Also at Kos.
It's a cherished tradition in halls of power: keep asking for advice until someone tells you what you want to hear.
Michael A. Fletcher and Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post report that and Mister Bush and Dick Cheney met with three retired generals and two academics on Monday to discuss the Iraq situation. The group, which included former four-star MSNBC analysts Barry McCaffrey and Wayne Downing, gave a dismal assessment of Iraq, and an even more dismal assessment of the Iraq Study Group's recommendations. They were especially critical of the ISG's suggestions to reduce troop levels and to hold talks with Iran and Syria, suggestions that Bush has already dismissed.
The "experts" still believe Iraq is "winnable."
It looks more and more like the "new way forward" will be the "more of the same way sidewards."
The group agreed with the idea of increasing the number of trainers and advisers as a means of standing up Iraqi forces that have largely been sitting down on the job. Iraq's army has consistently refused to participate in operations aimed at other Iraqis; the police force has been infiltrated with private militia members. The kind of training and advising it takes to solve problems like that involves a horizontal 21-gun salute.
The group disagreed whether more U.S. troops should be deployed to Baghdad, but was in accord on increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps and increasing their budgets. The notion of increasing the size of our land forces has been gaining popularity for more than a year, and I find it more than a little disturbing. We only need larger land forces if we intend to maintain troop levels in Iraq at their present numbers or greater for an extended period of time. Beefing up the Army and Marines is a formula for prolonging the war, not ending it, and will lead to a strategy that adds military force to a problem for which there is no military solution.
More Maliki Malarky
Edward Wong of the New York Times reports that several of Iraq's political parties are in talks to form a coalition to break the political influence of Shiite Cleric and militia leader Moktada al-Sadr. They've invited Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to join them, but Maliki has so far refused because he's afraid they may try to toss him out of office.
Al-Sadr, once Maliki's main political ally, withdrew his 30 loyalists from the Iraqi Parliament in protest of Maliki's recent meeting in Jordan with Mister Bush. Maliki has asked the al-Sadr bloc to return, but they said they will only do so if Maliki and the Americans set a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal. Bush has consistently refused to talk about timetables, and is unlikely to change his mind on the subject.
Here's what's it looks like we're going to do: we'll keep 140,000 troops or so in Iraq to deal with a problem they can't solve so they can stand in the way of a political solution.
One keeps hoping that a previously undiscovered competence and sanity will emerge in the Bush administration, but those hopes are likely in vain. Yes, it helps that Donald Rumsfeld is gone from the Department of Defense and that John Bolton has left the UN. But Condi Rice is still Secretary of State and Dick Cheney is still seated next to the throne.
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell announced on Tuesday that Bush will not make any decision on the Iraq policy and strategy until after the winter holidays. That's a wise move, provided he uses the time wisely. You probably won't be shocked to hear that I couldn't give a gnat's toenail less about Bush II's legacy, but I do care about the future of the United States. In two years, Bush will retire to his library and finish My Pet Goat. The rest of us have to live with whatever he leaves us.
Whatever Bush decides to do in Iraq will determine America's fate for at least a century. No, that's not hyperbole. Our sortie into Iraq was a grave mistake, and grave mistakes bring dire consequences. If Bush blows it this time, U.S. influence on Middle East affairs could disappear like the sandwich my dog snatched off the kitchen counter last night. The vacuum will be filled by Russia and China, with help from their energy partner Iran. The loyalties of our western European allies will erode even further than they already have. Isolated, our economy will dwindle, as will our leverage over Russia and China, and we could wake up one day to realize that, shucks, we lost the Cold War after all.
So much for that "mission accomplished," huh?
As frustrating as it is to watch the violence rage in Iraq while Bush ponders his next step, it's a necessary frustration. He needs to listen to as many fresh voices as he can absorb, and he needs to shut out the ones he's been listening to, starting with that "higher Father" of his and the Christian right he's been sucking up to. He needs to tell Dick Cheney to stock up on heart medicine, go back to his undisclosed location, and stay there. He needs to tell Karl Rove to pack his propaganda playbook and boogie back to Texas. He either needs to give Condi Rice free rein to conduct foreign policy the way she deems fit or, if he doesn't trust her to operate independently without Cheney and Bolton kneecapping her every move, he needs to bring in somebody else he can rely on to take the diplomatic ball and run with it. And he really needs a new set of generals to replace the ones who kissed their way to the four-star rung under Donald Rumsfeld.
He needs to establish trust with America and the rest of the world. Spitooning Karl Rove will help in that regard, but Bush will have to lose a lot of other bad habits. No more talking points or buzz phrases. No more smirks, quirks, or shuck and jive posing like a six-gun shooter in a bad cowboy movie. No more blaming everybody from the media to the Clintons to Catholics who voted for John Kerry for his failures. He needs to quit worrying about the Republican Party. The GOP is better off without him and he's better off without the GOP.
What he needs to do most is stop acting like a spoiled adolescent playing grown-up and start acting like a 60 year-old man who is the president of the United States and leader of the free world. If he can do that, he might just find that Americans across the political spectrum will still support him. Heck, I might even stop calling him "Young Mister Bush."
If he can't do that, he needs to be impeached.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.