November 16, 2006

The Guardian Spills the Beans

Hatched by Dafydd

In a longish and fascinating article linked by Drudge, the left-wing U.K. Guardian (once the Manchester Guardian) offers us more analysis and realistic speculation than any American newspaper I've yet read. It's definitely worth reading in its entirety.

The basic thrust is here:

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

I have read that George W. Bush is a very good poker player. I'm just a tyro, but I do know this much...

Suppose you're playing Hold 'Em. You're at the turn (the second to last face-up card dealt), and you have two pair and four to a flush. The only other guy left in the hand puts a really big bet down. Do you:

  1. Fold;
  2. Call his bet; or
  3. Raise?

There's no hard and fast answer, naturally. But were I the player, I would raise -- and I would go all in. The only other viable option is to fold; you're guaranteed to lose the hand, but you limit your losses. The worst decision, in my opinion, would be to call the bet... because then you're playing to his tempo, not yours.

If you go all in, you suddenly throw your opponent into his own quandry: he thought his hand was worth X, and now he has to decide if it's worth five times X. Good chance he'll fold: maybe you have a flush, maybe a full house -- is he willing to risk it?

You see? He's playing at your pace; or in military terms, at your operational tempo. That's why you raise -- and raise big. Here's the Guardian on Bush's decision and the impact it will have:

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel's work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.

The four points are:

  1. Increase, rather than decrease the force level, possibly by 20,000 (I doubt the Guardian knows the exact number);
  2. More "regional cooperation," meaning more of Iraq's neighbors need to be persuaded that a full-scale civil war benefits nobody and is a disaster for many -- Turkey, for example, which is terrified of a widespread movement to create independent "Kurdistan" with the Kurds from Iraq and Turkey; and also Jorday, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia certainly don't want millions of Sunni refugees pouring across their poorly defended borders;
  3. A renewed push to get the Iraqi Sunni and Shia to "just get along," as Rodney King said; I don't believe the Iraqis really want a civil war: but that means a clampdown on the death squads and militias and a reinvigorated Sunni population ratting out more of the al-Qaeda terrorists.

    (3) can be helped a lot by (1), as I suspect a lot of Iraqis assumed that if the Democrats won, we would pull out instantly. If instead we send more troops and prove we're staying, we'll start getting more actionable intelligence;

  4. Pushing Congress hard to really get behind the war with more resources. This may be tricky, but if the Guardian and Big Lizards are right that the Iraq Study Group will recommend raising instead of folding, and with the anti-Rumsfeldian generals agreeing, the Democrats will be trapped between Scylla and Charybdis, caught between Iraq and a hard peace: they'll probably agree because otherwise, they'll be seen as the obstructionists -- a very bad move for the majority party.

Here is the neo-leftist take on the choice:

"You've got to remember, whatever the Democrats say, it's Bush still calling the shots. He believes it's a matter of political will. That's what [Henry] Kissinger told him. And he's going to stick with it," a former senior administration official said. "He [Bush] is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is any more. But he is. But he knows he's got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work. If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall."

Gee, I wonder who that "former senior administration official" could be? A former secretary of state, perhaps? Or maybe his former loose-lipped, shaven-head deputy? I am still amazed that so many people at such high levels of government are so determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq. How can they still be so invested in failure and disgrace?

The official added: "Bush has said 'no' to withdrawal, so what else do you have? The Baker report will be a set of ideas, more realistic than in the past, that can be used as political tools. What they're going to say is: lower the goals, forget about the democracy crap, put more resources in, do it."

I think "the official" is still mad that President Bush wouldn't listen to his wise counsel of doing absolutely nothing.

There is this possibility, raised by the Guardian: maybe the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group was all set to say "let's declare defeat and go home." But maybe after Monday's talk with President Bush, they realized -- as Big Lizards suggested -- that if the commander in chief were adamant about not quitting, but the ISG made that their primary recommendation, they would be dismissed out of hand like insolent lackeys.

Rather than be humiliated like that (this theory goes), they are rewriting their conclusions and recommendations to something that is acceptable to the administration. That way, their advice might be heeded, and they look like they actually matter.

If this is what happened, it's a marvelous illustration of the power of a willful president for whom defeat is not an option. That is far more in keeping with Bush's previous history anent the Iraq and Afghanistan battles and the larger GWOT itself, than the silly suggestions from some quarters that Bush was about to quit, withdraw, and hand Iraq over to the tender mercies of Iran and Syria.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2006, at the time of 2:00 AM

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We have a bunch of Neville Chamberlain’s and not enough Winston Churchhill’s in this argument. Churchill understood you could not negotiate with evil. You cannot negotiate with those who wish to make you submit or die as the terrorists inside Iraq ... [Read More]

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Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal leapt upon the convulsing Iraq-war dogpile with a contrarian argument: rather than discussing how best to manage a withdrawal, as the uninformed media demand, most of the uniformed military recommends sending more tro... [Read More]

Tracked on December 5, 2006 7:17 PM


The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Democarcy crap?? Sounds like Armitage to me. What would he prefer? Dictatorship crap? We tried that and got Saddam.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2006 4:16 AM

The following hissed in response by: jp phish

The Guardian is correct in its conclusions but off-course in its description of the ISG role.

