Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bush on ISG: Don't hold your breath

In response to the Iraq Study Group's report (which I blogged about here), President Bush today essentially blew them off.

President Bush said today that the United States needs "a new approach" in Iraq, but he implicitly rejected a key recommendation of a bipartisan panel that issued a hard-hitting report yesterday: the holding of direct talks with Iran and Syria independently of other issues.

Beyond that, he continued to insist on "victory" in Iraq, despite rising criticism -- including from the ISG -- that his definition of victory is unachievable.

He also refused to acknowledge that his strategy has failed.

That's his right, of course, but those are not the words or actions of man who is open to major changes of course.

To be fair, it can be very hard for anyone -- and most especially someone with Bush's stubborn personality -- to be told that their plan has failed. It's doubly difficult when the message is delivered clearly, in public and in some measure by his dad (through family proxy James Baker).

And it doesn't get easier when Baker throws doubt on one of Bush's orginal reasons for invading.

Both Baker and Hamilton also questioned one of the Bush administration's original premises for the 2003 invasion -- that going into Iraq was necessary to defeat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups following the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

Asked directly by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) whether Iraq was central to the war on terror, Baker said "it may not have been when we first went in," even though he felt "it certainly is now."

Ouch. And I'd even dispute the "certainly is now" line. Sunni Iraqi leaders are already miffed with the foreign jihadists; once we leave those jihadists will be persona non grata in large parts of Iraq. Al Qaeda simply does not have much popular support among Iraqis of any stripe.

Administration officials said Bush will make a decision on Iraq strategy in the next few weeks. Let's hope his eventual decision is more promising than his initial reaction.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've listened a bit to the right-wing propaganda machine (sp. Hannity) and the word "victory" is definitely being trumpeted over and over again. Sure it's a fine word, but it seems rather meaningless in this situation. Another tack is their discussing Winston Churchill and some of his quotes during the WW2 era. I can think of a number of reasons why the comparison of our present struggle to WW2 is a blatant false analogy, and why the comparison of Bush to Churchill is ludicrous.
I'm curious, if you wish to expound, on your take of those comparisons...
- Caracarn

12/07/2006 4:54 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

I haven't seen the precise comments you refer to, but there are all sorts of reasons why Iraq is not comparable to World War II. The main difference is that our national survival is not at stake. Once you set aside the enemies we created by invading (and whom will disappear as a serious problem once we leave), we are confronting a dedicated but small band of terrorists who simply do not pose an existential threat to us or, really, anyone.

For more I point you to the "notable posts" section of my sidebar, particularly the "Iraq distraction" entries and "Is terror a military or criminal problem?"

Or check here for my take on how Iraq compares to Vietnam. It mentions Churchill, too!

12/07/2006 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Marc Schneider said...

I have to think the GOP is not happy about Bush's position. If nothing changes in Iraq and we are still there in 2008, the Republican candidate will have no chance unless he explicitly repudiates Bush--and it's not an easy thing for a candidate to repudiate a sitting president of his own party.

But it doesn't surprise me. Whatever you think of Bush and the neoconservative line(and I don't think much), I always thought the idea that the war was about oil was nonsense, at least for them. I think Bush was, and is, a true believer who sees himself annointed to defeat terrorism. This isn't a guy that is intellectually curious and certainly not introspective. And he thinks that leaving Iraq without victory will be a defeat that empowers terrorists. To some extent, I agree with him. Bush has now put us in a position that there is no good way out of Iraq. If we leave, militant Islamists and Iran will certainly see this as a defeat. Moreover, Iraq is likely to be even more of a bloodbath than it is now. On the other hand, if we stay, our presence simply exacerbates the anti-Americanism in the region. Thanks to Bush, there is no way out. I think we ultimately will have to acknowledge that, however this comes out (unless we do achieve "victory"), the US is going to be substantially weakened and that it will take some time to recover, as it did from Viet Nam. And I'm afraid that many will see the Iraq debacle as an excuse for the US to withdraw from the world, which I think would be a mistake.

12/08/2006 10:49 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Excellent points, Marc. I agree with all of them. One quibble: I think it's about oil to the extent that the whole reason we care about the Mideast at all is because it has oil. But I agree that the specific decision to invade Iraq had little to do with oil. Bush is a true believer, and like many true believers he has a hard time adjusting when reality smacks his ideology for a loop.

12/08/2006 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Marc Schneider said...

Agreed Sean. I really meant to say that the motivation for the neocons (and, I think, Bush) wasn't specifically to get the oil. They could get the oil just as easily by dealing with Saddam Hussein. But, obviously, we care about the ME because of oil.

12/08/2006 12:32 PM  

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