Last December I wrote a post called, Don't buy into George Bush's Iraq trap.
In it, I discussed what were then new plans for a so-called 'troop surge.' While I was wrong in predicting that the proposed troop surge would never even occur, it seems that I was right in my basic premise-- that it was all about framing the argument in a way that would allow the administration to 'stay the course.'
I wrote back then,
is shifting the frame of the debate. Instead of it being between 'stay the course' (his position) and 'withdraw' (the progressive position) which he would certainly lose, what he plans to do is try and get people debating the 'surge' (i.e. ratcheting up the war.) Those opposed are then debating against increasing troops, and as such are by default arguing only to not increase them (i.e. maintaining current levels-- 'staying the course.') He knows he doesn't have the votes in the new Congress to win, but what he is trying to do is play the Democrats for chumps, and get people to forget that we were talking about how to get out. Then he can lose the vote in Congress but still end up 'staying the course' (what he wants anyway). Only then that will become the the Democratic position (because it was in opposition to his 'new' position), and then if Iraq continues to deteriorate (as it will) and we continue to lose American troops (which we will) then it becomes the fault of Democrats.
In other words, he is trying to unload his lemon onto us.
If we fall for that, then we really are stupid. But unfortunately, based on what I've heard, there are some on the left who seem ready to take up this no-win debate.
Fast forward to today. The 'surge' is well underway, and this week the President announced that there will be a reduction of 30,000 troops by the middle of next year-- in other words back to the level they were at just before the 'surge'! Yup, you got it-- he is well on his way to maneuvering us into staying the course!!
Militarily, it could be argued that the surge has achieved some objectives, but then the same could be said of the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq as well. Politically the reconciliation which the surge was supposed to ensure still has not happened. If sectarian killings are down it is largely because so many predominantly Sunni or predominantly Shi'ite areas have been 'purified' (as Iraqis call it) and segregation created by driving out those minorities who did live there. On top of that, August showed an uptick in the number of civilian deaths. While this figure may to a degree reflect a series of bombings that killed 500 in one day in northern Iraq, it is clear that the surge has not stopped violence in Iraq, but at best has given it a brief respite. And even the most heralded 'success' in Iraq, the Sunni leaders in Anbar banding together to drive out al-Qaeda, was already happening before the 'surge' began and really has little to do with it.
But let's be clear what this was. It was a maneuver to buy a year for the President's failed policy so he could run out the clock on his mess, and it is no more or less than that.