STANDING UP….George Bush says “we’ll stand down as they stand up” ? they being the Iraqi army and security forces. And guess what? They’re up! We’re pretty close to meeting our original target of 300,000 trained soldiers and police.
So can we come home now? Of course not. As Thomas Ricks reports, “the meaning of the phrase appears to have changed”:
More recently, Bush has…added more conditions, saying the troops can come home “when our commanders say . . . the Iraqi government is capable of defending itself and sustaining itself and governing itself.”
Military officers and other experts interviewed in recent days said that the Iraqi training program has worked but that its success is undercut by the lack of strong Iraqi political leadership. “You fix the government, you fix the problem,” said an Army battalion commander who has seen hard fighting near Baghdad this summer.
No kidding. And how long will that take? Ricks’s sources suggest five to ten years.
You know, I really wish Bush would just acknowledge this. I’d like to hear him give a speech something like this:
Yes, I’m a stubborn guy, and I continue to believe that success in Iraq is absolutely vital to our future security and to the overall war on terror. A failed Iraq would be a disaster.
But you know what? It’s turned out to be a lot harder than we expected. Still, we have to succeed in Iraq, and our best guess is that this will require us to stay there for at least another decade. So tomorrow I’ll be asking the Pentagon to extend overseas combat tours to 18 months, which will allow us to increase our troop strength in Iraq to over 200,000 soldiers. I’ll also ask Congress for authorization to permanently stand up 30 new combat brigades for the Army and Marine Corps. And then I’m going to personally review the records of our senior officers in Iraq, and I’m going to fire every single one of them who doesn’t get the fact that we’re fighting a counterinsurgency, not World War II. And that business of discharging Arabic linguists who happen to be gay? I’m stopping it right now. The Iraq war is more important than our own piddling culture wars.
Oh, and I’ve asked Don Rumsfeld for his resignation. A fresh start needs a new leader.
Or something like that. Don’t get me wrong: I’d oppose this plan because I don’t think it would work. But I’d at least have some respect for Bush if he concretely acknowledged what it would take to accomplish his goals in Iraq and was willing to fight for them with at least the same tenacity that he fought to wreck Social Security. After all, wrecking Social Security is hardly the “calling of our generation,” is it?
Of course, this would require Bush to take some genuine political risk, so I think it’s safe to say we’ll never see it happen. He’d rather kick this particular can down the road to whichever sap happens to occupy the Oval Office in 2009.