“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Iraq Moving into a Critical Phase.

Something is going to change and soon. This article appears in this morning's Guardian. There are many other reports hinting at some immediate changes in Iraq. What do you think? Is staying the course a strategy that makes any sense? What exactly are the US policies in Iraq and is anything achievable at an acceptable price? This is becoming less and less of a partisan issue as many Republicans are asking the same questions. It certainly has been the case in some heated discussion here in the EB. The following is from the Guardian article:

Iraq mayhem triggers hunt for exit strategy in US and UK

Foreign Office urges talks with Syria and Iran, as militia seize city left by British

Ewen MacAskill, Julian Borger in Washington and Michael Howard in Sulaymaniya
Saturday October 21, 2006
The Guardian

Frantic efforts are under way in Washington and London to find an exit strategy for Iraq as a renewed surge in violence led George Bush to admit yesterday that tactics there might need to change.
Diplomats and politicians in both capitals are desperately reviewing and debating options that were once regarded as unthinkable.

The review was given added urgency yesterday when 800 gunmen, thought to be part of the Mahdi army militia, ran amok in Amara, a town transferred by the British to Iraqi control two months ago.

A source in the Amara police department said 30 officers and 20 civilians had been killed when the gunmen overran police stations and set up roadblocks. About 500 British soldiers were last night on standby to go back in.

In Washington, Mr Bush said he would consult his top military commanders in Iraq today over whether a change of tactics was necessary. But the president, who is under intense pressure to rethink his Iraq strategy if not his whole approach to foreign policy, said talks with the generals would only concern tactics, not strategy. "We are constantly adjusting tactics so we can achieve our objectives and right now, it's tough," the president admitted to the Associated Press.

With 74 American soldiers already dead in Iraq in October, it is likely to be the worst month for US forces in two years. US officers admitted on Thursday that the effort to pacify the capital, the Baghdad Initiative, had failed.

Pressure for a change of strategy is partly the result of leaks from a review from a study group set up by the former US secretary of state, James Baker, at Mr Bush's request. The leaks from Mr Baker's Iraq Study Group (ISG), which is due to report after next month's Congressional elections, suggest it will recommend a fundamental change of course.

The Foreign Office is conducting a review in tandem with Mr Baker. UK officials said the Foreign Office was "beavering away" on about half a dozen options, roughly the same as those considered by the ISG. One official said discussions were proceeding at "a high tempo".

Among the changes the ISG is expected to recommend is the opening of talks on Iraq's future with Syria and Iran, countries the White House has sought to isolate.

"The failure of the Baghdad initiative is convincing evidence that a military solution is not going to work," said Larry Diamond, a former adviser to the US-led occupation authority in Baghdad who also advised the ISG. "We should be talking to neighbouring Arab states and we think we should be talking to Iran - to broker the compromises which might save the situation," Mr Diamond told the Guardian.

Other options being considered are a redeployment of forces to "super-bases" in Iraq or bases outside the country, pressuring the Baghdad government to find a fairer way of sharing Iraq's oil wealth to give Sunnis a better deal, and even the partitioning of the country into autonomous Kurdish, Sunni and Shia regions - an idea the White House has dismissed as a "non-starter".

British diplomats, including Dominic Asquith, the ambassador to Iraq, and Sir David Manning, ambassador to Washington, have contributed to the ISG.

The Foreign Office is backing the ISG proposal to engage with Iran and Syria. "We are encouraging them to go with that," a Foreign Office source said.

The Foreign Office has ruled out an immediate unilateral British pull-out and partition. It basically favours a continuation of the present policy, but is agonising over whether to press for a timetable, possibly even a secret one, for withdrawal. "Every policy option I could lay out for you would be worse than what we are doing now," a British official said.


  1. Mr Bush's either/or argument has failed him. Either we "Stay the Course" or we "Cut and Run".
    Now Republicans like Senator Warner and Rep Shays are echoing Democrats.

    "Cut and Run" Republicans?

    Mr Bush has painted himself and all of US into a corner with his rhetoric. Political rhetoric that has been far over shooting reality.

    If he changes Course now, it'll be played as "Wag the Dog" to an extreme. Already heard the Allan Colmes fellow on the coming talking point messages.

    The new "Cut & Run" Republicans will be followed by George "Cut & Bush" Bush if he attempts to change course just prior to the election. After standing fast in the face of reality for so long.

    The ultimate "wag the dog".

    No way this plays well for the Republicans on 7 Nov.

  2. Just make them appear ever more cynical and power driven.

    Easy story to spin that way.

    But Mr Bush has to get in front of the shift, to stay relevent. Has to produce the Plan prior to the Election or it will be seen as a huge Democrat Victory. If he changes course post election losses it diminishes the Presidency, which is very important to Mr Bush and his Team. Maintaining Executive power.

    Foreign affairs has never been Mr Roves specialty, has it?

  3. Any change will be called "Cut and Run", rufus.
    Mr Bush has set that Standard, himself. To think that his powerful foes in Media and Politics will let him slide on by with Changing Course, now, is lunacy.
    Any change win tactic will, now, be Political, as you have said so many times. All actions in our current window are Election based.

