Bush's new Iraq strategy is not new at all
January 11, 2007
President Bush's new strategy is not new.
In his Jan. 10 speech, he talked about a commitment from Iraq's government to spend $10 billion on reconstruction without any notion of where that money would come from or how to tackle the endemic corruption of the new government.
He talked about a commitment from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to rein in Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's army without any notion of how Maliki can remain in office without the 30 votes of Sadr's bloc in the parliament.
Instead of dealing with messy political questions, the president took refuge in the only strategy he knows: The best way to deal with anyone who doesn't align with American policies is to attack them.
That's why he proposed to add another 21,500 U.S. troops to the current 132,000 troops already in Iraq. This would bring the total number to about what it has been during previous "surges," like that around the time of the January 2005 Iraqi elections.
That's why he's calling for more military operations against all of America's enemies in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency and the Shiite militias alike.
That's why he's issuing more threats against Iran and Syria, backed by sending a new aircraft carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf.
The surge may very well backfire.
For example, between June and July 2006, when the number of Iraqi police tripled, the major change in U.S. strategy was the commencement of Operation Together Forward, the sweeping Baghdad security operation. But because this dismantled local structures of protection, the operation opened up Sadr City to further attacks, including a single operation that killed more than 200. Before then, the city had been, for months, largely free of suicide bombings.
An extension of this monumentally destructive strategy may just make things even worse for Baghdad residents -- especially since Bush also hinted at making the "rules of engagement" less restrictive, almost always a recipe for more civilian casualties.
One thing the president said in his speech was absolutely correct: What is happening in Iraq and the Middle East is the "decisive ideological struggle of our time." What a shame that most of us in the United States and in Iraq have no side representing us.
Even though the significant majority of the American public opposes the escalation, Bush appears adamant in staying the course. Perhaps our government should be bringing democracy to lives much closer than the Middle East.
Rahul Mahajan is publisher of the blog EmpireNotes.org and author, most recently, of "Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond" (Seven Stories Press, 2003). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.