Like Hamlet, President Bush is wrestling in public with a question best handled in private. Hamlet had his suicide soliloquy center stage, and Bush has his big war speech in which he’ll tell the whole world (including our enemies) what he plans to do to win in Iraq.
It’s not his fault, really, or at least it’s not entirely his fault. This is just how we fight wars now. It’s stupid, unserious and silly to put our war strategy out in a big public address for all the world to see, digest and critique until we’re all tired of hearing about it, but politically he has to put it out there, so he will. This is what comes of decades of undeclared wars and putting our fealty to the UN and Bush’s personal wish to satisfy everyone above anachronisms like national security and fighting wars to win them, no matter what the hard left says about it.
So here’s what the data and the times are telling me. Unless I miss my guess, he’ll announce a surge. I don’t know how big, but it’ll be big enough to satisfy McCain and Lieberman and the few hawks that remain inside the beltway. It’ll begin right away. No waiting around for this surge.
It also won’t be long-term. He has Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Reid suggesting that he bug out of Iraq no matter what condition it’s in, and he has Pelosi and Levin threatening to cut off funding for the war even over his objection. Rather than fight them and humiliate them for the weaklings that they are and would make the US if they are heeded, Bush will try to satisfy them. So he has them on one side and the pro-surge forces on the other, with the generals either noncommittal or even opposed to a surge. He’ll surge to satisfy the hawks and then, once some benchmark has been met (maybe some number of militia and Qaeda fighters killed, or Sadr taken out along with a couple of provinces handed over to Iraqi Army control), he’ll declare the war won and begin the withdrawal. Iraq still won’t be perfectly pacified, but that’ll take decades anyway. We may even be leaving it in the throes of a simmering civil war. But we will have met the surge objective (an objective the president will lay out on Wednesday) and we’ll have a rationale for getting out with some dignity before the Democrat Congress starts defunding the effort and thereby humiliating the US further. We’ll keep a massive Air Force and Navy presence rotating in and out of the region for contingencies regarding Iran, but in this scenario I’ve laid out, we’re done in Iraq by the end of this year if not sooner. And by done, I mean the vast majority of our troops are out and the violence there has an entirely Iraqi face on it. On the upside, I doubt either Sunni or Shia Iraqis will linger over dealing with the al Qaeda remnants in their country. On the downside…well, this scenario has lots of downsides. Feel free to discuss them in comments.
So that’s my guess, and it’s no more than that really, as to what to expect on Wednesday. And now that I’ve written it down and published it, I more than half expect it to be wrong.
The real pity of all this if I’m right: The troops don’t want to surge and they don’t want to leave. They just want the politicians to stop bickering and stop forcing them to fight a politically correct war. They want to be allowed to win.
I agree with the troops on this one.
Update (AP): Here’s Pelosi on “Face the Nation” this morning hinting that unless Bush has a honey of a plan for what to do with the extra troops, she won’t fund a surge. Question: What if they’ve already started to deploy?