Wednesday, January 10, 2007

He Forgot Poland

I am against the war. I am against staying the course, against a surge, an escalation, a rejiggering, or whatever they're calling it this week. Hell, if Bush suggested we all go out for ice cream sundaes, I'd be against that too.

Bush Derangement Syndrome? Maybe so. But I learned a long time ago that if you burn your hand on a stove, you don't keep putting it there again and again and again. Or, as a former supporter of this debacle put it:
To back this anemic reponse to the escalating civil war requires us to abandon our empirical sense and the lessons of the past four years. To back it requires us to trust this president as a competent, deft and determined leader. Do you? Can you? At this point? After all we have seen?
But all that aside, let's just pretend for a moment that adding more troops is the answer. The president is sending 20,000 more to Iraq, and -- in a stunning reversal from 6 years of his administration's policy -- he wants to increase the size of the armed forces:
We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the armed forces we need for the 21st century.
The military says we don't have 'em. There's not going to be a draft, or thousands of volunteers, or clones, robots, or elves coming to the rescue.

Here's the opening of the president's speech tonight:
Tonight in Iraq, the armed forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror - and our safety here at home.
Later, he said this:
The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time... America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century.
Again, I don't believe that, and at this point, I wouldn't believe him if he said the sky is blue or chocolate is yummy. But let's keep playing along for now.

(But wait a minute! He also said:
Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops.
Did he just declare war on Iran?
I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border [with Iran -- duh!]. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.
I think he did. According to the Bush Doctrine, the U.S. will make no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor or support them. If we're still walking that walk, we should be in Tehran by now, which is gonna require a lot more troops. Tens of thousands. Of course, we won't hunt for bin Laden in Pakistan because it's a sovereign nation, so maybe not even the Bushies subscribe to that particular bit of lunacy any more.)

So to recap, the president says (1) this is the decisive ideological struggle of our time and (2) we're going to need a bigger boat more troops, both in theater and in general.

Where are all these troops going to come from for this most vital of missions?

Hey! There are western-style free secular capitalist industrialized democracies all over the world! (Some of them are shown in green above.) Surely they have a stake in the decisive ideological struggle of our time, and would gladly commit armed forces in its cause.

Let's check on the Coalition of the Willing:


Original March 2003 supporters of Operation Iraqi Freedom in blue. Here's how it looks today:

It's kind of hard to see the details. The short version is, the so-called "coalition," which was a joke to begin with, is falling apart faster than a Hollywood marriage.

We have about 130,000 troops in Iraq and are gearing up to add 20,000 more. England, Korea and Australia each have 1,000 or more. Poland -- bless their hearts -- has about 900, and another dozen or so countries have less than that, all the way down to 35 lonely Danes. The full list is here.

But wait! Canada, Japan and Italy -- surely some of the heavy hitters on any list of liberal democracies -- pulled their troops out of Iraq last year. That was after a bunch of other similar countries like Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain and New Zealand went home in 2004 and 2005. This is in addition to the fact that other important lights of western civilization like Germany and France never joined the coalition in the first place. Of course, a lot of these countries have been attacked by the Islamic extremists the president keeps saying we're incapacitating via our adventure in Iraq.

You want more troops, make the case to these interested parties that this is the central front in the decisive ideological struggle of our time. You can't do it. That ship has sailed. Other countries are going home, not building up. The coalition is a fantasy, because the would-be members recognize that Iraq is not World War III IV Balboa whatever.

The White House still maintains a forlorn web page listing the 49 48 (Costa Rica asked to be taken off the list) member nations of the coalition. Whatever. But what's interesting is that the preamble to the list, dated March 27, 2003, starts off by saying this:

President Bush is assembling a Coalition that has already begun military operations to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, and enforce 17 UNSC resolutions.

The Coalition will also liberate the Iraqi people from one of the worst tyrants and most brutal regimes on earth.

Mission fuckin' accomplished. Declare victory and go home. 175 other countries can't all be wrong. Iraq is not the central front on anything.

Even Bush recognizes this at some level. Back to his speech:

Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people.
Can? Maybe. Will? Eventually, I guess. The rest of the world sees this for what it is. Only we keep sending fresh fodder over there to be maimed and killed.

Update 1: Glenn Greenwald worries that Bush indeed intends to surge right into Iran.

But Greg Djerejian, who knows a lot about this stuff, says, "Not so fast":

Folks, this is really either (more likely) a bunch of hot air (additional carrier strike group, destroying "networks", etc), masquerading as resolve (as Teheran and Damascus will likely smell out), or the beginning of a collosal blunder of epic proportions well beyond the very significant fiasco and disaster we've already witnessed in Iraq. With this team one can't really ever know, of course, a fearful reality indeed as we run out the clock until January '09.

Given political realities, however, not to mention capacity constraints (putting it mildly) I'm still putting my chips on hot air rather than 'go wide.' Still, there are real risks here, not least the increased likelihood that we'll be finding ourselves pitted against the Mahdi Army in brutal urban combat in relatively short order, which Tom Ricks broaches here, and which via miscalculation and escalation could lead to some very unsavory outcomes.
Update 1.5: U.S. soldiers raid an Iranian consulate in Kurdish territory. Hmmm, that can't be good.

Update 2: The Aussies and Brits politely decline to join us in surging:
Britain welcomes Bush's plan to send more troops but won't contribute additional forces of its own, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Thursday. Beckett said Britain was continuing to work "progressively" on handing over security to Iraqis in Basra, the southern city where most of the 7,000-plus British troops are based.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard also said his country backs the proposal but won't add troops, Reuters reported.
Must be the language barrier.

Stop The War.

1 comment:

evil columnist said...

Amen, son.
Wish I could write like you and were half as smart.