Monday, January 08, 2007

L.A. Times Has A Fair Story On Pros and Cons Of Bush Plan For A "Surge" In Iraq

I confess I was quite pleasantly surprised Sunday to find a front page story by Washington bureau chief Doyle McManus and reporter Maura Reynolds in the L.A. Times that actually was an attempt to fairly give the pros and cons of President Bush's apparent plan to "surge" or increase the number of U.S. military in Iraq.

All too often, of late, particularly in the New York Times and Time magazine, there seems to be an assumption that the President owes the voters a retreat in Iraq, a phased withdrawal that could cost the U.S. and other Western powers their whole position in the Middle East. The catastrophic consequences are seldom discussed by such devoted "cut-and-runners" as Frank Rich and Paul Krugman in the New York Times, or Michael Duffy in Time magazine.

But the McManus-Reynolds story quite dispassionately gave the President's reasons for the surge, and did not assume, by any means, that the Democrats in Congress would be able to block it.

A key fact mentioned in the article is that while the American people are certainly impatient with the war in Iraq, now approaching four years in duration, and exceeding the length of American involvement in World War II, there is still by no means a majority in various polls for simply getting out. The L.A. Times article mentioned a CNN poll that showed only 21% taking that position, and another recent poll showed only 29% think Bush will actually get out. There's a majority in favor of a phased withdrawal, but of all the options being explored, this is probably the least workable.

Under these circumstances, the President has some wiggle room, although, certainly, if there is a surge and nothing improves in Iraq, the political reaction inside America will likely be fierce.

The one weakness, it seemed to me, in the McManus-Reynolds story was that there was inadequate consideration that a surge, particularly, one that places more American soldiers in Baghdad, is highly likely to result in more casualties to U.S. forces.

This is one, major problem with a surge, and another is the likely prospect that the haplessly sectarian government of Nouri Maliki in Iraq will not fulfill any obligations it undertakes to bring more Iraqi soldiers into Baghdad to help an increased American contingent. Maliki only provided half the trooops promised to an earlier American surge, and he has shown himself repeatedly to be a sleazy welsher in the matter of controlling the Shiite militias in Baghdad. Like many Arabs, Maliki thinks nothing of keeping his word about anything.

Indeed, there have been reports that, besides the Americans, the increased contingents of troops brought to Baghdad now would be Kurds. This might only exacerbate the situation in the Iraqi capital.

The situation in Iraq today reminds one a little bit of the Nixon Administration's move in 1970 to aright the situation in Vietnam by invading Cambodia. That increased political tensions within the U.S. to a critical point, and, in the end, did not work.

We can certainly expect such Democrats as Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Carl Levin, Joseph Biden and Harry Reid to scream bloody murder over a Bush plan to send more Americans into Iraq, particularly into Baghdad, although I would not expect they would have either the desire or the votes to actually cut off funds. Pelosi held out the possibility yesterday, however, that she might make a distinction between approving funds for the present U.S. military force in Iraq, but not for the increased forces. This is quoted this morning in a lead New York Times story.

The McManus-Reynolds article was fair, but perhaps it did not fully examine the somber prospects facing the Administration, as it tries to continue, and even step up, the war.

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