Bush's Escalation Plan Still VERY Unpopular

Americans have had the chance to digest the plan put forward by President Bush to escalate the Iraq War and, unsurprisingly, they are rather unimpressed. Susan Page has some of the details for USA Today.

President Bush's address to the nation last week failed to move public opinion in support of his plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq and left Americans more pessimistic about the likely outcome of the war.

Among the key findings of the poll, which come to a fairly similar conclusion to the surveys conducted last week -- namely that the President's speech failed to woo support for his plans for Iraq -- are:

* 47% said it is "certain" or "likely" the U.S. will "win" in Iraq, vs. 50% who said that before Bush's speech.

* 49% said it is "unlikely" the U.S. will win or "certain" it will not, vs. 46% who said that before Bush's speech. [...]

* Bush's overall "approval rating" stood at 34%, vs. 37% before the speech.

* The percentage who said they disapprove of Bush's performance as president was 63%, vs. 59% before the speech.

There is little to say about these numbers aside from that they are truly abysmal. They represent a level of distrust in this particular administration unseen in decades and perhaps even ever in American history. And I'm not entirely certain what, if anything, can be done to turn that around in the next two years to reverse this situation.

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Bush Administration Admits "Surge" is Just a Way to Prolong the War

For some time it has been apparent that the real reason behind the move implemented by the President and supported strongly by John McCain and others to escalate the Iraq War was to ensure that American forces would not have to be redeployed out of the country while George Bush is still in the White House. One of the top U.S. commanders in the region, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, admitted as much this week, but thus far the Bush administration in Washington has been less forthcoming about its real intentions. Until now. Peter Baker and Michael Abramowitz have the story for The Washington Post.

The more serious threat to the White House would be a Democratic attempt to restrict funds for more troops. Bush aides said that current funds are enough to get started, and they are counting on the notion that it will take two months until the supplemental appropriation bill providing more war funds comes to a vote. By then, they said, extra troops will be on the ground and it will be too late for Congress to stop them. And they hope for signs of progress that would let them argue that the plan is working.

"This buys us time," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy. A political strategist who advises the White House added: "The public responds to progress and to events. Every time they can see real progress -- an election, catching Saddam, whatever it is -- they like it." And so if violence can be tamped down, it could defuse some public hostility.

If that happens, the White House hopes the troop buildup then will succeed in bringing enough stability to Baghdad by August that U.S. forces can withdraw to the city outskirts. And officials said it must be sustained. "By the end of the year, Baghdad's got to look significantly different," said a National Security Council official not authorized to speak on the record.

Cynicism within the Bush White House runs deep, with a "senior administration official" effectively admitting that the point of the gambit in Iraq it to buy time. While the official does not explicitly state that time being bought will run out the clock of the Bush administration, the implication is quite obvious. Coupled with the revelation that the man who designed the plan, Fred Kagan, has no expertise in as recently as last month argued that nothing short of a surge of 80,000 troops -- nearly four times what the U.S. military is sending in to Iraq -- was needed to alleviate the country's problems, this tacit admission from the Bush administration provides further proof that it cares more about politics and adhering to an ideological orthodoxy than it does about either the safety of American forces, the cost to our nation or, frankly, ever ending the war in Iraq.

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On McCain's Guarantee of Failure if Escalation is Not Adopted

Working from home the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to watch quite a bit of the ongoing and rather repetitive debates on the American foreign policy and the Iraq War on the cable news networks. One recurring theme I have heard almost every day from the conservative half of debate duos is that regardless of the fact that the current American strategy in Iraq is not succeeding, which these hacks only today concede, the withdrawal of U.S. forces in the near future would inevitably lead to costs too high, both for America and Iraq. This position is fairly well summed up by Sen. John McCain, as quoted by Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray on page one of today's issue of The Washington Post, talking about President Bush's move to escalate the war.

"I cannot guarantee success, but I can guarantee failure if we don't adopt this new strategy," he said.

