Gambling on Iraq

Among my friends is a source in the Romanian defense ministry. This person tells me that even before the Iraq Study Group had delivered its report, administration envoys were asking the Romanian government to increase their troop commitment in Iraq as a complement to America's decision to do the same.

Despite all the posturing about reaching out for advice, and nothing being off the table, it's long been decided that George W. Bush is going to double down in Iraq. The only question that remains is whether the increase in our number of troops will be 20,000, 30,000 or more. All that argues for the lower end of that range is the reticence of The Joint Chiefs and General Abizaid who seem certain that if the Iraqi government is to become effective, and legitimate, it has to succeed without the promise of an ever larger American crutch.

The sacrifice of more lives for a failed policy is counterintuitive, but we shouldn't be surprised. This new initiative is a spasm born of aggravation and a fatal lack of understanding. George W. Bush cultivates a reputation as the ultimate cowboy, a risk taker who enjoys gambling on long odds. He avoids gray areas, goes with his gut, and never looks back. In the first instance he relies on a sense of entitlement that comes from a lifetime of failure and evaded responsibility. In the last instance he's emboldened by a belief in God so narcissistic that he's convinced the Almighty is obliged to save him from himself.

He swaggers, he smirks and he spins the roulette wheel.

Unfortunately he is gambling on a lost cause. The war in Iraq is a war we cannot win because the enemy we're committed to destroy, and the people we're pledged to defend are one and the same. If you have doubts, ask yourself where are the Iraqi volunteers, summoned by a sense of patriotism, who would sacrifice themselves for a new, secular and democratic Iraq? Even those who support administration policy concede that without American involvement the country would quickly fall into the hands of those who hate us. And why? Because there is no popular indigenous movement that wants what America wants.

The only Iraqis taking up arms in defense of the current government are paid by America, their loyalty is rented, and they are notoriously slow to confront the growing militia movement. Meanwhile, those who fight the Iraqi government take huge risks, die by the thousands, and they are paid by no one. If you look at these facts straight on and can still be optimistic there's a job waiting for you in the White House.

This simple statement of facts is lost on those who are ideologically committed. They see the world not as it truly is, but as they wish it to be.

What George W. Bush does know, and can understand, is that his everlasting reputation depends on the outcome of the war in Iraq. It's not so much that the rest of his Presidency has been characterized as successful, and all that stands between him and a garland of glory is victory in Iraq. We can only wish that were true. No, Iraq's importance is that it's singular. Iraq has been such a huge and colossal failure that if it remains that way nothing else will matter. And likewise, if Bush somehow redeems his policy and Baghdad becomes an Athens on the Euphrates, then Katrina will be remembered as nothing more than a toilet overflow.

At the same time, Bush is also painfully aware that he gets no extra credit for waking up late and trying to mitigate his mistakes through gradual disengagement. For him the choice is clear, he has to win with his only tool a policy that has been discredited. He has to hope that the surgery he's performing on Iraq hasn't failed because he's using a sledge hammer. He has to hope that the policy has failed because he's using a sledge hammer that's not big enough. So the roulette wheel is spinning and all his chips are stacked high on black 22.

Yet the one chance the ball will fall on black 22 is practically nil.

So what are the implications for a person who hopes to succeed George Bush in the White House. Right now the worst possible place to be is in the shoes of Sen. John McCain. Unless he's as misguided as the present incumbent, he has to know that the current policy is bankrupt. After all, he spent several long years suffering in a prisoner of war camp waiting for an earlier generation of political leaders to learn a similar lesson.

Still, for the last few years he's been demanding that George Bush do exactly what he is about to do. And why? My guess is that, at least in part, it was a political calculation. McCain is a smart man and he knew that the situation in Iraq was beyond saving, and has been beyond saving for a long time. Yet it would have been political suicide to say so. In fact, to say so even now would be suicide with the right wing of his own party.

Therefore, he staked out a position that was as bold as it was unlikely to be adopted. He could bluster about the need for an increased troop commitment necessary to see us through to victory, even as he banked on the belief that the White House would never throw more gas on the fire.

As the whole sad Iraqi enterprise met with its tragic but predictable conclusion, he could campaign at a distance from the policies of a failed President, even as he avoided all the baggage of having called for retreat. As political strategy it was brilliant, and while it may have been cynical, it was also true that nothing McCain could have said or done would have saved or lost a single life. His actual influence on the administration was zero, and he knew that.

What McCain did not expect was that the White House might actually do exactly as he had suggested, but for reasons that had nothing to do with the fact that he suggested it. To his own surprise he's now likely to walk into the 2008 primaries with Iraq an even bigger mess while his own name is tattooed on this huge mistake.

So what should you do if you're a Democrat hoping to be the next President? First, you should take a cold blooded and realistic assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is appropriate to hope and pray for the best, but you'd have to be a fool not to expect the worst.

With an increased troop commitment, and otherwise a very similar policy in place, imagine 2007 and 2008 with greater losses and absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. The insurgency will have gained greater momentum with an increased number of American troops to serve as targets. With accelerated anti-war sentiment, the only position that makes sense is a position that is forward of today's public opinion, but exactly on target in the context of 2008.

