Just Above Sunset
Volume 5, Number 10
March 11, 2007

Examining the Surge

 The world as seen from Just Above Sunset -

"Notes on how things seem from out here in Hollywood..."

The Devil in the Details

On Wednesday January 10, the president, in a nationally televised address, announces we will escalate the war in Iraq - in defiance of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (and one presumes of his own father whose people populated the group), and in defiance of the public (over sixty percent say don't do this, some polls showing eight-five percent), and the congress (even most of the Republicans are uneasy), and of the Joint Chiefs and a whole lot of the military.  He replaced Rumsfeld with Robert Gates, let go of Generals Casey and Abizaid, and standing with him are… two senators, McCain and Lieberman.  So what some have called Operation Clap Louder begins (see Tinkerbelle's Timex from May 2004).  This may work, or not.  No one can do much to stop this.  He is the commander-in-chief, and the constitution gives him command decision in time of war. The public hardly matters, and the congress can do nothing more than cut off funding - which they cannot do without cutting off funding for the troops already in Iraq. They won't do that.  And he commands the military.

In time of war… well, this is an escalation of an occupation and not precisely a war, but that may be too fine a distinction. It is his decision.

But one must pay attention.  We're ramping up another war too, the one in Somalia, the proxy war first mentioned in these pages Tuesday, 26 December 2006 and again on December 31 - fighting al Qaeda everywhere.  Two days before the Iraq announcement there was US Targets Al Qaeda Suspects in Somalia, Pentagon Official Says  - "A US gunship has attacked suspected al Qaeda targets in southern Somalia, a senior Pentagon official said Monday. The AC-130 flew its mission within the last 24 hours, the official told CNN."

The mission was flown out of Camp Lemonier in Djibouti - not exactly a well-know place, yet. But escalation seems to be what we do. We don't have the ground forces for doing anything in Somalia, but the Ethiopians will do that work for us.  We just don't outsource airpower. And the AC-130 gunship can lay down a wall of thousands of rounds of heavy 50mm metal each second. It's pretty deadly.  So things heat up in the Horn of Africa.

And in Iraq, with General Casey falling upward to become Secretary of the Army and head of the Joint Chiefs, executing the "surge" - only the lefties call it an escalation - the task of making things all better, falls to the new guy, David Petraeus, who moves from Lieutenant General to General.  Fred Kaplan notes that during the early phase of the Iraq occupation, as commander of the 101st Airborne Division, "he was one of the very few American officers who understood how to win over the populace, not just bash down their doors." But now he's faced with Mission Impossible.

He may be the right guy, some say the brightest guy in the Army, but the task is going to be rather difficult.  Yes, in 2006 he came up with the Army's new field manual on counterinsurgency - the first in twenty years. It's a lessons-learned thing, as Kaplan explains -

    In those halcyon days of the summer of '03, commanders had free access to Saddam Hussein's captured slush funds, and Petraeus used the money shrewdly to build local projects and to build trust with local leaders. It may be no coincidence that things started going to hell in northern Iraq, the 101st Airborne's area of operation, when the commanders' fund dried up - and no further funds poured in.

It wasn't just the funds.  Petraeus moved on and things fell apart, or fell back in chaos. But the lessons were learned.  The twenty-thousand more troops are going to Baghdad as part of his classic strategy of "clear, hold, and build" - with the emphasis on the third word.

Kaplan says that's not rocket science -

    This means swooping a lot of troops into a particular area (a town, a village, a neighborhood, whatever), clearing it of insurgents (i.e., killing or capturing them), and leaving behind enough troops or police to maintain order so that reconstruction can take place - while other troops move on to clear, hold, and build in the next troubled area on the list.

But you have to have the numbers right -

    Petraeus and his co-authors discussed this strategy at great length in the Army's counterinsurgency field manual. One point they made is that it requires a lot of manpower - at minimum, 20 combat troops for every 1,000 people in the area's population. Baghdad has about 6 million people; so clearing, holding, and building it will require about 120,000 combat troops.

    Right now, the United States has about 70,000 combat troops in all of Iraq (another 60,000 or so are support troops or headquarters personnel). Even an extra 20,000 would leave the force well short of the minimum required - and that's with every soldier and Marine in Iraq moved to Baghdad. Iraqi security forces would have to make up the deficit.

