Friday, August 12, 2005

Past the Point of Pointlessness

President Bush said yesterday that pulling American troops out of Iraq would send "a terrible signal to the enemy." If that's the case, I'm surprised that Pres. Bush hasn't given the order to withdraw every last soldier. That's all the occupation has been about, "terrible signals to the enemy." The first signal that the occupation was going to be poorly managed was the failure to quell the looting that broke out after American tanks rolled into Baghdad. More signs of incompetence followed. There was the failure to restore electricity before summer, the failure to secure borders with Syria and Saudi Arabia, the failure to identify and secure the thousands of ammo dumps, and the failure to spend money for economic reconstruction. There was also a failure to change strategies. Even though the remnants of the Saddam regime proved formidable as an underground force, the Bush admininstration did not adjust its resources and strategies to the new reality. It was the same old, same old. Certainly, that was a signal to the enemy.Bush let the Saddam left-overs and global jihadis know from the outset that the occupation of Iraq would be half-baked, half-hearted, and poorly managed. That's the signal that Muslim fighters have been responding to as they come into Iraq. The stench of incompetence is the strongest possible sign that you can be beaten.

As conditions stand now, the U. S. position in Iraq is weakening. Some parts of Western Iraq have been turned into a vast training camp where global terrorists receive hands-on experience against the American military. The U.S. maintains enough of its code-named offensive operations (Thunder, New Market, Quick Strike, whatever) to keep the insurgents occupied, but not enough to gain the upper hand against them. As a result, the U. S. is in a position where there's no good options. The current commitment can't be maintained because the occupation has passed the point of pointlessness for the American public. What are we doing there? What are we accomplishing? How can we win? When are we going to get out? These are questions for which the Bush administration has no credible answers. Having so many signals of their incompletence to everyone involved, the Bush administration can't be trusted to get things right in Iraq. That's why their poll numbers have been falling.At the same time, we really can't prudently decrease our military commitment. That would leave Iraq as a whole in a state of civil war. Even worse, it would allow jihadies to use Western Iraq as the staging ground for the next series of 9-11 strikes. Two years of war, a couple thousand American deaths, and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths and all we would have to show for it would be another Afghanistan. But we can't increase our forces either. Having blown their credibility sky-high with their delusions of empire, cronyism, and manipulation, the Bush administration can't plausibly ask the American public for a higher level of engagement. Given the unfortunate fact that the top American leadership has set four-year terms, the most likely prospect is three more years of festering conflict that saps American resources without accomplishing anything. I imagine that the jihadis have gotten that signal as well.


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