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    Middle East
     Jan 11, 2007
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The perverse logic of Bush's war
By Gareth Porter

President George W Bush's plan to escalate US military involvement in Iraq, to be announced on Wednesday night (Washington, DC, time), reflects a perverse political logic that prevents US administrations from being able to reverse imperial military adventures once they have begun.

The iron law governing the politics of these imperial debacles seems to be that the leaders who commit the country to war realize at some point that they have seriously miscalculated and

that the war cannot be won, but by then they figure it is already too late; they must act as though they are aiming at victory, because of the fear of admitting the truth.

If the plan to add as many as 20,000 more troops to US military presence in Iraq does go into effect in the coming weeks, it will be without any sense that the military or national-security bureaucracy believes in it. It is now clear that Bush had to replace the commanders he had in place in Iraq in order to push through an escalation of US troops presence, because General George Casey and General John Abizaid recognized that adding more US troops in Iraq would make matters worse, not better.

And even some high officials of the Bush administration have been privately saying it is a big mistake. The Washington Post reported on Sunday that "senior military and administration officials privately admit their deep concerns that the troop increase will backfire - and leave the United States with no options left in six to eight months".

The biggest backfire of such a policy would come as a result of a major political and military confrontation with militant Shi'ites in Baghdad and in southern Iraq. Lieutenant-General Ray Odierno told reporters he expects US troops to go into the massive Baghdad district known as Sadr City, because it is populated by working-class Shi'ites loyal to the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

If the United States does provoke a battle with Muqtada's Mehdi Army, there will undoubtedly be a major spike in battle deaths and in civilian casualties. The fighting also might well unhinge the highly tenuous arrangements that keep the Iraqi government from collapsing.

Even if the Democrats do not derail the Bush escalation, it is also certain to backfire politically at home. The Democratic leadership of Congress can now use their power to hold hearings, investigate and attach policy-related conditions to money bills to harass and pressure a mortally weakened administration over its intensely unpopular war.

Despite all these extremely serious risks, Bush has deliberately rejected any compromise such as was offered by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) for de-escalating US involvement in Iraq. Instead, he has signaled that he is prepared to fight everyone - Democrats and Republicans in Congress, both Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq - in pursuit of "victory".

That stubbornness has been noted and analyzed by Washington observers for many months now, and the most popular explanation for it has been Bush's "faith-based" approach to policymaking, which eschews intelligence and expertise in favor of ideological or religious belief.

But last week the New York Times revealed a Bush statement to the ISG that provides a crucial piece of the puzzle of the president's stubbornness on Iraq. In an article on how the Bush administration's strategy unraveled during 2006, the Times reported that Bush explained to the ISG at a meeting in the White House in November why he continued to use the term "victory" in regard to Iraq. "It's a word the American people understand," Bush told them, "and if I start to change, it will look like I'm beginning to change my policy."

The implication of that statement was clearly that Bush had to continue to appear to be pursuing victory, even if he understands that the term has been rendered irrelevant by the brutal facts on the ground in Iraq. To do otherwise, it suggested, would be politically suicidal.

In admitting, in effect, that he is compelled to keep up the appearance of the pursuit of victory, Bush was echoing an eerily similar statement by the Lyndon Johnson administration official who became associated in the public mind with the Vietnam War: secretary of defense Robert McNamara.

On June 29, 1965, just days before McNamara and other administration policymakers began a process of approving an open-ended escalation in South Vietnam, McNamara told British foreign secretary Gordon Walker that "none of us at the center of things talk about winning a victory", but that they could not tell the American people that the war could not be won.

Within 18 months, McNamara had left the administration, having given up any hope of winning in Vietnam, but the war continued for six more years.

The primacy for the Bush White House of maintaining the fiction that it is still aiming at victory in Iraq further implies that Bush is 

Continued 1 2 

One last chance for sanity in Iraq (Jan 9, '07)

One last thrust in Iraq (Jan 6, '07)


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