Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Double Down

Another critical time.

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel's work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.

Point one of the strategy calls for an increase rather than a decrease in overall US force levels inside Iraq, possibly by as many as 20,000 soldiers. This figure is far fewer than that called for by the Republican presidential hopeful, John McCain. But by raising troop levels, Mr Bush will draw a line in the sand and defy Democratic pressure for a swift drawdown.

Actually, 20,000 is precisely the number that McCain has called for. Viewed solely through a cynical political lens, this is McCain's worst nightmare. He's gambling that no one's going to take his advice so a year from now he can run against Bush and his bungled war. If Bush follows his advice, that's off the table.

From the rather more important perspective of "reality," sucks for everyone who's going to get maimed and killed because the pride of George Bush, Saint McCain, and the Last Honest Man is more important than anything else.