“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."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The President has a plan. Time has other plans.

Looking at George Bush last night was not reassuring. If reassurance is what you needed, both you and the President had a bad night.

All day yesterday, MSNBC, played and re-played the "mission accomplished" tape of a youthful, confident, triumphant Bush. The scenes of young sailors and marines cheering a winner and a President on top was tough to watch. The moment of a national common purpose and American optimism has come and gone and the carrier scene is a hard reminder. Last night The President's face was far different from the man in the aviator's uniform.

George Bush must be a notoriously bad poker player. He would have to wear a ten gallon hat and mirrored aviator glasses to at least stay in the game. He was wearing neither last night and needed both. George Bush is a worried man.

Bush is losing political allies as fast as new presidential candidates appear. He has lost both houses of Congress and the Democrats are wasting little time in reminding him and the rest of the world how little time he has left. When you play against a man with little time, you play for time. Time is at the top of the list of President Bush's enemies. Bush knows it and so do all his enemies and he has cultivated and engendered many.

Any defensive strategist in Iraq or the Democratic Party is going to run out the clock. Bush has no strategy for that. Had he been a better student of history, he would have known that patience was not an American virtue. His enemies are not handicapped by time.

The new Iraq strategy as I understand it, is all based on time and the action of al-Maliki. Maliki is to be tough and resolute. No more being nice to the militias and the little round black eyed Muqtada al-Sadr. The plan is predicated upon the US losing patience and Maliki is to act before his time runs out. It seems to me that Maliki is keenly aware of the time and is not going to do anything that is going to get him killed when someone else's time runs out. That strategy is not going to work. It will not work, because there is no one standing behind Bush that is talking about picking up the flag and charging forward when time is called on Bush. I was reminded of the President's father looking at his watch during one of the debates with Clinton. Well, GWB may as well have done the same thing last night as everyone knows he is watching the clock.

No, the time strategy will not work. Something far simpler and dramatic would be more effective. There is only one power that is benefiting from the mess in Iraq and that is Iran. Bush removed the natural enemy to Iran with the deposing of Saddam and the fragmentation of Iraq. Saddam went to the gallows refusing to believe that Bush could not have noticed that. Saddam's last words were, "Who is Muqtada?" He went out cursing the Iranians. Saddam knew the real enemy, but time ran out for him as well. I wonder if the President noticed?

I know what I would do, but am far more interested in what you would do? Tell us. Will this strategy work? If not, what would?


  1. In the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates, time belongs to our opponents, not to us. We, not they, need closure. Our time is determined by American election cycles. They operate on "God's time." If they do not win today, or even fight today, there are many tomorrows -- for them, but not for us. If Iraq is still a mess and there is no end in sight a year from now, George Bush is in trouble.

    The fly has occupied the flypaper. And time is always on the flypaper's side.

    -William Lind,
    Of Time And The Rivers,
    May 29, 2003.

  2. WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush was upset after watching the video of Saddam Hussein's execution, comparing it to how he felt after seeing the photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, White House officials said Wednesday.

    Dark, grainy video -- apparently recorded on a cell phone -- of Hussein's December 30 hanging was leaked to the media soon after the execution.

    In the video, taunts from Shiites can be heard moments before Hussein, a Sunni, is hanged.

    After Hussein offers prayers, the guards shout praise for Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose father is believed to have been murdered by Hussein's regime.

    They chant, "Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!"

  3. U.S. forces raid Iranian consulate in Iraq
    Thursday, January 11, 2007; 6:50 AM

    "ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. forces raided the Iranian consulate office in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on Thursday and arrested five employees, the official Iranian news agency IRNA said.

    There was no immediate comment by the U.S. military on the raid which came hours after President George W. Bush vowed in a speech to interrupt what he called the "flow of support" from Iran and Syria for insurgent attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

    The raid was the second such operation in the past month against Iranian interests in Iraq by U.S. forces."

  4. So, so funny.
    The seeds sowed three years ago have all produced crops. As predicted.

    Now even the President and Mr Bartlett say the US has imposed Rules of Engagement in Iraq that are not in the best interest of the US troopers.

    Now, a "good Plan" is still beyond reach, because the Enemy, while now mentioned is still not targeted. We will try to "localize" Iraq from the Region.
    Sanctuaries will still be in place in Iran and Syria. As well as Jordan and KSA.

    Cpl Jason Dunham's family, his mother, just recieved the Medal of Honor. Young man dove on a grenade, to save his fire team.
    He died so Mr Maliki can reconcile Iraqis.
    What a waste of a fine US Marine.

