Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Progress Report Dog & Pony Show, Day 2: Kicking The Can Down the Road to 2009

To everything/There is a season/And a time for every purpose, under heaven/A time to be born, a time to die/A time to plant, a time to reap/A time to kill, a time to heal/A time to laugh, a time to weep.
The second and final day of Iraq progress report testimony before by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker is as easy to sum up as the first, with one conspicuous addition:
We have no long-term strategy.

We have no end-game plan.

We just need more Friedman Units, pretty please.
As well as:
The president would like you to help him kick the can down the road to 2009.
* * * * *
When the authoritative histories of the Iraq war are published in future years, as opposed to the comparatively quick-and-dirty accounts that have been coming out, they with resonate with these overarching themes:
* Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place and hands down is the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history.

* Had President Bush been as remotely competent in the conduct of the war as he was in co-opting the American public, his own party and his political opponents, many if not most U.S. troops may have been home in a comparatively short time span.

* While coward is a dreadfully loaded word and its definition varies depending upon how it is applied, the president was a coward, wrapping himself in the flag while never asking for real sacrifice, never leveling with the American people and most notably being downright eager to dump the entire tragic mess into the lap of his successor.
That successor should be apparent when Petraeus and Crocker -- or their successors -- make their next six-month visit to Capitol Hill, but it's a lead-pipe cinch that the situation on the ground in Iraq will not have changed substantially because the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki -- or his successor -- has neither the way nor the will.

Al-Maliki is to blame for the former, Bush for the latter because his determined politics-before-policy strategy of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely (helpfully rounded up to 100 years by the increasingly befuddled man who hopes to succeed him) is all the disincentive the Baghdad government has needed to drag its feet while our sons and daughters continue to put their lives on the line.

* * * * *
As I have written previously, there are three different groups of Americans when it comes to the war:
* The vast majority who just want the war to go away and are literally and figuratively shopping at the mall where, poor dears, they may inconveniently catch a glimpse of a bloody street scene from Baghdad on the TVs in the window of an electronics store.
These are the people that the White House continues to really count on.
* The small but vocal minority for whom the war started with the execution of the Surge strategy. Lacking any historical perspective or awareness that the White House keeps repackaging the same bankrupt policies under new names, the four years between the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Surge are a blur, don't count, or both -- and so what is happening in Iraq is all good.
These are the people that the White House continues to count on to push back against the third group.
* This is the also small but vocal minority whose memories are not so short. We have not forgotten the insurgency, the collapse of the Provisional Coalition Authority, the first battle of Falluja, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the onset of a civil war and the emergence of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as a result of a failed occupation.
I have long argued that the U .S. cannot allow George Bush to kick the can down the road to Inauguration Day 2009. The drain on lives, precious resources and the national will is too great.

To no effect.

Yes, some congressfolk asked some penetrating questions of the general and ambassador over the last two days, and there was a sense of frustration. But it was the frustration you feel when you realize that your pocket has again been picked by the same bum, and there was a feeling of play acting about the whole affair, which indeed was a kind of theater of the absurd since everyone knew going into the hearings that Petraeus and Crocker had been scripted to a faretheewell, that the notion that they were telling the president how to proceed and not the other way around was a fiction, and and the only outcome would be the status quo.

Senator Richard Lugar, the wise Indiana Republican, said it best:
"Unless the United States is able to convert progress made thus far into a sustainable political accommodation that supports our long-term national security objectives in Iraq, this progress will have limited meaning. We cannot assume that sustaining some level of progress is enough to achieve success, especially when we know that current American troop levels in Iraq have to be reduced and spoiling forces will be at work in Iraq. We need a strategy that anticipates a political end game and employs every plausible means to achieve it."
Well, we'll have to get back to you next year on that, Dick.

No comments: