Bush's Broad Escalation

Forgive me, but I believe that the billing for Bush's speech included a "new strategy for Iraq." I think I listened pretty closely, and yet I heard only about new tactics, no new strategies. The strategy we're implementing is the same one that we have been - clear, hold and build. Granted, we've never been able to effectively implement this strategy, since we've never had enough troops in the country to conduct real anti-insurgency, but a paltry 20,000 wont change that. Increasing the number of troops only allows more of the same types of engagements we've been doing all along. It's the Operations Forward Together all over again.

So, once again, Bush confuses tactics with strategy. What we received in his speech was not a new strategy - it was a revised tactic. Increasing the number of troops in Baghdad is something we've done before, and it wont work.

There was, however, one remarkable new item in the speech concerning Iran and Syria:

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region.

Those paragraphs send a clear message. Allow me to walk you through it:
  1. Iran is providing support for attacks on Americans.
  2. We will seek out and destroy the networks providing that support.
  3. Those networks exist inside Iran.
  4. Therefore, we will conduct military operations inside Iran.
The only alternative to killing the networks where they live would be a massive influx of troops in order to exhaustively control Iraq's borders. However, if 20,000 troops are hard to come by, there are certainly not enough troops to secure the borders.

To back up this pugilistic conclusion, we have the following, also from the speech:
"We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing - and deploy Patriot Air Defense systems to reassure our friend and allies."
The implied question just screams at me. What possible threat could those defensive systems be deployed to combat? There's no chance of missile attack from Sadr's men, or even from Al Qaeda in Iraq. So what's up here? You can't use a Patriot to shoot down a Katyusha, which is the only type of rocket they would use in Iraq if they used rockets in Iraq, which they do not. After all, why use a rocket when a car bomb is so much easier to aim?

Patriot missiles are used to shoot down aircraft or intercept ballistic missiles. Who has ballistic missiles and an airforce? Iran.

Joe Lieberman has been thinking along the same lines as the President, incidentally:
While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran...
These are radical statements. Both President Bush and his supports are stating that Iran is a declared enemy in the current war. What do you do with people you're at war with? Oh, right, you kill them and everyone on their block. Now, it is possible that President Bush is simply playing a rhetoric game, whereby, through bellicose and threatening verbiage, we force the Iranians to comply with our wishes. Then again, many hoped he was doing the same thing in the lead up to the Iraq War, and we all know how that developed. Such naive hope cannot be sustained.

So, in conclusion, is it Gulf of Tonkin here we come? It's been established in the media narrative that Iran is operating inside Iraq, where we have 140k troops. Would it be difficult to have a skirmish leading to escalation? Of course not.

Let's hope life doesn't get too interesting, too quickly, eh?

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