Young Mister Bush's Wednesday morning press briefing in the East Room , touted by MSNBC's Rita Crosby as a "sober assessment" about the Iraq situation, was the same pile of bull feathers we've been hearing since the "fall" of Baghdad. If that was a "sober assessment," I want some of whatever Bush and Rita are drinking.
"As the enemy shifts tactics, we are shifting our tactics as well," Mister Bush said in his prepared speech, as though that were something to brag about. Whenever you're shifting tactics to adapt to your enemy's, your enemy has the initiative, and if the key to your strategy is reacting to the enemy's tactics, you have no strategy. If you have no coherent strategy, no amount of "faith based" policy will bring you "victory" or "get the job done," regardless of how adamantly you refuse to define what "victory" or "the job" is.
Hence the major fallacy in Bush's remark, "Our commanders on the ground are constantly adjusting our tactics to stay ahead of our enemies." But no, Mister Bush, they're not staying ahead of our enemies. Our latest "crackdown" in Baghdad is a bust and al Qaeda linked gunmen in Ramadi have declared the city part of a separate Islamic state.
"Americans have no intention of taking sides in a sectarian struggle or standing in the crossfire between rival factions," Mister Bush said. And yet that's exactly what American troops are doing. The best of intentions are always trumped by reality. But we wouldn't expect Mister Bush to take no never mind of that "reality" stuff.
"Some of the Iraqi security forces have performed below expectations," he said. No, Mister Bush, all of the Iraqi forces have performed below expectations. They've either refused to fight other Iraqis or have formed death squads who are not answerable to the central Iraqi government.
"We learned some key lessons from that early phase in the war," Bush said. Where's the evidence of our having learned anything?
"As General Casey reported yesterday in Iraq, the men and women of the armed forces have never lost a battle in over three years in the war." Is it possible the neither Casey nor Bush understand what a frank admission of failure this statement is? U.S. troops have won a thousand battles yet they're losing the war.
Perhaps this misunderstanding of the difference between tactics and strategy is what led Mister Bush to say, “I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq; I’m not satisfied, either,” despite the fact that the Secretary of Defense and the key generals in charge of the unsatisfactory situation are still in place and Bush gives no indication that he'll remove them.
Also still in place is U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Kahlilzad, a charter member of the Project for the New American Century that formulated the Iraq invasion policy in the late 90s. According to Bush, Kahlilzad has laid out a "new" three step strategic approach:
First, we're working with political and religious leaders across Iraq, urging them to take steps to restrain their followers and stop sectarian violence.
Second, we're helping Iraqi leaders to complete work on a national compact to resolve the most difficult issues dividing their country. The new Iraqi government has condemned violence from all quarters and agreed to a schedule for resolving issues such as disarming illegal militias and death squads, sharing oil revenues, amending the Iraqi constitution and reforming the de-Baathification process.
Third, we are reaching out to Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, asking them to support the Iraqi government's efforts to persuade Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and accept national reconciliation.
There is nothing new in any of this. It hasn't worked in the past and it isn't working now.
Explaining why Mister Bush chose Wednesday to give a major address on the war, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said, “It’s important for the president’s voice to be heard in his own words.”
I agree with that. It's important for everyone to hear just how clueless their commander in chief is when it comes to conducting armed conflict. Bush and his sidemen still seem to believe that the same kinds of glittering generalities and talking points that win elections can win wars. They're wrong of course, but then winning the next election has always been more important to them than winning the current war.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.