Pentagon Calls for Doubling Down, McCain Steps in It

Since Bush always listens to his "commanders on the ground," and since failure or giving up are not options for the President, it looks like he'll take the Pentagon's recommendation to "double down" in Iraq:

As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff will present their assessment and recommendations to Bush at the Pentagon today. Military officials, including some advising the chiefs, have argued that an intensified effort may be the only way to get the counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory.

The approach overlaps somewhat a course promoted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). But the Pentagon proposals add several features, including the confrontation with Sadr, a possible renewed offensive in the Sunni stronghold of Al Anbar province, a large Iraqi jobs program and a proposal for a long-term increase in the size of the military.

So the reason for the troops is to create stability and engage Sadr, the vile cleric responsible for the deaths of many of our men, and probably even responsible for the kidnapping of the soldier still missing - the soldier Prime Minister Maliki ordered us to stop looking for. In fact, at one point in time there was an arrest warrant for murder issued for Muqtada. Despite the righteousness of the effort, going after Sadr will be a big undertaking, since the Mahdi Army is one of the biggest militias in the country. Fighting them into submission may be intensely difficult, given the warren of Sadr City. But since when have we been afraid of doing what is hard? Just look at Fallujah and Ramadi. We could level Sadr City too - problem solved, and with few American deaths, right? But barring airstrikes and rubblization in a heavily populated area, we might not be able to find Muqtada Al-Sadr to bring him to justice, and that would be rather embarrassing. (And we all know that total war is not how you win the War on Terror)

No, the real surprise about going after Sadr is that if we could, somehow, neutralize him, we would, in fact, be destroying the current Iraqi Government, since Prime Minister Maliki relies on the Sadrists for retaining his position. Destroying the Sadrists would be indistinguishable from a vote of no confidence in the government. Last I checked, Bush believed that "Maliki's the guy for the job," despite the leaked internal memos questioning the PM's competence. Do we really have the gall to topple the elected government, when we spent so many years affirming support for the government and the democratic process? You can say this much - that would certainly amount to a "New Approach."

Politically, there's another loser in this decision. John McCain. He has stated that keeping troops in harm's way without a plan for victory is immoral, which I admire him for. And yet he has been calling for the measly increase of 20,000 more troops to be deployed into Iraq. To think that going from 140,000 to 160,000 troops will make the decisive difference when every expert says the needed number is closer to 500,000 is wishful thinking of the worst sort, and makes the participants guilty of precisely the immorality McCain says he deplores.

The one thing that was smart about McCain's plan was the political calculations. Figuring that the crushing blow the Republicans were headed towards in the midterm elections, coupled with the Baker Report, would force the President's hand on a pullout from Iraq, McCain called for the opposite. That way, when the inevitable defeat of retreat finally happened, John McCain could stand alone as the candidate that was always for doing what it took to win in Iraq. They'd say that "he's no surrender monkey;" that "if he had been in charge, since he was calling for more troops all along, we would have done it right and had a stunning victory in Iraq. With Victory in Iraq, America's world image would shine like a newly gilded City on a Hill, basking in light so beautiful it borders on the blasphemous. " He would have been "the optimist, the Reagan Conservative, the inheritor of Bush's "steadfastness" but tempered by the fact he's got an inquisitive and engaged brain in his head." In the blame game on Iraq, which will assuredly play a large part in the upcoming Presidential Elections, McCain would have a stunning advantage over the Administration cheerleaders or the "blame American first" crowd.

Unfortunately for him, it looks like Bush is actually going to implement his plan. Now, rather than being able to say, "I had a plan to WIN in Iraq, but instead my opponent ensured America's DEFEAT," he'll be saddled with the continued failure, continued death, continued drain on our national treasury and psyche. The continued deaths are on his hands, since he is the advocate of the policy. Rather than riding high on a wave of military patriotism, he'll come skulking in with the weight of defeat on his shoulders. By supporting this policy, he will be immorally pouring American lives into an effort that cannot succeed.

Too Bad. I kinda liked McCain.

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