Friday, October 20, 2006
I'm not an idiot! I'm not an idiot! I'm not a fucking stooge!:
At least McNamara was an intelligent man. Try this Rumsfeld argument on for size:

Casey and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, "are currently working with the Iraqi government to develop a set of projections as to when they think they can cast off various pieces of responsibility," [Rumsfeld] said.

"And there's no doubt in my mind but that some of those projections we won't make," he said. "It'll be later or even earlier in some instances. And in some cases, once we meet the projection, we may have to go back and do it again if it doesn't work."

But that does not amount to a "strategic error," Rumsfeld said. And it may not even be a "misjudgment," because the enemy may simply have focused on a particular place to make a point.

When most people say "Failure is not an option," they don't mean it's not an option as a matter of logic. But here we have the Mahdi Army seizing a southern city, which was previously the territory of a different militia under the guise of a local police force. To be as non-political as possible, that, um, wasn't part of the plan. Whatever one thinks about the merits of staying vs. leaving Iraq, the seizure of Amara is clarion call that the situation is way, way out of control from the occupier's perspective. What's so interesting is that this is neither the first, nor will it be the last, instance of a militia controlling a city: Basra, for instance, the most important city in Iraq from the perspective of foreign goods exportation, is ruled by the Badr Corps. If anything, Amara is a lagging indicator, bringing into relief for a foreign audience trends that have taken hold in Iraq for a long time and will be incredibly difficult to roll back.

On the other hand, it's possible that this is what Donald Rumsfeld thinks is basically acceptable. After all, the Mahdi Army is a) willing to Stand Up so we will Stand Down, and b) answerable (kind of) to people who are part of Iraq's elected government. How long until Rumsfeld starts to suggest that this was part of the plan all along?
--Spencer Ackerman
Sadly, even when this President hints that he is willing to look at alternative strategies, he uses language that further fuels the flames of fanaticism. In defining the goal of those who oppose us as a clash of civilizations, whereby he asserts that they seek to "extend the caliphate", he once again obfuscates the potential for reasoned clarity and measured dialogue. Unfortunately, I'm not sure he has the discipline needed to restrain his confrontational outbursts. Further, it has yet to be seen if he can moderate his goals to match that which can reasonably be achieved in Iraq and the Middle East.

The larger question is if this President can accept the more modest goals to be offered by Baker's task force or if they will be met by resistance or even a campaign to discredit. It is increasingly difficult to determine where George Bush's convictions end and his need to be right might begin. He has held fast to the argument that he isn't concerned with polls or politics and yet his reported convictions continue to evolve to fit the changing circumstances. The essential question is how he actually views the concept of adaptation. The evidence suggests that he prefers to adapt his rhetoric to fit the circumstances rather than adapts his strategy to address the realities. As he receives this important report, I fear the former...but I'm hoping for the latter.

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Blogger Daniel DiRito | 12:49 PM