September 20, 2004

Jaw-Dropping Fare Indeed

Via Sully, this (almost) unbelievable Novak piece:

Whether Bush or Kerry is elected, the president or president-elect will have to sit down immediately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military will tell the election winner there are insufficient U.S. forces in Iraq to wage effective war. That leaves three realistic options: Increase overall U.S. military strength to reinforce Iraq, stay with the present strength to continue the war, or get out.

Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush's decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal.

Getting out now would not end expensive U.S. reconstruction of Iraq, and certainly would not stop the fighting. Without U.S. troops, the civil war cited as the worst-case outcome by the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate would be a reality. It would then take a resolute president to stand aside while Iraqis battle it out.

I have grave doubts about the accuracy of Novak's story. I think it might be some Wolfowitz enemies leaking it so that the resulting firestorm forces people in the Beltway to see that Wolfy is radioactive and not confirmable as SecDef. (There are also doubtless people trial-ballooning Condi at the 7th Floor and Steve Hadley succeeding her at the NSC).

I'm also very dubious about Novak's reporting that Bush has pretty much decided he will pull out of Iraq in '05. Still, what makes me think there may be more than a smidgen of truth to it?

This part of Novak's piece (which you need to read in full):

This messy new Iraq is viewed by Bush officials as vastly preferable to Saddam's police state, threatening its neighbors and the West. In private, some officials believe the mistake was not in toppling Saddam but in staying there for nation building after the dictator was deposed.

I can see, just maybe, Bush falling for this line of argument, ie. that evil sonafabitch Saddam is gone--so we are leaving something better in our stead (and Iraq will be hobbled by internal dissension and not able to threaten neighbors like Saudi Arabia and Israel). What the hell--let Allawi sort it out with his new Army--we aren't a stabilizing factor over there anymore anyway.

What a massive, breathtaking and morally defunct abdication of American leadership that would be! I would have to hold my head in deep shame for having supported this Administration's Iraq war. Say it ain't so!?!

Well, I think not. If it were, why would Kerry be attacking Bush on supposedly hiding plans to send reservists to Iraq post-election?

As part of a strategy to sharpen differences with Bush, Kerry told voters that the president refuses to come clean about growing problems in Iraq and a hidden strategy for a post-election deployment. ``He won't tell us what congressional leaders are now saying: that this administration is planning yet another substantial call-up of reservists and Guard units immediately after the election,'' Kerry said. Bush is trying to ``hide it from people through the election, then make the move.''

Doesn't sound like a guy who is going to cut bait, does it? Meanwhile, back in mondo Kerry--it's pretty amateur hour:

The Kerry campaign, realizing that its only hope is to attack Bush for his Iraq policy, is not equipped to make sober evaluations of Iraq. When I asked a Kerry political aide what his candidate would do in Iraq, he could do no better than repeat the old saw that help is on the way from European troops. Kerry's foreign policy advisers know there will be no release from that quarter.

Yeah, Kerry is aiming to get out soonest--that's pretty clear.

But Bush too? If I see convincing evidence that this is true--I'll have to go all Dan Drezner on you and start fence-sitting. Or, more likely, abstain and hope and pray for real leaders with sincerity, honor and courage in '08.

As Powell told Bush--re: the Pottery Barn rule--you break it, you own it. And so we do. Now, and therefore, we damn well owe the Iraqis a real, full-blown effort to forge a viable state there. Let's not B.S. ourselves. If we leave that country (at least within the next 18 months) all hell is going to break loose. We need to guarantee that the Shi'a don't engage in massive score-settling with the Sunnis. That the Kurds and Turks don't get into a major firefight. That internecine warfare doesn't erupt between fundamentalists and more secular-minded Sunnis. And so on. This is generational stuff, people.

And does anyone really believe that a nascent Iraqi Army (probably busily being infiltrated by Iranian agents and radicalized Sunni fanatics as we speak) is going to do the trick? Er, no f'ing way. Bottom line: We need to be there for a while, folks--if we're serious. If we're not serious--well, why the hell did we go in the first place?

Commenters are invited, in particular, to evidence as much as possible why they feel comfortable that Bush will keep a significant troop presence in Iraq well into '06--only then beginning to gradually scale down our presence there. Or, alternately, to tell me the reasons Novak is right...Smart money is still on the former, I'd wager.

Posted by Gregory Djerejian at September 20, 2004 06:23 PM
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