Tuesday, January 16, 2007

# Posted 7:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH'S SPEECH: I know I'm very late to the game, but my internet connection is still down and I'm working off my laptop in a local cafe. I just thought I should go on the record, given the nature of my previous post about the surge.

The biggest argument against the surge is the strain it will put on the US military, which is already carrying a tremendous burden. But I'm still in favor because I think the White House should give Gen. Petraeus as much support as it can in order to help him turn around the situation in Iraq, at least enough to make an eventual exit safer for the US and for Iraq.

I basically agree with Robert Gates that the surge is a plan to stabilize the situation enough for us to leave on reasonable terms, not to achieve our original victory conditions. So where does that leave Bush's speech?

Bush began by promising that:
The new strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror.
I'd be hard pressed to call it a new strategy, as opposed to a second attempt at this summer's unsuccessful strategy of focusing on Baghdad first. But this whole issue of what's "new" and what's "stay the course" has become so politicized that neither side is really being candid.

Next up, Bush offered a little bit more of a mea culpa for where the war is now:
Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.
As far as presidential addresses go, that's not bad, even if more would be better.

After the mea culpa came the main point. US commanders have expressed support for a plan to have18 Iraqi brigades, supported by local police, shut down the insurgency in Baghdad. The US will surge 5 brigades to support that effort.

To my mind, the real issue is the quality of those 18 brigades and of the local police they will depend on. Bush treated it as a given that they were competent and politically reliable. They might be. As Reagan said, "Trust but verify."

For the moment, I'll just keep my fingers crossed.
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"The biggest argument against the surge is the strain it will put on the US military"

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