Last week, President George W. Bush’s seventh State of the Union address was just another national disaster. Although he asked for bipartisanship, he also told Democrats, ” just follow me.” I thought the problem was very obvious. Mr. Bush has shown no interest in bipartisanship, and his domestic agenda was set years ago, with huge tax cuts for wealthy Americans and crippling debt for the country.
His big problem right now is Iraq. Bush, whose poll approval ratings have now sunk below 30 percent, announced that he is going to go for one last gamble in Iraq. Instead of accepting that his adventure has failed and it is time to get out, he wants to keep playing by sending another 21,500 soldiers into Baghdad in one final attempt to win this war. However, his approach doesn’t have any support from the American people, who voted Democrat in the last election.
The basic problem in Iraq is that Bush made so many huge errors early on that the situation can only be salvaged with a massive application of American force. Another 21,000 troops is far too little, too late.
At one point, President Bush sounded almost as if he’d gotten the message of the 2006 elections.
“Our citizens don’t much care which side of the aisle we sit on – as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done,” he said.
But he failed to offer Democrats anything reasonable to work with him on. This wasn’t the first time he promised to bring Americans together. He has been promising this since 2001 and has failed year after year.
Instead, he embarked on his irresponsible tax cuts, a divisive right-wing social agenda and a neo-conservative foreign policy that tore up international treaties and alienated even America’s closest allies.
In addition to more soldiers, Bush is sending a new commander to Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus. He did an excellent job with the 101st Airborne Division early in the occupation, and is an expert in counterinsurgency.
This occupation has been done with too few soldiers, which created a security vacuum that led to all the other problems. Without security, reconstruction failed and a united country could not be created. The Kurds and Shias instead maintained their separate militias and the Kurds have essentially seceded. The lack of security allowed the insurgents to become fully entrenched, and eventually sectarian warfare took over. This culminated in the last 12 months in widespread ethnic cleansing, the flight of the Iraqi middle class abroad, and the widespread lawlessness and criminal activity that has worsened the situation. Adding 21,000 soldiers will not reverse all those failures.
Baghdad in fact has now been partitioned along the Tigris River. There are only two Shia neighborhoods left on the west side of the river, and only one significant Sunni/mixed neighborhood left on the east side. The old Baghdad is now gone and the US is too late.
So why is Bush doing this? Why is he throwing good lives after bad? Why is he totally ignoring the advice of the Baker Commission to start drawing down forces and engaging in real regional diplomacy? Because Bush cannot admit DEFEAT. He does not want the loss of this war on his hands, so he needs to keep going till 2009 when he can hand the problem, and blame for the defeat, on to his successor.
The biggest error of this war was cutting the Sunnis out of the new Iraq right from the start. There were two main national institutions in Saddam’s Iraq, the government bureaucracies and the army. The first act of the Bush administration in Iraq was to disband the army and to do a widespread de-Baathification of the ministries that essentially kicked Sunni Iraqis out of the bureaucracy. By doing these two inane things, Bush created the insurgency that is now defeating him. It was not Al-Qaeda or “terrorists” that caused the loss of the Iraq war; it was Bush’s own hubris and complete lack of understanding of how to rebuild Iraq after the war.