Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush's Iraq speech

I have mixed feelings about President Bush's Iraq speech tonight. I was impressed with the amount of detail he provided on the mission of the 22,000 additional troops he wants to send to Iraq. It seemed like a reasonable idea and definitely smacks of traditional counterinsurgency doctrine. I was really disappointed by two things: 1) The Bush administration still appears to be clinging to the notion that there are 'extremists' and 'moderates' in Iraqi politics and society. I think this is a poor perspective that ignores the idea that armed militias have popped up in Iraq because fewer and fewer political groups in the country are invested in the democratic process. In a sense, groups like the Mehdi army are growing in power because public confidence in the government's monopoly on force is at an extreme low ebb. 2) Does the Bush administration honestly think all of the hyperbole on Iran, Syria, nuclear weapons, terrorist safe havens and even the improbable 'terrorist oil state' scenario was helpful? Americans aren't dumb. Most of us know there will be grave consequences in Iraq if the Iraqi government completely collapses. We also know that Iran and Syria aren't exactly helping us on Iraq (although I am seriously dubious about their active involvement in the violence). We don't need President Bush talking down to us like we are myopic children. Geez. I found two bits of his speech very interesting: 1) We're apparently going to deploy more Patriots in the Middle East. This is an idea I have been toying with for a while. I wonder who of the Gulf Cooperation Council will get them? My money is on at least Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. 2) Will the president's call for civilian deployments in Iraq materialize? The current civil service is ill-suited for the task and programs designed to bring in new blood on a temporary basis have been half-hearted at best. I'm not an expert in provincial reconstruction, but I still have the fearlessness of youth, I'm a quick learner and I'm willing to do a few years in the Third World. I even find that kind of 'squishy, blue helmeted' work really interesting. Anyone at State want a copy of my resume? It also looks like Bush administration plans to permanently increase Army and Marine end strength by almost 100,000 pairs of boots. Working so close to the U.S. Army over the last two years has given me a new appreciation for our grunts and jarheads and after all of the heavy lifting they have done since 2003, they deserve a boost. Today a higher end strength, tomorrow a larger portion of the DOD budget!

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