    Even Mr Bush's.
    They'll skin him alive over this for 17 more days. Events are moving away from the "Master Plan".

  4. ..the way out?

    Go down about three miles til you get to the Piggly Wiggly,take a right. Go about a mile and take the next left. Stay to the left at the fork in the road until you come to I-754A, the Baker Express Way. Stay on it all the way home.

  5. habu,

    Are we to 1973 yet, or is it still'72?

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Try try again

    This is some interesting editorial copy, in the cartoon.

    Sfi Fi imitating reality, again
    Invasion by assimulation.

    We are the World

  8. When Dr. Rice called off the mission because of the Jihadi staged event near Qana, it was pretty much over.

  9. Check out this hostage situation.
    The gunman demanded the US fund and arm Fatah or he'd kill the hostage.

    The US has complied with his wishes.

  10. The good link to the hostage stand off photo

  11. The President's lashing out at Dems does not help the President overcome the bases's disillusionment with his failure to speak more specifically than "stay the course" and "cut and run", whatever these mean. Sound bites will not help the President, although, an actual policy formulation might.

    Granted, Dick Morris is an acquired taste, best cited cautiously. Given this caveat, Morris's claim that the President's approval among white, church-going voters has plummeted by 20% over the past couple months seems correct. Have these heretofore reliably predictable voters suddenly decided to go to Hell? Hardly. More likely, this demographic is fed up with a trite, impotent foreign policy.

    The conservative base is not disillusioned about the President having taken the country to war; polling indicates dissatisfaction with the President's long-term failure to close with and destroy the enemy; by the way, an enemy the President dare not, will not, or cannot name.

    As to coming up with "Something", the President might consider doing what is right, rather than what is shown expedient following focus group studies.

  12. The single biggest mistakes were the firing of the Iraqi army and bureaucracy and the inaction when civil order broke down, and they were real doozies. That set the stage for a new government to be established without the benefit of either a functioning security or civil service. That gap was filled by the militias. That is the reality on the ground and cannot be undone.

    The only course of action, other than leaving, is to let Iraq self divide into as many states are necessary and acceptable by the Iraqis themselves.

    It happened in Yugoslavia and Nato brokered the separation. That will have consequences that may or may not be so bad, but the US is not going to be able to do much more because the US public is fed up with wishful thinking and obvious political bullshit.

  13. Mətušélaḥ said...
    When Dr. Rice called off the mission because of the Jihadi staged event near Qana, it was pretty much over.

    When it’s for the children, who can fault the Secretary's hysteria? Rather than questioning solely Dr. Rice's lack of spine, it should be recalled that in the interest of limiting collateral damage, Israel gave advance warning of targeting, allowing the escape of Hezbollah leadership. Consequently, it may be said that Dr. Rice acted as an uninformed woman, while the Olmert government acted as cynical, liberal cowards.

  14. Allen, I've seen hours worth of Olmert in one-on-one interviews with Israeli reporters. He isn't cynical, a liberal, nor a coward. What I can say about Olmert is that he is inexperienced, indecisive, unforceful, unpersuasive, and generally undeserving to be Prime Minister.

  15. Independent contractor. My specialty is removing teeth. ;)

  16. Nothing can be done about the past. What can be done, now? Let's look at North Korea as the means to getting a handle on Iraq and Iran.

    Following the lead of our Islamic enemies, let us swarm the Straight, imposing a time consuming naval inspection regime. Nothing comes or goes without thorough inspection. Obviously, the consequent slowdown in traffic will affect the market nominally, while simultaneously reducing supply actually.

    When our friends in the EU and China go ballistic, the President might just give a speech, asking our friends to do their part in limiting the North Koreans. Essentially, the President might forthrightly say to US critics, "Had you done your part, the US would not have had to act unilaterally. Guys, get on board and this unfortunate, destabilizing situation will come to a quick end."

    When our friends ask how the flow of petroleum products through the Straight has anything to do with North Korea, the US can respond that it cannot be known what North Korea is shipping and where it might be found, given the failure of our friends to limit North Korea in its own region.

    Our friends will not miss the point as that relates to both Iraq and Iran. If the US can squeeze them referencing North Korea, it can do so otherwise. And all without a shot being fired, or the act of war of blockade. This, my friends, is why Iraq is the most strategically important piece of real estate in the world today: pressure, pressure, pressure.

    And, O joy of joys, the risk of collateral damage in the Straight is minimal.

    Finally, why not take a lesson from Mr. Putin. The gentleman says little, but when he does speak, no one doubts his credibility. If faced with betting on Mr. Putin's sincerity on Georgia policy or Mr. Bush's newly minted policy on Iraq, I would put money on Putin.

  17. mətušélaḥ,

    re: What I can say about Olmert is that he is inexperienced, indecisive, unforceful, unpersuasive, and generally undeserving to be Prime Minister.

    On this we can agree. For a minute there, I thought you were talking about someone else.

