It looks like the escalation is on. David E. Sanger reports in Sunday's New York Times that Mr. Bush's new strategy for Iraq will include a rapid influx of up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops. Sanger says U.S. officials report that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is on board with the plan.
It's quite clear that the key players in Mr. Bush's new/reorganized security team: Robert Gates, John Negroponte, Michael McConnell, Lieutenant General David Patraeus and Admiral William Fallon are on board with the escalation as well.
It's also clear who is influencing Mr. Bush's policy. From a Saturday opinion piece in The Nation:
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol walked into the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) yesterday with a big grin on his face, as if to say "they're listening to me again!"
Wolfowitz, Feith, Rumsfeld, Bolton and other architects of the war in
Iraq may be gone, but the neoconservatives' stature inside the Bush Administration has hardly diminished. The same people that sold us the war, often under false pretenses, are now leading proponents of escalating the conflict by sending tens of thousands of additional troops.
An event at AEI yesterday brought together the intellectual progenitors of escalation: military historian Fred Kagan, retired General Jack Keane and Senators John McCain and
Joe Lieberman. The focus was not on how to clean up the neocons' mess, but on how to deepen it.
"The surge must be substantial and it must be sustained," McCain told a packed room.
Opening a Third Front
If Bush is following Kristol's lead on Iraq, it's a good bet he's listening to Kristol's desires for the U.S. to confront Iran as well. No doubt, Bush also appreciates Kristol's unique ability to use the media to "sell" war-centric policies to the public.
The Sunday Times recently reported that military sources say Israel will employ tactical nuclear weapons against Iran if it doesn't give up its uranium enrichment program.
Larisa Alexandrovna asks a number of pertinent questions regarding the Sunday Times article. Is the story true? Was it leaked by someone concerned about Israel's intentions? Or was it planted as part of a propaganda/psychological operation, and if so, who planted it and for what purpose?
Whatever the answers to those questions might be, given the Rovewellian pollution of our contemporary information environment, it is hardly paranoid to suspect that someone in Bill Kristol's circle is behind the story, especially when we consider that The Times is part of Rupert Murdoch's publishing empire, as is The Weekly Standard, which is edited by Kristol, and Fox News, where Kristol appears as a regular commentator.
The Right Tool for the Right Job
Many were surprised when Bush named Navy Admiral William "Fox" Fallon to replace General John Abizaid as head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). At first blush, it seemed unusual to place a Navy man in charge of an area of responsibility (AOR) in which two ground wars are taking place. But the CENTCOM AOR also includes Iran, and any military confrontation with Iran will be a major maritime and air operation. A naval flight officer, Fallon's credentials as a maritime and air power expert, his combat experience, and his record as a force commander at the three and four-star level, are unmatched. What's more, from what I've observed and heard about him, he possesses a super-human intellectual capacity. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that he still remembers the serial number on his baby spoon.
So it I were Mr. Bush, and was determined to press forward with Bill Kristol's neoconservative agenda, Fallon is the exact guy I'd put in the CENTCOM billet.
The Ides of February or March or April
If Mr. Bush decides to escalate and expand his Middle East war, all the key senior players and all the forces necessary for him to do so should be in place by mid-winter or early spring.
The majority of Congress and the public seem to be against such a move, but Mr. Bush doesn't appear to be listening to the legislature or the people. He appears to be marching to the beat of a drummer named William Kristol.
Navy Admiral Goes to CENTCOM (by Jeff)
Smoke, Mirrors and War Powers (by Jeff)
Wars and Empires (by Jeff)
BYOT Leakage or Conscience Leakage? (by Larisa Alexandrovna)
Hersh: U.S. mulls nuclear option for Iran (CNN)
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.