Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Escalate in Iraq??

Roger Payne of the University of Louisville posted on his blog and at The Duck of Minerva a suggestion the left could defeat the Presidents Iraq policy by pointing that there out there are complaints, especially from the military, that Bush did not escalate the war enough. The assumption being that a major portion of the Presidents support for the war would “jump ship” in protest of a failed policy.

I posted these comments (below) in the comment sections of those blogs.


If I may, I think there are several points that you missed.

Your suggestion, as I gather it is that instead of the two option, “stay the course” or "pull out NOW” there is a third option of escalation, and that criticism of the Presidents failure to escalate sufficiently, will produce a backlash that would turn into net votes for the Left in 2008.

First the “Jacksonians” no matter how dissatisfied they may be with a non-candidate President Bush, they will be aware that a vote for the left would be trading bad for worse. If they perceive that this suggestion comes from the left they discount it. For this to work they need an alternative place to go, and the left won’t be it.

Bringing up Secretary Rumsfled’s ignoring the advice of General Shinseki advice won’t carry much weight. He had already lost much respect prior to Jan 2001 as an effective Chief of Staff. Of course he was right, but I got the same conclusion eyeballing the news papers pre-war, most any competent military analyst would. But a gamble was taken, it succedded in the immiedate operations. A complaint that the course of action should have been more prudent is not going to change votes.

It is pretty much the same for subsequent force levels. They can be critizied for being imprudently low, but except for the two battles at Fullajah it would be hard to make a case that does not sound like Monday moring quarter backing.

If the question of failing to escalate is rendered irrelevant by events, it will be a major PR victory for the President. It appears (despite news stories on worst case contingency planning) the plan is to have major force reductions by the 2006 elections. It seem probable that there will be at least noticeable reductions by the 2006 election and more by 2008. This will make calling for escalation seem foolish.

Your point is about the political tactics that should be adopted by the left IN THE US. Not about what is appropriate to the military situation.

In Viet Nam there was a real third choice, there were enemy locations, other wise off limits, which could have been attacked with militarily beneficial results. (The actual value I am sure will be a debated topic for decades.)

In Iraq at the current time an increase in troop levels would be more prudent but it would be hard to say it was big enough change in operations to be an escalation. The Iraq war is a slug it phase and there are no “off limit” targets that have the potential to change the military situation. The third choice you mention is only a rhetorical device in the current situation; there is enough alternative media to point this out. I doubt it would convince the “Jacksonians” you want to jump ship.

The country needs an effective alternative party for a two party system to work. Forget Bush, forget Iraq, and develop an effective counter vision and program for 2008. If things blow up in Iraq the left will be in a position to take advantage of it. If things go well in Iraq, opposing a policy that turned out successful will not be the last impression of the left in the popular memory.

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