectarian violence and the inability of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to unite the country changed the conditions.
As for the new strategy, "Military officials now measure success by whether the troops are curbing violence, not by the number of Iraqi troops trained."

One trouble with this is, "many officials are vague about when the U.S. will know when troops can begin to return home." Another is it that, plainly, this strategy doesn't seem to be working any better than the old one.

Which accounts for the question Bush fielded yesterday in Ohio -- and the deeply embarrassing way he fumbled it. As Digby says, "When a politician appears to be this stupid (and he seems exactly the same as he did when he was running for president in 2000) it's not a good idea to assume that it's just an act. Look at the results."

April 20, pm

So, when Harry Reid candidly tells George W. Bush that the war in Iraq is lost, war whoopers jump all over him for "not supporting the troops" and not being "patriotic." Someone should ask these jingoistic fantacists, are we winning the war in Iraq? Not one credible Army general thinks so.

Reid is not only being realistic; he's taking a moral position informed by the Vietnam analogy. As many as 30,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam long after that war was revealed to be a losing proposition. How can it be "support" for our troops when the only reason they're being 'surged' is to prop up the place until a sitting president runs out the clock and leaves office?

As the New York Times editorialized three months ago:
The disaster is Mr. Bush’s war, and he has already failed.
* * *
[Bush's "surge" speech] was more gauzy talk of victory in the war on terrorism and of creating a “young democracy” in Iraq. In other words, a way for this president to run out the clock and leave his mess for the next one. The nation needs an eyes-wide-open recognition that the only goal left is to get the U.S. military out of this civil war in a way that could minimize the slaughter of Iraqis and reduce the chances that the chaos Mr. Bush unleashed will engulf Iraq’s neighbors.
Senator Reid merely pointed out to the emperor that his war has no clothes. Coincidentally, additional evidence he is right came out hours later when Youssef reported there is no longer a strategy in Iraq except to "hold on and wait for the Iraqis to do something."

Reid's critics don't do our troops any favors when they cheer on the "surge." They're effectively urging the sacrifice of our troops for George W. Bush's political gain.

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