We would like to believe that the reason for delay is that some of Mr. Bush’s advisers have come up with a sensible change in course and they are now trying to persuade the president to take it. Or that behind the scenes Mr. Bush is already strong-arming Iraq’s leaders to rein in the sectarian militias and begin long-delayed national reconciliation talks.Even though Bush's involvement in politics is over politics is still the guiding force in all decisions. And then of course there is Dick (shooter) Cheney who simple can't give up his dreams of hegemony and black gold.
We fear that a more likely explanation is that the president’s ever-divided policy advisers are still wrangling over the most basic decisions, while his political handlers are waiting for public enthusiasm for the Baker report to flag before Mr. Bush tries to explain why he won’t follow through on some of the report’s most important and reasonable suggestions — like imposing a timetable on Iraqi leaders to make political compromises or face a withdrawal of American support. Or trying to persuade Iran and Syria to cease their meddling.
No More Time - No Options
Mr. Bush has no more time to waste on “listening tours” and photo ops. The nation is in a crisis, and Americans need to hear how he plans to unwind the chaos he has unleashed in Iraq. If the president is delaying because he is searching for a good option, he can stop. There are none. But Americans need to see that he is prepared to choose among the undesirable alternatives, and clear the way for a withdrawal of American troops that does not leave even more killing and mayhem behind.Meanwhile General Barry McCaffrey doesn't have a plan that will work but he does demonstrate a better grasp of reality than the incompetents in the Bush Administration. He has identified the first problem:
We are in a very difficult position created by a micromanaged Rumsfeld war team that has been incompetent, arrogant and in denial. The departing defense secretary, in a recent farewell Pentagon town hall meeting, criticized the alleged distortions of the U.S. media, saying that they chose to report a few bombs going off in Baghdad rather than the peaceful scene he witnessed from his helicopter flying over the city. This was a perfect, and incredible, continuation of Donald Rumsfeld's willful blindness in his approach to the war. From the safety of his helicopter, he apparently could not hear the nearly constant rattle of small-arms fire, did not know of the hundreds of Marines and soldiers being killed or wounded each month, or see the chaos, murder and desperation of daily life for Iraqi families.He recognizes that simply adding more poorly trained advisers is a recipe for disaster.
Let me add a note of caution regarding a deceptive and unwise option that springs from the work of the Iraq Study Group. We must not entertain the shallow, partisan notion of rapidly withdrawing most organized Marine and Army fighting units by early 2008 and substituting for them a much larger number of U.S. advisers -- a 400 percent increase -- as a way to avoid a difficult debate for both parties in the New Hampshire primaries.He has a plan but if it ever had a chance of working it's far too late now.
This would leave some 40,000 U.S. logistics and adviser troops spread out and vulnerable, all over Iraq. It would decrease our leverage with Iraq's neighbors. It would not get at the problem of a continuing civil war. In fact, significantly increasing the number of U.S. advisers in each company and battalion of the Iraqi army and police -- to act as role models -- is itself a bad idea. We are foreigners. They want us gone.
Within the first 12 months we should draw down the U.S. military presence from 15 Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), of 5,000 troops each, to 10. Within the next 12 months, Centcom forces should further draw down to seven BCTs and withdraw from urban areas to isolated U.S. operating bases -- where we could continue to provide oversight and intervention when required to rescue our embedded U.S. training teams, protect the population from violence or save the legal government.More realistic perhaps but it comes far to late in the game to have any chance of success.
Finally, we have to design and empower a regional diplomatic peace dialogue in which the Iraqis can take the lead, engaging their regional neighbors as well as their own alienated and fractured internal population.
We need fewer advisers, not more -- selected from elite, active military units and with at least 90 days of immersion training in Arabic. Iraqi troops will not fight because of iron discipline enforced by U.S. sergeants and officers. That is a self-serving domestic political concept that would put us at risk of a national military humiliation.