Wednesday :: Sep 5, 2007

Testing The Waters


by Steve

On a day when three four more American soldiers died in Iraq, the New York Times’ lead editorial blasts Bush for his photo op at a remote, well-fortified air base in Iraq. David Sanger of the paper pens an analysis which shows that Bush is simply moving the goal posts for measuring success in order to maintain his insistence that more time is needed, when we now know from Robert Draper’s book (a link to purchase it is on the left side of this site) that all Bush cares about is keeping the troops in Iraq until the end of his term so that he can dump his “legacy” upon his successor as a fait accompli. The Times also reports that Democrats are trying at this late hour to reframe the Iraq debate, something they should have been doing all summer long instead of waiting until Bush had the run of the place in August to weave “mini-benchmarks”, Iran, and local security arrangements into the narrative.

Sanger notes in his piece “a president who has unveiled four or five strategies for winning over Iraqis — depending on how one counts — may now be on the cusp of yet another.” He also notes that it was the White House, not the Congressional Democrats who came up with the benchmarks that the Iraqis still cannot meet which Bush wants to walk away from. But as Sanger notes, Bush’s new focus on ground-up relationships and success at the local and provincial level acknowledges what partition supporters have known for three years: you cannot expect to keep Iraq together with a weak, sectarian prime minister, and in fact, perhaps you cannot keep it together at all. Sanger notes that Bush’s pivot now to new goalposts allows him to run out the clock, assuming Congress lets him.

All this summer, Bush's effort to take Iraq off the front pages and better manager perceptions from that country have found a willing partner: the mainstream media, which has abandoned its Iraq coverage, allowing the White House to spin its narrative without the facts getting in the way.

While the Pentagon and several supporters in the Senate GOP caucus blamed the messenger by attacking the GAO report yesterday, Dick Lugar would have none of it, and accepted the findings of the report as evidence that Iraqis may not want to be Iraqis anymore. Lugar and probably John Warner clearly now want to move beyond tit-for-tat disagreements about body counts, alleged security improvements, and miniscule accomplishments by the Iraqi government to force a debate about what we are trying to accomplish in Iraq, a debate that the Democrats should have forced all this year instead of calling immediately for a troop withdrawal without the votes to succeed. Mitch McConnell seemed to be willing have that debate, as long as Reid didn’t hit him in the face with another demand for an immediate troop withdrawal, when he said that once the need for a permanent US presence in the region was acknowledged by all sides, progress towards a mission change and troop reductions in Iraq were very possible.

McConnell is no longer wedded to a permanent troop presence inside Iraq, perhaps because folks like Lugar and Warner know that the United States has destroyed any chance at keeping the country together without committing decades of time, thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars to an effort that Bush has revealed is simply about his legacy and Cheney’s demand to control the region’s oil. If the GOP has opened a door here, perhaps Reid should at least test them to see how far they are willing to go towards a broad solution.

Steve :: 7:59 AM :: Comments (11) :: Digg It!