Looking back over this kaleidoscopic assortment of claims and theories, there is no logical pattern, no factual rigor, no acknowledgment of realities that don't fit preconceived scripts. There is only and always the next evasion of responsibility for a disastrous foreign policy, based on a vacant-minded whim, that has cost many thousands of lives and squandered our treasure and prestige.
The latest version of the same old game comes under the rubric of "benchmarks." Rather than accept the judgment of the Iraq Study Group and start to wind down the war toward a negotiated peace and withdrawal, the president and his advisers insisted on a troop escalation, which they called "the surge." The Republicans in Congress, fearful of their increasingly angry constituents, imposed a price for support of the surge.
Within six months, Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker would be required to report on progress, or lack thereof, toward a list of major objectives in stabilizing and securing Iraq.
Now, of course, with those reports coming due and those benchmarks woefully underachieved, the time has come to change the subject again.
The first sign came weeks ago, when the Pentagon escorted certain defense analysts from Washington on a tour that highlighted the surge's successes. Among those analysts were Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, both longtime supporters of the war who now occasionally disguise themselves as critics. Pollack in particular has earned a perpetual place in obscurity for his prewar book touting the imminent nuclear threat from Saddam, which didn't actually exist.
With the help of The New York Times op-ed page, they launched the latest sophistry, which now turns up everywhere, often under the bylines of the same gang that helped to conceive the war and the surge. We are now making great strides in places such as Anbar province, they say, where Sunni insurgent sheiks have abandoned al Qaeda in favor of an alliance with us. If only we continue the surge, and expand it, then someday we will be able to wind down the occupation, and shrink it.
What this argument neglects to address, of course, is the real situation on the ground in Iraq and the reasons why the Sunni sheiks might suddenly seek our assistance. Those warlords need our help because they are under constant assault by the Shia-dominated army and police. Violence continues unabated and the trend toward civil war has not been halted. There is virtually no progress toward the benchmarks of stability and reconciliation, which were supposedly the original aims of the surge.
Tomorrow we will be assured that those benchmarks never really mattered or can't really be measured, or something like that. Don't look there! Look over here! It is the traditional cry of the shell game, except that these bets are much too high.
© Creators Syndicate
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Albion Monitor September
7, 2007 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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