    In the short term, then, say for a year or so, enough troops might be concentrated in Baghdad if troops now deployed in Iraq have their tours of duty extended, troops due for redeployment to Iraq are mobilized several months ahead of schedule, nearly all these troops are transferred to Baghdad, and enough Iraqi troops can be mobilized to make up the remaining slack.

    Meanwhile, how will Petraeus be able to keep Baghdad's insurgents from simply slipping out of town and wreaking havoc elsewhere? This is what happened in Fallujah when U.S. troops tried to destroy the insurgents' stronghold in that city.

He's got a problem with the reality of the situation.  In Tal Afar, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment surrounded that town with a nine-foot-high wall, kept up a high troop-to-population ratio, and worked carefully with the local authorities - then they redeployed to somewhere else where things were hot, and it all fell apart.  You have to stay. And Baghdad with its six million people - a nine-foot-high wall around the whole thing, or select neighborhoods, is not very workable.  And the troop numbers are wrong anyway.

And then there's the matter of what troops we have there -

    Petraeus' field manual notes that counterinsurgency is very different from normal combat and that successful operations "require soldiers and marines at every echelon" to possess a daunting set of traits, among them a "clear, nuanced, and empathetic appreciation of the essential nature of the conflict … an understanding of the motivation, strengths, and weaknesses of the insurgent," and a knowledge of local culture. [Italics added.] Are there enough such soldiers and Marines at every echelon who have these traits? If there were, this field manual would not have been necessary. Beyond this, the field manual notes that combat leaders, down to the company level, must be "adaptive, self-aware, and intelligent."

    The purpose of an Army field manual is to lay down the requirements of combat - in the case of this field manual, a type of combat that the U.S. Army hasn't focused on for decades. It generally takes years, if not decades, for a new culture - which this field manual calls for and outlines - to take hold of any military. Petraeus is a brilliant officer, but it's questionable whether even he can force-feed a new culture in just a matter of months.

But if (a big if) Petraeus saves Baghdad, what about the cities in the rest of the country?  We need more good people - and if we add twenty thousand, or thirty thousand, or more, Kagan notes that well-placed officers calculate that, even if enough recruits can be found, the Army could support an expansion of just seven thousand "combatants" per year. He may be talking to the wrong people of course, or they shouldn't say such things to him.

But wait!  There's more! There's the damned Iraqis -

    Nothing will work, even under otherwise ideal circumstances, unless the Iraqi government supports the effort, orders Iraqi battalions to take part, and agrees to let the counterinsurgents go after all militias, including the Mahdi Army controlled by Muqtada Sadr, a key faction of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's power base. The Iraqi government would also have to devise some power-sharing arrangement - for instance, a formula to share oil revenues with Sunni regions - to deal with the causes of insurgency (or at least the causes of the insurgents' popular support or tolerance). While an area is being secured, the U.S. and other governments would also have to pour in massive funding for reconstruction projects, well beyond the $1 billion that President Bush is expected to request for urban job creation. In other words, a surge - even if it proves successful on its own terms - will mean nothing, in the medium to long term, unless it is part of a broader political and economic strategy.

Who knew "winning" could be so complicated? 

So what are we doing?  That's easy -

    The thinking goes like this: Maybe this will work; and if it doesn't work, the United States can cut its losses and pull back without making the retreat seem like too disastrous a debacle. "We gave it our all," the president could say; "don't blame us that it fell apart." And, since Kagan and other surge-advocates are saying the plan would take about two years to succeed or fail, the next president - not Bush - would be the one who orders, and takes all the heat for, the retreat.

It sounds a lot like Vietnam worked out, doesn't it? Gerald Ford - the man in charge of cleaning up all sorts of things - had to pull the plug.

The ironies are too easy, as in this video and transcript of the president in June 2005 -

    Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters: the sober judgment of our military leaders.

Times change on those two matters is bold, and now we're robbing Peter to pay Paul, as in Commanders Seek More Forces in Afghanistan -

    Taliban forces, shattered and ejected from Afghanistan by the US military five years ago, are poised for a major offensive against US troops and undermanned NATO forces. This has prompted US commanders here to issue an urgent appeal for a new US Marine Corps battalion to reinforce the American positions.

    NATO's 30,000 troops in Afghanistan are supposed to have taken responsibility for security operations. But Taliban attacks have risen sharply, and senior US officers here describe the NATO operation as weak, hobbled by a shortage of manpower and equipment, and by restrictions put on the troops by their capitals.

