Saturday, December 16, 2006

Arithmetic base 10,000

The New York Times reports that the White House is seeking options for a surge of troops in Iraq.

Military planners and White House budget analysts have been asked to provide President Bush with options for increasing American forces in Iraq by 20,000 or more. The request indicates that the option of a major “surge” in troop strength is gaining ground as part of a White House strategy review, senior administration officials said Friday.

Discussion of increasing the number of American troops, at least temporarily, has coursed through Washington for two months, as a possible way to reverse the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad. But the decision to ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff to specify where the additional forces could be found among overstretched Army, Marine and National Guard units, and to seek a cost estimate from the White House Office of Management and Budget, signifies a turn in the debate.

Officials said that the options being considered included the deployment of upwards of 50,000 additional troops, but that the political, training and recruiting obstacles to an increase larger than 20,000 to 30,000 troops would be prohibitive.

The mission of these additional troops is hazy, like the mission of the troops already there. If you do not like the proposed mission today, do not worry. It will change tomorrow.

The budgeting for these new forces remains suspect in light of Congressional demand that the White House put the cost of the Iraq Occupation in the annual budget rather than funding it by random supplements to the budget as the need arises.

Then there are the polls with which politicians must contend. The Iraq Occupation grows more unpopular.

Supporters of the troop increase claim it would be temporary. The period to deploy a larger force and redeploy it, whatever the mission, will take us into the 2008 political election. The occupation will hit the five-year mark when that happens. The majority of voters will not vote for a candidate that got the US further into the mire. Politicians who underestimate the will of the voters suffer from hubris by not considering the last election.

The ISG and other studies have turned into an exercise of looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There are no good options. The majority of Americans no longer believe the occupation has a mission. That belief was always the magical pot of gold. Now that the White House has spent the gold, they will not find another pot like it.

The Iraqis have the nasty habit of doing what they want to do rather than what the White House wants them to do. The Iraqis hold their fate in their own hands. Of course, that has always been one of the talking points for the occupation. The armchair generals should not be squeamish now that the wish has become the reality. Mission accomplished; time to go home.


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