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September 09, 2008

History of the World Pt. 1: The Surge
Posted by Patrick Barry

In so many ways, today's speech by President Bush offered absolutely nothing to distinguish itself from his past addresses - it felt hostile, deceitful, and recklessly simplistic.  But Bush did slyly introduce one new theme today, a message that that conservatives will probably wind up shilling for decades after his administration closes down.  It was the suggestion that the history of the Bush Administration began not on January 20th, 2001, but on January 10, 2007 - the day the surge strategy was introduced to the U.S.

Here are some examples:

"Last year we sent 4,000 additional Marines to Anbar as part of the surge. The surge showed America's commitment to security. It showed we were committed to helping the average citizen in Anbar live a normal life. And it helped renew the confidence of local leaders, the tribal sheiks, who then led an uprising to take Anbar back from the terrorists."

In this case, Bush is trying to re-write the more recent past.  The argument that the surge precipitated the Anbar Awakening has already been eviscerated, so Bush takes a more restrained, but equally dishonest approach.  While he avoids Senator McCain's gross fabrication by admitting that the events in Anbar had already begun before the influx of troops to Iraq,  he then jumps from this admission to the only slightly less dishonest suggestion that it was the surge that really allowed the Awakening to blossom into the successful (but still precarious) movement that it is today. 

Moving on, here's another example of Bush Administration revisionism, the so called "return on success":

"Another aspect of our "return on success" policy in Iraq is reduced combat tours. Last month, troops began deploying for 12-month tours instead of 15-month tours. This change will ease the burden on our forces, and I think more importantly, this change will make life for our military families easier. (Applause.)"

I'm not sure if Bush meant to evoke our dire economic predicament by employing language as shallow as his business career, but this is definitely fuzzy accounting.  Reduction from 15-month tours to 12-month tours? Part of a return on success? C'mon.  The truth is that it was Bush who extended deployments in the first place as part of his mad scramble to free up troops for the surge.  For him to expect gratitude from a heavily strained military because he has granted a "return on success," is just insulting.  Fortunately the Pentagon has a longer memory.

The last, and probably most audacious claim of Bush's speech was this:

"As al Qaeda faces increased pressure in Iraq, the terrorists are stepping up their efforts on the front where this struggle first began -- the nation of Afghanistan."

Here the President essentially draws a direct causal relationship between Al Qaeda's defeat as a result of the surge - already a dubious claim - and the worsening situation in Afghanistan.  While its true that Afghanistan is getting worse, it actually has been getting worse for some time now - well before the surge began, but not well before the Bush Administration should have noticed.  There were in fact, warning signs after warning signs after warning signs, but because Bush remained so intoxicated by Iraq, he failed to see how bad things had become in the Af-Pak region. 

Unfortunately, it won't be as easy for the U.S. to pretend like Bush has that nothing happened before the surge.  After Bush leaves office, we'll still have to deal with the consequences of entering into an alliance of convenience, that now, looms as a potential flashpoint on Iraq's horizon.  We'll still have to find a way to pay the debt we owe to our military, to rebuild our armed forces so that they can protect Americans in the future. And we'll still be fighting extremism in the most lawless parts of the world long after Bush is gone.  This, and not the surge, is the history and legacy of the Bush Administration, and we ignore it at our peril.


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Do you guys at NSN and similar neoliberal venues and policy shops realize that are absolutely killing the Democratic Party? You have helped to craft what has become a lame, confused, timid and disorganized message on Iraq and the Middle East. Obama has already absorbed too much of your emptiness, and the public can barely keep track anymore of how it is exactly that McCain, Obama and Bush differ on these issues. I sincerely hope Obama manages to get back to something bolder, more compelling and more primal.

And after he is elected, I can't wait to team up with others in the blogosphere to subject the Dem neoliberal policy establishment to the same treatment that PNAC, AEI and the other arms of neoconservatism received during the Bush years: exposing the financial backers and networks, revealing the conflicts of interest and corporate ties, detailing the stupidity and recklessness, and highlighting the crusading, ideological fixations and irresponsible lack of realism.

The fact that the Obama campaign and other Democrats have not seized on the deceitfulness of the Republicans' surge argument leads me to think that they're the political equivalent of the 1978 Red Sox. Before during and immediately after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, many people in the foreign policy community in and out of government warned the administration that the first thing they would have to do after toppling Hussein was secure the country via a large, visible and lethally-armed military presence in Baghdad and other cities. Failing to do this, they said, would cause chaos, anarchy, violent crime, death and destruction. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith et al heard these warnings - from the State Department and from post-conflict reconstuction experts at ICG, the US Institute of Peace (where I worked at the time) and elsewhere. They didn't just ignore them. They spat on them. They called us crystal-ball gazers. Well guess what: everything these experts predicted would happen did happen. Will someone PLEASE tell the Democrats to wake up and get in the game? The Republicans are bludgeoning them with this issue, and they're just lying there and taking it.

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