    … President Bush is expected to announce this week the dispatch of thousands of additional troops to Iraq as a stopgap measure. Such an order, Pentagon officials say, would strain the Army and Marine Corps as they man both wars.

    A US Army battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks to deploy to Iraq.

    Army Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata and other US commanders say that will happen as the Taliban is expected to unleash a campaign to cut the vital road between Kabul and Kandahar.

    The official said the Taliban intend to seize Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, where the group was organized in the 1990s. With NATO unable or unwilling to stem the rising violence, the Taliban are pressing their advantage.

    Rather than withdrawing to regroup over the winter, intelligence officials and combat commanders said, the Taliban forces - clad in new cold-weather boots and fleece jackets - are fighting through the bitter cold months.

    "It is bleak," said Colonel Chris Haas, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan.

    Conway said US commanders understand that the Afghan war is an "economy of force" operation, a military term for a mission that is given minimal resources because it is a secondary priority, in this case behind Iraq.

What's in bold tells the story.

There's the argument, from James Fallows, that this is just Another Wrong Thing -

    The proposition that Iraq can be "fixed" by an increase in troop numbers that is (a) modest enough not to require a huge re-mobilization and reconfiguration of U.S. deployments around the world, and (b) brief enough to count as a "surge" rather than an "escalation" or "re-invasion," is fantasy.

    To be more precise, the argument that it will work rests on elements each one of which is reasonable but that together do not constitute a case for increasing rather than decreasing America's stake in Iraq. These include: the unstated (by the Administration) recognition that the current course is failing; the belated admission (though again, not publicly by the Administration) that more troops might have made a big difference four years ago; the knowledge that David Petraeus, the newly appointed ground commander for Iraq, has been heavily involved in internal military efforts to lay out a more successful counter-insurgent strategy; and the ever-tempting and always-misleading "next six months will be decisive" fallacy.

    Conceivably 20,000 U.S. troops could make things look better around Baghdad for a brief enough time to let the Administration declare "success" and turn things over to the Iraqis. Conceivably. But not probably; if anything, it's more likely that more troops will mean more targets for IEDs, more large-scale urban combat (with all that does to win "hearts and minds"), and an even higher-stakes disaster.

    … And if it's unlikely that a "surge" would improve circumstances in the short term, it is inconceivable that a relatively small increase in troops, even with leadership that has learned from nearly four years of gross errors, could reverse the situation in the largest sense.

    The country would be doing the wrong thing - another wrong thing - in increasing rather than decreasing its exposure to the disaster it has helped create. It is hard to imagine that this is what the public was voting for two months ago.

Who knows now what we were voting for?

And as Tim Grieve notes this is a hard sell -

    The president will try to sell his new Iraq plan this week by describing a series of benchmarks the Iraqi government must meet along the way to standing up for itself. The problems with the sell job: 1) Bush can't make the benchmarks too hard or fast without reversing his long-standing opposition to "arbitrary timelines"; 2) anything short of "or else" benchmarks will sound a lot like the "stand up, stand down" rhetoric we've all heard too often before; and 3) no matter what Bush says about his plan, it isn't what the American people want -- a way out of Iraq sooner rather than later.

    That last point was underscored over the weekend by Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the new day-to-day commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Odierno told reporters that, even after the U.S. sends a "surge" of additional troops into Baghdad, it's going to take "two or three years" for the United States to accomplish even its limited goals for Iraq. "The mission now is to defeat the ... insurgency and to train Iraqi security forces," Odierno said. "Over time, we can accomplish the mission. That time I put two or three years from now. The issue becomes, are we willing to wait two or three years or do we want to speed it up?"

    From the context of his remarks, it's pretty clear that what Odierno meant by "speed it up" was not "send more troops" but "bring them home." "Unfortunately what we're starting to show some lack of is patience," he said. "I think it's too important not to have patience."

    One could argue that the American people have shown a good deal of patience with the president and his war already. As the war began, Dick Cheney was telling folks that he expected it to last "weeks rather than months." Nearly four years and what seems like a lifetime of "critical next six months" later, it's a lot to ask anyone for another two or three years - particularly when that could mean that a few thousand more American troops will join the more than 3,000 who have been killed in the war already.

This is not good.  The public might support a massive "win it all" re-invasion, maybe. But we no longer have the resources for that.  This is too little, three years too late, and writing in the Washington Post over the last weekend, Senator McCain said - "The worst of all worlds would be a small, short surge of U.S. forces. We have tried small surges, and they have been ineffective because our commanders lacked the forces necessary to hold territory after it was cleared. Violence, which fell dramatically while US forces were present, spiked as soon as they were gone. Any new surge needs to provide enough American troops to hold the areas on their own."

