George W. Bush & John McCain: A Tale Of Two Fools genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Is it any wonder that George W. Bush has the lowest approval ratings since Richard Nixon? This President has pursued his vision of Iraq for over four years despite numerous signs and signals that it was an exercise in futility. His most recent stab at salvaging Iraq has been his highly touted surge...the addition of some 30,000 U.S. soldiers...and it too, is beginning to look like a miscalculation.

With the surge fully implemented, once again we are hearing that the troop level may not be sufficient to bring stability to the war torn country and that it is likely that the sectarian and insurgent violence will simply shift to regions of the country that are not secure...a la the notorious game of whack-a-mole we've been playing since the outset.

As the U.S. offensive, code-named Phantom Thunder, has been greeted with a week of intensified fighting in areas outside the capital -- areas that the U.S. military has largely left untouched for as long as three years -- the push raised fears from security experts and officers in the field that the new attacks might simply propel the enemy from one area to another where there are not as many U.S. troops.

Retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who in 2003 was among the first to call public attention to the relatively small size of the U.S. invasion force, said that the new operation shows how outnumbered U.S. troops remain. "Why would we think that a temporary presence of 30,000 additional combat troops in a giant city would change the dynamics of a bitter civil war?" he said in an interview yesterday. "It's a fool's errand."

An officer working in Arrowhead Ripper, the subsidiary offensive in Diyala province, said wearily, "We just do not have the forces in country right now to have the appropriate level of presence across the country."

Many counterinsurgency experts agree. Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., the director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a national security think tank, said flatly that Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, does not have enough troops. "I suspect General Petraeus is taking a risk here, but that's what commanders do," he said.

I keep coming back to the original assessment by General Shinseki, the general who was forced into early retirement after arguing that it would take 300,000 U.S. troops to bring security and keep the peace after the toppling of the Hussein government. At what point are we going to admit that it would still take something closely approaching that number to achieve our goal of securing the country?

Senator McCain, one of the last staunch supporters of the president's Iraq war, has time and again admitted that we made a number of mistakes in the early stages of the war...yet he seems to be suggesting that we've ceased making those same mistakes. I believe Senator McCain was the first person to use the term whack-a-mole when describing our undermanned effort...yet he now contends that the surge is the right thing...despite evidence that there will not be enough troops to secure and hold the peace. Is it any wonder that McCain's campaign is struggling?

There is a tendency to presume that voters don't take the time to understand the nuances of any particular problem and that Iraq is simply one of those problems. I would argue that the voting public has understood the issues in Iraq for far longer than they have been given credit...and their waning support for Senator McCain simply represents their recognition of his inconsistent and insufficient analysis of the Iraq war...and his sellout to win the President's favor.

The issue of the number of troops has dogged the Bush administration and its generals since before the war began. Retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, told Gen. Tommy R. Franks in September 2002 -- seven months before the U.S. invasion -- there were not enough troops in the war plan. Most famously, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, then the Army's chief of staff, told a congressional hearing a month before the assault that the plan did not call for a sufficiently large occupation force.

"I believe we have enough U.S. troops for this specific operation," said a U.S. military strategist there, referring to Phantom Thunder. "I do not believe we've ever had enough troops to do all of the tasks we should be doing in Iraq."

One of Petraeus's nerviest gambles is that enemy fighters will not be able to move and disrupt other areas. The biggest concern for U.S. commanders is the big northern city of Mosul, where insurgents counterattacked the last time the U.S. military conducted an operation this size, in November 2004. That is especially worrisome because the United States now has only one battalion of about 1,000 troops stationed there, far fewer than were there then.

"For the control and retain phases, we will need reliable Iraqi security forces in sufficient numbers," said Lt. Col. Douglas A. Ollivant, a senior Army planner in Baghdad. "There are clearly not yet enough reliable forces."

Iraqi security forces are "the weak link," said counterinsurgency expert Krepinevich. The Iraqi government is so factionalized that Iraqi forces remain largely ineffective, he explained: "This is the principal weak spot in our strategy -- and I'm afraid it may be fatal."

A senior commander in Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that U.S. plans do not call for holding cleared areas.

Perhaps I'm dense, but the only thought that comes to mind when reading an analysis of this latest strategy is, "Been there, done that". How many times are we going to go into an area, kill and capture some low level insurgents, hand the ongoing security effort over to the woeful Iraqi security forces, then watch the insurgency return again?

George Bush may be a man of conviction but he wouldn't be the first man whose convictions made him nothing more than a stubborn fool. I'm not sure how far George Bush would go to avoid an admission of failure or a concession that others were right and that he and his neocon cronies were wrong...but it appears he's nowhere near his limit...and he's racking up the casualties to prove it.

