Friday, April 11, 2008

Just as New Orleans's Ninth Ward will still be a moonscape when Bush goes out of office, so will Iraq

President Bush’s comments this week following General Petraeus’ appearance before congress makes it clear our official policy in Iraq is now back to simply drifting along with jingoism replacing discussion on how to construct a strategy that best serves the American and Iraqi people. The President has abdicated his responsibility in providing the political leadership so needed for anything remotely resembling a positive outcome in the Middle East. American soldiers are somehow expected to accomplish with guns the political work that neither Washington nor the Maliki government seem capable or inclined to do. Two incompetent governments fumble along as Iraqis suffer and Americans become cynical.

Juan Cole has this assessment:
War turns Republics into dictatorships. The logic is actually quite simple. The Constitution says that the Congress is responsible for declaring war. But in 2002 Congress turned that responsibility over to Bush, gutting the constitution and allowing the American Right to start referring to him not as president but as 'commander in chief' (that is a function of the civilian presidency, not a title.)

So Congress abdicated to Bush. Bush has abdicated to the generals in the field.

That is not a Republic. That is a military dictatorship achieved not by coup but by moral laziness.

Ironically, what officers like Petraeus need from Bush is not deference but vigorous leadership in the political realm. Bush needs to intervene to work for political reconciliation in Iraq if Petraeus's military achievements are to bear fruit. But Bush seems incapable of actually conducting policy, as opposed to starting wars. Bush happened to Iraq just as he happened to New Orleans. He cannot do the hard work of patiently addressing disasters and ameliorating them. He just wants to set people to fighting. Crush the Sadr Movement, perhaps the most popular political movement in Iraq? He's all for it. Risk provoking a wider conflagration in the Middle East by worsening relations with Iran? Sounds like a great idea to him. Bush campaigned on being a 'uniter not a divider' in 2000. In fact, he is the ultimate Divider, and leaves burning buildings, millions of refugees, and hundreds of thousands of cadavers in his wake. He is not Iraq's Brownie. He is Iraq's Katrina itself.

Just as New Orleans's Ninth Ward will still be a moonscape when Bush goes out of office, so will Iraq.

Eugene Robinson nails it: "It's time to acknowledge that Bush has run out the clock. The nation's only recourse is the ballot box."
65% of Americans either want US troops out of Iraq immediately or sometime in 2009, up from 61% in February of this year. Only 31% want to keep them there 'as long as it takes,' and that percentage declined in the past couple of months from 34%. In other words, whatever the success of the troop escalation and COIN techniques in the past year, they have had no impact on the rapid decline in the popularity with the American public of the US presence in Iraq. Most Americans don't seem to care whether the situation is better or worse in Iraq, they just want out.

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