President will not change plans for Iraq

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2007

The long-awaited Petraeus Report to Congress is, in the words of William Shakespeare “Much ado about nothing.”

Why? Because this president had no intention of changing any of his plans in Iraq regardless of what was reported. President Bush has demonstrated a stubborn unwillingness to bend to fact over his presidency, so why would anyone think this time it would be any different?

But, Republicans might say, the president did agree with the general this time, and is, in fact, enacting the general’s recommendation for a troop reduction of 30,000.

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Not really, as it turns out. Fact is, troop levels must come down due to requirements for home time for the troops required unless tours of duty are expanded, an impossibility in this Congress. So the troop reduction is actually one required by tour of duty rules; calling it a decision on reduction based upon anything happening in Iraq is, at the very least, disingenuous.

What happened this week was much like the later career of Muhammad Ali, when he employed the strategy in the ring that came to be known as “rope-a-dope.” Ali would basically let the other fighter punch him along the ring ropes until the fighter was exhausted from the work. Ali would then fight back and hold on long enough to win the fight. In the case of this president, rope-a-dope is the strategy to keep as many troops as possible in Iraq until the final day of his presidency.

Will it work? Can President Bush hope to blame the next president for the problems in Iraq with the argument that things were going fine under his leadership? Only history can tell, but the judgment of the voters will come in November of 2008.

The real audience for the Petraeus Report this week was about a dozen Republican senators. Until now these senators have resisted demanding a time-table for withdrawal. Now their options are more limited. They can support the president on the war, or change the course of American history by rejecting his failed policies in Iraq.

Political pundits have been quick to suggest that the Petraeus report was strong enough to provide cover for Republicans to stay with the president on the war, and they may be right … within party circles.

But elections are fought and won in the general public, and in those circles this strategy will not succeed. Americans have already decided, more than 70 percent of them, that they want the war to end, not extend. And the Republican senators will not have it both ways. They cannot support the war and still expect win re-election in the general election.

More importantly than their personal goals, however, is the conclusion reached by the general Wednesday that he sees no “national consent” to carry on the war in Iraq over the next 10 years.

Yes, General Petraeus’s perception is correct. And given that truth, what is the point of a plan to have 130,000 troops still in Iraq through 2008 with absolutely no promise of further reductions as long as the mind can imagine? He wisely refused to project beyond the planned troop reductions, but does that not mean his short-term strategy conflicts with the long term truth?

The truth is Iraq will require a decade of American support, with absolutely no guarantee of success ever, and Americans will not agree to that. At a cost of more than a trillion dollars, continued loss of Americans lives, and serious injuries, it will not happen.

So what is the point of the short term strategy after all?

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Ironton Tribune.