Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dubya Down on Iraq

The very fact that so many differing strategies for Iraq are being proposed now should be your first clue that there are no good ones: no silver bullets, no wooden stakes, no garlic necklaces. What we're conducting now is akin to what in health care is sometimes called "opening the medicine cabinet." The patient is so critically ill that there's nothing left to do but try every drug in the arsenal and hope one of them does the trick. It's a desperation move.

The latest proposed emergency measure, this one coming from the Pentagon, is another plan with a catchy, sexy name derived from a popular casino card game. From Julian E. Barnes of the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff will present their assessment and recommendations to Bush at the Pentagon today. Military officials, including some advising the chiefs, have argued that an intensified effort may be the only way to get the counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory.

There's way too much testosterone and swaggering cowboy mythology in this plan, which means it will undoubtedly appeal to the gambler in chief. The ephemeral promise of a "chance for victory" may be too much for young Mister Bush to walk away from. He has, after all, insisted all along that he will settle for nothing short of victory, no matter how many times wiser, mature advisers have told him that "victory" per se is unattainable.

In the casino card game Blackjack, "double down" is something skilled players only do when they're ahead, and have cards that offer favorable odds of success. Mister Bush is not ahead of the game, and he has a fistful of the worst cards in the deck. If he decides to double down now, he'll be doing something akin to what the worst Blackjack players do, which is called "double up to catch up," a gambling method casinos love to see their clients indulge in. That leads to another gambling term called "bet the farm," which Bush is also entirely likely to do. And in case you weren't aware of it, gamblers who bet their farms almost always lose them.

Wise Guy Counsel

The "double down" strategy springs from a proposal by Frederick W. Kagan, who plans to release a report on his ideas this Thursday. Fred Kagan is a former professor of military history at West Point. He's also a core member of the neoconservative cabal. His brother Bob is a close associate with Weekly Standard publisher and Project for the New American Century (PNAC) founder Bill Kristol. Fred is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, another neoconservative think tank that pushed for an invasion of Iraq, and he was a co-author of the PNAC's Rebuilding America's Defenses of September 2000, a document that pressed for a U.S. invasion of Iraq prior to the 9/11 attacks even though "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

Listening to the likes of Fred Kagan to resolve the problems that he himself helped create is both a sublime and tragic form of insanity, but I fear that's what Mister Bush and his team are about to do. And that our latter day Machiavelli Dick Cheney still sits next to the American throne ups the odds that Bush will heed Fred Kagan's advice.

Despite the recent election results, we're still in the hands of neoconservative fools, fanatics, and bad card players.

God help America.

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Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:54 PM

    Great post, thanks. Don't know if you've seen this David Letterman clip with Our Fearless Leader in it, but its pretty funny--
    www.minor-ripper.blogspot.com

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  2. Anonymous3:20 PM

    Killing al Sadr would be an error on the scale of disbanding the Iraqi army. Maybe worse.

    It's beginning to look like Iraq is the central front for the war of Sunni vs. Shia on a regional scale. Witness Saudi Arabia's recent gyrations, and the quitting of their US Ambassador, and the supposed "riot act" they read to Cheney. Of course Iran supports the Shia side.

    All of this strikes me as a bit too much like the old Great Game days of WWI. This means we (and our children) will be living with the consequences of this monumental blunder for 50+ years.

    Maybe we can all move to that NASA lunar base and start fresh.

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  3. Anonymous4:21 PM

    This is absolutely insane. We haven't got the depth of force to "double down" and they are seriously misunderestimating the strength behind Sadr. It is a pretty good guess to think he has at least a 100+K available to him and all of these are trigger pullers.
    This will make the previous four years look like a walk in the park.

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  4. Anonymous6:19 PM

    After gas prices soar when we're cut off by OPEC and the dollar collapses do you guys think the Second Civil War is more likely to break along racial or cultural lines?

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  5. Martin K7:59 PM

    Agreed, fallenmonk. If the US tries to take on Sadr, its going to be a threeway hell on earth. Sadr propably has some connections among the sunni-clans of Fallujah since the Sadr-brigades sent forces to their aid during the fighting. Only good thing is it might stop some of the ethnic cleansing for a time, since everybody will gang up on the Centre. With the Saudis on the Sunni-side turning against the US, it looks like worst-case scenario.

    And concerning you getting cut off by OPEC we Norwegians do not look forward to coming under "protective custody" of the US along with Venezuela. Theres plenty of horrible shit to come before were rid of the Bushman yet.

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  6. Martin K12:28 AM

    And btw, I`d like to recommend http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1971749,00.html on the overall score-sheet of the Administration. To quote the opening:

    "What an amazing bloody catastrophe. The Bush administration's policy towards the Middle East over the five years since 9/11 is culminating in a multiple train crash. Never in the field of human conflict was so little achieved by so great a country at such vast expense. In every vital area of the wider Middle East, American policy over the last five years has taken a bad situation and made it worse.

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  7. The sound you hear is the annoying white noise of public desensitization. Slowly ratcheting up the numbers... Originally all the chatter was about a "temporary" 20,000 increase in troops for a "surge."

    Then yesterday we hear from the LA Times that Army officials believed they could recruit "at least" an extra 20,000 soldiers "a year." And from the same article we get "one officer" throwing out the 40,000 number. Then a new sound bite to "double down."

    Today, McCain widens the spread on his original lottery pick, eeking the high end up with his rigorous strategic analysis calling for an additional 15,000 to 30,000 troops.

    After a few more weeks of people throwing numbers around, each one competing for the spotlight by using ever bigger numbers (40, 60, 100,000?), most being clueless or with obvious agendas, the public again becomes dull to it all.

    Then Bush steps up to the plate in January (after he's done all that thunkin' over the holidays), and announces a troop increase markedly less than the high-end numbers being tossed around at that time, and there's no shock; there's even some relief. The public is numb, the press has already shot its wad, and declaring an additional permanent troop increase of say 30,000 won't raise an eyebrow, as media focus will be on the crisis du jour. I'm surprised they aren't so arrogantly tacky as to suggest numbers that make a smaller psychological impression -- the old pricing gimmick: 29,999 for instance.

    Again, ymb is not the swiftest current in the river, but he knows some things very well; how to use cover, and how to manipulate being two of his notable skills.

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  8. And the beat goes on, as we watch the numbers begin to get bigger and bigger... from yesterday's MercuryNews (http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/politics/16241756.htm):

    "While some key decisions haven't been made yet, the senior officials said the emerging strategy includes:

    [ ... ]

    _A possible short-term surge of as many as 40,000 more American troops to try to secure Baghdad, along with a permanent increase in the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps, which are badly strained by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan."

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  9. "Dubya Down on Iraq" Ah, I'll be the first in line to buy him a drink!

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  10. Martin K1:04 PM

    Mandt: Yes, he should serve. Give him the proconsul of Baghdad position after the impeachment , with armed guards outside to prevent escape. Hoho, the decider in action.

    ecclonenine: The problem is that you dont have the forces to do a really massive surge. As rangeragainstwar points out, the ratio of shooters to support in the army is almost 1:10, wich means that a "surge" of 20000 means max 2500 active combat-duty soldiers. To take on Sadr? I think not. So I think quite simply the president is trying for a holding action and accepts current US casualties as rational. Good for the weapon, drug and oil industry, hey?

    Also, you might take into consideration that Afghanistan is producing 90% of the worlds heroin these days. Where does it get smuggled through, you may well ask. Your CIA isnt exactly spotless in that department from the past, it is after all the worlds second largest industry, and completely invisible.

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