Friday, January 12, 2007

Bush May Be Escalating War without Congressional Authority

It's impossible to do anything tonight except a roundup. There is an enormous amount going on in the wake of Bush's lame speech on Wednesday night.

Laura Rozen of War and Piece predicted the departure of Donald Rumsfeld and now predicts the departure soon of Condoleezza Rice. Given Rice's angry and resentful performance on Capitol Hill I'm at a loss to explain her behavior.

Zbigniew Brzezinski has some excellent observations on Bush's speech last night in The Washington Post but here's one paragraph that correctly summarizes the philosophical flaw in Bush's policy in the Middle East:
The speech reflects a profound misunderstanding of our era. America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush's policy.

Here's Dan Froomkin of White House Briefing who notes the many strange contradictions of Bush's speech:
Could his secret goal be to run out the clock, and leave Iraq to his successor? Might he be setting the stage for an exit on his terms -- giving the Iraqis one last chance, and if they blow it, then he withdraws? Is it even possible that he is beginning the process of shifting the attention of the military -- and the American public -- from Iraq to Iran?

hose theories may sound a bit conspiratorial, but Bush's new proposal is so internally contradictory, so incremental, so problematically dependent on Iraqi good behavior, and so unlikely to galvanize public support that it seems to me that it's open season on alternate explanations of his motivation.

There is, for instance, an irresolvable contradiction between Bush's insistence on the necessity of winning, because the alternative is cataclysmic, and his demand that the Iraqi government meet certain benchmarks, or else.

What does he mean by or else? He won't say.

Is he talking about a coup? Presumably he means we would pull out if they don't meet their benchmarks. But how can he plausibly threaten to pull out -- which, of course, happens to be what a majority of Americans and Iraqis now want -- if he continues to insist that pulling out would put America in mortal danger, not to mention detonate the entire Middle East?

The only thing Bush would say last night about the consequences of Iraqi failure to meet benchmarks was this: "If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people." Some threat. That already happened long ago.

Anonymous White House officials tied themselves into rhetorical pretzels yesterday insisting that the U.S. commitment in Iraq is no longer open-ended -- without giving any indication of how it might close.

Froomkins's post was written before American troops detained some Iranians in the Kurdish area. Here's Juan Cole again of Informed Comment with a post on the incident:
One scenario you could imagine is that Iran was sending some aid and weaponry to the Peshmerga [the Kurdish militia] on condition it be shared with the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The US raided a compound of SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim recently and captured Iranian intelligence officials there, who had come to consult about the shape of the Iraqi government.

Kurdistan authorities have long had good relations with the Badr Corps, to which they gave bases in Kurdistan late in the Saddam period when they were jointly trying to overthrow him.

Although Bush keeps implying that Iran is supplying weapons and aid to US enemies in Iraq, the circumstantial evidence is that it was helping the two main US allies in Iraq with their paramilitary capabilities-- Kurdistan and SCIRI. But it is likely that the money and weapons do bleed over into insurgent groups and have a destabilizing effect.

Cole suggests this might simply be gesture to deal with Sunni concerns. However, given Bush's lack of integrity and the growing distrust that a majority of Americans have for Bush, it also feeds into concerns about an expanding war. Here's Bush's latest AP numbers in the San Jose Mercury News:
The public is strongly opposed to a troop increase. Only 26 percent of Americans favor sending more troops to Iraq and 70 percent oppose. Equally high skepticism: 25 percent think sending more troops will help stabilize the situation in Iraq, 70 percent don't think so. Only 35 percent now think the U.S. made the right decision in going to war in Iraq; 62 percent say it was a mistake. This is a new low. In June 2006, 38 percent called it the right decision and 59 percent said it was a mistake. That's a reversal of opinion since December 2004, when 64 percent said the war was the right decision and only 34 percent called it a mistake.

BUSH JOB APPROVAL: Bush's overall job approval rating, 32 percent compared to 33 percent a month ago, is at a new low in AP-Ipsos polling.

Now let's get back to Condi Rice and the angry reaction to Bush's speech and the testimony of our secretary of state; Dana Milbank of The Washington Post was on this story:
Unfortunately for Rice, the lawmakers were unified in opposition to President Bush's new policy.

"I have to say, Madam Secretary," a seething Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) told Rice, "that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

"Madam Secretary," added Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, a moderate Democrat, "I have supported you and the administration on the war, and I cannot continue to support the administration's position. . . . I have not been told the truth over and over again."