The ISG has not been idly twiddling its thumbs for the last several months. Its direction can be garnered from the expert advisors to the group. If we look at recent articles by a few of those advisors, the direction, from the start, is clear.

  • James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.: The Dangerous Consequences of Cutting and Running in Iraq
    The premature withdrawal of American troops from Iraq would have disastrous consequences for Iraq, for the Middle East, and for American foreign policy and would lead to a full-scale humanitarian disaster. Congress should reject outright calls for America to cut and run and in­stead should insist that the Bush Administration finish the job of training Iraqi security forces that are capable of supporting the gov­ernment, dealing with sectarian violence, and providing for the safety of the civilian population.

  • Michele A. Flournoy: Five Years After 9/11 (Ch. 6)
    But if the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have taught us anything, it is that the military cannot be expected to bear the entire burden of state reconstruction. From agriculture to education to legal, health care, and governance systems, U.S. civilian agencies need more robust, effective, deployable capabilities to build capacity in weak or failing states. While the State Department took a good first step by creating the Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization, the administration and Congress need to expand and resource this office appropriately in order to create a deployable civilian cadre that is able to project and sustain needed civilian capabilities to the long war’s front lines. If such a capability cannot find a home in the State Department, a new field agency should be formed to provide the operational culture, career opportunities, and support for this critical cadre.

  • Michael Eisenstadt: Securing Iraq: The Way Ahead
    the US effort in Iraq has, almost from the start, been hamstrung by a mismatch between means and ends, and a variety of military, economic and political constraints. The US neither has sufficient forces in-country, nor the right kind of forces....

    Human and material resources devoted to reconstruction have likewise been inadequate. Iraq’s foreign aid has mostly been spent on security and not reconstruction. The Commanders’ Emergency Response Program (CERP) was under-funded and commanders were not given enough leeway to use these funds as they saw fit and the initial emphasis on large, multi-year projects was misguided.

  • Hans A. Binnendijk: Transforming for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations
    the success of the U.S. military in transforming its forces to execute rapid decisive operations that makes it imperative to transform how it prepares for and executes stabilization and reconstruction (S&R) operations. The very rapid defeat of the enemy military means the U.S. must be ready to field the resources needed to secure stability and begin the reconstruction process promptly-even concurrently-with the end of major combat.

I believe the Guardian is naive to think there has been no communication between Bush and Baker these last few months. And I believe the direction of the ISG, has been, for some time:

  1. Do not leave Iraq prematurely

  2. Increase military and reconstruction forces

  3. Get more NATO involvement

The ISG report will be the final step in a plan devised months ago by Bush and Baker to increase efforts in Iraq, by both U.S. and other countires around the world. It will be viewed as a knowledgeable source for why the increase is necessary and will provide cover for Congress, NATO, and others to participate. The first step of the plan was Rumsfeld's resignation. And the plan was not initiated until after the elections so it would have credibility.

The above hissed in response by: jp phish [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2006 7:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

What was that famous WWII quote? Oh yes. "Nuts!"
That is what Bush just said. Expect Al Queda to be scratching its collective flea bitten beard. How could this have happened to them?

Really it is the tempo of the Democrats that has been seriously disrupted. Rumsfeld gone. Murtha just lost the Majority post. Now the ISG is going to recommend increasing the Iraqi commitment. Many Democrats have said we didn't put in enough troops. Now the President wants to do that, how can they go back? He puts the possible disaster of pull-out squarely at their feet.

Ideally, Bush should get the 20,000 troops from other countries. Say a few that haven't contributed to solving the problem so far. Turkey, Russia, France, China, Jordan, Saudi, India are all possibilities. Why would they want to go in now?

1) A chance to "save" the situation after the U.S. "botched" it. In fact it may well be an all glory, no guts maneuver at this point.
2) The commitment is likely to be short, win or lose.
3) Helps shear off Iran's power play.
4) Promotes stability in an important region.
5) For many, it heads off a potential tidal wave of refugees causing their own problems.

How about this scenario - "all in" means 20,000 more U.S. troops, and 100,000 additional troops from other countries. It would be like raising, then borrowing $100 bucks from a friend and throwing that into the pot too.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2006 9:37 AM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Excellent post, Dafydd, and excellent news. I'm beginning to wonder if W has someone assigned to read Big Lizards. Excerpted and linked.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2006 12:40 PM

The following hissed in response by: Narxist

From the darkest corner of the viper pit...

The problem with the poker analogy is that your opponent believes he is winning regardless of your raise, call or fold.

The above hissed in response by: Narxist [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 17, 2006 7:54 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


The problem with the poker analogy is that your opponent believes he is winning regardless of your raise, call or fold.

Not necessarily. The real opponent is not the terrorist... he's just one of the cards. The real opponent is Iran, and Iran -- being a real country with a lot to lose -- has never behaved as if it always believes it's winning... no matter what they may say.

They're very, very afraid of Israel, for example, for all their bluster. And they definitely fear the United States, especially now that we have 140,000 soldiers (plus 250,000 Iraqi "puppets," which is how they see it) on their border.

And they fear Turkey, which has historically dominated Persia.

One good way to understand Iran is to think of them as living in a state of constant terror and paranoia, while clinging to a dream of destiny.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 17, 2006 1:32 PM

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