Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Does He Have A Strategy?

Well, no. According to Think Progress's deconstruction of the 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq'(.PDF), what we have is 'Stay the Course Stay the Course Stay the Course 9/11'.
The administration's hand is in the proverbial jar, wrapped tight around Iraqi oil, and they know just letting it go is not really an option no matter how many people've died..

As an update, here's the New York Times on this 'plan':

. . . Mr. Bush hates comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. But after watching the president, we couldn't resist reading Richard Nixon's 1969 Vietnamization speech. Substitute the Iraqi constitutional process for the Paris peace talks, and Mr. Bush's ideas about the Iraqi Army are not much different from Nixon's plans - except Nixon admitted the war was going very badly (which was easier for him to do because he didn't start it), and he was very clear about the risks and huge sacrifices ahead.

A president who seems less in touch with reality than Richard Nixon needs to get out more.

And here are further commentaries by David Corn and the Plaid Adder.


Blogger Management said...

Rapid Response: Deconstructing the “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq”

After two-and-a-half years and 2,110 U.S. troop fatalities, the Bush administration released what it calls a “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” (NSVI). The problem is, it’s not a new strategy for success in Iraq; it’s a public relations document. The strategy describes what has transpired in Iraq to date as a resounding success and stubbornly refuses to establish any standards for accountability. It dismisses serious problems such as the dramatic increase in bombings as “metrics that the terrorists and insurgents want the world to use.” Americans understand it’s time for a new course in Iraq. Unfortunately, this document is little more than an extended justification for a President “determined to stay his course.”

NO STANDARDS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY: Two weeks ago, the Senate overwhelmingly endorsed an amendment calling on the Bush administration to provide a “schedule” for meeting U.S. objectives in Iraq, “information regarding variables that could alter that schedule, and the reasons for any subsequent changes to that schedule.” The NSVI completely rejects this call. “We will not put a date certain on when each stage of success will be reached,” the document states in bold and italicized print, “because the timing of success depends upon meeting certain conditions, not arbitrary timetables.” The only time frames proposed for achieving U.S. objectives are virtually meaningless phrases: “short term,” “medium term,” and “longer term.” The goals for these time frames are equally ambiguous; the so-called “short term” goals, for instance, are listed as “making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.”

IGNORING KEY CHALLENGES: When decorated veteran Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) presented his Iraq plan two weeks ago, he offered two primary reasons for supporting redeployment. One was the heavy burden the Iraq war has placed on the U.S. military and its recruitment and retention efforts, many of which are at historically low levels. The second was the shifting sentiments of the Iraqi population; Murtha cited a recent poll that found “over 80 percent of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, and about 45 percent of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified.” The NSVI ignores both of these fundamental facts. Virtually nothing is said about the well-being of our military, unquestionably a vital element in any strategy for success. Moreover, it disregards the latest Iraqi public opinion data, stating falsely that violence “has been discredited within and outside Iraq.”

DISMISSING INCREASED VIOLENCE: The NSVI emphasizes that U.S. officials “track numerous indicators to map the progress of our strategy,” and offers websites where some of these reports are publicly available. “Americans can read and assess these reports to get a better sense of what is being done in Iraq and the progress being made on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.” The problem is that these reports have on numerous occasions been found to be inaccurate, or to overstate progress using incomplete or misleading data. Additionally, the document states (in bold print) that these Pentagon statistics “have more strategic significance than the metrics that the terrorists and insurgents want the world to use as a measure of progress or failure: number of bombings.” Surely one needs a wide assortment of statistics to get the full picture from Iraq. But considering the No. 1 “Strategic Pillar” listed in the NSVI is to “Defeat the Terrorists and Neutralize the Insurgency,” it is simply not true to claim that the number of insurgent bombings (now at an all-time high) is irrelevant as a measure of progress.

