January 26, 2008

Do not miss...

Do not miss How Bush Decided on the Surge, by Fred Barnes.

It is a fascinating article, and very important. Important especially because most of us have no idea how difficult a task it was to change our tactics, and persuade the leaders in government and the military to go along with the surge.

I hear people now claiming that Bush was a poor leader because our tactics should have been changed much earlier. Or that he should have dumped Rumsfeld earlier.(Rumsfeld does not seem to have been the main obstacle.) In fact, the turnaround was a long slow process, with many obstacles to be overcome. Bush was pushing for change long before anything could be seen on the surface.

The President is not a dictator, he can't just give orders and expect things to happen. Rather, any big change requires a vast amount of negotiation, and thought, and study, and the careful building of alliances. What was it that Clausewitz said?..."In war everything is simple, but the simple things are very difficult."

....Inside his own administration, Bush had few allies on a surge in Iraq aside from the vice president and a coterie of National Security Council (NSC) staffers. The Joint Chiefs were disinclined to send more troops to Iraq or adopt a new strategy. So were General George Casey, the American commander in Iraq, and Centcom commander John Abizaid. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice favored a troop pullback. A week earlier, the Iraq Study Group, better known as the Baker-Hamilton Commission, had recommended a graceful exit from Iraq.

The presence of former secretary of state James Baker, a longtime Bush family friend, on the commission was viewed in Washington and around the world as significant. It was assumed, correctly in this instance, that Baker wouldn't have taken the post if the president had objected. (At least one top Bush adviser faulted Rice for not blocking the amendment by Republican representative Frank Wolf of Virginia that created the commission in the first place.) Baker was seen as providing cover for Bush to order a gradual retreat from Iraq.

But retreat was the furthest thing from Bush's mind. "This is very trite," he told me. "Failure was no option .  .  . I never thought I had to give up the goal of winning." He wanted one more chance to win.

At the Pentagon, Bush listened sympathetically to the complaints and worries of the chiefs. He promised to ease the strain the war had put on the military. Bush knew the idea of deploying more troops and changing the strategy would be a tough sell. It had been hatched outside the Pentagon. Co-opting the chiefs was "tricky business," an aide said. It "would be the most demanding civil-military challenge the president would face."....
Posted by John Weidner at January 26, 2008 12:58 PM
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