Many observers are calling this bill repudiation by GOP legislators of Mr. Bush's Iraq strategy, but it's more accurate to describe it as another blank check.
Go Long to Get Along
Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) said in a telephone interview last week with Anne Flaherty of the Associated Press that he's not surprised that Washington is warming up to the group's recommendations. "If you're going to get out of Iraq, you have to make the primary mission training the Iraqis," Hamilton said.
But it doesn't sound like the Republicans backing Senator Alexander's bill are designed to "get out of Iraq."
"The president needs bipartisan support if the United States is to sustain a long-term position in Iraq," Alexander says, adding that the message he's trying to send Mr. Bush is "Let's see if we can agree on an entire approach so you can have the kind of support you need."
The kind of support Mr. Bush needs is the kind that never runs out. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said on Tuesday that there is no "end game" in sight for Iraq. In an interview with NPR, Crocker said, "I think that in the U.S., we're looking at Iraq right now as though it were the last half of a three-reel movie. I think for Iraqis, it's a five-reel movie and they are still in the first half of it."
The first half of it? Hell, we may not be halfway through the first reel of it.
The bill Alexander and others are proposing has the look and feel of a maneuver to make it look like legislators are standing up to Bush when, in fact, they're rolling over for him.
The Long War
In February 2006, while still under the iron leadership of Donald Rumsfeld, the Department of Defense released a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) that introduced the "long war" concept. Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington Post described it as "…a new 20-year defense strategy that envisions U.S. troops deployed, often clandestinely, in dozens of countries at once to fight terrorism and other nontraditional threats."
But at the time of the QDR, even the Defense Department admitted that it didn't know what the global security situation would look like in 20 years. Ryan Henry, undersecretary of defense for defense policy said, "Things get very fuzzy past the five-year point."
The five-year point? America is so bollixed up in Iraq now that things get fuzzy past the five eye-blink point, but that hardly matters.
Texas friends of the president told columnist Georgie Ann Geyer that Bush clearly intends to set things up in Iraq so his successor cannot avoid "our country's destiny."
Administration luminaries like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are endorsing something called the "Korean model," a vision for maintaining a decades long military presence in Iraq. America has maintained a significant troop presence in South Korea for over 50 years. We currently have about 30,000 troops there.
The Korean model for Iraq is another example of the Bush administration's application of false analogies. As Fred Kaplan of Slate aptly explains:
…in no meaningful way are these two wars, or these two countries, remotely similar. In no way does one experience, or set of lessons, shed light on the other. In Iraq, no border divides friend from foe; no clear concept defines who is friend and foe. To say that Iraq might follow "a Korean model"--if the word model means anything--is absurd.
And as Jonathan Alter of Newsweek correctly observes:
The only two reasons to station troops in the Middle East for half a century are protecting oil supplies (reflecting a pessimistic view of energy independence) outside the normal channels of trade and diplomacy, and projecting raw military power. These are the imperial aims of an empire.
They were also the aims of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the neoconservative think tank that began pushing for an Iraq invasion in the late 90s.
The dreams of megalomaniacs die harder than a Bruce Willis character. The neocons wanted to enlarge the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East to control the oil flow and protect Israel, and to simultaneously block our old Cold War adversaries from influencing the region and the balance of the world's energy supply. They're still marching us down that slope. If we let them drive us down that slope much further, we won't have good options for reversing course, and may very well find ourselves, a half-century from now, trying to figure out how to extract our troops from somebody else's civil war.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.