    Meanwhile, little black kids are kicked off a school bus and no longer are allowed to ride on a language academy bus, because they speak english.
    What a waste of an empty bus seat.

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  6. Trish, I think you are right about the 'just leave' part. Changing the ROE's, getting more Hadithas in the process, and waging 'total war' sounds nice and easy but to what end? Who the heck are we fighting against? What nation need we conquer in Iraq in order for peace to reign?

    As I quoted over at Belmont Brooks madea good point in his editorial today at the NYT:

    " Nonetheless, here’s my reconstruction of how this policy evolved:

    On Nov. 30, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki presented Bush with a new security plan for Baghdad. It called for U.S. troops to move out of Baghdad to the periphery, where they would chase down Sunni terrorists. Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish troops, meanwhile, would flood into the city to establish order, at least as they define it.

    Maliki essentially wanted the American troops protecting his flank but out of his hair. He didn’t want U.S. soldiers embedded with his own. He didn’t want American generals hovering over his shoulder. His government didn’t want any restraints on Shiite might.

    Over the next weeks, Bush rejected the plan and opted for the opposite approach. Instead of handing counterinsurgency over to the Iraqis/Shiites, he decided to throw roughly 20,000 U.S. troops — everything he had available — into Baghdad. He and his advisers negotiated new rules of engagement to make it easier to go after Shiites as well as Sunnis. He selected two aggressive counterinsurgency commanders, David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, to lead the effort. Odierno recently told John Burns of The Times that American forces would remain in cleared areas of Baghdad “24/7,” suggesting a heavy U.S. presence.

    Then came the job of selling the plan. The administration could not go before the world and say that the president had decided to overrule the sovereign nation of Iraq. Officials could not tell wavering Republicans that the president was proposing a heavy, U.S.-led approach.

    Thus, administration officials are saying that they have adopted the Maliki plan, just with a few minor tweaks. In briefings and in the president’s speech, officials claimed that this was an Iraqi-designed plan, that Iraqi troops would take on all the primary roles in clearing and holding neighborhoods, that Iraqis in mixed neighborhoods would scarcely see any additional Americans.

    All of this is designed to soothe the wounded pride of the Maliki government, and to make the U.S. offensive seem less arduous at home. It’s the opposite of the truth.

    Yesterday, administration officials were praising Maliki lavishly. He wants the same things we want, they claimed. He has resolved to lead a nonsectarian government. He is reworking his governing coalitions and marginalizing the extremists. “We’ve seen the nascent rise of a moderate political bloc,” one senior administration official said yesterday.

    But the selling of the plan illustrates that this is not the whole story. The Iraqi government wants a unified non-sectarian solution in high-minded statements and in some distant, ideal world. But in the short term, and in the deepest reptilian folds of their brains, the Shiites are maneuvering amid the sectarian bloodbath all around.

    This is not a function of the character of Maliki or this or that official. It’s a function of the core dynamic now afflicting Iraqi society.

    The enemy in Iraq is not some discrete group of killers. It’s the maelstrom of violence and hatred that infects every institution, including the government and the military. Instead of facing up to this core reality, the Bush administration has papered it over with salesmanship and spin. "

  7. Other than defending the world's sixth largest petroleum reserves, for example, we wouldn't be doing much. Oh, we would also be within speedy striking distance of most of the regions players.

  8. What is to be done with a leader who leads his country to defeat. Just asking, since defeat seems now the conventional wisdom.

  9. i haven't visit here in a while. A man can stand only so much!

    Still I feel compelled to add one additional factor to the Iran mix and that's the "accident" in the straits of Hormuz.

    A US fast Attack submarine "collides" with a full Japanese Tanker: The Newport News and the somebody or other maru.

    This on the heels of a devasting article about Iran's prior efforts in the straits. November issue of commentary, but Arthur Herman. He reminds us, and the Iranians that we'd patrolled the straits and thwarted Iranian efforts during the Iran/Iraq war. The article is an interesting read. Sort of Tom Clancy fast forward to NOW.

    If I were an Iranian military leader I'd be worried about a few things:

    (1) Can I get myself and my concubines out of the country before I have an "auto accident" or go down in a "Plane Crash"?

    (2) Do these guys REALLY think that the 12th Iman is gonna save their asses?

    (3) If not me and my concubines, how about just me?

