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I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Skeptics around the world question betting on Iraq PM Malaki

The Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Malaki has his work cut out for him. Not too long ago he met with our current president (OCP) in Aman, Jordan. He asked OCP to let him lead the fight for Baghdad. Mr. Bush, evidently agreed, and set the wheels in motion for what eventually became "a new way forward."
Today's post chronicles the various reactions from leaders in the United States and Europe to the plan flowing out of the two leaders' partnership. To begin: Betting on Malaki, Slate Magazine's headline read, "Bush bets big on Iraq's prime minister." Written by John Dickerson and posted Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, it begins,
Two months ago, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley wondered whether Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was clueless, incompetent, or devious. Now, Bush is betting the farm on him. His troop surge is based on a plan that he says Maliki authored. He is banking on the leader's promise to end the vicious cycle of sectarian violence. Bush also promises that Maliki will form a plan to share oil revenues, create new jobs, reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.
The president isn't just asking the American people to buy into a new military strategy for Baghdad; he's asking the country to embrace Iraqi leadership that, in the same speech, the president portrayed as so fragile it would collapse if U.S. troops pulled back.
Senator Carl Levin, the new Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, held a very important hearing yesterday. The International Herald Tribune headlined the hearing (1/12/07) story, "Gates seeks Iraq support from a skeptical Congress." By David Stout, it opens:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told senators Friday that Iraqi government officials seemed committed, finally, to meeting their obligations to secure their country and that an American failure there would be a setback of historic proportions.
. . . Despite the skepticism voiced by some senators, the tone of the hearing was generally friendly. It opened with a warm exchange between Warner and Levin as the latter assumed the leadership. And critics of the administration's approach were far easier on Gates, on the job less than a month, than they would have been on his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, whom they regard as an architect of a failed policy.
At one point during the hearing, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida commented that he was struck by the difference in tone from the previous day's appearance of Secretary Rice before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which he also serves.
Secretary Rice before Thursday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee - "Contentious, critical, angry, and skeptical" are words that describe the mood of the hearing. The BBC News reports that the Secretary of State admitted during her testimony that Maliki "is living on borrowed time." To quote from BBC,
While questioning Ms Rice on the plan, Senator Biden, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, asked whether she thought Mr Maliki would keep his side of the bargain.
"I have met Prime Minister Maliki. I saw his resolve," she said.
"I think he knows that his government is, in a sense, on borrowed time, not just in terms of the American people but in terms of the Iraqi people."
Ms Rice's testimony was briefly interrupted by an anti-war protester, who shouted: "All lies... More lies... Still lies... Stop the lies... Stop the war!"
Senator Biden said he could not accept the plan.
"Secretary Rice, to be very blunt, I cannot in good conscience support the president's approach," he said, quoted by the Associated Press news agency.
Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican on the committee, also said the plan was a mistake.
"I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam if it's carried out," he said.

(photo credit: Ernest vonRosen,
In Europe reaction is mostly skeptical to (our current president) OCP's Iraq surge plan, according to Alan Cowell of the New York Times London Bureau. To quote from his 1/13/07 story,
. . . dismay and hostility toward the American expedition have grown while support trickles away.
. . . “It hasn’t changed anything,” said Bernard Bot, the Dutch Foreign Minister, whose country withdrew its troops from the Iraq coalition in 2005
. . . In France, the newspaper Le Monde . . . published a cartoon depicting President Bush as a bulldozer driver shoveling American soldiers into a ditch in the shape of Iraq.
In Germany, the liberal Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote, “Bush hopes to douse the Iraqi fire with the blood of Americans.”
. . . “Europeans and Germans believe you have to talk to regimes you don’t like,” said Eberhard Sandschneider, the director of the Research Institute of the German Council on Foreign Relations. (Pointedly, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, declined to discuss Iraq in an interview with correspondents on Thursday.)
. . . among Spanish officials. “Only political solutions can solve the crisis which affects stability in the region,” said Miguel Ángel Moratinos, the foreign minister.
. . . In London, the antiwar Independent newspaper declared in an editorial, “The U.S. military is now being called upon to fight the battle for Baghdad all over again, in circumstances that are infinitely more complex than they were the first time around.”
. . . Yet Russia bemoaned America’s seeming rejection of regional diplomacy. “It seems that the calculation remains the same: to achieve a settlement of the Iraq crisis by force and not to consider proposals to establish a dialogue with Iraq’s main groups with the support of all its neighbors, including Syria and Iran,” said Mikhail I. Kamynin, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman.
In Eastern Europe, the grinding campaign in Iraq has created divisions and splintered support.
“President Bush’s arguments should be understood, because leaving Iraq by Americans would be a tragedy,” argued Stefan Niesiolowski, a senator for the left-leaning opposition Civic Platform party in Poland. He argued that the 1,000-odd Polish soldiers serving in Iraq should stay. “It would not be nice if we would say to Americans, ‘It’s your problem, not ours.’ “
But on the Polish right, opinions were less sanguine. Kazimiera Szczuka, a literary critic, said, “Americans should find a way to withdraw honorably from Iraq as soon as possible. Polish troops should not stay there any longer.”
In the Czech Republic, there is a sort of unspoken pity for Mr. Bush’s predicament and skepticism of his new Iraq plan. “The prospect for success is not large,” wrote Adam Cerny, a columnist for Hospodarske Noviny, a Czech business daily. “Why — when similar attempts have not worked earlier — should the same procedure lead to different results today?”
“At the very most,” he wrote, “President Bush will not find critics but very cautious partners among other Europeans.”
That process has gone much further in Italy, once a staunch ally of President Bush under former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
But in an interview with a French television network on Thursday, Prime Minister Romano Prodi, Mr. Berlusconi’s successor, criticized President Bush’s new Iraq plan directly. “He should listen to the Baker report and to the American public,” Mr. Prodi said.
OCP is rarely clinically objective or analytical when it comes to his judgments about people. He seems to rely much more on his intuition, his gut reactions to important leaders with whom he must interact. Time and events in the Middle East will illuminate how effective OCP and Malaki will prove to be with this method. For all our sakes we should hope that the two men can be successful.
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1 comment:

RoseCovered Glasses said...

There are good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armaments”

The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment, budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Administrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the new Sec. Def.Mr. Gates, understand such complexity, particularly if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

Answer- he can’t. Therefore he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is absolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen until it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagen instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.