Friday, January 05, 2007

Bush's "Hail Mary"

Eugene Robinson writes,
Not once has Bush given the slightest indication that he intends any significant change of course in Iraq. Quite the contrary: The expectation in Washington is that soon he will announce an escalation of the war -- increasing troop levels but calling the increase a "surge" and giving the impression that it's a short-term measure. Don't be fooled by the focus-group word "surge," because a two- or three-month increase in troop levels makes no military sense. If and when the president sends more troops to Iraq, they will not soon come home.
With all due respect to the idea that this is solely a public relations move, it's more than that:
Interestingly enough, one administration official admitted to us today that this surge option is more of a political decision than a military one because the American people have run out of patience and President Bush is running out of time to achieve some kind of success in Iraq.
It is a given at this point that the public is not going to give any administration unlimited time to demonstrate progress in Iraq, and Bush has only two years remaining in which he can either maintain an unacceptable status quo that has no chance of success, draw down forces and admit failure (like that'll happen), or throw a Hail Mary pass. The fact that it's a long shot does not mean it's just a public relations ploy - if anything, it highlights how bad things are in Iraq and how few options remain available. I don't know if even Bush expects it to work, but he seems to view a surge as his best (and probably only) shot.
Given that the Democratic Party's fortunes keep rising as Bush sinks deeper into the Iraq quagmire, political expediency might tempt the new leadership in Congress to let the president have his way and reap the rewards in 2008. But that would be wrong. Democrats can't give speeches saying that sending more troops to Iraq without a viable mission is nothing more than a futile sacrifice of young American lives -- and then limit their dispute with Bush to whether he gets to send 3,000 more troops or 30,000.
If the Democratic Party attempts to negotiate over the number of troops sent to Iraq, it will find out pretty quickly how its powers on that issue compare to those of the Commander in Chief. As Mr. Robinson notes, there is no present possibility that Congress will cut off funding for the war - an action which would instantly shift responsibility for the bad outcome in Iraq from Bush to the Democratic Party. Mr. Robinson's time would be better spent focusing the spotlight on Bush, as the decision for a troop surge is not one that Congress is going to be able to change.

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