Saturday, March 10, 2007
On Wednesday 7 Mar., General Patraeus held a public news conference and stated the following (I am paraphrasing), “ The military forces cannot defeat the insurgency alone”. This is a frank and apolitical statement coming from the country’s best general and our last hope for success. Generals don’t make frank statements without consulting with his political boss, SECDEF Bob Gates or he is falling on his sword for the troops. He is still there today, so he had the ok from Gates.
There are only two reasons for Patraeus and Gates’s message to Bush. One Bush asked for it, a “back channel” message (back channel in DoD speak is one that a politician asks to be sent so he can use it to beat someone up) or Bob Gates who is demonstrating that he is a no nonsense straight shooter who is not going to take one for Bush, but rather he is going to stick up for the troops. If a “back channel message”, then who is the target? Look around and see who is not carrying their weight. It’s not the guys in uniform so it has to be the civilian agencies and their contractors. For four years now, reconstruction in Iraq by our civilian agencies, particularly state and treasury has been an abject failure. Nothing works, not the oil production facilities, not the electricity, nor the banking system. We still can’t speak the local language and therefore have no idea what is being said in our name. If the bureaucracies are stonewalling Bush, look for him to tongue lash the culprits soon. If the problem is Bush’s inability to make the system work, which I suspect it is, then we are doomed.
Why do I think Bush is incompetent? One has only to look as far as Katrina. After a year New Orleans is a disaster even with an unlimited amount of money. Why? Certainly, the state and local governments are incompetent. Just look at the success in Mississippi. But FEMA was always a competent agency. What happened? Bush created a super bureaucracy called Homeland Security. How did Tommy Thompson staff this new beast so quickly? He allowed the best and brightest from the lower agencies including FEMA to staff his beast. Now he had a lot of chiefs but no Indians. It takes years to recover from this kind of stupidity. Tommy Thompson is a bright guy, he saw his mistake and put his parachute on. Bye, Bye. Bush is holding a bag of crap. The state department is a different problem. State wanted nothing to do with the Iraq war. Powell could see a loser when he saw one. State is staffed with career Liberals who hate war and, given a chance will do everything they can to make it fail. Powell did the honorable thing, he put on his parachute. Bye, Bye.
I worked in DoD for 32 years. I saw it all. DoD, for all of its problems is competent. So were many of the other agencies. To partially excuse Bush, the destruction of our civilian agencies began under Clinton. He loaded up the bureaucracies with agenda oriented liberals. They ran havoc for 8 years. DoD was spared because no promising liberal would be caught dead in DoD, a career-ending move. Clinton had to staff SECDEF with a Republican, because none of his liberal buddies would take the job.
So what does all this mean for Iraq? We are screwed. No competent aspiring politico wants to be associated with a loser. If General Patraeus can’t pull a rabbit out of the hat and do everyone’s job including his, we fail.
We need the enemy to be stupid. So far he has been brilliant. True, some of the hot heads want to go toe-to-toe with our guys. They die. But the smart ones are willing to hit soft targets, trucks and Humvees. They have us dancing to their tune. First came IEDs and RPGs. Unarmored vehicles were toast. So DoD and the troops put armor on the vehicles. The enemy came up with EFPs, armor piercing explosives. More of our guys die. DoD goes to helicopters to avoid the roadside bombs. The enemy creates helo ambush teams, more of our guys die. Back to armored vehicles. More EFPs, six 82nd airborne guys die in one ambush this week.
Patraeus begins the surge. Sadr flees the country and his guys go to ground, not 1 shot fired. The Sunni insurgents melt away, no toe-to-toe assaults. Do they quit? No. Truck bombs and suicide bombers. Unstoppable. Almost one a day. More Iraqis in pine boxes.
There are only three ways to stop an insurgency. Patraeus is trying the hardest way. Clear a block and leave troops behind to hold it. But there are a lot of blocks. Baghdad is as big as Los Angeles. I wish him well. Success by November, no chance. The other way is to interdict the support going to the insurgents. In a word, kill all the Baathists. Bush won’t do it and won’t let Maliki do it. The third way is a massive conventional assault. Lots of collateral damage. Bush does not have the guts.
So what is left? A political settlement. Only Maliki can accomplish that with Patraeus’s help. If Condi Rice gets involved, look for total failure. So, more of same till we pull out? Nope. It is going to get worse. Our good friend Putin is doing everything he can to make things tuff for us. He is moving his most modern weapons to Syria and Iran. Syria has stated privately that if we attack Iran they will (Hezbollah) conduct bio attacks in the US. That is a very creditable threat. Saddam's WMD went to Syria and the Hezbollah cells are already here, having strolled across the Mexican border. But Iran will be safe anyway. Look for Putin to form a military alliance with Tehran in the next 6 months. Checkmate.
What is our only hope? Cheney resigns and is replaced by Gulliani. Bush resigns. A new team takes over.
Liberty or Death