Saturday, January 06, 2007

The devil is in the details..............

I've been watching with great interest the debate about the upcoming message the President is going to give about Iraq and what the latest round of senior leadership changes mean. I've come to the conclusion that no one has really taken the time to look beneath the PR blanket.

First, it seems pretty obvious the President is going to give the appearance of ordering more troops to Iraq. I've heard numbers batted about from 9,000 to 40,000. The question no one is asking is what kind of troops will they be? More infantry? Special Forces? Several more squadrons of B-52's so that they can level Iraqi cities (something I think is needed at this point....)? Without specifics, the numbers don't tell you anything.

My own opinion, is that like so much of everything else Bush says about defense issues, he will be saying one thing and doing something entirely different. Lets say he says he will send 20,000 additional troops. A lot of those will not be "additional", what will really happen is two things: a)troops that have earned the right to go home will be screwed and forced to stay and b) troops who already have been will be forced to go back early to the hell hole that is Iraq. Either way, as is so often the case with Bush, the troops will pay the price in order to give him a "bully pulpit". In that regard, as I have long believed, Bush and Clinton are exactly alike.

So too is it with the military leadership changes. Fox Fallon to CENTCOM? I find that one totally suprising. Especially when you consider that he was staring mandatory retirement in the face this year as he will turn 62. It's interesting they will find a way around that little technicality, while all the while pushing younger officers out the door in the name of "recapitalization". There can only be two reasons for his selection, 1) he is perceived as "not tainted" by the war having been in PACOM for the last few years and so the President can claim he is getting a fresh start and 2) he is perceived as someone who will play ball and do things the President's way. Also as others have pointed out, he has the requisite experience to support any future attack on Iran.

General Petraeus appointment does not surprise me. He has been considered a forward thinker and is something of a hero within the Army as far as I understand it. What does surprise me is using the old tactic of "kicking someone upstairs" to find a home for General Casey. I do not know enough about Army politics to know whether he would have been a front runner for the Chief of Staff job. What his appointment seems to point out, is how the Chief of Staff of the Army as well as the military heads of the other services get marginalized in our crazy system of COCOMS reporting directly to the SECDEF. Its been 60 years, we can stop being afraid of the German General Staff any time now, eh what? Makes me wonder too, if Casey was opposed to the deployment of additional troops why is he being rewarded?

Regarding the civilian appointments he announced I am also somewhat mystified. Why would John Negroponte be anxious to go from a top level position to a lesser one-one where he will be Condi's "whipping boy" ? And why is it that for the second time in a row the President reaches to someone from the military for a civilian leadership position. At least VADM McConnell is retired which is more than can be said for the current director of the CIA. ( I still feel that Gen Hayden should have been forced to retire as a condition of accepting the position......). Is it because the civil sector no longer produces worthy servants? Or is it that GWB likes people he can squeeze, indirectly or directly.

Then there will come the period of waiting for the "other shoe to drop". Will the President keep PACOM as a naval officer? Will he pick someone who is solicitous of China (as Fallon was sometimes perceived to be) or someone who sees them as the threat they are? Who will replace whoever replaces him?

Finally, of course, there is the bigger question of what all this will mean for Iraq. I submit nothing until the Iraqi government is ready to make some fundamental decisions and the US pushes them to stand up for themselves:

-Putting a noose around the neck of Moqtada Al Sadr and sending him to play cards with Saddam.

- Arresting and attacking anyone with a firearm who is not in the military.

- Eliminating the influence of the militia from the police and Interior ministry-who BTW were the guys who let Saddam's execution become the public relations disaster it has become.

- Close the borders with Iran and Syria

Not going to happen IMHO. However the President will be able to say he has made a fresh start, while at the same time distancing himself from the very people he chose to make his failed Iraq war work in the first place. Tell me again that Bush is a loyal guy to those who work for him. For probably the umpteenth time, we see that he is loyal to only one thing-his own ideological bent.

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