REPLACING METRICS WITH EMPTY PHRASES: In late-September, Gen. George Casey Jr., who oversees U.S. forces in Iraq, revealed that “[t]he number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one.” That meant only 700 Iraq Security forces were rated as “Level 1″ on the four point scale created by the U.S. military. Instead of addressing the problem, they’ve abandoned the ratings system. The NSVI notes that “now more than 120 Iraqi army and police battalions are in the fight.” (The term “in the fight,” used six times in the document, is not defined.) The strategy also notes: “As of November 2005, there were more than 212,000 trained and equipped Iraqi Security Forces, compared with 96,000 in September of last year.” It fails to mention that in Feburary 2004, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claimed there were 210,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces and a “thousand more that are currently in training.”

THE NATIONAL PAT ON THE BACK: The NSIV is less of a strategy and more of a pat on the back. Much of the 35 pages is devoted to describing how well things are going. Oddly, the strategy declares on Page 5 that “Our Strategy Is Working.” On the economic front we are told, “Our restore, reform, build, strategy is achieving results.” On the political front: “Our Isolate, Engage, and Build strategy is working.” On the security front: “Our clear, hold, and build strategy is working.” With everything going so well, the NSVI reminds us that “change is coming to the region…From Kuwait to Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt, there are stirrings of political pluralism, often for the first time in generations.”

7:16 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Bush Maps Out Iraq War Strategy

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press WriterWed Nov 30, 6:50 PM ET

President Bush gave an unflinching defense of his war strategy on Wednesday, refusing to set a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals and asserting that once-shaky Iraqi troops are proving increasingly capable. Democrats dismissed his words as a stay-the-course speech with no real strategy for success.

Bush recalled that some Iraqi security forces once ran from battle, and he said their performance "is still uneven in some parts." But he also said improvements have been made in training and Iraqi units are growing more independent and controlling more territory.

"This will take time and patience," said Bush, who is under intense political pressure as U.S. military deaths in the war rise beyond 2,100 and his popularity sits at the lowest point of his presidency.

Bush's speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, the first of at least three he'll give between now and the Dec. 15 Iraqi elections, did not outline a new strategy for the nearly three-year-old war. Rather, it was intended as a comprehensive answer to mounting criticism and questions. Billed as a major address, it brought together in a single package the administration's arguments for the war and assertions of progress on military, economic and political tracks.

The address was accompanied by the release of a White House document titled "Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" — a report that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi dismissed as "35 pages of rhetoric on old sound bites." Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass., called Bush's speech "lipstick" on a failed Iraqi strategy. "If things on the ground in Iraq are as rosy as the picture the president painted today, then we should be able to begin to bring our troops home in 2006," he said.

Bush spoke to a friendly audience of midshipmen. They welcomed the president by singing him the Navy fight song. At the end, they chanted in unison, 'Fire it up!' 'Fire it up!'

The president said the U.S. military's role in Iraq will shift from providing security and fighting the enemy nationwide to more specialized operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists. "We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate and conduct fewer patrols and convoys," the president said.

Still, Bush remained steadfastly opposed to imposing a deadline for leaving Iraq.

"Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere — but I believe they're sincerely wrong," Bush said. "Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory."

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada called on the president to release a strategy that has military, economic and political benchmarks that must be met. "Simply staying the course is no longer an option," Reid said. "We must change the course."

Bush was ready for that.

"If by `stay the course' they mean we will not permit al-Qaida to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban — a safe haven for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on America — they're right," Bush said.

"If by `stay the course' they mean that we're not learning from our experiences or adjusting our tactics to meet the challenges on the ground, then they're flat wrong."

There are about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The Pentagon has not committed to any specific drawdown next year beyond the announced plan to pull back 28,000 troops who were added this fall for extra security during the election.

The U.S. strategy rests on the expectation that training a competent Iraqi security force and helping shepherd the election of a democratic government will stabilize the country and permit a gradual U.S. military exit, possibly starting next year.

At this time last year, only a few Iraqi battalions were ready for combat, he said. Now more than 120 Iraqi army and police combat battalions are in the fight, Bush said. Of those, about 80 are fighting side-by-side with U.S.-led coalition forces and about 40 others are taking the lead.

