Strange new words from Bush (updated)

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  1. James Baker was on Sunday morning talk shows (which I missed) talking about a change in direction also.
    There have also been some semi-obscur hints that the administration is considering installing a non-democratically elected senior executive in Baghdad. This struck me as unlikely given the emphasis on democraticizing the Middle East over the last few years. But I cannot remember any references to democratication this fall. If anybody can remember any instances, I would like to know.
    I don’t think this is political from the standpoint of trying to hold control of congress but it may be setting the stage for a shift in policy early next year.
    Now for the key question, what is Fox news, Rush Limbaugh, etc saying?

  2. Well, I haven’t heard or read anything unusual on this coming from Rush. And, I really don’t consider this all that strange – if in fact the current policy isn’t working, we need to make a course correction, or else risk driving the ship right on the rocks (which is probably not a good idea.)

  3. I think Bush is talking about changing tactics. Changing tactics doesn’t work. We’ve been adjusting tactics for over three years. That’s what our commanders and troops on the ground do. We need a new strategy, and that can only come from Bush. Hopefully Baker will come up with a solution that Bush will seize upon. Time will tell. But it’s hard to change course, when you can’t face reality. There is not going to be a stable, democratic, pluralistic Iraq in the next 5 years. The current civil war is going to continue for several years and it is going to be a messy and violent place. The current mission is failing. US troops seem to exacerbate problems. This isn’t their fault. Their tactics are sound, we just haven’t given them realistic goals or set a workable strategy. And the troops were successful in our primary objectives: remove Hussein from power and assure that there are not WMDs. We’ve done both. Our objective of creating a stable needs to be re-thought.

  4. Polimom,
    There’s lots of confusion in the Iraq debates around assumptions, objectives, strategy, and tactics. When one isn’t clear on which is which, it’s difficult to have a coherent conversation, let alone come to a consensus.
    For example, it’s an assumption that the sectarian violence in Iraq must be controlled (i.e. suppressed) before the elected government can fully function as a government. This assumption leads to a military objective of suppressing the violence based on (centuries old) differences between Iraqis. The long term strategy for this has been to train up an Iraqi army and police force that can eventually perform this task unassisted (the creation of which is therefore a secondary objective) and in the short term running dual patrols and operations with US and Iraqi forces while this training is in progress. Tactics enters into how the US and Iraqi forces divide up the tasks and responsibilities for executing both the long and short term strategies.
    In it’s efforts to accomplish the objective, the US military can, and has, been changing tactics often. They have even experimented with changing the short term strategy, e.g. Iraqi-only operations, curfews, no-vehicle zones.
    What the military can not do is change the objectives they have been assigned, nor can they change the political assumptions upon which these objectives have been based. That requires new direction from the political/civilian leadership — direction which has not been forthcoming.
    Rather than operating in the weeds of tactics and battlefield strategies, what if the discussion was about the assumptions and objectives? For example, do we really need to take responsibility for controlling sectarian violence in Iraq? Why? What if that was the Iraqi government’s problem? That would represent a fundamental change in our political assumptions.
    Suppose the Iraqi government chose to go about controlling violence by recognizing local tribes or “warlords” who control specific turf, instead of trying to build an army to suppress the locals? Suppose they chose to accommodate the warlords in the short term while building an army, which in the long term would either assimilate or crush the warlords? That would result in different objectives for both US and Iraqi forces, and make available different strategies to accomplish them.
    Suppose the key US objective is to prevent either a military invasion of Iraq from Iran, or the infiltration of guerillas from Iran to fight against either the US forces or the Iraqi government? Surely there are certainly less costly and obtrusive ways to accomplish this than having US Army vehicles patrolling Baghdad?
    Let’s take it back to first principles here. Regardless of what we thought we wanted in 2003, 2004, or 2005, what is it that we need to accomplish in Iraq now, and what are the political assumptions that constrain our actions? Strategies and tactics to follow . . .

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