  10. If, rufus, Mr Bush had started to withdraw, after the Mission Accomplished speach on the Carrier, well then, we'd have won.
    But Mr Bush did not do that. He did not declare Victory, instead he changed the Mission.
    He changed the Mission and that "new" war has not gone well.

    Catch & Release
    No Justice, No Peace

  11. Five helicopters carried US forces to pre-dawn raid of Iranian consulate in N. Iraqi town of Irbil. They were dropped on the roof while armored vehicles encircled the building. The troops used loudspeakers to call out in Farsi and Arabic to the consulate staff not to resist “or else they would be killed.” Five Iranian diplomatic staff members were detained and documents and computers impounded.

    Tehran has strongly protested this breach of its sovereign territory and summoned the Swiss ambassador who represents US interests in Iran and the Iraqi ambassador to demand the immediate release of the Iranian diplomats.

    Later Thursday, Jan. 11, Tehran reported three large explosions shaking the southern town of Khorramshahr north of the oil port of Abadan on the Shatt al-Arb waterway.

    Khorramshahr, which faces the Iraqi town of Basra, is one of the key towns from which Iran delivers smuggled fighters, weapons and explosives to its Shiite supporters in Iraq. Sources also report that some hours before President George W. Bush’s policy speech, a series of explosions were heard in Iranian Balochistan. Tehran imposed a blackout on the incident.

    "Confronting Iran and Syria for “allowing networks to use their territory to attack US forces?”

  12. "US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki is living "on borrowed time", but that she is confident he can give Iraq security.
    Ms Rice was testifying to a Senate hearing about President Bush's new Iraq strategy, announced on Wednesday."

    There is a confidence builder if I ever heard one.

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  14. That Iranian counsulate is in Irbil, a Kurdish town near the Turkey - Iran border. This puts it outside the meddlesome reach of Mr. Maliki and the Shi'a.

    Boy, I hope our good friends the Turks haven't misbehaved.

  15. re: mountains

    High enough make infantry assault suicidal. Without air support, any incursion by Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Turkey would be by infantry. That is why Saddam didn't try after the no-fly zone was established.

    All that is lacking is a seaport. Iran or Syria could remedy that - preferably Syria north of Aleppo on the Mediterranean.

    While little remarked, Kurdistan controls the essential watersheds of the entire region.

  16. Oil, water, defensible borders, a friendly Western leaning population, air fields, mountain passes, pipelines - what more could a guy want. And did I mention within slapping distance of the regions other players.

    Location. Location. Location.

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  18. I think president Bush could be on to something with his latest plan. The elected government is predominantly Shiite so they will control the country if violence stopped today or if we left today and they 'sorted things out' by themselves. All the players want us to leave. If Maliki could convince the Shiite militias to lay down arms or even join the IA for a couple months there would be only one enemy combatant force left to deal with. If the Baathist/foreign militant group can't be convinced to give up the fight, the combined US/Iraqi armies would eliminate them, peace could be declared and victory celebrated.

  19. dave h,

    Madame Rice has an impeccable record for picking friends; just look at Fatah and Abu Abbas. If she says Turkey is our friend, then, Turkey must be our friend.

  20. rufus,

    Don't misunderstand, any pressure brought to bear on Iran by the Chinese is welcome; however, the growing power of Saudi Arabia is equally troubling to me.

  21. Allen said, "High enough make infantry assault suicidal. Without air support, any incursion by Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Turkey would be by infantry"

    And we all know since the days of the Beirut barracks bombing, reinforced by the USS Cole and 911, that Muslims are loth to engage in suicidal attacks.

  22. The United States recently provided Mr. Abbas and his Fatah 3,000 M-16s and one million rounds of ammunition, to be used against Hamas. Furthermore, the President has asked Congress to approve an emergency aid package of $86 million to Fatah, again to assist it against Hamas. And what does Mr. Abbas do:

    Abbas Calls to Attack Israel, AP Ignores It

    Yes, Dr. Rice can pick America’s friends.

  23. Heck with those "little" operations, the Iran/Iraq War proved the Iranians ability to send cannon fodder to slaughter.

  24. A suicidal attack into Kurdistan, by any of the countries listed, would be welcome. Of course, attacking armed men is not the Muslim style, so I will not hold my breath awaiting the attack.

  25. Yes, the sort of mindless slaughter of the Iran-Iraq war is what I would see happening in Kurdistan. Something tells me the Kurds would not object.

