Wednesday, January 10, 2007

With Bush proposing to add 21,500 troops to those already in Iraq, it's fair - perhaps even mandatory - that his record be reviewed as part of any assessment of whether it is a good idea to send more troops.

Let me start by reviewing some of the major screwups he has made so far, along with the consequences of those screwups:

* He delayed acting by trying to persuade the 'international community' to back military efforts even though no sane person would ever have thought there was more than the proverbial snowball's chance of gaining any support. By doing so, by failing to invade six-plus months earlier than he did, he gave Hussein (and his backers) more time to move out of the country whatever WMDs there were as well as to better plan their insurgency. And by invading after failing to garner international support, he received far more condemnation than would have been the case had he not bothered to ask for support.

* He refused to justify military action solely on our need, in light of Hussein's record of lying and obstruction and our inability to trust that the UN inspections were thorough enough, to invade Iraq for the purpose of ridding rid Iraq of Hussein and whatever WMDs or WMD programs might have existed. By declaring it a fact that Iraq had WMDs, he allowed critics to trash his credibility when no WMDs were in fact found. The American people would have been fine with a limited invasion to determine whether Iraq was a threat, as we understand and agreed with Rumsfeld's (or Cheney?) assertion that the smoking gun might be a nuclear cloud. We would have been acting on less than precise information, but resented being lied to.

* He diminished his authority as Commander in Chief by asking Congress vote to support the war effort. While Congress initially backed military action, Bush legitimized the views of those who think Congress ought to have a big say into how the war effort proceeded.

* He instituted rules of engagement (ROEs) on our troops that left them unnecessarily at risk from hostile action. Ironically, by doing so, we've not only taken far more casualties than ought to have been the case, but by unleashing military prosecutors on our troops, he ensured that news of whatever incidents there were would be aired, alienating the Iraqis whose 'hearts and minds' he was trying to win over.

* He (and the GOP as a whole) chose to characterize domestic opposition (i.e., the Democrats) to the war effort as being unpatriotic rather than stupid. By doing so, while this might have played to the GOP base who loves to hear Democrats portrayed as unpatriotic, he alienated the moderates who thought such accusations were unfair. Challenging the wisdom of the critics would have been far better.

* He kept Powell and his deputies on board their Powell's vehement opposition to taking military action against Iraq. Whatever benefit Bush thought he would receive from keeping Powell was more than offset by the leaks and other disruptions Powell and his team created.

* He bought into Powell's ridiculous "you break it, you fix it" policy, obligating America to hang around, pretty much no matter what, until Iraq was 'fixed'. And since there's no way Iraq was going to be fixed, he guaranteed that our eventual departure would be seen as a sign of weakness. Had he not done so, he could have yanked the troops out a long time ago and without the stigma of being only the second President who had lost a war.

* He failed to establish benchmarks for measuring progress in Iraq (although, interestingly, he is now doing so). By failing to do so, he allowed the Iraqis to avoid accepting responsibility for taking care of themselves, he gave insurgents an opening to spread propaganda that our involvement was intended to be permanent, and he kept Americans from being able to really understand what our troops and billions of dollars were supposed to be accomplishing.

* He failed to take action against Syria and Iran for their involvement and support of the insurgency. By doing so, he not only ensured that we suffered higher casualties than would have otherwise been the case, but he also allowed America to be seen as weak.

* He failed to give the American people the scorecard they needed to follow the action. By doing so, he ensured the only news Americans would hear was that of American casualties, which in turn ensured that over time America would support the effort less and less. As I have written before, using Mogadishu as an example, Americans considered that battle a loss because all we were told was that 18 soldiers were killed. Had we been told our troops killed upwards of 500 Somali militiamen, we would have had a much different - and favorable - impression of how things were going.

* (ADD'L) He didn't play it straight with the American people about how we were treating prisoners and detainees. Rather than come out and tell the people that we were using appropriate measures to gain information that would protect our forces, or, conversely, to say nothing, he (through his spokesmen) kept saying that everybody was being treated fairly, nicely, etc., etc. As the stories inevitably (especially so given the MSM bias against Bush) started trickling out that suggested, falsely or not, we were in fact not treating the detainees so nicely, his credibility took another hit.

Now that I've covered the list of what he did wrong, let's look at what he's done right:




Yeah, there's nothing there.

In light of this, why should America trust George Bush to get it right this time?