On Staying the Cut and Run Course from Civil War

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

First, watch this clip. The current political dialog the White House is trying to have is about how Stay the Course somehow meant a flexible "strategy" in Iraq, and that our Iraq policy has always had in a built-in level of flexibility.

Now go check out a few more clips from this post over at Think Progress from Dan Bartlett, the White House counsel, and some more video clips of Bush repeating his Stay the Course strategy. Bartlett claims that we change our tactics weekly (which I will address in a moment), but that we still won't cut and run. Given that, we still have "never had" a stay the course policy.

Now consider Tim F's comments over at Balloon Juice. A worthy thought from Tim:

I would add that constantly changing strategy is what people do when they have no strategy at all. People strategize in order to anticipate what the enemy will do and build plans to account for it. The fact that this administration plainly acknowledges now that they cannot see one step ahead of our adversaries in Iraq should be taken as nothing less than a total failure...
Yes. Exactly. Our strategy is not a deft change of tactics to meet a sly foe. It is a weekly stab-in-the-dark at how to end the violence and establish a viable government.

This is nothing....nothing....against the troops on the ground and their commanders. See, when they change their own tactics, it is actually indeed a deft response to a sly foe. That's what we train and pay those people for. But they appear to be hamstrung by a complete lack of overall political strategy. When you fight a war, you give your troops an endgame. Since folks in the Administration were recently quite fond of World War II analogies, it's like this: the "strategy" wasn't to run around and whack Nazis wherever until they got tired and wanted to quit. There was a firm plan in place for when and where we wanted to beat them and, more importantly, how Democratization was to be handled in the ensuing power vacuum. Our troops and politicians had a goal.

But our troops right now have no endgame for them to shoot for (no pun intended), save for a snazzy sound bite. Sound bites make horrible endgames.

Here's another quote, care of Balloon Juice:
Let’s be clear – if all we’re doing is maintaining the same level of forces and trying to play “whack-a-mole” with insurgent attacks in multiple cities, then we are not “adjusting to what the other side is doing.” As Philip Carter notes, if we aren’t pushing forces out into the cities under fire, getting our best troops to act as advisors to the Iraqi units, and seriously address the political and economic issues in Iraq, then we’re not going be successful.[John Sigger's Armchair Generalist]
We are forced into a constant series of reactions, which is the weakest position to be in, at least according to such dimwit strategists as Sun Tzu.

So, to sum up: we never had a policy of Staying the Course. We said "Stay the Course" but that meant in more general terms. What we do have is a flexible strategy built around that fun little whack-a-mole game.

Great. So far, so good.

Not really. Consider this soundbite from an NPR report this morning. The refulsal to call the situation in Iraq a civil war is actually hurting us more than the political damage that will be done by calling it civil war. By calling it as such, the United States will be in a stronger position to leverage the neighboring countries into coming toether for a cohesive resolution to the sectarian violence in Iraq and a swifter, more solid reemergence of Iraq. Right now, it's our problem, and they're happy to let us fight it. But as soon as it becomes a civil war, the very term is enough to pressure surrounding countries (Turkey, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, et. al.) into tackling the much larger issues that are as yet unsolved: infrastructure, security, government makeup to name a few. The report makes interesting contentions that are really worth taking action with.

Our current strategy of making our troops patrol the same streets over and over, dying at 100 a month, isn't working. That is neither a strategy nor a tactic, from a foreign policy point of view. It is from a military standpoint a tactic. A strategy is what we hope to accomplish through our tactics. But with no discernable strategy, save for Stay the Course soundbites, makes our troops' tactics empty and leaves us nowhere to go. So while our civilian leadership figures out what exactly it is that Stay the Course means and what our strategy (not tactics) should be, it seems perfectly fine to sacrifice our troops until we get to that point. That's just gross.

What we see if an Administration grasping at straws to save face rather than actually figuring out how to win this, which we can. But as we have seen, people who have a plan are admonished publicly or cowed into submission. Consider this reading list on how this Administration has discounted all of the good advice from qualified people in terms of a blind political goal, which itself is even failing, at least in the face of upcoming mid-term elections. Then go have a high-gravity beer. I suggest Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA or Great Lakes Brewing Company Blackout Stout. For those of you on the East and West Coasts, find a big bomber of Stone Imperial Stout.


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