Saturday, May 05, 2007

I've Had My Fill Of Patience!

The trope that Bush used to veto the funding bill (and deny our troops the armor and ammunition they need) was that to set a date certain would give our adversaries comfort, and allow them to withdraw until we leave. "All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars and gather their strength and begin plotting how to overthrow the government and take control of the country of Iraq," he said.

Possibly true, although they don't seem to care all that much. This war isn't about "us v. them" as much as it's about "them v. them" and we're just occupying space. But an article at Reuters today made me formulate something that has been bugging me for a while now:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wearied by steady losses and few tangible signs of progress in the war in Iraq, the U.S. public is running out of one resource America's enemies appear to have in abundance -- patience.

Impatience with the war, now in its fifth year, was reflected in the elections that drove President George W. Bush's Republicans out of power in Congress in November. Since then, Bush named a new secretary of defense and new military commander in Iraq charged with implementing a new strategy.

But despite repeated appeals from Bush for patience while more troops arrive in Iraq to carry out the new strategy, opinion polls show that pessimism runs deep and most Americans favor a deadline for the withdrawal of troops.
Now, Bush has always said he doesn't govern by polls (despite the numerous flipflops that his administration has done based at least in part on, well, polling), and that might be an admirable trait for someone who has a grasp of reality.

But here's the truth: the insurgents, Al Qaeda, Iran, Syria, Sunnis and Kurds all DO read the newspapers, Mr. President, and believe it or not, they actually own calendars!

They know two things:

1) The American people stand three-quarters of the way out of the door of Iraq.

2) In 626 days, the next administration will take over. No one, despite what people are saying on the campaign trail to pander for right wing votes, will continue this war of yours much beyond that date, and that's assuming Congress hasn't figured out a way to take the widdle cap gun out of your hands and drag you home for supper, young man!

So they figure, "Eh! In 627 days, there will be another 3,000 American killed. No biggie. Then the fun begins anyway."
Judging from Islamic fundamentalist Web sites, there is no shortage of patience on the side of America's enemies. The insurgents appear confident they can draw on a seemingly endless supply of new recruits.

"Although ... we have killed some huge number of enemy combatants (perhaps 20,000+), without fail the armed insurgents, militia and Al Qaeda in Iraq apparently regenerate both leadership cadres and foot soldiers," retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey wrote in a memorandum to U.S. military leaders after a visit to Iraq in spring.
See where I'm going with this?

It doesn't matter if we set a date certain or not, the insurgents and the occupied are perfectly willing to wait us out. They know the American people won't allow you unlimited use of force, they know the army that's there already is exhausted, and worse, they know you're losing allies by the day.

My sense is that Bush is terrified. He's like the kid who got a failing grade in history, who doesn't want to show his dad the report card because he knows he'll be beaten (I should know the feeling; I was that kid...nevermind that I got the grade because some girl cheated off my test). So rather than own up to his mistakes and admit there has to be a better way, he's going to stubbornly stick to a path that can only lead to further death and destruction, hoping that some exit presents itself.

Praying the problem goes away, in other words.

There are plenty of plans on the table now that allow us to take some of the pressure off our troops, while protecting those precious few areas of Iraq that seem to be in pretty good shape, like the Kurdish north. For example, the Iraq Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton report, suggested perhaps partitioning the country into three autonomous regions, with equal shares of the national oil revenues going to all three. We could modify this to include American troops in the Kurdish north, allied troops in the Shi'a south, and the middle would effectively be labelled a "no-fight" zone, where we would enforce peace only when we had to, lightning fast strikes and back out. No more occupation.

Oops! I forgot. That was one of my "NotPresident" policies that I wasn't going to announce until I became NotPresident...