Bush said more than 30 Iraqi army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility. In Baghdad, Iraqi battalions have taken over major sectors of the capital, including some of the city's toughest neighborhoods, he said. The coalition has handed over roughly 90 square miles of Baghdad province to Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi battalions have taken responsibility for areas in other parts of the country.

The president said that when the U.S.-led coalition arrived in Iraq, it worked to create an Iraqi army that could defend the nation from external threats as well as a civil defense corps to provide protection inside its borders. But the civil force, without enough firepower or training, was no match for enemies toting machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, Bush said.

In response, he said the civil force was moved into the Iraqi army and training was adjusted. Similarly, he said that when Iraqi police recruits were spending too much time in classroom lectures and getting too little training on how to use small arms, the program was changed to better prepare them for the fight they faced.

While Bush did not say that the terrorists now in Iraq had anything to do with the Sept. 11 attackers, he said they "share the same ideology." He said that once the enemy in Iraq is defeated, Americans will be safer.


On the Net:

White House:

7:26 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Bush’s Iraq rehash is a national strategy for failure:
- No definition of “victory” and whether it is still possible
- No success metrics
- No new resources or troops to control the borders
- No admission of errors and miscalculations

For a potential Democratic alternative, see:
A 10-Point Plan for Iraq.”

7:53 PM  
Blogger Management said...

December 1, 2005
Plan: We Win

We've seen it before: an embattled president so swathed in his inner circle that he completely loses touch with the public and wanders around among small knots of people who agree with him. There was Lyndon Johnson in the 1960's, Richard Nixon in the 1970's, and George H. W. Bush in the 1990's. Now it's his son's turn.

It has been obvious for months that Americans don't believe the war is going just fine, and they needed to hear that President Bush gets that. They wanted to see that he had learned from his mistakes and adjusted his course, and that he had a measurable and realistic plan for making Iraq safe enough to withdraw United States troops. Americans didn't need to be convinced of Mr. Bush's commitment to his idealized version of the war. They needed to be reassured that he recognized the reality of the war.

Instead, Mr. Bush traveled 32 miles from the White House to the Naval Academy and spoke to yet another of the well-behaved, uniformed audiences that have screened him from the rest of America lately. If you do not happen to be a midshipman, you'd have to have been watching cable news at midmorning on a weekday to catch him.

The address was accompanied by a voluminous handout entitled "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," which the White House grandly calls the newly declassified version of the plan that has been driving the war. If there was something secret about that plan, we can't figure out what it was. The document, and Mr. Bush's speech, were almost entirely a rehash of the same tired argument that everything's going just fine. Mr. Bush also offered the usual false choice between sticking to his policy and beating a hasty and cowardly retreat.

On the critical question of the progress of the Iraqi military, the president was particularly optimistic, and misleading. He said, for instance, that Iraqi security forces control major areas, including the northern and southern provinces and cities like Najaf. That's true if you believe a nation can be built out of a change of clothing: these forces are based on party and sectarian militias that have controlled many of these same areas since the fall of Saddam Hussein but now wear Iraqi Army uniforms. In other regions, the most powerful Iraqi security forces are rogue militias that refuse to disarm and have on occasion turned their guns against American troops, like Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Mr. Bush's vision of the next big step is equally troubling: training Iraqi forces well enough to free American forces for more of the bloody and ineffective search-and-destroy sweeps that accomplish little beyond alienating the populace.

What Americans wanted to hear was a genuine counterinsurgency plan, perhaps like one proposed by Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., a leading writer on military strategy: find the most secure areas with capable Iraqi forces. Embed American trainers with those forces and make the region safe enough to spend money on reconstruction, thus making friends and draining the insurgency. Then slowly expand those zones and withdraw American forces.

Americans have been clamoring for believable goals in Iraq, but Mr. Bush stuck to his notion of staying until "total victory." His strategy document defines that as an Iraq that "has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency"; is "peaceful, united, stable, democratic and secure"; and is a partner in the war on terror, an integral part of the international community, and "an engine for regional economic growth and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region."

