The Little President that Could

Just to preface this, where does the word “surge” come from? If it were ever a part of the speech, it seems to have been judiciously cut before last nights rendition. Considering how the President screwed up Katrina rebuilding efforts, does anyone else find the use of the word “surge“ by the media, bloggers and pundits slightly inappropriate? Is that just me?

And now to my (probably obligatory) post on George W. Bush’s he-does-have-a-plan-to-win-even-if-no-one-believes-him-any-more strategy speech.

The coverage of this is, of course, huge. You might listen the pre-speech Back Story at the New York Times. Of the overviews I read, I found the best to be from the Washington Post. I grabbed the text of the speech over at the LA Times because they had the coolest disclaimer. And back to the New York Times for the handy-dandy graphic.

While many may make much of George Bush’s minor mea culpa on Iraq, I find it less than convincing. He is taking responsibility in the same manner that Katrina’s buck stopped there. He’ll probably have to fire another FEMA chief. Bush will do the occasional sad looking photo-op and that will be that. At least that is the official Bush. I do think the war is taking a personal toll. Bob Woodward in State of Denial mentions several times that the husband and wife team George and Condi have spent a lot of non-reported private time in veterans hospitals. Bush is very aware of the pain American soldiers are going through. Whether he feels the pain of Iraqi mothers seeing their children die or the sadness of Iraqi fathers watching the country disintegrate is another story.

The most important part of the speech is the increase in troops. The analysis I have read up to now say that most generals think 20,000 soldiers are either not enough or not sustainable for any period of time. There are only two courses, out or reinstate the draft. One is diplomatic/geo-political suicide the other inner-political suicide. Bush, typically, chooses not to choose. He carefully explains that 20,000 troops spread over the country will actually accomplish something new. He hopes people will believe this. Since he is the decider and has decided, we will simply have to wait until this time in 2008 to watch the next cycle of spin.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of this ‘surge’ idea isn’t that George Bush is pushing it, but that John McCain is vocally supporting it. He seems to think it will help his 2008 Presidential hopes. But what is the political (we won’t even touch the human) cost of this kind of policy? What if, like those Cassandras in the Pentagon seem to think, it goes wrong? Senator McCain has that covered and can point to his soundbite “until we can get the situation under control, or until it becomes clear that we can’t.” Oh. We could also pound our collective heads against a wall until everyone agrees it’s a bad idea. But, um , WHY?

Phil Carter at Slate will greet the news of an increase in embedded advisors. From the speech

America will change our approach to help the Iraqi government as it works to meet these benchmarks. In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units, and partner a coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division. We will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped army, and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq. We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility to spend funds for economic assistance. We will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. And Secretary Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic assistance being spent in Iraq.

The second biggie is of course money. The Washington Post also give us a nice run-down on how some of the US funds will be distributed.

The United States will allocate more than $1 billion for three programs to create jobs and help reconstruction in neighborhoods secured by Iraqi and U.S. forces. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have been particularly concerned that any new deployment not happen in an economic and political vacuum.
[…]
The United States will also provide $400 million in quick-response funding to address urgent civilian problems, and add $350 million to the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which allows local field commanders to have discretionary money to help improve the lives of Iraqis.

The U.S. effort is designed to supplement a $10 billion reconstruction and infrastructure program, finally channeling an oil-revenue surplus into rebuilding areas. The administration has long pressed Baghdad to use its own resources, particularly in Sunni areas to prove that the Shiite-dominated government is sincere in wanting to take care of the country’s Sunni minority. Offering the Sunnis hope and inclusion is considered critical to helping defuse the insurgency and winning over loyalists to Saddam Hussein.

Paul Wolfowitz famously predicted that Iraqi oil sales would completely pay for the reconstruction. You remember Paul? He’s the financial genius who now runs the World Bank. Funny how these things work out, isn’t it? If only the Iraqis can produce enough oil. Paul would be vindicated and money no problem. The Middle East Times reported in December

Beyond those doors, beyond the walls of what is known as the Green Zone, a protected area in Baghdad and the only safe location aside from the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in the north, about 1.9 million barrels of Iraqi oil is pumped daily.

This is below the 2.6 million barrels before the war; it is a tally only steady in that it can never be gauged or predicted.

We’re where we were two years ago as far as production goes,” said Erik Kreil, an analyst with the Energy Information Administration, the data arm of the US Energy Department.

Oil production [in 2006] really went up negligibly,” he said. “A whole year has gone by and production went up approximately on average 100,000 barrels a day.”

Oh. So that’s solved then.

While Bush agreed with the Iraq Study Group on embedding, the ISG stressed increased cooperation or at least diplomacy with Iran and Syria. This was criticised for being unrealistic and vague. The Bush administration has been using the stick on Iran and Syria for years. (I haven’t read whether the import of chocolate and iPods is illegal like North Korea, probably missed the article.) There really aren’t any carrots available. The biggest carrot available is Iraq and Iran is trying to get that on its own Thank-You-Very-Much.

Bush managed to completely reject any possibility of diplomacy with either Iran or Syria. Everything I have read does point to an increased use of Iranian made IEDs with up to four time the power of Iraqi jury rigged bombs. I personally find Bushes language on this point reminiscent of the “Axis of Evil” language.

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

And perhaps what I consider the most ill advised sentence in the speech. “Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.” No, There won’t be. Mr Bush tried something similar on the deck of an aircraft carrier with a huge “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him. It wasn’t – otherwise that last nights speech wouldn’t have been necessary.

I can’t help myself thinking that the administration is stuck in a bizarre children’s tale. Not the one about goats; I’m thinking of the “Little Engine That Could.” Somehow Mr. Bush has confused “I think I can,” with “We go forward with trust that the Author of Liberty* will guide us through these trying hours.” Since America “can not fail in Iraq,” Bush will never admit to a losing policy. He will continue to push this because he can not fail. But if the little Engine had tried to cross Mount Everest, all the platitudes and good wishes wouldn’t have gotten him over the mountain. Bush wil not win Iraq.
Thus I present a new children’s rhyme for George Bush.

Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
Please leave office,
And I’ll pray for you.

* Note the clever godless God reference? “Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of Liberty, To thee we sing, Long may our land be bright With Freedom’s holy light, Protect us by thy might Great God, our King.” America by Samuel F. Smith. David Quo would be proud.

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