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Friday, September 14, 2007

What's your Next Step?

I just got this email from the Democratic Leadership Council with the heading:

Bush Buys Time, But For What?

The email said: The president's address to the nation last night is being viewed in some quarters as representing the long-awaited Bush pivot toward accepting a change of strategy in Iraq and the initiation of troop reductions. We wish that were true, but it's not.

For more than two years, the Bush position has been that "as Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down." The "surge" begun earlier this year was entirely predicated on the idea that improved security would immediately lead to steps toward a political settlement in Iraq. That hasn't happened at all, and the most favorable interpretation of the security situation as presented by General Petraeus in Washington this week simply reinforces the failure of the administration's overall strategy of perpetually awaiting political breakthroughs that never seem to occur. And the president's pledge to end the surge and go back to the same troop levels we had at the beginning of the year, if political conditions improve, is both empty and disingenuous: Why is he continuing a strategy that has so repeatedly failed? And what can the U.S. military ever hope to accomplish in the absence of a plausible strategy for breaking the Iraqi political logjam?

On the military front, General Petraeus did bring some good news. The counterinsurgency tactics America should have adopted years ago seem to be working in parts of Iraq. Terror attacks and civilian deaths, though still horrendous, are down. And the growing Sunni repudiation of Al Qaeda in Iraq in Anbar Province, and now Diyala as well, is of genuinely strategic importance, since anything that weakens AQI is good for the United States' long-term goals in the Middle East. But as Sen. Joe Biden rightly pointed out, none of this adds up to progress toward a viable, non-sectarian Iraqi State that's willing to police and defend itself across communal lines. As a nation, Iraqis are still not standing up, and a continued U.S. military occupation will likely prolong the Iraqi stalemate.

Nonetheless, Bush's speech and the Petraeus testimony may succeed in buying the administration time -- not with Iraqis or with the American public as a whole (which would prefer a bipartisan strategy to end the war, but is not being fooled into thinking that a withdrawal of "surge" troops represents a step toward a reduced U.S. military presence), but with the small band of Republican Members of Congress who might otherwise join Democrats in forcing a change of strategy. Bush also obtained a new lease on his stay-the-course policies from the 2008 Republican presidential field, who in their competition for votes from an increasingly isolated conservative GOP base, are self-destructively competing to embrace the entirely illusory idea of a military victory in Iraq.

But as in so many issues, the Bush administration appears to be buying time for no particular purpose beyond refusing to admit mistakes and change course, at a horrendous cost in life and treasure, and in the opportunity to end the Iraq war in a way that promotes a viable Iraqi state, and U.S. security objectives as well.

AAPP: My questions to the Democratic Leadership Council, are this:

Are you going to let Bush continue to hold America hostage? What are your next steps Democrats?

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