  26. trish,

    Should we ever decide to have a shooting war with Iran, the Kurds provide security for our left flank, assuming the US moves assets from Iraq. By closing the passes in the north and endangering Iran's petroleum distribution system in that region, Iran will be forced to take countermeasures from the south. The Kurds are a force multiplier. As with the anti-Russian Afghan fighters, not much "babysitting" will be necessary - just a steady flow of intelligence and munitions.

    Do I detect antipathy on your part?

  27. Bobalharb, I liked Krauthammer's idea, program some howitzers to automatically fire five rounds every time a radar detects a rocket from Gaza. Takes the morality out of the equation, and makes it more like the Palestinians banging their head on a brick wall, only more painful.

  28. Was it ever about revenge?

    Two problems solved in one: avenge the embassy bombings and the deaths of the American soldiers in the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident. Secondly, bring government, peace and stability to Somalia, lawless since 1991. "Somalia's first piece of potentially good news in two devastating decades," wrote one columnist. The realities of Somalia were ignored.

  29. The President needs to convene a council of Hip-Hop artists to raise awareness in our urban centers. They are at the vanguard of our culture, and the Bush Admin has rebuffed 50 Cent's show of support, and left Kanye West's rhetoric eerily unanswered. Do we expect to win WITHOUT OUR CULTURE?

    So we must look to those in the hip hop community who have known sacrifice. They toiled through rain, floods, mud, fires, cannibalism, perspiration, depleted fisheries, erosion, indigestion, food poisoning, sores, hatred, prideless parades and an utterly destroyed culture - the reason many refer to it as the LOUISIANIC ATLANTIS.

    The great men and women that survived are eager to give to their country, if only their country would let them.

  30. Here's your trigger for a change in ROE:

    Iraq jihadis claim 'chemical rockets'

    Al-Ayoubi Brigades release video showing preparation, firing of rockets claimed to contain chemical agent...

    Iraq jihadis claim 'chemical rockets'

    Al-Ayoubi Brigades release video showing preparation, firing of rockets claimed to contain chemical agent

    The message also claimed the rockets struck their targets accurately. In a separate message, released earlier in January, the leader of the "Islamic state of Iraq," declared by al-Qaeda in Iraq , was reported to say that the US "is only beginning to realize its role as a means for Iran to gain control in Iraq with minimal losses."

    In the past few months, al-Qaeda in Iraq has begun releasing increasingly hostile rhetoric against Iran and Shiite Muslims in Iraq.

  31. Winter Wonderland

    In Afghanistan, some Taliban fighters continue to operate through the Winter. But U.S. troops knew how to play the weather to their advantage. U.S. troops have a new set of Winter clothing, based on the latest stuff available to civilian skiers and Winter sports enthusiasts. This gives U.S. troops a big edge when a cold front moves in, and the Taliban are forced to come down to a village, or risk frostbite, or death up in the hills. The Taliban are also easier to track when it snows, and easier to spot from the air using UAVs, or, especially, aircraft equipped with infrared (heat sensing) cameras. Normally, Afghans stay inside, or close to home, throughout the Winters. In the south, it's drier and warmer, but during the Winter months, the occasional bitter cold air comes down from the north, and forces Afghans outside to get inside or die.

  32. On the Afghan theme...

    US Intelligence: Pakistan haven for terrorists

    US National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said Thursday that Pakistan, while a key ally in the US hunt for terrorists, represents a major source of Islamic extremism and a refuge for top terror leaders.

    Negroponte said in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that ''eliminating the safe haven that the Taliban and other extremists have found in Pakistan's tribal areas is not sufficient to end the insurgency in Afghanistan, but it is necessary.'' (AP)

    Finally, we wonder whether President Musharraf of Pakistan is following the news from Somalia. He might have hoped that the al-Qaeda men currently in Pakistan's mountains might have decamped to Somalia. That will not happen now. With Paksitan's relations with Afghanistan and possibly the U.S. heading downhill, pressure will increase to do something about the Taliban/al-Qaeda sanctuary on Pakistan's territory. It may not be long before the AC-130s range as freely over Waziristan as they do now over southern Somalia.

  33. Iraqi MP Iyad Jamal Al-Din: Democracy in the Middle East Can Only Be Established by Force

    The following are excerpts from an interview with Iraqi MP Iyad Jamal Al-Din, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on December 28, 2006.

    Interviewer: "On what do you base your trust of the U.S. and its plans for the region?"

