Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Senator Hagel: No Clear Strategy in Iraq

In the last few weeks, it's been surprising how many members of Congress can talk straight when the Republican noise machine doesn't obscure what they have to say. Paul Kiel of Talking Points Memo has a valuable quote from Senator Chuck Hagel today:
Don't miss Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-NE) speech from this morning's hearing on the Iraq resolution.
"I don't think we've ever had a coherent strategy. In fact, I would even challenge the administration today to show us the plan that the president talked about the other night. There is no plan.... There is no strategy. This is a ping-pong game with American lives."

I was against the war but I hoped very much that once it began that it would be over quickly. A bad sign was the day Saddam Hussein's statue was pulled down. The media made a big fuss about the statue and gave it a lot of positive spin, but they missed two big clues. First, there weren't all that many Iraqis at the event. It looked like a few hundred; there should have been tens of thousands. The other clue was how silent the crowd got when the Americans pulled out an American flag, immediately raising the question of whether we were liberators or occupiers.

Pulling down Saddam Hussein's statue was merely emblematic and might have been forgotten if the Bush Administration had had a true strategy or the ability to rapidly adapt to conditions on the ground. Bush and his closest advisers initially had a plan of sorts, a poorly conceived plan that depended on Ahmed Chalabi riding to the rescue and the Iraqis throwing flowers at the Americans. Within weeks, it was obvious that the political side of plan A was worthless. What was disturbing was that there was no Plan B. In fact, there was never much in the way of discussions on what to do after the fall of Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein may have given us the obnoxious phrase about the mother of all battles but Bush gave us the mother of all white elephants. Historians will note that Bush essentially conquered Iraq and didn't know what to do with it.

In 2003, one can argue that our policy in Iraq drifted for months without any serious effort to correct the situation. In fact, in the last four years, there have been a series of small ad hoc policy moves followed by wait and see periods lasting for months. Hagel, of course, is right: even in 2007, not much has changed.

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

It's been reported that when he ordered the invasion — and I presume for quite some time afterward — Bush was unaware of the ethnic makeup of Iraq. To him they were all just Iraqis, Arabs and Muslims. Politically, they were Baathist dead enders, ordinary folks and al Qaeda terrorists.

No surprise then that taking care to keep the place from fragmenting along ethnic and sectarian lines wasn't made a priority until months of Sunni depradations resulted in Shiite death squads roaming the streets of Baghdad and al Sadr had increased his power.

In sum, Bush and his people were overmatched from the start by al Qaeda sociopaths and Sunni guerrilla fighters operating in a militarily weak Third-World country with a clumsy oaf for a despot.

We're just lucky Bush didn't come to office with his heart set on invading Iran, which by all accounts has a much bigger, better military and more-savvy leaders.

10:22 PM  

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