[Marxism] White House and military at odds on Iraq

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 19 08:57:19 MST 2006

(*Nothing* like this ever happened during the Vietnam war.)

White House, Joint Chiefs At Odds on Adding Troops

By Robin Wright and Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 19, 2006; A01

The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops 
to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the 
concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 
according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.

Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to 
eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the 
White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in 
Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of 
bigger packages, the officials said.

But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, 
still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge 
idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about 
the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who 
spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is 
not public.

The chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they 
believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on 
Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.

At regular interagency meetings and in briefing President Bush last 
week, the Pentagon has warned that any short-term mission may only 
set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends. The 
service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an 
enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq -- 
including al-Qaeda's foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite 
militias -- without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military 
mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.

The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more 
attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and 
fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq 
to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

The informal but well-armed Shiite militias, the Joint Chiefs have 
also warned, may simply melt back into society during a U.S. surge 
and wait until the troops are withdrawn -- then reemerge and retake 
the streets of Baghdad and other cities.

Even the announcement of a time frame and mission -- such as for six 
months to try to secure volatile Baghdad -- could play to armed 
factions by allowing them to game out the new U.S. strategy, the 
chiefs have warned the White House.

The idea of a much larger military deployment for a longer mission is 
virtually off the table, at least so far, mainly for logistics 
reasons, say officials familiar with the debate. Any deployment of 
40,000 to 50,000 would force the Pentagon to redeploy troops who were 
scheduled to go home.

A senior administration official said it is "too simplistic" to say 
the surge question has broken down into a fight between the White 
House and the Pentagon, but the official acknowledged that the 
military has questioned the option. "Of course, military leadership 
is going to be focused on the mission -- what you're trying to 
accomplish, the ramifications it would have on broader issues in 
terms of manpower and strength and all that," the official said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss 
internal deliberations, said military officers have not directly 
opposed a surge option. "I've never heard them be depicted that way 
to the president," the official said. "Because they ask questions 
about what the mission would be doesn't mean they don't support it. 
Those are the kinds of questions the president wants his military 
planners to be asking."

The concerns raised by the military are sometimes offset by concerns 
on the other side. For instance, those who warn that a short-term 
surge would harm longer-term deployments are met with the argument 
that the situation is urgent now, the official said. "Advocates would 
say: 'Can you afford to wait? Can you afford to plan in the long 
term? What's the tipping point in that country? Do you have time to wait?' "

Which way Bush is leaning remains unclear. "The president's keeping 
his cards pretty close to his vest," the official said, "and I think 
people may be trying to interpret questions he's asking and 
information he's asking for as signs that he's made up his mind."

Robert M. Gates, who was sworn in yesterday as defense secretary, is 
headed for Iraq this week and is expected to play a decisive role in 
resolving the debate, officials said. Secretary of State Condoleezza 
Rice's views are still open, according to State Department officials. 
The principals met again yesterday to continue discussions.

The White House yesterday noted the growing number of reports about 
what is being discussed behind closed doors. "It's also worth issuing 
a note of caution, because quite often people will try to litigate 
preferred options through the press," White House press secretary 
Tony Snow told reporters.

Discussions are expected to continue through the holidays. Rice is 
expected to travel to the president's ranch near Crawford, Tex., 
after Christmas for consultations on Iraq. The administration's 
foreign policy principals are also expected to hold at least two 
meetings during the holiday. The White House has said the president 
will outline his new strategy to the nation early next year.

As the White House debate continues, another independent report on 
Iraq strategy is being issued today by the International Crisis 
Group, a Brussels-based crisis monitoring group that includes several 
former U.S. officials. It calls for more far-reaching policy 
revisions and reversals than did even the Iraq Study Group report, 
the bipartisan report issued two weeks ago.

The new report calls the study group's recommendations "not nearly 
radical enough" and says that "its prescriptions are no match for its 
diagnosis." It continues: "What is needed today is a clean break both 
in the way the U.S. and other international actors deal with the 
Iraqi government, and in the way the U.S. deals with the region."

The Iraqi government and military should not be treated as 
"privileged allies" because they are not partners in efforts to stem 
the violence but rather parties to the conflict, it says. Trying to 
strengthen the fragile government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki 
will not contribute to Iraq's stability, it adds. Iraq's escalating 
crisis cannot be resolved militarily, the report says, and can be 
solved only with a major political effort.

The International Crisis Group proposes three broad steps: First, it 
calls for creation of an international support group, including the 
five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Iraq's six 
neighbors, to press Iraq's constituents to accept political compromise.

Second, it urges a conference of all Iraqi players, including 
militias and insurgent groups, with support from the international 
community, to forge a political compact on controversial issues such 
as federalism, distribution of oil revenue, an amnesty, the status of 
Baath Party members and a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. Finally, it 
suggests a new regional strategy that would include engagement with 
Syria and Iran and jump-starting the moribund Arab-Israeli peace process.

More information about the Marxism mailing list