The fallaciousness of this argument, and others of its ilk, is fairly clear. Rather than building the case that either their policy prescriptions are correct or that those advocating the redeployment of American forces are incorrect, these hawkish pundits and politicians merely presume what they set out to prove: that withdrawal will not work, and thus an increase in troops -- or at least a continuation of the status quo -- is needed. Of course this is not sound logic. More importantly, this faulty reasoning leads to disastrous results.

There is an argument to be made that in the short term, and perhaps even longer, the withdrawal of American forces would cause problems and bloodshed. But what these hawks fail to concede, and what ultimately leads them to in fact argue for an unending American presence in Iraq (even if they would not say so explicitly), is that this argument would be equally applicable today as it would in two years -- or ten or twenty. Unless the ethnic and religious tensions within Iraq are solved, unless other players within the region decide to give up their determination to see the situation in Iraq turn in their favor, unless those within the country who stand to lose power if they put down their arms decide to abandon their current tactics in the hopes of achieving their goals through political, rather than violent means, we will continue to face the prospect of negative consequences to the withdrawal of American forces. This doesn't mean that all of these things will not come together in the next few months or years, but I'm not willing to hold my breath on it and the American people are not willing to endure more casualties and billions in expenditures on the chance that things will just work themselves out.

The redeployment of American forces will not be easy. To say so would be as disengenuous as guaranteeing failure if 21,500 more American troops were not sent into Iraq. But we, as Americans -- including those in power; especially those in power -- must begin to come to terms with the possibility, if not likelihood that pulling our troops out, almost whenever it occurs, will be messy. Only then can we truly weigh the costs, both in lives and in dollars, of remaining in Iraq for months, years or (hopefully not) decades to come. And when that debate finally occurs, it will be even more difficult for the hawks to peddle their calls for endless war in Iraq.

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An Update on Anti-Escalation and Redeployment Legislation

We saw some movement in regards to anti-escalation legislation yesterday.  Neither Senate bill (S.233 offered by Ted Kennedy and calling for the cutting of funds for escalation and S.121 which is offered by Russ Feingold calls for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq) picked up any new cosponsors.  

However, both House bills (see below) picked up cosponsors.  New cosponsors are in italics.

H.Con.Res.23: Offered by Dennis Kucinich

Expresses the sense of the Congress that troops not be escalated (note the use of the word "escalated") in Iraq.  I may be wrong, but this appears to be a non-binding resolution.  Judging from the compartively high number of cosponsors and the fact that Lynch is a cosponsor, it appears this may become a "consensus" piece of legislation, basically hot air but no substance. It gained five cosponsors, moving it to 26.  The cosponsors:

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Escalation Synopsis, Bush's "Punt"

Democrats have all the cover they need to stop this Constitutionally, generals on the ground whom Bush says he "listens" to say "surge" won't work (Casey, Abizaid) so Bush replaces them.Democrats can't articulate the difference between "micro-managing" a war and stopping a major escalation, so why did we elect them? Biden the worst, says..."You can't go in and, like a tinker toy, and play around and say, "You can't spend the money on this piece and this piece"...this is willful incompetence, Biden's silver tongue suddenly fails him...it's the Democrats' move...cap funds now for manpower escalation while insuring troops already present are fully supplied (NOT LIKE BEFORE! Remember "hillbilly armor?")...meaningless non-binding resolutions not enough...the "surge" is Bush's end-game to make sure Iraq falls apart only after he is out of office and it's someone else's problem...it will fall apart in the absence of the regional diplomacy he so adamantly rejects, urged by the Iraq Study Group...thousands of brave men to die for Bush's political gamesmanship and nothing more, in an invasion the world begged Bush not to order and which had nothing to do with 9/11...bin Laden and Taliban alive and thriving in Afghanistan/Northern Pakistan...Bush replaces CENTCOM commander Abizaid with a Navy Admiral,a deep water man to lead a classic desert counterinsurgency! Beeutiful!

"I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the core commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American Troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no."-General John Abizaid, CENTCOM Commander, November 2006

from http://ralphlopezworld.com

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