Tuesday, January 16, 2007


"'Va banque' is a risky strategy deployed most commonly by emotionally unstable or inexpert players, usually with disastrous results. In essence it means risking the balance of one's capital on a single card, or roll of dice, or spin of the wheel."

Having been delivered almost a week ago, President's Bush speech to urbi et orbi, was on the face of it, more an attempt to rally the troops (both in and out of uniform) than a substantive attempt to try to regain the initiative on the ground in Iraq. It was also, de facto an outright rejection of much of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Notwithstanding the fact, that a leading member of the same (Robert Gates), is now making policy as the new Secretary of Defence. In terms of specifics, the Bush speech and its aftermath are notable for the following elements: one, a staggered and partial troop re-inforcement (hardly an escalation as criticized by some) of 21,500; two, a complete non possumus, to any effort to engage either Persia or Syria diplomatically; three) a partial and measured commitment to the current Maliki government, a commitment which may be switched off, at any time; four, a complete unwillingness to change the basic premises: both rhetorically and in actual fact, of the American mission in Iraq; five, a re-commitment to the same 'clear and hold' tactics, which so obviously failed this past summer in Baghdad.

To what overall logic can we attribute the Bush speech and the policy behind it to? The 'logic' such as it is, is one of what the German Kanzler at the time of 1914 crisis, Theobold von Bethmann-Hollweg, once referred to as 'letting the iron dice roll'. Id est, not even considering the logic for withdrawal, or making any preparation for the same, or even the possibility for a partial pull-back to the outer environs of the country as recommended by Messers. Baker, et al., but, instead attempt to regain the ground in both Anbar province and in Baghdad which was lost from 2004 to 2006. Despite some noises made about investing in civilian reconstruction, and, to assist the moribund Iraqi economy, Bush's plan is from the first to the last dependent upon military success. Indeed, it is the military side, which is the ne plus ultra, of the whole effort. The problem with this of course is that the so-called surge, completely fails to offer up, the necessary troop strength for to have any likelihood of success. This of course, has been one of the key elements of the whole failure of the American effort in Iraq from start to finish. As has become known recently, the most comprehensive planning done for an invasion of Iraq, prior to the 11th of September, Operation Plan 1003-98, under the direction of then Central Command head, General Anthony Zinni, called for upwards of 400,000 plus American troops for the effort. As it was, Rumsfeld, choose to invade, and then hold the country with as few as 160,000 (on this see the National Security Archive Briefing Book on the subject, dated 4th November 2006: "Post Saddam Iraq: The War Game" in www.gwu.edu~nsarchiv). The consequences of this miscalculation, have of course been commented on ad nauseum, including in this journal. Whatcauses one to resurrect it, is the fact that, as the neo-conservative commentator, and, one-time Iraq war enthusiast, Max Boot, noted:

"Based on classic counterinsurgency calculations (1 soldier or policeman per 40 or 50 civilians), pacifying Baghdad, a city of 6 million people, requires a force of some 150,000. The beefed-up U.S. force in Baghdad still will be less than 40,000 strong. Even if the Iraqis provide some reliable forces to work with them, this would be sufficient to control only a portion of the city—Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods. Sadr City, where some 2 million Shia live, would probably remain in the grip of the Mahdi Army" (see: 'Daily Brief' for 11th January 2007 in www.cfr.org)

Consequently, the likelihood of the Bush policy possibly succeeding appears on the surface to be nil. Especially since, the so-called surge, partially involves merely a delays and advances of scheduled rotations in and out of the theatre of war. What than, may one ask was the purpose of the whole Bush speech and the re-examination of policy leading up to it? Without being in the least privy to the inner workings of policymaking in the Bush regime, one may hazard the guess that, for the most part, American policy in Iraq, is intended to be much more of a holding operation, than anything else. Whether it is an effort to 'hold the fort', until the 20th of January 2009, or more cleverly, to demonstrate a clear American resolve (for the moment) to hold the line in Iraq, so that the Sunni Arab states in the region, fully ally themselves, with the USA. Especially, against vis-`a-vis Persia. Something which stories of American financing for Fatah elements in opposition to the current Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority, as well as efforts to prop up the Siniora Cabinet in Beirut, would appear to suggest as well. As does of course, the beefing up of American forces in the Persian Gulf. With a diplomatic stalemate over Teheran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, saber rattling the Persians would at the present time, be a quite possibly dangerous escalation. Something which the recent arrests of Persian non-accredited diplomats in Iraq by American forces, would also appear to be a sign of. Given the lack of credibility that the Bush regime's policy commands, both domestically, in the Near East region, and Internationally as well, it would be truly a policy of va banque, for Bush et. al., to go to the brink, in an attempt to recoup their position in both Iraq and the Near East as a whole. Unfortunately committing to a policy of va banque, as Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg's shade, can surely tell us, is quite a dangerous policy indeed. One only hopes that Mr. Bush, will surely realize this, but, the auguries are not favorable at the moment for more on the idea that Bush's policy in the area is one of escalation see the recent postings of the excellent www.Syriacomment.com).


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