WASHINGTON — President Bush's overhaul of his war strategy is accelerating, as more senior officials are leaving the Pentagon and the administration is signaling its readiness to open direct negotiations with Iran regarding Iraq and to plan a regional "peace conference."About time, says I. Except for one bit:
At the Pentagon, many senior hawks are following Defense Secretary Rumsfeld into the private sector.
the administration is signaling its readiness to open direct negotiations with Iran regarding IraqThis is the problem - the Bush administration wants to negotiate with Iran about Iraq, and nothing else. Well, you might have noticed, Iraq is not the only international issue that Iran has a role in at the moment. There's also this pesky little matter of Iran wanting nuclear weapons.
The Iranians, quite sensibly, want to negotiate about the whole package - Iraq, nukes, Hezbollah, etc. - but the United States cannot abide the idea of negotiating with small powers unless it's absolutely necessary, and even then insists on massive violence to show it's not a pussy. (See Vietnam War, 1972-1975)
The US cannot continue pretending a "no compromises" policy with Iran is going to work - even Bush's White House seems to acknowledge now that some kind of exit strategy is needed, albeit only after "one last push". The "one last push" that is planned seems to involve sending 20,000 extra soldiers in to Iraq, which will bring US totals to about 170,000.
This will still be less than were in-country during the early months of the occupation, when everything began to fall apart. Anyone want to bet that it will work this time, under much, much worse circumstances?
The strategy seems to be to give Washington a "decent interval" between now and the eventual withdrawal, to show that America's resolve is intact, or whatever. This isn't serious warmaking, it isn't even serious policymaking. It's Kissinger and Nixon II, and it's the politics of testosterone: If we leave now, the enemy will think they can beat us! We can't let America be emasculated like that, so we've got to make sure we kill a bunch of those brown people before we leave, just so they know who's boss.
Of course, the enemy has beaten us, and no "decent interval" is going to change that fact. Whenever the US leaves Iraq, it will be perceived as a victory for the forces there who want the American gone. When the US left the Phillipines, albeit temporarily, it was seen as a victory for nationalist forces there - and that was under much more cordial terms.
Will it ever be possible for Washington to form a mature foreign policy again?