That may be the most grandiose set of ambitions for the region since the vision of Nebuchadnezzar's son Belshazzar, who saw the hand writing on the wall. Mr. Bush hates comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. But after watching the president, we couldn't resist reading Richard Nixon's 1969 Vietnamization speech. Substitute the Iraqi constitutional process for the Paris peace talks, and Mr. Bush's ideas about the Iraqi Army are not much different from Nixon's plans - except Nixon admitted the war was going very badly (which was easier for him to do because he didn't start it), and he was very clear about the risks and huge sacrifices ahead.

A president who seems less in touch with reality than Richard Nixon needs to get out more.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Another Big Speech on Iraq That Won't Matter

Finally, after two-and-a-half years, George W. Bush has demonstrated that he--or, that is, his speechwriters--are not completely out of touch with reality regarding Iraq.

In yet another Big Speech on Iraq--delivered at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland--Bush recognized that the insurgency in Iraq encompasses more than "terrorists" linked to al Qaeda. In speech after speech in recent months, Bush and Dick Cheney have sold their war in Iraq as an us-versus-them confrontation between the United States and "terrorists" who want to destroy America. They regularly misrepresented the insurgency, refusing to acknowledge that it was mostly a homegrown rebellion composed of Sunni Arabs, some of whom are former Baathists looking to regain power, some of whom are fighting out of sectarian motivation. (This gang, while certainly anti-American care more about gaining power in Iraq than annihilating Cincinnati.) Bush and Cheney talked about the war in Iraq as only a black-and-white showdown between US troops and al Qaeda-ish terrorists.

But at the Naval Academy, Bush presented a less comic-bookish analysis of the war. He conceded that the insurgency has been made up of Sunni Arab rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists. And he said the largest element in the insurgency are the Sunni Arabs. The terrorists, he said, are the smallest but most lethal slice of the insurgency. Here was the president at long last characterizing the insurgency in an accurate fashion. That's a good sign. After all, how can you win a war if you don't know who or what you're fighting?

Still, belatedly defining the enemy properly should not be considered a major accomplishment for a commander in chief who launched an elective war to neutralize a supposed immediate threat (Saddam Hussein harboring stockpiles of WMDs, building nuclear weapons, and plotting with al Qaeda) that did not exist. So Bush in his speech maintained that the effort to stand up Iraqi security forces is proceeding well. Speaking beneath a sign that declared, "Plan for Victory" (what happened to "Mission Accomplished"?), Bush threw out statistics illustrating progress in this area. He quoted US and Iraqi military officers saying that the Iraqis are increasingly able to handle security responsibilities.

But the Bush administration has attempted to prop up support for the war with impressive-sounding but not reality-based figures before. As former CIA analyst Larry Johnson noted yesterday:

[A]ccording to Rummy, Iraqi military and police forces are growing stronger each day. He said it so it must be so. Only one problem--he said it before. Let's go back to October 2003 when Rummy asserted,

"In less than six months we have gone from zero Iraqis providing security to their country to close to a hundred thousand Iraqis. Indeed, the progress has been so swift will not be long before [Iraqi security forces] will be the largest and outnumber the U.S. forces, and it shouldn't be too long thereafter that they will outnumber all coalition forces combined."

So, what did Mr. Rumsfeld say today?

"The Iraqi army now has eight division and 33 brigade headquarters in operation, compared with none in July 2004, while the number of Iraqi army's combat battalions has grown to 95, compared to five in August 2004."

What in the world was he talking about in 2003? A division consists of about 15,000 troops. Fifteen times 8 gives us 120,000. A battalion can be as large as 1000 men. So Rummy is claiming that there are 95,000 Iraqi combat troops as well as 120,000? But in 2003 Rummy claimed the Iraqi Army was close to 100,000. Which is it Don?

