Thursday, May 10, 2007

Always A Friedman Or Two Behind The Curve

By Cernig

Tomorrow's New York Times editorial is a whammy. It says all that progressives have been saying for a while now and that the rest of America has now caught up with - Bush is behind the curve and now stands alone as the only obstacle to preventing an oncoming train wreck.
The difference between mainstream hawks and mainstream doves on Iraq seems to have boiled down to two months, with House Democrats now demanding visible progress by July while moderate Republicans are willing to give White House policies until September, but no longer, to show results.

Then there is President Bush, who has yet to acknowledge the reality that Congressional Republicans and even administration officials like Defense Secretary Robert Gates now seem to tacitly accept. Three months into Mr. Bush’s troop escalation, there is no real security in Baghdad and no measurable progress toward reconciliation, while American public support for this folly has all but run out.

The really important question now facing Washington is the one Mr. Bush still refuses to address: how, while there is still some time left, to design an exit strategy that contains the chaos in Iraq and minimizes the damage to United States interests when American troops inevitably leave.

...If Mr. Bush hopes to salvage anything from his 20 months left in office, and, more to the point, if he wants to play a constructive role in the accelerating Iraq endgame, he needs to understand how much has changed in this country, and how tragically little has changed in Iraq.

The American people are no longer willing to write blank checks of blood and treasure to an Iraqi government that has refused to stop rampaging Shiite militias, has failed to approve constitutional changes to bring estranged Sunni Arabs back into the political system, and has still not come up with a way to share oil revenues fairly. Now it wants to give itself a two-month summer vacation.

Mr. Bush needs to face up to this grim reality and abandon his fantasies of ultimate victory and vindication. Otherwise, he could find himself, and America’s best long-term interests, run over by a bipartisan rush toward the nearest exit.
The split in Iraq began as pro and ante invasion while Bush was blaming the violence on fictitious Al Qaeda foreign fighters because he couldn't yet accept the Iraqis wouldn't strew rose petals at his feet. Then it became a Sunni/Shiite sectarian war while Bush refused to see it as other than an insurgency of dissafected ex-Saddamites. Now it is morphing into a cross-sectarian split beween nationalists (who are still anti-occupation) and separatists (who are only pro-occupation until they consolidate power) and Bush is so stuck on the sectarian angle it's like he has blinders on.

Meanwhile, the Kurds who have always supposedly been the occupation's biggest local fans are getting ready to deal with Iran because Baghdad can't deliver. Bush's incompetencies in that area have also left US relations with Turkey on a knife-edge for the sake of a local government that shelters terrorists. In Diyala, Sunni tribes are getting ready to apply a final solution to their Al Qaida problem but have warned the U.S. to stay out of the way - the enemy of their enemy isn't their friend. In the South, around Basra, the fighting has been between the nationalists of Sadr's Mahdi Army and those who want to split the Shiite South away from the rest of Iraq, the latter being the ones in charge in Baghdad. Even the administration's pitbull, Cheney, couldn't bully the Iraqi government into doing what it so clearly doesn't want to do. Which is why the notion of benchmarks has been so long resisted by Bush (until now, under pressure) - he knows every single one will be unmet.

Bush has always been at least an entire Friedman Unit - six months - behind the curve of events. For the longest time, the rest of the GOP followed him. For many of them, it was about politics. It's not often good politics to admit you fouled up royally until you really, really, have to. But for Bush and his 28% loyalty club, it has been about utter faith in those "fantasies of ultimate victory and vindication."

Now, with the sand run out, Bush refuses to let the military do proper planning for the withdrawal that must come someday. He cannot face up to this grim reality, as he has been unable to face up to past grim realities for at least six months or longer after others saw them clearly. He is the problem, not any part of the solution.

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