As of today a position on the war that's moral, and one that will soon be seen as far sighted and sound, are exactly the same. Very early on, and right now would be best, the American people should be given the unpleasant news that they deserve to hear. They should be told that,

The war was flawed in its inception, flawed in its execution, and many brave soldiers have died. They died for a mistake that may have been motivated by the best of intentions, but still, it was a mistake.

Today we have faith that because of their loss good will eventually come to the Iraqi people, but it is also clear that things like freedom and justice can never be paid for by the blood of one people, and then given to another as though it were a gift.

If the goal for which our soldiers sacrificed is ever to be achieved the only payment acceptable is the bravery and patriotism of the Iraqi people themselves. Those willing to pay that price will never lack for the material support of the American people, but if I'm elected President, my first objective will be to prevent the loss of even one more American life in a war that can never truly be our own.

Comments

So... in summary

we have a swaggering, smirking President who purports to believe that he has been chosen by God to perform a mission, perhaps concerned how history will view him, and a Machiavellian Senator who may pay for his duplicity by being denied his ambition to become President. In both cases, small prices to pay for the grief wrought on this nation.

What I'd like to hear from a Presidential candidate, modifying your closing paragraph, is:

The war undertaken in Iraq was foisted upon our nation by an administration so convinced of its own superior judgement and morality that it ignored the best advice of loyal servants and purposefully lied to members of Congress and the American people to enlist support. Dishonest in its inception, and thereby fatally flawed in its execution despite the best efforts of our brave soldiers, this war has caused death or the grievous wounding of thousands of our sons and daughters and placed our nation in greater peril. The people of Iraq have suffered similarly. All who have died, died for a mistake that we might say was motivated by the best of intentions, but that would be a lie. The truth is, and I wish it were not so, that they have died in vain serving as cannon fodder for an unprincipled and morally bankrupt President and his equally unprincipled appointees.

If the larger goals of freedom and self-determination for the people of Iraq, which our soldiers sacrificed themselves for, is to ever come to pass then it will come to pass only when Iraqi's themselves are willing to hold their leaders responsible for their actions and to themselves rise up and seek justice. Those willing to pay that price should never lack for the material support of the American people.

If I'm elected President, my first objective will be to prevent the loss of even one more American life in a war that should not have been. My second action will be to direct The Justice Department to bring charges against members of the current administration for crimes against this nation and to investigate and vigorously prosecute instances of war-profiteering. We cannot, and I will not, let this treacherous and unbridled breach of trust go unpunished.

That done, I will turn my attention to rebuilding our standing among our world neighbors and addressing our own pressing domestic problems including border security, health care, poverty, jobs and fair trade, and more. I will restore the constitutional rights of our citizenry, I will seek what all of us, regardless of party affiliation, seek...a strong and free nation guided by the principles of fairness, equality, and justice.

Stan Bozarth

Great points George.

No, Iraq's importance is that its singular. Iraq has been such a huge and colossal failure that if it remains that way nothing else will matter.

I think we need to remember that Osama bin Laden waited and planned for more than 8 years (February 1993 until September 2001) between major attacks on US soil. He isn't gone, the jihad isn't gone, and the "sleeper cells" are probably not gone. George Bush and his "singular" focus on Iraq make us much less safe than we could be otherwise. as a matter of policy, George Bush and Iraq are the equivalent of the United States attacking South America after December 7th, 1941 and getting bogged down there. What about Japan? What about Germany?

We still have millions of containers passing through our ports uninspected, and as I diary every once in awhile, it should come as no surprise when we are attacked through one of them. A nuclear bomb perhaps, or just a container packed full of explosive ingredients detonated in downtown Chicago, Des Moines, or Sacramento.

All of the anger pointed at George Bush often makes us forget that we actually ARE at war with someone, and we aren't doing one damn thing to fix the situation diplomatically or to protect ourselves.

NC Defend Health Care

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Very excellent.

As clear a summary of the toxic mixture of lunacy and incompetence as I've ever read.

The double-down gamble is a losers bet that will be made with the blood of North Carolina soldiers and Marines. I will not be surprised if there is mutiny.

____________________________________

We are not amused.

Attention! Captain on Deck! The Court Martial is now open!

I will not be surprised if there is mutiny.*A

More like the movie " Cain Mutiny"

lunacy and incompetence as I've ever read.* A

The Strawberries were in the freezer! But somebody on this ship ate them. I can use math to prove that 3000 Americans have died in Iraq and it is not my fault....King George the 3 rd

George, this is so well written

I am just blown away. What an excellent summary.

George W. Bush cultivates a reputation as the ultimate cowboy, a risk taker who enjoys gambling on long odds. He avoids gray areas, goes with his gut, and never looks back.

But he's gambling with the lives of thousands of American troops, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. And losing.

At the same time, Bush is also painfully aware that he gets no extra credit for waking up late and trying to mitigate his mistakes through gradual disengagement. For him the choice is clear, he has to win with his only tool a policy that has been discredited. He has to hope that the surgery he's performing on Iraq hasn't failed because he's using a sledge hammer. He has to hope that the policy has failed because he's using a sledge hammer that's not big enough.

This is one of the scariest things I've ever read. It makes crystal clear the fact that he will not listen to reason, and all the study groups in the world will have no effect on his policy. His claim to be listening to different ideas is nothing but window dressing.