The Surge Is On


For a year before Bush launched the invasion of Iraq he pretended that he hadn’t made up his mind even as his neocon inner circle was toting up the oil revenues they would control when the war was won. For the last few weeks since the November election he’s been playing the same game, stalling and making believe he’s “studying the problem”. A graf in an AP story and a report from Reuters would suggest that that particular cat’s in the bag and the bag’s in the river. First, Reuters:

The Pentagon is expected to send 3,500 troops into Kuwait to stand ready for use in Iraq, senior defense officials said on Tuesday as the Bush administration weighs adjusting force levels in the war.The “call-forward” force was requested by Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of the military command responsible for the Middle East, and must be approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The first contingent of the “surge” is being put in place, and the pretense that it may not happen because Gates has yet to give his approval is thinner than the skin over an anorexic’s ribcage, especially given that the AP has this:

[S]enior defense officials say Gates has signed orders that will send the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade to Kuwait shortly after the new year. That could be part of a short-term surge of troops to Iraq to quell ongoing violence. (emphasis added)

Could be?

A bad idea just got a lot worse. And why are more soldiers going to die? Jane Smiley explains it all for you.

People always comment on how stubborn George W. Bush is, or how stupid he is, or how ignorant he is, but what they don’t comment on is how selfish he is. Clearly, the face that is being saved in this probable “surge” is his face, and that’s how he wants it. He is willing to sacrifice any number of troops (and we don’t know what that number will be, but it could be high) and any number of Iraqis (certainly a higher number, because the American troops will throw off all restraint) in order to say that—Well, what? What would be the expression? “We did our best”? Well, no. The Bush administration didn’t do their best, because they never gave their post war strategy any thought. “We tried”? Hardly. “We did everything we could”? But no. They gave the PR a shot (“weapons of mass destruction”), but in the end, they were indifferent to everything about the war except George W. Bush’s mood. When his mood was good, they told him some nice things about Iraq, and when his mood was bad, they kept the bad news from him so his mood wouldn’t get worse. Remember how the former British Ambassador was warned by Condi Rice as he went into a meeting with Bush, “Don’t make him angry”?One thing I have always wondered about Bush, that I wonder even more now, is what is the source of his power over these people, that come hell (Iraq) or high water (Katrina), they do what he wants? Does he throw things? Does he hold his breath and turn red in the face, so that they worry he’ll have a stroke? Does he hit people? Does he shout, “Off with his head!”? Does he send high level dissenters to Gitmo? (I wish he would, so that they could come to experience and understand conditions there). Do they just defer to him because of the office of the Presidency? (No one did that with Bill Clinton). Why would anyone feel allegiance to George W. Bush? It’s a mystery, and it’s a mystery that is killing people every day.

Remember how Lyndon Johnson committed more troops to combat in Viet Nam after Tonkin because he was determined that America wasn’t going to lose a war on his watch? That was bad but this is worse: we’re going to break our military (Colin Powell’s phrase) to keep Junior from throwing another hissy-fit. Smiley then compares the “surge” to Pickett’s Charge and concludes:

[W]e will be deeply sorry in the end when the face-saving surge fails. It took the Confederate states nearly two years, tens of thousands of casualties, and almost total destruction to accept defeat after Pickett’s Charge. Do we really want to turn around in four, six, or ten years and know again, all the more bitterly, what we already know now?

No but we’re going to, and not just because of one selfish, arrogant, silver-spoon aristocrat. Behind the Emperor’s smug assurance that he’s right despite all evidence to the contrary is a naked fear: he doesn’t want to be vilified by conservatives as his father was when he pulled out of Iraq after Desert Storm.

Conservatives have been itching for a military “victory” since the fall of Saigon. That’s one of the reasons this war happened: their sense of “shame” that the US lost a war could only be eased by winning one and proving to the world – and themselves – that Viet Nam wasn’t a mistake from the beginning but was sabotaged by hippies and left-wing peaceniks. They’ve been seething about it for 35 years, nursing their resentments and hatreds and looking for a chance to wreak their revenge. To a greater extent than anybody under 50 could understand, the whole modern conservative movement is a reaction to Viet Nam and the 60’s itself, a vain attempt to turn back the clock for a do-over, and George W is their poster-boy.

Conservatives learned nothing from Viet Nam (it’s hard to learn anything when you’ve got your eyes shut and your ears blocked) and they will learn nothing from the debacle of Iraq. In fact, as Eric Martin notes at Total Information Awareness, conservative pundits like Glenn Reynolds are gearing up to push us into invading Iran with an excuse almost as flimsy as the ones they used for invading Iraq.

One way or another, the conservative Know-Nothings want their pound of flesh.

If Iraq is a disaster, let’s try Iran.
If George can’t succeed, we’ll find someone who can.

Expect to hear a lot of this mantra in the coming months.

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