  18. Sharp wisely said:

    ..."If the desire is to turn more and more over to the Iraqis, that was the plan. It is always harder to watch someone else try to do something new than to do it oneself, but it has to be done unless we plan to stay forever. Not dealing with al-Sadr is a frustration, and I don't know what it will take to spur Maliki, but I think the degree of impatience is an American trait. The program for Bagdad included the political and economic components which will be necessary for any success.

    1:32 PM, October 21, 2006

    Then someone other than GWB better articulate that fast. With so much on the line, The President better do what Kings and Rulers have to do, chop some heads. He has to get rid of some people and replace them with those that can skillfully articulate and implement the plan.

  19. The President has the utmost faith and confidence in his Generals.
    He has said so repeatedly.
    He is satisfied with their performance or with their excuses.

    With either option the results remain the same.
    Tick tock tick

  20. From a previous thread,

    desert rat,

    re: No, now we are back on defense.
    Defense does not win games, often.

    The President agrees with you, if words have meaning. His radio address this morning was a litany of reactive US policies. Not an offensive word was uttered by Mr. Bush. No, he concentrated on how the US military is daily changing its direction to deal with the latest provocation. That apparently includes the release of documented terrorists, although the President's remarks did not go that far.

  21. From a previous thread,

    allen said...
    re: President's radio address

    The President let it be known that Americans are not for "cut and run." No, sir, Americans demand VICTORY!

    Odd. How is victory attained over a phantom? After all, the enemy is not named by this administration.

    If Islam is, as the President never tires of saying, the "Religion of Peace," then, Iraq is a singularly non-Islamic country. If our adversaries in Iraq are not, by the President's definition, Muslim, why is his policy directed as if they were? This is a very confusing war.

  22. People often speak of Mr Bush's loyalty and team building skills.
    Either right before or after his legendary poker playing ability.

    His judgements regarding personnel staffing is not oft spoke of. Besides Harriot Miers and FEMA's Mike Brown there is further evidence that his ability may be a bit lacking in important Staffing matters.
    I mean he did trade away Sammy Sosa.

  23. Does anyone else have the impression that the administration's problem with the public’s perception of Iraq is the administration's inability to find a marketing technique for selling hot air? LBJ and Nixon had much the same problem. Neither had any intention of doing the dirty work required for victory, while neither could find a slogan to make retreat palatable. At some point in the distant future, a historian may discover that Mr. Nixon’s undoing was not Watergate per se, but his having played the role of Iago (two faced Janus) in Vietnam.

  24. Not a lot of "Master Plan" talk any more, aye?

    Even at BC

    That top just quit spinnin'

  25. C4 has rendered a realistic assessment of TWAT (taking in Iraq and Afghanistan). For his effort he is, not surprisingly, accused of being reactionary.

    C4, whatever his motives and prejudices, is not reactionary. He is screaming at the top of his lungs that as long as a liberal, PC West (think the Tinker Bell Bush administration) refuses to see Islam for what it is, the Liberals place civilization at risk.

    C4 names the enemy. It is Islam. To C4’s critics and the President’s fawning supporters, I ask, “What is Mr. Bush’s name for the enemy?” Take your time scrambling for some rational, consistent answer – it will be a long process. Oh, and good luck.

    Belmont Club

  26. The Horns just pulled it out, last second field goal, 22-20 over the Huskers, playing in the snow in Nebraska. YeeHAW!

  27. PoliPundit reports on a Barron’s election predictive methodology, proved 93-98% accurate. It seems size (bank account) does matter.

    Oh, Barron’s predicts the Republicans will hold both houses of Congress, barely but hold nonetheless.

    Eric Alterman, unapologetically liberal, warns the Democrats against presupposing victory.

  28. Again, the links have failed. Check out PoliPundit.

  29. The link is fine,
    It's the line, under the time

  30. I've always said the Dems would win small.

    The House is shakier than the Senate. But if there is a Dem groundswell, it'd be a modern first.

  31. rufus, yes, we have a team. find it by googling "national champion".

  32. What's wrong is the plain bald truth that half the USA has been trying to quit the place since day one, and Joe Iraqi has to hedge USA politics accordingly.

    Side with USA and then soon enough perhaps the kiddos get tortured to death?

    Or just shut up and wait-and-see?

    A very difficult--if not impossible--choice we're asking simple folks to make.

    I think maybe we do need a "date-certain" --but, out 5 or 10 years.

  33. Power Line is less sanguine on Republican chances than Barrons.

  34. rufus--I was at the LSU/Ole Miss "Game of the Century" when Billy Cannon made the 89 yard punt return to win 7-3 in the last seconds of the game--and win the national championship for LSU and the Heisman Trophy for himself. It was a defensive game--dull for a kid, so late in game I hit dad up for a quarter and went down to the concession stand. I was getting my coke when the roar started. Missed the whole run. Story of my life, close, no cigar.

    Ole Miss side of the stadium that night had more Confederate Battle Flags flying than Lee ever had. Big, 10x10 flags, everywhere across the field, blowing in that crispy-cold night air. The crowd roared thru the whole game. It was quite a sight and sound. Damn that concession stand, damn being a dumb-ass kid.