Last Thursday, word spread across Washington
that U.S. trade rep Robert Zoellick would become Condi Rice's No. 2 at State.
This was followed by word that State's super-hawk, John Bolton, whom neoconservatives
had touted for No. 2, would be leaving "for the private sector."
In a Friday Washington Post piece, "Wolf
at the Door," Al Kamen reported the "buzz" that Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz
had gone to see the president to tell him Wolfowitz would be leaving Defense.
Wolfowitz hastily denied the report.
Friday's Washington Times carried
a report that neocon Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld's intelligence chief, "is
thinking about private-sector employment."
The neoconservative hour may be coming to an end in the Bush era. Reason:
The cakewalk war they plotted long before 9/11, on which their dreams of Middle
East empire and reputations hang, has gone awry.
A year ago, Gen. John Abizaid said he faced 5,000 insurgents. He has now
raised that to 20,000, though U.S. forces have killed and captured thousands
of enemy in the last year. Iraqi intelligence chief Gen. Abdullah al-Shahwani
now claims enemy fighters may number 30,000.
Call them Ba'athists, Saddamites, jihadis, insurgents – they have shown
a disposition to fight, despite their inferiority in armor and weapons, that
our Iraqi allies have not. And they appear to have an ample supply of men willing
to give their lives in suicide bombings.
While the Iraqi army and police have fought often and suffered much, they
have yet to show the same aggressiveness as the insurgents. Rarely does one
read of our Iraqi allies initiating an attack. In Mosul, 80 percent of the Iraqi
police deserted or defected under fire. America may not be losing this war,
but we are not winning it, with three times as many enemy attacks every day
now as a year ago.
Elections are now three weeks away. But Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, U.S. ground
commander, says four provinces – including Baghdad – are still unsafe for
voting. And Rumsfeld is sending retired Gen. Gary Luck to Iraq to conduct an
"open-ended review" of U.S. war policy.
Dissent in the U.S. establishment is growing louder. Gen. Brent Scowcroft,
the national security adviser to George H.W. Bush, fears the elections, by giving
the Shia majority dominance of Iraqi politics, could lead to "incipient civil
war." Scowcroft thinks America's best bet may be to turn Iraq over to the United
Nations or NATO, whose presence might be less detested and inflammatory than
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, seems even
more pessimistic: "I do not think we can stay in Iraq in the fashion we are
now in. ... If it cannot be changed drastically, it should be terminated." Brzezinski
estimates it would take 500,000 troops, $500 billion, and resumption of the
draft to pacify Iraq.
Indeed, if there are 30,000 enemy fighters in Iraq, the United States,
with 150,000 troops in country, lacks the forces to defeat them. By the old
measure of guerrilla war, a defender needs a 10-to-one advantage.
If the insurgents can put 10,000 more fighters into the field, we would
then need 400,000 troops to defeat them. It is difficult to believe President
Bush intends any such commitment.
Thus, all now depends on the Iraqis – for it is, after all, their country
and future. But, while the Shia and Kurds may be willing to fight for a government
that empowers the Shia and gives Kurds the autonomy they have long sought, why
should Sunnis fight for a regime that dispossesses them of the position and
power they have held since Ottoman days?
And so reality intrudes. Where once Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and Bush marched
in lockstep with the neocons, U.S. national interests and Bush political interests
seem now to diverge from the neocon agenda of more troops in Iraq and expanding
the war to Syria or Iran. Rumsfeld appears to have recognized this truth and
begun to act on it. Hence, The Weekly Standard calls for his firing.
President Bush now approaches the crossroads LBJ reached in December 1967.
Then, Gen. William Westmoreland came home to tell LBJ he needed 200,000 more
troops, in addition to the 500,000 already committed. A war-weary LBJ said no.
Came then the Tet Offensive, and the presidency of Lyndon Johnson was broken.
Bush is nearing his Tet moment. After the Jan. 30 elections, he will have
three options. Persevere in a no-win war with 150,000 U.S. troops bleeding indefinitely,
until America turns on him, his policy, and his party. Send in tens of thousands
of fresh U.S. troops to crush the insurgency, as we undertake a years-long program
of training Iraqis to defend their own democracy. Third, find an honorable exit,
and leave Iraq to the Iraqis.
The success or failure of the Bush presidency will likely hang on his decision.
For which he can thank the neoconservatives.
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