So here’s the plan from George W. Bush:
- We’re going to send some more troops, but not enough to make any kind of substantial difference in the disposal of forces on the ground.
- The Iraqis are going to run their own military units now, but Americans will "back them up" in an escalation of horrific urban warfare against both Sunni and Shiite militias, in crowded civilian neighborhoods. (Just to show where the true balance of these forces will lie, the Americans are committing 20,000 additional troops; the Iraqis have pledged to scrape up 8,000 more somewhere. It looks like the "support" tail will still be wagging the attack dog.)
- The Iraqis have been given a set of "benchmarks" they have to meet — including the all-important oil law — or else or else something or other will happen. (There is a "Plan B" should this new plan fail, Bush officials told the New York Times — but they won’t say what it is. No doubt it’s resting on the same shelf where Richard Nixon kept his "secret plan" for victory in Vietnam back in 1968.)
- In any case, should the new plan fail, it was all Nouri al-Maliki’s idea anyway.
- And by the way, Iran is "materially helping" the insurgents kill Americans, so we will be fully justified in launching the military action against them that we are now preparing. (This is the real Plan B, of course; as we noted earlier, the Democrats are already gung-ho for a beat-down of Iran. When the new plan for Iraq goes FUBAR — as go FUBAR it must — the trigger will be pulled on Tehran.)
- But the main thing is — a lot more Americans and Iraqis are about to die. And if you don’t like it, you can lump it.
And that’s it. That’s the much ballyhooed, eagerly anticipated "New Way Forward." The New York Times dutifully called the plan "a major tactical shift in war," although it is of course nothing of the kind. It is the same "plan" with the same vague goals as all the others: "Iraqis taking control, insurgents being defeated, reconstruction winning hearts and minds, democratic unity forming among all of Iraq’s sects, tribes, clans and factions." In what way does any of this constitute a "major shift" of any kind from the rhetoric we’ve heard before? The only major difference is that the Bush Regime is now becoming more open about its insistence that the oil law — which was largely designed in Washington — be put in place. They are obviously growing more anxious on this point, as well they should, seeing how it’s one of the primary objectives of this entire bloodsoaked enterprise.
The Times does note that Bush was more candid in a pre-speech confab with Congressional leaders. There he made clear that the democratically chosen prime minister of the absolutely sovereign democratic Iraqi government will be summarily removed by the President of the United States if he doesn’t produce results. But goodness gracious granny me — as old Don Rumsfeld might say — isn’t that the sort of authority that is usually exercised upon, well, a colony, not a sovereign state? Can Mr. Bush possibly be implying that the people of Iraq will not be allowed to choose their own leaders, if said leaders are not pleasing to Washington? Can it be that we have perhaps been somehow misinformed as to the true nature of the "American experiment in Iraq," as the NYT demurely describes four years of carnage and chaos?
But Bush’s candor with the Congressionals didn’t stop with his threat to strongarm Maliki out of office. He also revealed the "magical thinking" that has long been the hallmark of his strategic vision: the endearingly child-like trait of squeezing his eyes shut tight and making a wish that his dreams will come true. When the legislators asked Bush why he thought that this continuation and exacerbation of the same tactics that have failed repeatedly and spectacularly over the past four years will now suddenly be crowned with victory, Bush clenched him little fists and stamped him little feet and said: "Because it has to."
So there you have it. The plan which is no plan but the same plan that has already failed will succeed "because it has to." Never mind that according to the highly-praised "counterinsurgency manual" written by Lt. Gen. David Petraeus — the very man now charged with carrying out this "major shift in tactics" — the new plan cannot possibly succeed. As Josh Marshall notes (in an analysis of a Fred Kaplan piece in Slate):
..Look at what the manual says. Counter-insurgency operations require at least 20 combat troops per 1000 people in a given area. And look closely. That’s not just military personnel, but combat troops.
Kaplan runs through the numbers. But the key points are that you’d need 120,000 combat troops to mount real counter-insurgency operations just in Baghdad. We currently have 70,000 combat troops in the whole country. So concentrate all US combat personnel in Iraq into Baghdad. Then add 20,000 more ‘surge’ combat troops. That leaves you 30,000 short of the number the Army thinks you’d need just in Baghdad
What this all amounts to is that 20,000 or even 50,000 new combat troops don’t even get you close to what the Army says you need to do what President Bush says he’s now going to try to do. To get that many troops into the country you’d need to put this country on a serious war-footing and begin drawing troops down from deployments around the globe. All of which, just isn’t going to happen, setting aside for the moment of what should happen. And that tells you this whole thing is just a joke at the expense of the American public and our troops on the ground in Iraq.
But forget all that. Even though the commanding general’s own doctrines guarantee another murderous failure, Bush’s new "plan" will succeed "because it has to." He’s closed his eyes, you see; he’s made his wish. Now the fairies will make it come true.