Ray Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, says Iraqi officials are now showing a "sense of urgency" about making progress on political measures. But, uh, he warns that we shouldn't expect any dramatic gains before the end of the summer.
The end of the summer is, of course, in September, which also happens to be the month in which Central Command chief General David Petraeus is supposed to tell Congress whether or not the so-called "surge" strategy is working. Problem: the only measure by which the surge can be judged is dramatic gains in the political process, which Ambassador Crocker tells we won't see by September. But Crocker warns that it won't be fair to conclude the new strategy has failed come September. Which means all this talk of evaluation things in September is a total crock of livestock digestion.
Limping to the Finish Line
Well, now, before the November elections, Mr. Bush told us he expected Donald Rumsfeld to stay in place as Secretary of Defense through the end of Mr. Bush's term. When we voted young Mr. Bush's sycophants in Congress out of power, Rumsfeld caught the train to Palookaville, and Bush unveiled his new and improved Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. Gates, we later found out, had already been interviewed for the SecDef job when Bush was telling us Rumsfeld would stick around for the duration.
For nearly four years, prior to the door colliding with Rummy's bum on his way out, we heard from the Bush camp that additional troops in Iraq weren't needed because commanders on the ground said they weren't necessary, and as Mr. Bush always maintained, it was important for him, as commander in chief, to listen to the commanders on the ground. With Rummy gone, the commanders on the ground Bush had been listening to--Generals John Abizaid and George Casey--got the bum's rush too, and Bush replaced he whole caboodle with a bunch that said more troops in Iraq was the way to go.
The administration sold the "surge" plan on the basis that it was the idea of new U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus, the "brilliant" officer who had supervised production of the Army's new field manual on counterinsurgency. The administration then argued that having confirmed Petraeus's appoint to the top job in Iraq, Congress couldn't then turn around and pass legislation that blocked Petraeus from giving his surge plan time to succeed. Except the surge plan--more accurately described as the "escalation strategy"--wasn't the brainchild of Petraeus. No, the escalation scheme sprang from the minds of Frederick Kagan and retired general Jack Keane, prominent members of the American Enterprise Institute and luminaries in constellation of neoconservatives who got us into this Iraq fiasco in the first place.
The injection of Petraeus and the surge bought the administration six more months of "past bedtime" time, but as Ambassador Crocker's remarks indicate, six months won't be enough to accomplish whatever was supposed to be accomplished. Time has run out months before its time.
Little wonder then that as we hear that yet another timeline/benchmark can't be met, we get another smoke and mirror show about the new "War Czar."
Lieutenant General Douglas E. Lute will take on the newly created job of "War Czar," a position turned down by at least five retired four-stars. Lute will work under National Security Adviser Steven Hadley, and supposedly will report directly to the president on coordination matters involving cabinet secretaries and four star commanders in Central Command, Iraq and Afghanistan. No one seems certain how having a three-star riding roughshod on his military and civilian superiors is supposed to work out. Lute's clout, in theory, will come from his access to Mr. Bush, but that's a heck of a way to run an organization. What's Lute supposed to do? Tell the likes of Condi Rice or Central Command chief Admiral William Fallon, "Do what I tell you or I'll snitch to the old man?"
Yeah. That'll go over like a lead zeppelin.
It's hard to say what Lute's real function will be. He may be the conduit for Bush to transmit his wishes to the commanders and secretaries. He may also be the designated messenger who gives Mr. Bush an earful of what the commanders and secretaries have to say. Whatever the case, he's unlikely to be successful. The commanders and secretaries already know Mr. Bush won't issue detailed directives (he doesn't do detail) and that he won't listen to anything he doesn't want to hear. Whatever messages Lute transmits in either direction are destined to fall on deaf ears.
Lute's real function is twofold. First, he will provide another layer of distance from the Bush inner circle and its profound failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, he is the down payment on the next "Friedman unit." A "Friedman" refers to multiple iterations by New York Times of the sentiment that in "the next six months we're going to find out…whether a decent outcome is possible" in the Iraq war.
General Petraeus's Friedman runs out in September of this year. If things world out right for the Bush administration, Lute's "War Czar" Friedman will stretch the Iraq escalation strategy out to March of 2008. At that point, we may see a "Diplomacy Dominatrix" appointed to carry Bush through Friedman and a fraction left before the November elections.
And lamentably, it may be January of 2009 before we get a "Peace Pope" who can pull us out of Iraq and figure out a way to salvage something out of the situation in Afghanistan.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.