John McCain used to present himself as a man of conviction (and I occasionally thought he was) until he decided he needed George Bush to anoint him to be his successor. Since that moment, John McCain has not only lost his standing as a man of conviction, he has proven that George Bush has no monopoly on foolishness...though Senator McCain appears to be the type of fool reserved for someone who sells out in hopes of a bigger prize. Regardless, I have to hand it to Senator McCain...he may have demonstrated that it’s possible to be a fool's fool.

Daniel DiRito | June 23, 2007 | 10:39 AM
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Comments

1 On June 23, 2007 at 7:50 PM, Brett Blackman wrote —

It is truly sad that in a time like this we can truly look down on the efforts to protect our country. Everyone has their own opinion, about how Bush has screwed up the war, and how we should not be there. My question is to all of the idiots do you have a better plan? I may not agree with the war tactic that was taken, I may not agree with length of time we have been at war. But my job is not military of defense. My job is to support our leaders with what they feel is the best for our country. I have not heard of one good plan that will continue to protect our country, but everyone has their own opinion on how Bush has done it wrong.

For all of you incredible intelligent individuals who are always right and never wrong, and who love to criticize other people’s decisions, I have one question for you. If we do not finish how long do you think we will stay in our country without getting attacked?

Think before you speak. If you don't have a better solution, keep your mouth shut and support the decisions that are being made. Otherwise get out of our country and move somewhere better. Our troops die for the decisions that have been made and every time someone in our country speaks out against the effort being made they disgrace our troops and our country.

If you have a better plan then speak out and do it.

2 On June 23, 2007 at 9:40 PM, Daniel wrote —

Brett,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and observations.

While you're entitled to your opinion, I do object to being called an idiot. Notwithstanding, I'll offer a response.

First, if I may be so bold, it sounds like you've certainly drank your share of the kool-aid. As to your job being to support our leaders in what they feel is best for our country...that is your prerogative...but it certainly isn't a requirement nor is it consistent with the history of this country.

I wonder if you feel the same with all elected officials regardless of party affiliation. Obviously we have elections because different politicians and different party's have different ideas about what's best for the country. Disagreement is part of our political process and criticism comes with disagreement.

If you take the time to read more of what I've written here at Thought Theater, you will quickly find that I criticize politicians from both parties...that I do not think I'm always right...and if I'm wrong I have no problem admitting as much...and most importantly, I do think before I speak...and after as well.

You posit that we remain safe because we stay in Iraq...an assertion that you may believe but that cannot be substantiated. Humor me and answer a question for me...If we were to have a terrorist attach while we're still fighting in Iraq, what would you conclude? In my opinion, it is incredibly naive to think that being in Iraq is directly responsible for preventing another terrorist attack.

As to solutions, I've long thought that Senator Biden has the best handle on what can work in Iraq...a loosely aligned central government with three autonomous entities made up of the primary sectarian groups. Senator Brownback of Kansas, a Republican agrees with Biden and they are working together to push that approach.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group offered numerous suggestions that have yet to be implemented...another example of the intransigence that plagues this President. Perhaps you find stubbornness to be a valuable trait in a president...but I think it’s safe to say a large majority of Americans don't agree.

So there are other plans and there are better plans. Unfortunately, we have a president that is opposed to changing his plan. I would remind you that the 2006 election was in fact part of a plan and it was carried out by a majority of Americans. I'm sure I'm not alone in anxiously awaiting the next phase of that plan...the election of a president that will embrace a new plan.

One final thought. When you stop in at Thought Theater in the future, remember that you can do so because you live in a country that grants you such freedoms...the same freedoms that allow you to have your say here on this site.

However, unlike you, I won't tell you to keep your mouth shut and I won't tell you to stay away from my blog...and by all means I won't tell you to get out of OUR country...but I will tell you that I have the same rights that you do and I won't shut up and I won't leave my country. Further, I will criticize this administration and I will vote and this country of ours will someday soon be restored...and that will happen because we have the freedom to make it happen.

Again, thanks for offering your comments though I hope you will take some time to read more of what has been written here at Thought Theater. Feel free to disagree but may I suggest that we conduct a reasoned dialogue rather than engage in ad hominem banter.

Regards,

Daniel

3 On June 24, 2007 at 12:55 PM, RMP wrote —

If there's one argument that drives me crazy it is the 'if we don't fight them over there, will have to fight them here' argument. What is the possible rationale that says that they won't attack us in America as long as we stay in Iraq?

I can just see it, Osama is sitting around with some of the leadership discussing a plan to attack the US. It ends with the realization that they can't attack because they are bogged down in Iraq. Ridiculous.

4 On June 24, 2007 at 1:09 PM, UnEasyOne wrote —

You have more patience than I, Daniel. I am sick of trolls and would ban them if it were me. Reasonable people can disagree, but Brett's comment contributed nothing.