More than once in the past two years, the administration has presented upbeat numbers on the Iraqi security forces that proved to be tissue-thin. Moreover, the issue these days is not whether the Iraqi government's security forces can put down the small-but-lethal band of terrorists. Nor is it whether the foreign terrorists will take over Iraq, as Bush continues to suggest as a possibility. ("We will not turn that country over to the terrorists," he told his audience at the US Naval Academy.) Can Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's force of a thousand or so followers overthrow a hungry-for-power Shiite government backed by the United States and Iran? Increasingly, the issue is the rise in sectarian violence and the appropriate US response (military and otherwise) to a development that may be beyond the control of Washington.

As The New York Times reported yesterday, there is increasing death squad-style activity under way in Iraq, conducted by Shiite forces, not the Sunni-based insurgency. And as I noted two days ago, the emerging political powers in Iraq are Shiites connected to brutal militias and torture. If civil war does break out, what should the United States do? Put another way, if the Iraq government is victimizer as well as victim, what should be United States' position?

Bush did not deal with such nuanced mattes. At the Naval Academy, he stuck to his usual rhetoric. He declared, "We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission." He said if US military commanders say we need more troops, "I will send them." He decried Washington politicians who call for "artificial timetables" for withdrawing US forces. "America will not long as I am your commander in chief," Bush proclaimed. The audience applauded.

Will this speech work? Probably not. How many Americans are watching cable television at 9:45 in the morning (or 6:45 am on the West Coast)? Bush touted a document put out by the White House called "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," which, the paper says, "articulates the broad strategy the President set forth in 2003 and provides an update on our progress." But much of the public has already rejected the "broad strategy" of 2003. Sixty percent of the public says the war was a mistake and that Bush "deliberately misled" the nation into war. An optimistic strategy paper promoted in the morning hours is not likely to change that.

At this stage--thirty-two months after an invasion that Bush's allies said would be a cakewalk--rhetoric and white papers cannot trump the depressing realities of Iraq. And every time Bush has served up a Big Speech on Iraq he has failed to sway the public. In his "National Strategy for Victor in Iraq" paper, Bush says, "Our strategy is working." Yet many Americans can look at recent developments in Iraq--and the continuing loss of American life there--and justifiably wonder, "this is what you call 'working'?" And if the mid-December elections go well in Iraq, this could lead to more calls in the United States for disengagement. If they don't go well, the same could happen.

True, the public may not be patient. But then the Bush administration did much before the war to underplay the potential (and, to some, obvious) problems and challenges that would emerge after the invasion. And patience does tend to wear thin if you believe you were bamboozled. So assertions from the fellow who many Americans see as the bamboozler in chief are not likely to resonate positively across the land. The value of Bush's word is at its lowest point in his presidency. This speech, like his previous speeches on Iraq, will have no echoes; it will fade quickly. But his mess in Iraq will remain.

5:06 AM  
Blogger Management said...

:34 pm - Hooray! 2 years in, we finally have a strategy for victory!
And it is now conveniently available in PDF form right here.

Yes, it's our plan for victory in Iraq, approved by the US government and championed by Rumsfeld et al. So far, I have only been through the executive summary, but I'm not hopeful.

Here's my favorite part so far: a section entitled "Failure Is Not An Option."

Why is failure not an option? because if we failed, well...

Iraq would become a safe haven from which terrorists could plan attacks against America, American interests abroad, and our allies.

Which it has.

Middle East reformers would never again fully trust assurances of support for democracy and human rights in the region--a historic opportunity lost.

Which they don't.

The resultant tribal and sectarian chaos would have major consequences for American security and interests in the region.


So really, instead of heading that section "Failure Is Not An Option," it should be called, "Why This War Was A Really Fucking Bad Idea And We Should Have Listened To You, Plaidder, I Know We Should Have, But I Was Fighting It So Hard Even Though I Knew You Were Right But I Knew It Would Be Wrong To Listen To You Because You're An Anti-American Anti-War Commie Pinko Fellow Traveler But I See It All Clearly Now I Was Wrong All Along And I Want To Come Back Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

Also amusing is the next header: "The Enemy Is Diffuse And Sophisticated." As opposed to our leader, who is dense and stupid.

More to come (unfortunately),

The Plaid Adder

5:06 AM  

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