Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bush Reversal?

Brace yourself for a mind-bog of sheer cynicism. The discombobulation begins Wednesday, when President George W. Bush is expected to proclaim, in a major speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, that the Iraqi security forces—which only a few months ago were said to have just one battalion capable of fighting on its own—have suddenly made uncanny progress in combat readiness. Expect soon after (if not during the speech itself) the thing that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have, just this month, denounced as near-treason—a timetable for withdrawal of American troops.

And so it appears (assuming the forecasts about the speech are true) that the White House is as cynical about this war as its cynical critics have charged it with being. For several months now, many of these critics have predicted that, once the Iraqis passed their constitution and elected a new government, President Bush would declare his mission complete and begin to pull out—this, despite his public pledge to "stay the course" until the insurgents were defeated.

Bush said today that we will withdraw when the military leaders say it is safe to withdraw.

Well, we should learn tomorrow that the military leaders will find it's safe to withdraw just in time for the 2006 elections.

Bush's Can't-Lose Reversal

More, on Iraq conundrum:

Bush's speech, with its emphasis on the fighting capabilities of Iraqi troops, is viewed by analysts as an attempt to offer evidence that the administration has a viable plan for Iraq in the face of criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike that the war has been mishandled.

But the experts also see the speech as a signal that the White House has concluded it must take a calculated risk that the Iraqi military can become the main protective force for the nascent government in Baghdad. That assessment is widely disputed by military specialists inside and outside the Bush administration.

Two months ago, Army Gen. George W. Casey, commander of the multinational force in Iraq, told a Senate hearing that only one of the 100 Iraqi military battalions formed over the previous two years was fully trained and equipped and capable of operating independently.

The timing of the administration's move, analysts believe, is based in part on the need to counter domestic political pressure and shore up Bush's sagging poll numbers. But they say it is also motivated by the need to head off two potentially greater risks: a precipitous loss of public and congressional backing that might compel a hasty, politically devastating pullout, and the need to prevent the damage to America's all-volunteer military that could occur with an open-ended commitment in Iraq.

Although Bush's speech constitutes the centerpiece of the White House move, the administration is also responding on other fronts.

A few hours before the speech, the White House is scheduled to release a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" that outlines how the administration plans to defeat the insurgency that has gripped large swaths of the country, claimed the lives of many of the more than 2,000 U.S. troops who have died during the conflict and stunted the Iraqi economy.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld weighed in with his own praise for Iraq's military forces.

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