    Iyad Jamal Al-Din: "Democracy is the religion of the dollar and serves its global interests. This dollar has a spirited life - it is dear, honorable, and loveable. It gets vexed real quickly, get it? Dollar has a religion. The religion of the dollar is democracy. This applies to the entire world, because the dollar cannot thrive in dictatorial countries, but only in democracies. For the sake of their global economy, [the Americans] establish democracy.

    "We, the oppressed and slaughtered peoples, have seen nothing but stupid dictators or wise dictators. It's one of the two. Wise dictators pave roads and build houses, but they are still dictators. On the other hand, there are stupid dictators, like our friend who has gone. We are very far from democracy. It is inconceivable that we endured this humiliation and tyranny for 1,400 years, yet we are unable to create a democracy. Even after 1,400 years, our culture is still..."

    Interviewer: "Democracy has resulted in what is now happening in Iraq."

    Iyad Jamal Al-Din: "The result of democracy... We don't know... We are very far from liberty. Do we even know what to do with the values of liberty? The moment Saddam's club was lifted from over our heads, each and every one of us wanted to assume Saddam's personality. We had one Saddam, and now we have six, seven, 10, or 15 Saddams. We now have local mini-Saddams. I said this before the war. I said that America would do us a favor by ridding us of Saddam the dictator, but that this favor would be incomplete unless it rids us of the opposition parties. But this did not happen during the war. These people are photocopies of Saddam. Saddam was in power for 35 years, and so was the leader of this or that opposition party - not only in Iraq, but in all Arab and Islamic countries.

    "The opposition is the mirror image of the regime. If we want to simplify matters, how come Hosni Mubarak has ruled for 23 years? I want to rule in his place, not because I want to change the nature of the regime, to make it a democracy, which respects human beings and private property... We are still far from all this. Therefore, in my opinion, democracy can be established in our region only through force. Democracy must be established by force, and only America can do it."

  34. Never been a big Bush fan. The Hainlin Island thing kinda said it all for me. But why all the Bush blame? Isn't blame a childish notion?

    The problem has never been Bush but a fickle, impatient, ignorant Amercan electorate. A people gets the press and leaders that it deserves.

    History is unkind to the weak and America has grown weak, spoiled and unwilling to do the hard work that is necessary to survive.

    The new plan won't work because the American people are unwilling to let soldiers do their grim work nor give them the time to do the work. So, we lose Iraq, the middle east and, in time, Western Civilization. Our grandchildren will kowtow before an Eastern tyrant.

    Superpower my ass.

  35. rufus,

    You do have to admire the man's honesty, whether you agree with his prescription or not.

  36. Allen seems to be a Bar patron who maintains a steady balance in response to the events, positive and negative, inevitably encountered in war. Accordingly, his analysis, perspective and thinking remain less distorted by emotion and more grounded in facts. Said another way, there's clarity to his observations that make them stand out, for me at least. Tonight that clarity illuminates a Bar otherwise dark and gloomy amid shadows of growing despair and cynicism.

  37. Doug got hit by a bug, and doesn't know Shiite, but maybe you haven't seen this yet?
    Maliki's officials were at pains to say that the prime minister would decide the issue of most concern to the Iraqi leader: whether, and when, Iraqi and American forces would be allowed to move in force into Sadr City.

    That Shiite working-class district in northeast Baghdad is the stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the most powerful of the Shiite militias, and the main power base of Moktada al-Sadr, the Mahdi Army leader, whose parliamentary bloc sustains Mr. Maliki in office.
    Samo Samo in Baghdad

  38. "I use that 'I'm just a farmer' routine all the time, Rufus.
    Funny thing is, it almost always works.
    Something to do with the authenticity of the act.

  39. Wu Woo said,
    Lastly, who here who supports the surge is willing to see Afghanistan abandoned? No? Wll then, just where did you think the troops would come from for the surge?

    As a last-ditch effort, President Bush is expected to announce this week the dispatch of thousands of additional troops to Iraq as a stopgap measure, an order that Pentagon officials say would strain the Army and Marine Corps as they struggle to man both wars.

    Already, a U.S. Army infantry battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks in order to deploy to Iraq.

  40. "An actual UK government poster outside a London metro station. Shades of 1984."

    annuit coeptis

  41. Friends forever

    Till 1990 Kurds often said: "Our friends are only our mountains". This statement is familiar to both of your generals and the high-ranking officials as well. And they assured during the numerous meetings with the people of Southern Kurdistan: "Your friends are not only mountains, but we are your friends too".

    Also has now come to prove time it in practice.