He's asking the impossible.  The numbers don't add up. And as for the "other" numbers, Robert Novak says that the White House is going to have a hard time coming up with support from more than about a dozen Republican senators.  This is a holding action, and David Petraeus will be left holding the bag.

And for what?  To see Saddam Hussein hang? That's the big question. How did it come to this?

Gary Kamiya dives deep for that, in Theater of Blood -

    … overlooked in the disgust over the primitive, vengeful nature of Saddam's execution is the fact that Bush's entire Iraq war, like most wars, was ultimately an act of revenge. There is no such thing as a clean war: As Goya said in the title of one of his horrific etchings of war, "This always happens." When you set out to kill people, you cannot control what happens afterward; as in revenge tragedy, death inspires more death. Saddam's ugly end is no unfortunate anomaly, it is a hideous microcosm of the entire war - one started by Bush, but supported by a large percentage of the American people, who were driven by the same primitive passions that led Muqtada al-Sadr's men to curse a man about to die. Before we throw stones at the Iraqis for their tribal vengefulness, we would do well to contemplate the degree to which we share it, and think again before we launch a vengeful war.

    America has always been obsessed with revenge. The angry god who holds sinners in his hands is a national archetype going back to Jonathan Edwards. Melville's Ahab wants to smite the White Whale out of vengeance. And the aggrieved hero who seeks vengeance continues to dominate our popular culture, from "Dirty Harry" to "Death Wish" to "Kill Bill." "Payback is a bitch" and "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" are our watchwords, only slightly checked by "Don't get mad, get even."

    But if revenge is a universal American obsession, its true home is on the political right. Fear, resentment and calls for revenge are closely related, and these qualities - together with a belief that "real" Americans and "authentic" emotions and beliefs have been pushed aside by phony elites - have long driven right-wing politics. The 1930s demagogue Father Coughlin, whose enormously popular broadcasts combined anti-capitalism, anti-Communism and anti-Semitism, utilized them; so did Joe McCarthy. The rise of the "Reagan Democrats," working-class and lower-middle-class whites whose racially tinged resentment of do-gooder social programs drove them to the right, reshaped America's entire political landscape.

    Religion, too, plays a role in the rise of vengeance-based politics. Many American conservatives identify themselves as evangelical Christians, which might lead one to think they would favor the turn-the-other-cheek teachings of Jesus over the vengeful ethos of the Old Testament. But for various reasons - perhaps the most significant being that many evangelicals see themselves as fighting a rear-guard battle against a corrupt, secular culture - most have embraced an angry Christ closer to the implacable Old Testament Father than the forgiving Son.

    Resentful populism continues to be one of the most powerful cultural forces in America. Demagogues like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter have gotten rich by spewing resentment of "liberal elites," "feminazis" and murderous Muslim fanatics, and offering vicarious fantasies in which these villains - or simply the entire Middle East - come to a bad end. Indeed, it cannot have escaped attention that the execrations hurled at Saddam by al-Sadr's followers bear more than a slight resemblance to the triumphalist gloating and bloodthirsty ravings of certain right-wing war supporters.

So Bush invaded Iraq in large part to take revenge for 9/11 -

    Revenge was obviously not his only motivation: There is a murky zone in which ill-conceived but arguably rational notions of deterrence - "we must teach the Arabs a lesson they'll never forget" - are indistinguishable from reflexive vengeance. And revenge was never officially acknowledged as a legitimate justification such atavistic emotions never are. But the fact remains that Iraq was a counterpunch, the enraged reaction of someone who had been mugged and lashed out - but lashed out in slow motion. Indeed, the peculiarity of the Iraq war, its historical uniqueness, lies in the fact that it was simultaneously driven by the most primitive, hot-blooded emotions and was almost mind-bogglingly abstract and cold-blooded. It was like spanking a 5-year-old six months after he broke the cookie jar. (By comparison, the war against the Taliban was retributive and served a legitimate deterrent purpose.) This split motivation allowed the Bush administration to deflect all criticism: accuse it of being too emotional, and it soberly pointed to its strategic rationale; attack that rationale, and it waved the bloody banner of the World Trade Center.

