Sunday, January 14, 2007

I've been stewing ever since the Prez spoke to the American people Wednesday night. He seemed tentative, sad, defeated - definitely not in a frame of mind to be insisting that "the way forward" is to add 21,500 more troops to the mix.

I suspect he finally realizes he's painted himself (and us) into a corner. He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't escalate. Democrats, and increasingly greater numbers of Republicans, condemn him for putting even more American troops in harms way while the 30% of Americans who still support him believe that redeploying our troops would be an admission of defeat, and uacceptable.

Here are some questions it has raised in my mind. Is he saying:
a) To Maliki, Get your act together by November because if you don't we're out of here,
b) To us, Don't look behind the curtain (at Iraq), look over here at Iran where I just might invade,
c) To himself, I've got to find a way to salvage this mess so I'll give Iraq one last chance and then I can say that I've tried everything and the Iraqis hate each other more than they want 'freedom,'
d) All of the above.

Whatever the answer, it appears that the administration is turning to some of the skeptics who left Iraq in 2003 disillusioned by the direction the "reconstruction" was taking. The Washington Post is reporting, today, that Timothy Carney, a retired American Ambassador, has received a call from David Satterfield, the State Dept's Iraq coordinator asking whether he'd be willing to go back to Baghdad as the overall coordinator of the U.S. reconstruction effort.

It "represents a fundamental shift in the Bush administration's approach to stabilizing the country" says the article by Rajiv Chandrasekaran . Ryan Crocker (Ambassador designate) and David Petraeus, widely acknowledged to be one of the best military minds America has today, were skeptics, as well. Yet Crocker is returning to Iraq from his posting in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus is taking over command of "all coalition forces in Iraq" at a time when our backs are to the wall and there are no good choices.

Carney, Crocker & Petraeus may make as strong a team as this administration could put together at this stage. But will it be too little, too late?

It strikes me that the "surge" is not just a Hail Mary pass but the President's last best effort to save his legacy. I hope he's right.

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