Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Blog-on-Blog: Response to the Reliant on Bush’s Troop “Surge”

Posted by K.E. White on January 13, 2007

The Reliant offers a good take on Bush’s plan to deploy more troops in Iraq.

Below are comments from K.E. White, who using the (unfair) advantage of endless comments to respond to the post. They also appear directly on the site.

“As Charles Krauthammer puts it…”

Charles Krauthammer? Okay, okay I might be a bit biased: but Krauthammer as a rational authority on this? He’s the extreme of the extreme, though he has been the most consistent (or irrational depending on your point of view) of the neo-cons.

This article of mine is a bit slanted
, but it does paint the problems of using this guy as a lone support.

“As for the increase in troops – the primary focus of Bush’s address – that recommendation may be a valuable one, but one can’t help but feel that the ideal moment for it has already passed. The increase, indeed, seems like a belated action…”

I completely agree, the “ideal moment” has passed. But I think its valuable to point out why: the American public has flipped flopped on its opinion of the war. Whereas earlier and throughout the 2004 election is supported remaining in Iraq and ignored troublesome signs there, it has now become extremely embittered: with 40% of voters strongly against the venture, an amount that upticks to 60-70% when relaxed to disagree.

“Thus far, policymakers on both sides of the aisle have supported the effort to keep force levels as low as possible in Iraq – which, thus far, has proved counterproductive in the bloody and complex milieu of Iraqi insurgency and counterinsurgency.”

When you evoke “policymakers on both sides” I become a bit suspicious. Weren’t these policy makers simply following the cue of President Bush? John McCain has consistently supported more troops, but was Congress really going to tell the President the proper level of troops, or pull for an increase? Doubtful: that is without the recent foreign policy maelstrom–increasing sectarian violence in Iraq brining about a highly critical Iraq Study Group Report and a sweeping ’06 election cycle.

When it came to troop levels it was Bush’s call: until the ’06 elections there was not the public pull for Congress to weigh in, as it now is (yes, albeit too late for rational policy making, a common weakness of Congressional warpowers).

But I would lay blame squarely on Bush, not “policymakers on both sides of the aisle.”

But if you are endorsing smarter and more active Congressional oversight (lacks for decades), we find ourselves in total agreement.

“If these additional troops are deployed – in the right places, for the right reasons, and with the right attention to reconciliation efforts within Iraq – there is reason to hope that they will prove a key part of securing democracy for the Iraqi people.”

Perhaps, perhaps not. General Petraeus (have you or could you do a bio on this guy?), from all reports, seems to be the right guy for the job. But does he have the proper tools? What I find interesting is that Bush did not take Frederick Kagan’s advice on troops numbers–same or virtually same brigade number, but far less troops.

Bush should have done this earlier: having lost public support, even if this policy is effective it will not survive any short term difficulties.

But on the main point, we both seem to share the same sentiment: solidifying the Iraqi government would be better than all-out civil war (or, depending on your point of view, terrorist feed sectarian violence) in Iraq.

I hope for success, but have little faith in the strategic judgement of this administration.

4 Responses to “Blog-on-Blog: Response to the Reliant on Bush’s Troop “Surge””

  1. C said

    Thanks, Keith. 🙂
    I don’t recall citing Krauthammer as an “authority” here. I do, however, enjoy greatly his turn of phrase on the Syria-Iran point (a point to which you don’t reply in your blog post – any reason?). I think you’ll find that Krauthammer, whatever your label for him may be, in fact gives more thoughtful analyses of his opinions than you give him credit for; and in any case, when the far right can produce a writer as thoughtful and as eloquent-with-the-zingers as Krauthammer, I’ll be sure to quote them as well.
    As for your other comments, they’re surely interesting, and clearly born from the constant suspicion of “the great and evil right” which so elegantly colors many of your blog posts. That you use “neo-con” as a perjorative term throughout your writing, unfortunately, alienates more moderate readers such as myself – I suppose I find more value in hearing both sides out than in picking a fashionable shouting-point from which to blast.
    Where the “ideal moment” is concerned, I find your reasoning interesting – pick the right moment based on the opinion of the American people. Forgive me, but if we picked our timing in any of our past major wars based on the oft-changing whims reflected in Gallup polls, I daresay the greater good would suffer. And besides – for every poll that shows one tremendous extreme in terms of Iraq, there is another, its mirror, to counter it. On the whole, I find poll-following a rather weak leadership tactic – but then, I suppose we’re entitled to our differing opinions on this one.
    You seem mystified that Bush didn’t take the advice of AEI’s Fred Kagan – though the article you cite came out only a week ago and probably could not have been a major part of Bush’s plan (even if we are to assume that American presidents pay serious attention to every think-tank product on the market). In any case, I think you’ll find Kagan’s commitment to a “national commitment to victory” one well-mirrored in Bush’s plan. Perhaps it bears reminding that Bush is to work now with an opposite-party Congress; the kind of recommendations you see made by Kagan would of course be necessarily tempered now.
    As for “policymakers on both sides” championing a minimal troop deployment over the past few years, that is simply true – great many politicians on both sides of the aisle have done just that. To point out John McCain (the perennial cowboy) as dispositive, forgive me, is most certainly to point out the exception that proves the rule.
    “A bit slanted”? 🙂 I’d say it’s more slanted than that. But to each their own; I have high hopes – or perhaps am steadied in my optimism by the underlying knowledge that there is no ‘second string’ on this one.
    It is true that – for politicians like McCain, whom you mention – to support the ‘surge’ seems fairly politically unpopular. Yet if you place as much faith in the polls as you seem to, you cannot ignore those numbers which say that most Americans still believe that the cause is a good one, and that there is great meaning in making Iraq safe for a democratic government.
    In sum: We went in for all the wrong reasons, this must be acknowledged. Bush, in particular, has made many mistakes, and there are many, many flaws in what has been a rocky two terms.
    But in my opinion, it would be a terrible mistake not to make a substantial and sustained effort toward success. I believe it’s a fight worth fighting, and one which, despite the dramatically low popular tolerance for wartime casualties (which I trace directly back to the events in Somalia of 1993), demands more than our passing attention. If it means preventing ethnic cleansing, so be it. If it means building schools and patrolling roads, so be it. If it means more casualties – and it will – then we have to brace ourselves. Yes, it will get worse before it gets better. But this is a new ballgame. Contrary to popular belief this isn’t Vietnam – and walking away from Iraq won’t mean that friends of terror across the globe will suddenly stop hunting us. Now is the time for serious leadership – leadership motivated not by finger-in-the-wind checks on the American mood, but by a will to democracy, a will to the rights of all to live free from totalitarian oppression, and a will to make possible for someone else the kind of safety and security we enjoy here at home.

  2. C said

    P.S. Do forgive any typos; this bleary-eyed law student is worn-out.

  3. C said

    Edit: “when the far right can produce a writer as thoughtful and as eloquent” should be “when the far left can produce a writer as thoughtful and as eloquent.” Silly me! Anyway, hope your drive was safe; have a good weekend.

  4. Panos said


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