Iraqi boys examining the wreckage from a car bomb that killed a pedestrian and wounded five others in western Baghdad; photo courtesy of Fadhil Maliki/Associated Press
I read with a mixture of irritation and bemusement the idea being floated about in Washington about a possible new surge in U.S. troop levels in 2008. I have to admit that the Administration certainly exhibits a stubborn tenacity in supporting its poorly-conceived Iraq War plans, a quality I might even admire were not the stakes so high.
To help support the President in his efforts to build support for a troop increase - or to help drown out the escalating criticism by Congressional critics - General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a fairly rosy assessment of the current situation in Iraq and the merits of the so-called troop "surge."
"It will because what I'm hearing now is a sea change that is taking place in many places here," he replied. "It's no longer a matter of pushing al-Qaida out of Ramadi, for example, but rather — now that they have been pushed out — helping the local police and the local army have a chance to get their feet on the ground and set up their systems."
This comes only days after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki embarassed the Bush administration with his statement that "U.S. troops could leave anytime they wanted" and would be replaced by Iraqi police and soldiers if that scenario were to occur. An aide yesterday tried to clarify al-Maliki's comments, saying that the Prime Minister meant to say that the strengthening of Iraq's security forces would continue "side-by-side with the withdrawal."
Al-Maliki, of course, continues to struggle with a political dilemma, as he must walk a fine line to avoid being scene as either a puppet of the West or as a potential Iranian stooge. If and when the United States withdraws its troops, al-Maliki wants to be in a position to lead his country, and he is trying to keep his options open for either an American or Iranian hegemony.
Meanwhile, President Bush seems to have reached a decision on the war, appearing to want to roll the dice on a last-ditch military escalation to "win" in Iraq. Unfortunately, the United States already "won" the military battle in 2003, but U.S. troops have since been hunkered down in the middle of a low-grade civil war with dozens of armed factions who have a wide variety of political, religious, and economic objectives.
So the President stands behind a failed invasion based upon poor prewar intelligence and planning out of sheer stubbornness, either from a warped hope of salvaging his legacy or because he is too thickheaded to see any other options.
Meanwhile U.S. troops and innocent Iraqi civilians continue to die as a result of this bloody debacle, a war that never should have been launched but one in which President Bush, mule-like, persists in plodding along the same dusty path, swatting flies with his metaphorical tail but seemingly incapable of choosing another road.