Saturday, January 06, 2007

On the surge

By Michael J.W. Stickings

John McCain, true to form, is calling for a "substantial" and "sustained" surge of troops in Iraq. (But will he take any of the blame when Bush's "new" strategy fails? Or will he be blamed at all? Likely not, but hopefully so. It's about time he was held accountable for his irresponsibly militaristic rhetoric.)

And, also true to form, Joe Lieberman's right there with him, kissing his ass with bipartisan fervour. Honestly, I wonder if holding on to a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate is enough of an incentive to allow Lieberman to remain a Democrat, and not least a Democrat with his seniority intact. I suppose it is, but, as they say, it's a tough pill to swallow.

Meanwhile, Democrats -- real Democrats, not Lieberman -- are calling on Bush to withdraw troops, not surge more into a war that has become such a lost cause. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi "sent Bush a letter suggesting that, instead of starting a short-term escalation, he begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces in the next four to six months". They are quite right to try "to preempt the president before he announces his new strategy," and they are right more substantively about withdrawal, but Bush isn't about to agree with them. If he didn't agree with Jim Baker, why would he agree with his enemies? (The full text of the Reid-Pelosi letter is here.)

It seems that "Bush is considering three main options to bolster U.S. forces in Iraq: a relatively modest deployment of fewer than 4,000 additional troops, a middle-ground alternative involving about 9,000 and, the most aggressive idea, flowing 20,000 more troops into the country." But the second option may be the most he can do. According to Think Progress, CBS News is reporting, from a State Department leak, that it'll be a "bump," not a "surge," with a maximum of 15,000 to 20,000 troops. But it is also being reported that there are only 9,000 troops available for a "surge" or a "bump" or whatever it'll be called. But it's pretty clear that an extra 9,000 troops won't make much of a difference, certainly not enough to pacify Baghdad. Indeed, the military is indicating that even an extra 20,000 troops wouldn't do much to "turn around the deteriorating situation" in Iraq.

And yet Bush will more than likely go ahead with some sort of surge, or at least spin it that way. His new strategy, which won't be new in substance, perhaps won't be as extreme as McCain would like it to be with respect to a surge, but Bush and his team seem to be leaning in that direction.

If only this were a parliamentary system and Bush could be booted from office. As it is, though, with Bush still calling the shots even after years of failure, the losing in Iraq will continue.

No matter how big the surge is.

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