Like you, I have believed for a long time now that the Biden plan offered the only hope to salvage anything from the Iraq debacle, now becoming a bloodbath. It has it's own problems but the fact that we have insufficient troops to hold the territory we clear doomed the surge to failure before it began. Supposedly the Iraqi army will do that job as we move on to other areas. I have a couple of land deals I'd like to discuss with anybody who believes that's gonna happen.

It is truly appalling to me that anybody would suggest that the patriotic thing to do is just shut up and watch the destruction of our armed forces by the most corrupt and incompetent cabal of politicos our nation has ever had the misfortune to endure. I am no military expert, but I watched in horror as our forces bypassed one arms and ammunition dump after another on the way to Baghdad. I couldn't believe it! I understand that they had insufficient forces to guard them; guess what? They make a very large and satisfying boom when shelled or otherwise dealt with.

Not being a military expert, I wasn't sure at the time that ignoring Shinseki was such a terrible idea; when we bypassed the ammo dumps and failed to secure the nuclear sites, I knew the war was being run by idiots, that if we encountered serious opposition, we would lose.

One bonehead move followed another, and I fail to see how even a hawk could support this gang of idiots who have crippled our military readiness as no foreign force could ever hope to.

I now have grave doubts that even the Biden plan can work now, too much has transpired since he proposed it. I can't see a viable alternative however.

I have even graver doubts that there is any intention to withdraw, considering the huge permanent bases being built, recent remarks about the "Korea model" (read 50 year occupation) and the oil law we are trying to push down the throats of the Iraqi parliament. This is the number one "benchmark" Bush and the Democratic congress are pushing. It essentially turns over Iraqi oil over to US big oil. For some reason, the Iraqi parliament seems reluctant to pass it. Go figure.

5 On June 24, 2007 at 1:38 PM, John Q. wrote —

"My job is to support our leaders with what they feel is best for our country."

It's hard not to think of the "good Germans" of WWII when I read this kind of claptrap.

Conservatives hate to hear it, but the reality is that we may well not have had the 9/11 attack if Gore had been the president we elected him to be.
(I have this from a security consultant and author of books on Al Qaida.)

The fact is that there are no good options for us now in Iraq. What we have to do is find the least bad of the bad options. The Baker-Hamilton report pointed the way: the Democrats missed an opportunity after to 2006 elections to hold hearings on that report and any follow up recommendations, and to arrive at a consensus on what the least bad option might be. Their cut off funding legislation was just empty posturing, and ended up making them look weak and foolish, as they deseerved to.

As to attacks on our country: I guess you heard about the Al Qaida plan to release poison gas into the NY subway system. The administration was so focussed on Iraq that it missed this plot completely, and only heard about it after Zawahiri called it off. And the reason he called it off is because it would not have topped 9/11 - Al Qaida wants their next attack to be even more deadly. Fighting in Iraq is not helping us defend against that next attack - in fact, Al Qaida leaders expressed dismay at the Democrats' cut off funding legislation, as they have more than once (in captured communications) said that the longer the US is in Iraq, the better for Al Qaida.

So, yes, Brett, some of us do have a better plan: find the least bad solution for our misadventure in Iraq, and get back to focussing on the real threats before Al Qaida succeeds in their desire to strike a more devastating blow than 9/11. And your objections to that plan would be what, exactly?

6 On June 25, 2007 at 10:53 AM, Dr X wrote —

You, too, might conclude that our departure from Iraq would increase the likelihood of another terrorist attack in the U.S. if you were among the 41% of Americans who mistakenly believe that Saddam played an integral role in the attacks of 9-11 or if you're among the half of all Americans who can't identify Saudi Arabia as the country where most of the 9-11 hijackers were from.

From a Newsweek Poll:

"Even today, more than four years into the war in Iraq, as many as four in ten Americans (41 percent) still believe Saddam Hussein's regime was directly involved in financing, planning or carrying out the terrorist attacks on 9/11, even though no evidence has surfaced to support a connection. A majority of Americans were similarly unable to pick Saudi Arabia in a multiple-choice question about the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers were born. Just 43 percent got it right -- and a full 20 percent thought most came from Iraq."

7 On June 25, 2007 at 10:54 AM, A Ivanov wrote —

"The Good Germans"? I've been having this feeling since 2003... A "preemptive war", "imminent threat to the Fatherland", "Bolsheviks" -you only have to change the last word to "Islamofascist " (whatever it means), and you're in the US, in 2003.
It's hard to believe that people think their duty is to follow someone blindly and obediently. They need a Furher, not a democratically elected leader. (By the way, what was Brett saying when Clinton had his blowjob? Or when he decided to intervene in Kosovo?)
It's even harder to believe that these individuals still buy all the stories about Saddam and 9/11, weapons of mass destructions, etc. Brett, when exactly did Mr Hussein commit most of his mischiefs, and genocides? That's right! It was in the '80s, when he was such a good ally. Along with another gentleman, named Osama bin Laden. Does that name ring a bell?

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