Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Iraq situation: surging…

…in more ways than one — political, violence, and US troop levels (?).

See this post — on White House newspeak, public opinion on Iraq, and the "surge" — for more.

BBC News::

US President George W Bush is preparing to unveil his long-awaited strategy for the future of US involvement in Iraq.
Not as exciting or fresh as the iPhone, but important nonetheless. Ever since the Democrats’ win in the midterm elections last year, and since the new Congress’ swearing in almost a week ago, Bush has been stepping up the level of discussion on US policy in Iraq — prodded of course by the aforementioned political events and the former’s significance. In fact, as a Washington Post article points out, it’s a change in tactics, not strategy.
As Washington journalists debate whether to call President Bush's plan to send 20,000 more American troops into Iraq a "surge" or an "escalation," they are letting the White House get away with a much more momentous semantic scam.

The White House would have you believe that Bush tonight will be announcing a new strategy. But from all indications, all Bush will be talking about -- yet again -- is changing tactics.

No doubt the Democrats, still basking in their midterm glory and unaware that the honeymoon is [long] over, are very divided when (NYT) it comes to what to do with Iraq.
While Democrats find themselves unusually united in their resistance to a troop increase, party leaders are locked in an internal debate over how far to go in objecting to the administration’s Iraq strategy.

In the most aggressive of the new tactics, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, has said he will introduce legislation on Tuesday to require the president to gain new Congressional authority before sending more troops to Iraq. The bill is the first proposal in the Senate that would prohibit paying for an increase in American troops over their level on Jan. 1.

The new House speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, has similarly suggested that Democrats consider blocking financing for a troop increase, and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, vowed Monday “to take a look at it.”

The Democratic Party sailed to victory in midterm elections in the fall on a promise to change course in Iraq. Still, there is little consensus over how to proceed.

Some Democrats are urging an immediate withdrawal of troops and a drastic reduction in war spending. Others are calling for a gradual re-deployment of troops to move them out of Iraq. Still other Democrats are waiting for Mr. Bush to present his plan before criticizing it.

The expectations set by the elections, Democrats say, present a complicating challenge as they begin to govern.

Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said he believed that his party lost the White House in 2004 because of Iraq. “My concern now is that too many Democrats are going to want to play it safe on this issue and not take the strong stand that American people demand,” he said Monday.

The pressure from war critics on the Democratic left has been particularly intense. “The bottom line is that they were elected on a mandate to get the nation out of the mess in Iraq,” said Eli Pariser, the executive director of, a liberal political action committee.

By law, Congress can limit the nature of troop deployments, cap the size of military deployments and cut financing for existing or prospective deployments.

Representative Adam Smith of Washington, vice chairman of the moderate New Democratic Coalition, said he feared that withholding financing — even for new troops being sent to Iraq — could have a detrimental effect on all forces.

Both John Dickerson and Jacob Weisberg of Slate say that the Dems will not stop the “surge”. Is it all political showboating? (Probably not from Kennedy, but who knows…)

My view is that withholding finances would not only be a bad Democratic policy view in the eyes of the American people and would give the White House and GOP an excuse to rally around their causes, but it would also bring the matter of Iraq down to such a low partisan, political mudslinging level. A gradual deployment, by all military strategy standards, would not be a smart move either — it would be inefficient and more damaging than a blitz-like “surge”.

CFR analysis:
President Bush is expected to call for a surge of twenty thousand troops, or five combat brigades, bringing the total number of U.S. forces in Iraq to roughly 160,000. The plan will likely focus on clearing Baghdad and Anbar province of Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias with the help of Iraqi—and Kurdish peshmerga—forces and set benchmarks for the Iraqis to meet. A dramatic surge in reconstruction aid would also follow.
I do like the reconstruction bit. Check out the plan on Iraq withdrawal I enforce.

For more enlightenment on the “surge” and what it means, check out this FP article.

Who knows, maybe Bush's plan is just — and only just — recycled rhetoric.

I welcome the aspect of the Kennedy Plan that increases the righteous powers of Congress and puts a damper on the all-too-high (and escalating) powers of the president. Bush has already overreached on the "war on terror" and Iraq enough, its time to call him on it. However, keep in mind the Dems only have a slim majority in the Senate, and their 30-some seat majority in the House of Representatives is such a majority because many of the Democrats who beat Republicans were moderate-conservative Democrats beating moderate Republicans.

Bush's announcement finally comes! BBC News:
US President George W Bush has said he will send more than 20,000 extra troops to Iraq, as part of a new strategy for the future of US involvement.

In an address live on US TV, he said the deployment would help break the cycle of violence and hasten the day when US troops are able to come home.

The situation in Iraq was unacceptable, he said, adding that responsibility for mistakes rested with him.

However, US Democrats says they will oppose any "escalation" of the war.

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Ron Davison said...

George has once again effectively scuttled the Democrat's attempt to move the national attention away from the war and onto domestic issues.

clearthought said...

I agree, Ron. Especially in the way President Bush seemed to yet again imply the non-existent connection between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Iraq. Remember: US national security is still receiving failing or almost-failing grades from the 9/11 Commission.

However, as echoed in my posts on this topic, there is doubt that the Dems will or largely have the capacity to oppose the president on this "surge" move.

Thanks for commenting; check the blog regularly for updates.