Friday, September 15, 2006

Charles Bass on Iraq

As the Yankee Doodler has noted, Bass appears to be flip-flopping on Iraq coming up to the election:
July 16, 2006:
"the military commander will set the policy and the withdrawal time. For Congress and politicians to try back-seat driving is not a smart thing."
September 12, 2006:
Bass restated his support for President Bush, but said: "We need to be prepared to change our game plan if the situation on the ground changes. I think we will see significant troop reductions in the next couple years ... but it has to be a strategic redeployment, not a political one."
Once again we see Bass, who has spent most of his adult life as a politician, arguing against the dirty nasty game of politics. It's nice that he's so, so above it all, and wouldn't it be cynical of us to think that the kind of turnaround Yankee Doodler shows him doing in 2 months time had anything to do with politics?

Interestingly, where Bass's old website (you know, the one that had him running for a sixth term back in early July - three quarters of the way through his sixth term) didn't really talk about Iraq, the new site includes Iraq in the Charlie on the Issues section (ain't that just folksy). It's not political or anything, just that a war doesn't merit its own issues page until it's at least 3 years old, and back in 2004 it was only a matter of a year and a half.

Anyway, good news!
Notably, this year, Iraqi forces have taken the lead in the majority of combat operations. With over 150,000 troops on patrol, they are well on their way to being able to sustain themselves without our support.
Totally cool! Except, wait, there seem to be some conflicting reports. The Washington Post reports that within the government itself, there's a little disagreement:
Until now, the U.S. military view of Iraq has tended to be more optimistic than that of much of the rest of the government, such as the CIA and the State Department.
And the reports we are getting, no matter how optimistic government spokesment try to be, suggest that the picture is not as rosy as Charlie wants us to believe. Again according to the Washington Post
A senior American commander in Iraq said Tuesday that U.S.-led military operations are "stifling" the insurgency in western Anbar province but are not strong enough to defeat it.
According to the same article
As of Monday there were 147,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, the highest number since December 2005. Most of the recent increase was for Baghdad, where U.S. and Iraqi forces are trying to avert a civil war.
And
The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Devlin report concluded that Anbar's political and security situation will continue to deteriorate unless it gets a major infusion of aid and substantially more U.S. troops.
Then there's Gen. John Abizaid's statement, reported September 7 in the Tampa Tribune:
The top U.S. military commander in the Middle East said Wednesday it could take "many more months" to end the sectarian violence in Baghdad and "a matter of years" to train the Iraqi army properly.
Somehow, that makes the replacement of American troops with a functioning Iraqi army seem a little less imminent than Charlie's issues statement, doesn't it?

William Kristol of The Weekly Standard and Rich Lowry of National Review, no liberal peaceniks, argue that
The administration's military strategy has long been based on getting the Iraqis to do the "holding" in the counterinsurgency strategy of "clear, hold and build." That would obviously be ideal. But the experience of the past three years is that the Iraqis aren't yet up to it, at least not in hotly contested areas such as Baghdad. The administration deserves credit for the strides it has made in training the Iraqi army. But for now we have to do much of the holding ourselves for it to be effective. That simply requires more manpower.
They continue
One reason to prefer having Iraqis hold secured areas is that indigenous forces, in theory, don't risk creating the kind of nationalist reaction that can be prompted by a foreign occupying army -- i.e., us. But in the current environment of sectarian bloodletting, all signs are that American troops are more trusted and more welcome than Iraqis.
When the pro-war conservatives who are not up for re-election are saying that the US needs to send more troops over to Iraq, and the pro-war conservatives who are up for re-election are saying that everything's peachy and Iraqi troops will be taking over any day now and this isn't at all political, it's just the right thing to do, who do you believe?

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