    And that bloody banner was a very effective rallying cry. Bush could never have sold the war to the American people had it not been for their post-9/11 desire for retribution.

    The lead editorial in the Philadelphia Daily News on Sept. 12, 2001, summed up the visceral feeling so many Americans held after the attacks, fanned by right-wing pundits, and opposed only by reviled apostates like the late Susan Sontag: "REVENGE. Hold on to that thought. Go to bed thinking it. Wake up chanting it. Because nothing less than revenge is called for today." Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters couldn't have said it better themselves.

    The story of how the Bush administration used that primordial rage to build a Rube Goldberg-like bridge all the way to Baghdad is an age-old tale of wartime hysteria, racism and ignorance. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but it was part of the Arab/Muslim world, and in conditions of hysteria it becomes possible to sell people on grand clash-of-civilization theories. After 9/11, the neocons in the Bush administration insisted that the Arab/Muslim world had become an incubator of terrorism and violent religious extremism, and we needed to punish it. Traumatized and enraged by the terrorist attacks, and ignorant of Middle Eastern history and politics, Congress and most of the media went along. And most of the American people, looking for an enemy to blame, went along.

So here we are.  Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage ranted, and "gave voice to the inchoate passions of millions of Americans, who correctly perceived that the Bush administration, for all its fancy talk, was really bent on good old all-American revenge."

But the problem is obvious -

    Once unleashed, the desire to take vengeance is very hard to stop. The violent self-righteousness of war supporters like Andrew Sullivan, who accused opponents of making up a coastal Fifth Column, stemmed from their certainty that revenge was not just morally justified, but necessary. America was finally unshackled, its noble and "authentic" fury unleashed; anyone who got in the way was a combination of Neville Chamberlain and Tokyo Rose.

    Revenge is a universal impulse, as old as humanity. It is enshrined in the lex talionis, the notion of "an eye for an eye" espoused by the Code of Hammurabi (written circa 1760 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia, a land that is now putting that precept to dreadful uses) and the later Mosaic Law of Judaism. It underlies the concept of retribution, which is one of the pillars of criminal justice. Similarly, just war theory accepts that punishing an uncorrected wrongdoing constitutes a just cause for war. A paradigmatic case would be Pearl Harbor: The U.S. was justified in declaring war on Japan to punish it for its unprovoked attack.

    But - leaving aside the fact that we had no actual cause that would justify punishing or taking revenge on Iraq - revenge is a primitive form of justice, one that civilized societies have always struggled to sublimate into a higher form. As Francis Bacon wrote, "Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man's nature runs to the more ought law to weed it out." Individual revenge undercuts the legal capacity of the state; it is only justifiable when legitimate state authority fails (hence the plotlines of a million Hollywood movies).

This is followed by a detailed discussion of Jacobean tragedy and the far different Hamlet play and a whole lot more (former English teachers, click on the link) but it comes down to this -

    … like so many revenge tragedy protagonists, Bush is fatally flawed. By taking revenge against a foe who had not actually injured him, he opened a Pandora's Box of gratuitous violence, one he cannot now close. … By failing to grasp that the world is larger than his simplistic vision, and insisting that he must carry on to the climax and kill a villain who can no longer be identified, Bush is trapping us in a failed chess game, condemning us to a bloody perpetual check. He is threatening to repeat dramatic history and himself become a villain - a blood-drenched avenger no longer morally distinguishable from the evildoers he is fighting.

    And the final act in this grim drama, Bush's absurd call for a meaningless "surge," resembles one of those hideous masques in revenge plays during which the protagonist kills his enemies, then is killed himself. This little play-within-a-play may demonstrate Bush's resolve and put off the unhappy ending, but it is real men and women who will die for his dumb show.

That's depressing, as depressing as this video clip of John McCain's Mini-Me, Senator Lieberman -

    Lieberman: The worst thing that could happen here is that there be some kind of attempt to resolve this pivotal moment with a compromise among factions in American politics and in the American Congress rather than doing what is right and has the highest prospect of succeeding in Iraq - in other words this moment cries out for the kind of courageous leadership that does what can succeed and win in Iraq - not what will command the largest number of political supporters in Congress…. we need to support the President as he goes forward, hopefully with exactly that kind of new initiative in Iraq.

Jane Hamsher reacts -

    The worst thing that could happen as a result of a permanent surge in the McCain/Lieberman war is that, you know, a bunch of people not named Lieberman die.  I guess there is no pile of bodies that would be unacceptable in Joe's quest for "success" in Iraq.  

