Saturday, September 25, 2004

Bush v. Ike

The ever present Palooka (Palooka: Do you have a job? I think your responses amount to more words than what PolySigh's contributors are putting out.) writes this in response to my criticism of Bush on Iraq:

You all had unreasonable expectations about Iraq. Blame yourselves, not Bush.

Perhaps they were unreasonable, but they were no more so than the expectations of the Bush administration. I also thought that the long-term enterprise in Iraq would be a difficult and risky venture, with a very strong chance of mistakes and setbacks on the way. I don't hold Bush responsible for that. What I do hold him responsible for is an unwillingness to frankly acknowledge those mistakes and setbacks,and then offer reasonable options for moving forward to the ultimate goal.

But I haven't seen Bush do this. Just to cite one example, it was clear from the post-liberation looting that we didn't have enough troops on the ground to keep order. On an almost daily basis since then, that point has been made over and over and over again. Yet Bush still refuses to acknowledge this and to send in adequate forces for keeping order. Not only does that put a terrible burden on our soldiers, but it undercuts the ability of the U.S. to accomplish its goals of building a stable and democratic Iraq.

Let explain by drawing an anology with Eisenhower and World War II. The Battle of the Bulge was clearly a failure on Ike's part. He and the Allied command were over-confident, they ignored vital intelligence, and they left a sector thinly defended. As a result, they suffered a serious setback, but these things happen in war. What's important is that Ike responded quickly to rectify the damage. He rushed in reinforcements; swallowing his pride and ignoring the protests of his subordinates, he put Montgomery in command of some U.S. forces since it made tactical sense; and he shut down planned offensives by other U.S. forces and redirected them to counterattack against the Germans in the Bulge. In short, he recognized the errors he had made and moved to limit the damage so as not to undercut his ultimate goal.

If Bush had been in a similar position, he would have pressed on with his original plans, talked about how well the D-Day landings and liberation of Paris went, denied that the Germans had broken his lines, and claimed that those criticizing him lacked fortitude or perhaps even wanted to keep Hitler in power.





7 comments:

Palooka said...

No, I have a job. Though it requires little effort and little time. I'm a tenured professor ;) No, actually, I'm a student.

I do applaud you for finally admitted it was your judgment, not just the President's, which was faulty. Good for you.

Really bad analogy. Did Ike "frankly acknowledge" the mistakes made to the American public? To Ike then offer reasonable options for moving forward for the ultimate goal to the American public?

I think the whole "more troops, more troops" line is a little tired. It is possible that more troops could actually destabilize the situation by raising the impression of an occupier and enemy. It could, perhaps, increase the security if those troops served a police function. I doubt, however, those troops would be very effective in police duties. It would, in my estimation, only alienate the population more.

It's clear that there are enough American troops there to quell any uprising. That's been shown. Now, if you want them to be police or something, which I am skeptical would work well, then maybe they could make a difference. But I'm not a military man, so I'll leave those judgments up to professionals. But maybe you can articulate how more troops would substantially change the situation. Can you? However many times I have heard calls for more troops, I have never heard how, exactly, that will positively help the situation.

The Administration has changed plans and has been flexible. Just because the Prez doesn't engage in public handwringing, doesn't mean those adaptations and changes aren't occurring. The American people, most of them at least, understand that.

Anonymous said...

Let me engage in your silly analogy. If Kerry were Roosevelt, no American troops would be sent to Europe until we had the approval of the League of Nations.

Philip Klinkner said...

In response to Palooka:

And what would a destabilized Iraq look like? What would a more alienated Iraq look like?

An additional 20,000 (or even 10,000) U.S. troops patrolling the borders or the pipelines would hardly be noticed by the Iraqi population, nonetheless, they would make a real impact on the security situation.

Or how about an extra 1000 troops to secure the Green Zone in Baghdad?

Or how about an extra 100 MPs so that tired and stressed troops at Abu Ghraib don't succumb to the temptation to abuse their prisoners?

Let me turn it around. Do you really think that Bush has done the best job in Iraq under the circumstances? Do you really think that the current situation there is the best that could possibly be hoped for? Do you really think that the criticisms of people like John McCain, Chuck Hegel, Lindsey Graham, Dick Lugar, and many, many members of the uniformed military constitutes partisan sniping?

Phil

Anonymous said...

Stop rearranging the deck-chairs, folks. The Titanic is going down. If Richard Beeston of the Times of London is reporting accurately that the beheading VHS tapes are selling by the thousands in Baghdad, then this pathetic illusion of a "Democracy Project" is over. Are the traffickers and possessors of the snuff tapes in the right frame of mind for American-coached democracy? I doubt it. Americans are "over" in the Sunni areas. You were fools to go in. You will lose more and more fine young soldiers in a piece of folly that rivals the Athenian Expedition to Sicily in 413 B.C. It is all "over." Observed with some sadness from outside your borders.

carla said...

The analogy that plans for Iraq are like "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" is a valid one. Unfortunately, we ran this ship into the iceberg, now we have to do the responsible thing and fix it.

Any argument that the expectations of the electorate were unreasonable is specious. Bush's articulated expectations were at least as high, if not higher. He's the POTUS who was alledgedly leading us through a time of national crisis. Should everyone just have written him off as a liar? That's what would have needed to happen in order to not believe in the rosy expectations for Iraq (I personally did write him off as a liar...but then I tend to be a skeptic when it comes to Republicans).

The responsibility for Iraq rests with Bush. Period. He made the mess and every move he's made on this issue has been in an effort to score political points. Period. Did Bush buy into Chalabi despite all the warnings against doing so because it was the right thing to do..or because it was the way to politically sell Iraq? Did we leave Fallujah with our tail tucked between our legs because it was the correct military strategy?

And lest we forget...there is also Afghanistan. It's also in a downward spiral, with the Taliban back in force...and our installed/appointed leader unable to maintain power. Hamid Karzai is the mayor of Kabul and that's it.

It's disheartening to see this go on...and know that these geopolitical failures, along with Bush's reprehensible treatment of our allies, has given America a black eye that will take generations to heal.

Anonymous said...

"If Bush had been in a similar position, he would have pressed on with his original plans"

This is a strawman.

Palooka said...

An additional 20,000 (or even 10,000) U.S. troops patrolling the borders or the pipelines would hardly be noticed by the Iraqi population, nonetheless, they would make a real impact on the security situation.

Or how about an extra 1000 troops to secure the Green Zone in Baghdad?

Or how about an extra 100 MPs so that tired and stressed troops at Abu Ghraib don't succumb to the temptation to abuse their prisoners?

======

In areas which would cause little additional tension, perhaps more troops would help. But you seemed to concede the main point--drastically increasing the American presence in Iraq isn't necessarily a brilliant idea.

But, despite my reservations, I am uncertain what additional troops would ultimately accomplish. I'm open to persuasion, but the examples you provide don't even begin to make the case.

The fact remains there is more than enough force (if we use that force) to quell the insurgents. The problem is a matter of political will and calculation, not in the amount of military force we can bring to the enemy. I think we should have finished Faluja situation (in fact, we should have never left the city in the first place), but it's stupid to posit that is the only rational response. It's a delicate situation there, crushing the enemy with overwhelming force may not always be the path to ultimate victory--a democratic Iraq.

We need to really take seriously training, equipping, and recruiting Iraqi security forces. This is the path to victory. Am I disappointed in the progress? Yes. Could there be a lot more done? Yes. But there have been changes, and there has been substantial progress.