The Vanity of King George
We all remember seeing our self-proclaimed "War President" being helicoptered to a carrier where he declared, "Mission Accomplished." Think about that use of language for a moment. I confess that I didn't at the time. It was a fatal intellectual error by all of us who didn't think about what that phrase means and what it implies. The problem is that it implies that there was, in his mind, one and only one mission, and that was to defeat the army of Saddam Hussein and depose him. Though his language suggests that that was his only mission, fairness demands that I acknowledge that he had one other mission, namely creating a democratic Iraq.
There was no mission to protect government buildings, museums, and the infrastructure of Iraq. Had there been such a mission we would have seen the US military and its allies fan out to these public buildings to make sure they weren't looted and to the electrical and water works in Baghdad to make sure they weren't sabotaged.
There was no mission to rebuild what infrastructure we and Saddam's army destroyed and improve it in the process. Had there been such a mission, we would have seen an army of civilian engineers fan out in Iraq to perform these tasks.
There was no mission to protect Iraq from an inevitable underground movement by very angry Sunnis trying to regain control of Iraq. They really didn't have much choice since they could be absolutely sure that after 30 plus years of suppression, the Shiites and/or the Kurds would engage in reprisals. I believe it never occurred to W that this sort of thing would happen. Certainly, he didn't prepare for such a possibility. It would have been a good idea to have developed a plan for hitting the insurgents early and often, but, of course, even that might not have worked.
I must confess that though I did foresee that the Sunnis would not go away quietly, it didn't occur to me that sympathetic Sunnis from outside Iraq would join in their insurgency or engage in similar activities. To what extent these are members of al Queda or al Queda Wannabes I don't know and it doesn't really matter. The US seems not to have made any progress in dealing with this problem.
This brings us to the other mission that I think W had in Iraq and that was to help the Iraqis to form a democratic country. And, somewhat to my surprise, a constitution was written and a relatively peaceful election was held. The Shiites gained control. It was in connection with this that Bush made his most fatal error. We seemed early on to have in mind killing Al-Sadr because it was the biggest loose cannon in Iraq. So, W and the US military backed off. Thanks in part to our inability to kill off the Sunni insurgents, Al-Sadr's following became an army and it and other Shiite groups have set about engaging in those reprisals that any intelligent person with any kind of understanding of human nature should have predicted. Naturally, these reprisals have resulted in counter-reprisals. Only the Kurds seem not to be involved.
As a result of W's utter failure to predict the inevitability of both a Sunni insurgency and Shiite reprisals, the US military faces what seems to be a certain defeat, that is, an inability to stop both the insurgency and the Shiite reprisals, as well as counter-reprisals by Sunnis.
Tonight, despite the Democratic victory in the last election, which clearly indicated that Americans have lost confidence in W's Iraq policy, and the report of the independent commission on Iraq, which indicated "official Washington's disapproval, we can expect little in the way of a change in Bush's policy. We are dealing with a very vain man, a man too cowardly to go to war in Iraq but who fashions himself to be a War President. He must have his victory. It is reported he will propose a "surge" in the number of troops we have in Iraq despite the wide-spread opposition to it.
For W to have his victory, he must have a mission that he can achieve. I don't know what the new mission will be. But if it involves either an effort to kill off the Sunni insurgents or kill off Al-Sadr and his army, or both, the US will be unlikely to succeed. This is the lesson of Vietnam, a lesson Bush didn't learn since he didn't fight there and probably hasn't read a word about how that war went down: adding more troops is not the answer when fighting against a subpopulation of a country. When the good guys look just like the bad guys, it is hard to kill bad guys without killing good guys and any killing of good guys will likely lead to an increase in the number of bad guys. The problem is that the bad guys, if pressed, can simply vanish into the general population of good guys. If they are smart they will hide and wait until W decides he can declare "Mission Accomplished" again and withdraw our troops before having another go at the Shiite government.