    They really need to file this clip in the DSM-IV under "dissociative fugue state." 

Heck, even Oliver North of Fox News says Lieberman, coming back from Iraq and saying everyone wants an escalation, is a lair -

    McCain and Lieberman talked to many of the same officers and senior NCOs I covered for FOX News during my most recent trip to Iraq. Not one of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen or Marines I interviewed told me that they wanted more U.S. boots on the ground. In fact, nearly all expressed just the opposite: "We don't need more American troops, we need more Iraqi troops," was a common refrain. They are right.

    A "surge" or "targeted increase in U.S. troop strength" or whatever the politicians want to call dispatching more combat troops to Iraq isn't the answer. Adding more trainers and helping the Iraqis to help themselves, is. Sending more U.S. combat troops is simply sending more targets.

It's madness.  Wesley Clark in the Washington Post suggests The Smart Surge: Diplomacy - "The odds are that this week President Bush will announce a 'surge' of up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq.  Will this deliver a "win"?  Probably not.  But it will distract us from facing the deep-seated regional issues that must be resolved."

Work on the real issues? That's for sissies.

Over at Arianne Huffington's site - the celebrity blog - she notes the madness -

    Psychiatric literature defines delusional thinking as "false or irrational beliefs maintained despite clear evidence to the contrary."

    Sound like any commander-in-chief you know?

    Indeed, watching Sen. Lindsey Graham shill for the administration on Meet the Press this weekend, and hearing him state with utter conviction and a gleam in his eye, "We've got a new team on the ground. We're going to come up with a new strategy. The strategy is going to be designed to win," I couldn't help but think of the reports from psychiatrists who have treated patients with delusional personalities. The truly deranged are often so committed to their delusions, and so insistent, that part of your brain actually starts thinking: Hmm, maybe this person really is Napoleon! Maybe that woman really is a fried egg! Maybe the surge really will lead to victory in Iraq!

    Meanwhile, the other part of your brain - the rational part - is reminding you that, no, in fact, that person is not Napoleon or any part of a Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast. They are simply utterly insane.

As for the key symptoms of "false or irrational beliefs maintained despite clear evidence to the contrary" -

    Does he display clear indications of denial, continuing to use words like "victory," "win," and "stable democracy"? Does he avoid using the phrase "civil war"? When he repeatedly talks about "sacrifice" does he skip over the fact that this doesn't include me and you, and over 99 percent of Americans?

    Does he exhibit signs of the classic layman's definition of insanity: repeatedly doing the same thing but expecting a different result? Look to see if he trots out strategies that have already failed time and time again and acts like he expects them to have a different outcome. Be on particular alert for mentions of a new Baghdad security plan, and see if they are accompanied by any reference to the five previous such plans, all of which have failed to curb the chaos. And keep an eye open for even the slightest acknowledgment that throughout the war the military has repeatedly carried out troop surges of more than 20,000 and the bloodshed in Iraq has continued to increase.

    Does the patient - I mean, the president - demonstrate magical thinking, signs of a belief that merely wishing for something can make it so? For example, when he talks about sending an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq, does he acknowledge the reality that military commanders have told him they don't have the troops available to deploy more than 9,000 soldiers? Does he appear cognizant of the fact that in order to come up with even 20,000 troops the military would have to remobilize reserves, extend current tours of duty, give new units dangerously little time to train, shorten the amount of time between tours for troops returning home, and leave America even less able to deal with any new security threat?

    Does he continue to make the claim that we're fighting them over there so we won't have to fight them over here... even though there isn't a shred of evidence that the war in Iraq has made us safer, and a great deal of evidence that it has, in fact, had the opposite effect?

    Does he continue to irrationally link the war in Iraq to 9/11, as Tony Snow did on Monday when he claimed the president "understands there is a lot of public anxiety" about the war, but that the American people "don't want another September 11."

    Does he admit that the new top commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Odierno said that even with a troop surge, it could take another "two or three years" for our troops to get the upper hand in Iraq?

    Does he explain where the $100 billion in additional war funds he will be asking Congress for next month is going to come from, or do you get the sense that he believes it will come from the exact same place the additional troops will come from?

Case closed. But we're in for the next hand here.

This item posted January 14, 2007

[Examining the Surge]

Last updated Saturday, March 10, 2007, 10:30 pm Pacific Time

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 - Alan M. Pavlik