|Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 12:52 pm: ||
Bush's Sinking Ship of Fools
by H.D.S. Greenway
"The current approach is not working, and the ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing," said Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group. "Our ship of state has hit rough waters." The seafaring metaphor has become the sine qua non of Iraq discussions. "Stay the course" and "cut and run" come to mind, the latter referring to the days when you might cut your anchor chain in order to save the ship. One is tempted to call the Baker-Hamilton condemnation of incompetence and bungling a shot across the bow of an Iraq policy that is dead in the water and sinking.
The one lifeline that both the Bush administration and the study group are clinging to is the concept that training an Iraqi army can provide enough security for the United States to withdraw without leaving utter chaos. But the record so far, as Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said, has been to "move from failure to failure."
A year ago I visited some of the American trainers in Iraq. They told me that training a soldier to stand and fight was the least of their problems. Harder was getting the logistics straight so that ammunition could be brought up in time, soldiers fed, and personnel paid. But hardest of all, they said, was something they had no control over: the Iraqi civilian authorities who would have to one day take responsibility. For if the civilian authorities were warring with each other, if sectarianism prevailed over a unified national purpose, then all the training in the world would go for naught. In the end the United States would be training soldiers to fight against each other or, perhaps, the United States as well.
It may be too late to count on building an Iraqi army to defend and hold a unified Iraq together, and the American presence itself is a major incentive for insurgency.
Iraqi soldiers fighting in the service of a puppet government will seem like puppets even to themselves, and their very association with the US occupation limits their effectiveness. They will be branded as collaborators in the pay of infidels. I am haunted by the remark Iraqi soldiers made to the Washington Post's Anthony Shadid. We know we are bad Muslims, they said, but we need the money.
The president says he is disappointed at the slow progress of success. But there isn't going to be a success in Iraq, and the job now is to manage and mitigate failure. The Iraq Study Group understands that, but there is little evidence that Bush does. He has commissioned other internal reviews to lessen the impact of the study group's conclusions. He apparently finds it difficult to comply with so many distinguished, bipartisan Americans and senior statesmen, several of whom served his father, who understood what would happen if we occupied Iraq.
In the greater struggle against Islamic extremism, the most important of the study group's recommendations was that the United States appear actively involved in trying to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Reacting against his father's and Bill Clinton's efforts, President Bush removed America from its role of honest broker in his very first National Security Council meeting, Ron Suskind reports in "The One Percent Solution." Colin Powell warned Bush that by not trying to limit Israeli violence against Palestinians he was "reversing 30 years of US policy." But Bush dismissed this, saying, " Sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things."
Since then, neither Bush's shows of force nor Israel's have clarified much other than the limits to the use of force.
According to co-chairman James Baker, virtually everybody the Iraq Study Group talked to said that the Israel-Palestine issue was the single most important one stirring up Muslim resentment around the world, and that the best way to help moderate Muslims combat extremism was for the United States to get involved -- not necessarily to solve the issue, but to seriously address it rather than letting it drift in an angry sea, as Bush has done for six years.
Does President Bush have the flexibility to change his policies? Or will he be like our War of 1812 naval hero, James Lawrence, who was carried off the deck shouting, "Don't give up the ship" -- leaving it to others to deal with the wreckage on the burning deck.
"America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect." - GWB
After all, the Shoah did not start with ovens. It began with words of hate. - M.J. Rosenberg