George W. Bush, speaking at the University of Latvia yesterday, revealed that he didn’t notice he’d been repudiated at the polls.
RIGA, Latvia (AP) — President Bush, under pressure to change direction in Iraq, said Tuesday he will not be persuaded by any calls to withdraw American troops before the country is stabilized.Oh, sure, Bush had been running scared for a few days right after the election. The polls had been closed for barely twelve hours and the votes were still being counted in some tight races when he fired Donald Rumsfeld, barely a week after he’d said that Rumsfeld would be with him through 2008.
“There’s one thing I’m not going to do, I’m not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete,” he said in a speech setting the stage for high-stakes meetings with the Iraqi prime minister later this week. “We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren.”
Julia explained why: GWB finally got himself into so much trouble that he had to call on his father’s old posse, especially James Baker, to come bail him out. That pretty much spelled the end for Rumsfeld: a long overdue moment that had been delayed by Rove and Cheney’s desire to keep Rumsfeld (an old crony of theirs), and by Bush’s enthusiasm for appointing someone Bush Sr. couldn’t stand. As explained by Bob Woodward:
But there was another dynamic that Bush and Card discussed. Rumsfeld and Bush’s father, the former president, couldn’t stand each other. Bush senior didn’t trust Rumsfeld and thought he was arrogant, self-important, too sure of himself and Machiavellian. Rumsfeld had also made nasty private remarks that the elder Bush was a lightweight.That’s why George W. Bush is going to go down in history as the all-time worst tenant of the Oval Office: you can say what you will about James Buchanan, but at least he acted like a grownup.
Card could see that overcoming the former president’s skepticism about Rumsfeld added to the president-elect’s excitement. It was a chance to prove his father wrong.
But back to James Baker, the Bush Sr. posse, and the country’s business. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Iraq has been a disaster and is rapidly getting worse. Iraq is in a de facto civil war, with the mainstream media starting to use the term and Colin Powell agreeing:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that Iraq’s violence meets the standard of civil war and that if he were heading the State Department now, he might recommend that the administration use that term.Getting some kind of political solution is going to be a tough problem. Among other things, Bush has for some time now been refusing to communicate with Syria and Iran. (It’s his usual policy: if you don’t have anything nice to say to him, he doesn’t have to talk to you.) Baker will almost certainly insist that we do so:
“I believe in talking to your enemies … It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined. You don’t give away anything, but in my view it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”
But George W. is Reality-B-Gone’s biggest customer. The voters and the Joint Chiefs of Staff may have thrown a serious scare into him, but as soon as it wore off, he was trying to undercut the guys who are working to save his bacon. He announced a massive escalation in Iraq:
George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make “a last big push” to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration’s internal deliberations.If you doubt that this was aimed at Baker & Co., note that the second point of the “four-point strategy” Bush announced was, “Focus on regional cooperation with international conference and/or direct diplomatic involvement of countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.”
Mr Bush’s refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.
Bush, taking a leaf from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig in the First World War, has decided that what America needs to “win” the Iraq war is One Big Push.
Not that it’s likely to work; the idea behind the One Big Push is that the enemy nearly cracked in the last Big Push, and this time, if only the Push is Big enough, he certainly will crack. Then the war is won and we’re all home by Christmas. (If the Big Push doesn’t work, well, it wasn’t quite Big enough, so all that’s required is One Big Push, and this time it must work….) One can go on in this manner for years, and Haig did. It could be that Bush thinks that if he keeps the war going for two more years, when his term will be over, he’ll escape being remembered by history as the President Who Lost a War.
He’s definitely back to creating his own reality. Lately he’s been invoking Vietnam (a war he used his father’s influence to avoid), from which he’s taken away the wrong lessons:
“The president said there was much to be learned from the divisive Vietnam War—the longest conflict in U.S. history—as his administration contemplates new strategies for the increasingly difficult war in Iraq, now in its fourth year. But his critics see parallels with Vietnam—a determined insurgency and a death toll that has drained public support—that spell danger for dragging out U.S. involvement in Iraq.
“It’s just going to take a long period of time for the ideology that is hopeful—and that is an ideology of freedom—to overcome an ideology of hate,” Bush said after having lunch at his lakeside hotel with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, one of America’s strongest allies in Iraq, Vietnam and other conflicts.
“We’ll succeed,” Bush added, “unless we quit.”
Perhaps reality, or the Iraqis (and Iranians, and Saudis), will have something to say about whether we “succeed.” Perhaps having an idea of what the victory conditions are will help us know whether we’ve “succeeded.”
Whether or not we “quit” may have no bearing on our success. The One Big Push plan is a disaster in the making. A civil war is already underway in Iraq. The only thing that the two major sides in that civil war agree on is that the Americans need to leave—and they’re willing to shoot and bomb us until we get the message.
Every dollar spent from now on is throwing good money after bad. Every life lost from now on, beyond the nearly 3,000 American troops who have been killed and the perhaps 650,000 Iraqi citizens who have been killed, is a bet that can’t be covered. Like a gambler hoping to make the big score that will erase all his losses, Bush is tapping out his line of credit to put a bet on a single turn of the wheel. And when his number doesn’t turn up, he puts yet a larger bet on the next turn of the wheel, hoping to make up not only all his previous debts but the new ones from the most recent bet. There goes this week’s paycheck. There goes next month’s mortgage money. There goes the car. There goes the house. There go the kids’ college funds.