[Marxism] George W. Bush and Juan Cole both back airpower

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 28 07:51:42 MST 2005


New Yorker Magazine, Issue of 2005-12-05
UP IN THE AIR
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
Where is the Iraq war headed next?

In recent weeks, there has been widespread speculation that President 
George W. Bush, confronted by diminishing approval ratings and dissent 
within his own party, will begin pulling American troops out of Iraq next 
year. The Administration’s best-case scenario is that the parliamentary 
election scheduled for December 15th will produce a coalition government 
that will join the Administration in calling for a withdrawal to begin in 
the spring. By then, the White House hopes, the new government will be 
capable of handling the insurgency. In a speech on November 19th, Bush 
repeated the latest Administration catchphrase: “As Iraqis stand up, we 
will stand down.” He added, “When our commanders on the ground tell me that 
Iraqi forces can defend their freedom, our troops will come home with the 
honor they have earned.” One sign of the political pressure on the 
Administration to prepare for a withdrawal came last week, when Secretary 
of State Condoleezza Rice told Fox News that the current level of American 
troops would not have to be maintained “for very much longer,” because the 
Iraqis were getting better at fighting the insurgency.

A high-level Pentagon war planner told me, however, that he has seen scant 
indication that the President would authorize a significant pullout of 
American troops if he believed that it would impede the war against the 
insurgency. There are several proposals currently under review by the White 
House and the Pentagon; the most ambitious calls for American combat forces 
to be reduced from a hundred and fifty-five thousand troops to fewer than 
eighty thousand by next fall, with all American forces officially 
designated “combat” to be pulled out of the area by the summer of 2008. In 
terms of implementation, the planner said, “the drawdown plans that I’m 
familiar with are condition-based, event-driven, and not in a specific time 
frame”—that is, they depend on the ability of a new Iraqi government to 
defeat the insurgency. (A Pentagon spokesman said that the Administration 
had not made any decisions and had “no plan to leave, only a plan to 
complete the mission.”)

A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s 
public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced 
by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a 
way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi 
combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the 
number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are 
withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi 
fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who 
bombs what.

“We’re not planning to diminish the war,” Patrick Clawson, the deputy 
director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me. 
Clawson’s views often mirror the thinking of the men and women around 
Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “We just 
want to change the mix of the forces doing the fighting—Iraqi infantry with 
American support and greater use of airpower. The rule now is to commit 
Iraqi forces into combat only in places where they are sure to win. The 
pace of commitment, and withdrawal, depends on their success in the 
battlefield.”

He continued, “We want to draw down our forces, but the President is 
prepared to tough this one out. There is a very deep feeling on his part 
that the issue of Iraq was settled by the American people at the polling 
places in 2004.” The war against the insurgency “may end up being a nasty 
and murderous civil war in Iraq, but we and our allies would still win,” he 
said. “As long as the Kurds and the Shiites stay on our side, we’re set to 
go. There’s no sense that the world is caving in. We’re in the middle of a 
seven-year slog in Iraq, and eighty per cent of the Iraqis are receptive to 
our message.”

One Pentagon adviser told me, “There are always contingency plans, but why 
withdraw and take a chance? I don’t think the President will go for 
it”—until the insurgency is broken. “He’s not going to back off. This is 
bigger than domestic politics.”

full: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/051205fa_fact

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