There's more of that in the article by other senators but here's perhaps the most ridiculous response by Dr. Rice during the testimony:
But ultimately, Rice could not avoid quarrels. Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, angrily condemned the "escalation" of the war. "To ask our young men and women to sacrifice their lives to be put in the middle of a civil war is . . . morally wrong. It's tactically, strategically, militarily wrong."

"I don't see it, and the president doesn't see it, as an escalation," Rice replied.

Hagel looked stunned. "Putting 22,000 new troops, more troops in, is not an escalation?"

"Escalation is not just a matter of how many numbers you put in," Rice ventured.

"Would you call it a decrease?" Hagel pressed.

"I would call it, Senator, an augmentation."

According to Dr. Rice, we're not at war, we're just engaging in cosmetic surgery.

Someone I would read closely for the next few days is Steve Clemons of The Washington Note; he wonders, in fact, if Bush has already secretly declared war against Iran:
Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

Clemons has more on Condi Rice's testimony and question by Biden and Hagel.

Condoleezza Rice continues to raise questions about her ability to handle her job; here's an odd story from ABC:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday the Bush administration would give Iraq's government some "breathing space" after the president's "tough" words in his Iraq speech.

In comments picked up on an open microphone between morning television interviews, Rice indicated she did not want to put too much pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, with whom the Bush administration has become increasingly irritated.

"I don't want to descend on the Maliki government and look like we, you know, just sort of beat their brains out," said Rice in comments monitored by Reuters from a television feed.

Readers should keep in mind that Rice's foreign policy accomplishments have been nil. When she talks as if she knows what she's doing, it's not exactly edifying. When the Bush inner circle write their memoirs one of these days, they'll have to hire fiction editors because I seriously doubt we'll ever hear the truth from Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld or Rice.

It's important not to lose sight of the fact that it's still very possible that Congress will be able to rein in President Bush. Steve Soto of The Left Coaster outlines some ideas on this:
And the Democrats need to hit the two and 4-year college campuses now for the next six months reminding young voters that George W. Bush and the GOP want to ship their butts off to Iraq and Iran.

My favored approach would be three-fold: Democrats should only fund the one part of Bush’s build-up that is essential, which is the insertion of additional Marines into the al-Anbar province to work with the Sunnis to eliminate Al Qaeda. Democrats should clearly limit this operation for one more budget year, but we owe it to the Iraqi people to get rid of the foreign terrorist element that Bush allowed into their country. Beyond that, I cannot see why Americans should be asked to send more troops into a civil, sectarian war that would involve American troops fighting both Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents for a central government that warrants no such sacrifice.

Second, the Democrats should schedule a vote to rescind the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, so that both the White House and the GOP are forced to defend why this president should be allowed to wage war against Iran and Syria with a blank check when large majorities of Americans reject any new militarism from this administration towards either country, and instead favor the ISG approach.

Lastly, the Democrats should introduce the Iraq Study Group report as a roadmap out of Iraq, and gain the country’s bipartisan support for it as a Democratic alternative to the White House. Doing so will force the GOP to split its caucus between supporting the White House, or standing for a bipartisan alternative that is in their own political self-interest for 2008. Doing this will splinter the GOP and isolate not only George W. Bush, but also Joe Lieberman and the leading 2008 GOP presidential contenders.

There are different ways to handle what is essentially a constitutional crisis. I wish I could be a fly on a wall listening to someone like Senator Byrd, who knows more about the US Constitution than some of our justices and is the expert on Congressional rules; Byrd might have some ideas about some of the things that are doable.

Pay close attention in the coming days. We're smack in the middle of a historical moment that may last for months.

I have one last thought. During the Cold War, there were many incidents between the Soviet Union and the United States that some reckless politician on either side could have used to justify a nuclear war. But cooler heads prevailed. The only time we truly came close to a nuclear exchange was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy handled that crisis brilliantly but never in a million years could I imagine Cheney and Bush handling the same crisis with anywhere near the acute judgment and patience.

Even if no nuclear weapons are used in the next two years, it's imperative that politicians not be allowed to use or create incidents to start a broader war. We have a problem. We can defend ourselves but what worries me is that Bush's recklessness in the next year may lead to a lowered nuclear threshhold around the world in years to come. An incompetent president is the last person on this earth who should be rolling the dice. Congress must take action.

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Blogger Vigilante said...

Well Done!

6:58 AM  

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