Liberal Grace

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Listening to George Bush

If Bush doesn't mention Muqtada al-Sadr or the Mahdi Army in his speech, you can bet he's still hopelessly behind the curve.

The biggest problem with Bush's war leadership is that he's been consistently a year or more behind everybody else. More troops was a really good idea in early 2003 and 2004... but probably not now. After everyone recognized that a local insurgency was the #1 problem, Bush was still denying they even existed. Iraq looks like a civil war to everybody else but Bush is still denying it.

The real conundrum now in Iraq is Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia. If you saw the video of Saddam's hanging (I refused to look), you heard "Muqtada" chanted by the spectators.

By many accounts, Muqtada al-Sadr is the most powerful man in Iraq. To complicate matters, al-Sadr is fully embedded at all levels in the Maliki government. I think it is safe to say that al-Sadr's vision for Iraq is very different than what most American's want. As I read the news, it seems like al-Sadr has the upper hand right now.

Iraq is on the track of having one (secular) despot replaced by another (sectarian) despot. This is certainly not a march to freedom and what US soldiers are dying for!

Does Bush understand the situation now (and not a year ago)? I'll judge by how much he considers al-Sadr in his new Iraq strategy.

Does anyone know why Bush wants to escalate? If Bush is doing this for a useful reason, I'd support it even though I generally want an expedient withdrawal.

One possible legitimate use for an increase in troops is to battle the Mahdi Army and set the country back on a centralized, non-sectarian track.

More likely, Bush will say the expanded force will be to help train the Iraqi army. That's a good reason for a troop surge but it begs a question: how can the US "stand down" without turning the Iraqi military over to al-Sadr in the process?

Listen for that key detail. If Bush doesn't mention it, I doubt he understands either the rock or the hard place.

Is Bush sending more troops to stay a slightly-modified losing course? I'll be listening for that.

I'm going to listen for a significant change in strategy -- explained coherently. If I don't hear it, I'm going to continue to advocate for "cut and run" which is horrible but far better than Bush's "stay and lose" strategy.

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