More soldiers to Iraq: Is this a great plan or what?
George W. Bush has finally presented a plan in Iraq that includes both a deadline and consequences: The deadline: January 20, 2009 -The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki absolutely must not collapse before that date. The consequences: If it threatens to do so, the Bush administration will send more troops.
While President Bush did not specify the date, when he officially leaves office, as a deadline, it was implicit. Also not mentioned was his threat to send in more troops if the current infusion of 21,000 new American soldiers does not prevent Iraq from imploding during his administration. But the subtext is there.
What does President Bush hope to achieve with these new troops sent to Iraq? His plan gives us a clue.
If his highest priority is the creation of a stable, self-sustaining, unified, and viable Iraqi nation, 21,000 troops is too few; at least 100,000 troops too few. Former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki estimated before the Iraq invasion that several hundred thousand more troops needed to be added. Senator John McCain now proposes at least 100,000 more. General Anthony Zinni, former senior American military commander in Iraqi, agrees. Of the few US leaders who believe the US can create a stable Iraq, none concur that 21,000 troops will produce this result.
If his highest priority is to reduce American casualties in a war that we cannot control, sending another handful of troops into battle goes in the other direction.
If his highest priority is to send a message to Prime Minister al-Maliki to reign in the Shi'ite militias, that is not necessarily what al-Maliki might understand. Are the troops punishment for his failure to achieve stability, or a reward? What if al-Maliki fails to stabilize his country? Will our President send it another 21,000 troops? That would really teach the Prime Minister a lesson.
There is little reason to believe that al-Maliki has the power to create a stable Iraq when he has failed to do so thus far and when the destabilizing militias are out of his control. As he has a vested interest in keeping American troops in his country as long as possible to keep his position as leader viable as long as possible, President Bush's added troops encourage him to promote instability. If the current violence generated 21,000 more troops, how many more troops will be sent with additional violence?
What, then, does President Bush achieve with these troops?
These troops are not enough to stabilize Iraq. They are probably not enough to stabilize the city of Bagdad. However, they are barely enough to prevent the collapse of the al-Maliki government and thereby stabilize the remaining years of President Bush's administration.
The presence of the al-Maliki government is the only public indication that the Iraqi invasion of 2003 was not a complete catastrophe. Avoiding a public admission that this venture was a mistake from the start is absolutely President Bush's highest priority.
So what can we expect next from our President?
He will continue his version of the Rumsfeld Doctrine, as presented by the columnist Thomas Friedman: Just enough troops to fail; not enough troops to win. The Bush version is more specific: Just enough troops to prevent an Iraqi collapse during my administration; not enough troops to generate public opposition from Congressional members of my own party.
And at least, President Bush has created a plan for Iraq that can succeed.
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