We still need to hear what the President’s speech specifically includes regarding a new strategy for Iraq, but the key question will be whether there are any clear, undisputed benchmarks by which the public can measure the relative success or failure of the President’s plan.
My hunch is that Bush will continue to avoid putting forward benchmarks by which he can be measured and that his strategy is “doubling up” — putting more lives and dollars on the line in what has been a losing strategy, hoping for an eventual win.
Unlike blackjack where one can win enough money to cover losses if that win eventually comes, the lives lost and dollars spent will never come back — and that holds true for both sides of this terrible conflict.
American prestige and the perception of military power can’t be won back this way either.
The President has not explained why he did “not hear” the call from his field commanders for more troops in the field far beyond the point where we find ourselves now in Iraq. Why was Shinseki ignored and pushed out? Why did the President and his team create an elaborate charade with Rumsfeld’s complicity and that of the top generals in the uniformed services that more troops were NOT needed in Iraq? Someone should pay for this. Firing Rumsfeld is not enough.
Now, the President wants more troops in Iraq. Guess one of those field commanders finally got a secret note to Bush through the screeners at the White House and Pentagon.
But thinking about this without bias for a moment — though I think that this war and all that we have poured into it have been a monumental mistake — the President is now escalating the conflict in a way that is nearly identical to the kind of escalations we saw in Vietnam. More troops, more advisors, more trainers — no strategy.
If the President wanted to be taken seriously by skeptics, he would propose a bifurcated set of strategies for resolving matters inside Iraq as well as regionally in the Middle East. And he is not doing this.
And candidly, beyond the absence of strategy there is another problem that the figure of 20,000 additional troops is minor. It represents an ebbing up of U.S. forces. This is again, military deployment on the cheap. If Bush was serious, we would be sending several hundred thousand troops to quell the violence and to help reorder Iraqi society — but that is not going to happen.
There is no “Nixon goes to China” bravery or resolve in the President’s plan as I see it thus far. And without strategy, no troops should be there now — let alone an increase of any kind in troop levels.
— Steve Clemons