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7/25/2005
BUSH’S BIGGEST FAILURE
CATEGORY: War on Terror

This article in yesterday’s New York Times mirrors what I’ve been saying for more than two years; the biggest failure of George Bush’s presidency has been his failure to lead the American people as if there’s a war on.

Here’s what I wrote on 5/27/05:

My criticism, however, went back to early 2003 when it became clear that war with Iraq was a necessary adjunct to the war on terror.

My criticism had to do with the President’s entire approach to the coming conflict. I said at the time “it didn’t feel like we were going to war,” that the President didn’t step up to the plate and ask the American people to sacrifice anything, that indeed any sacrificing to be done would be borne by the armed forces and their families.

I realize now that the “cakewalk” theme was in vogue at the White House and the President didn’t think it necessary. But by May of 2004 when it became clear that the terrorists weren’t going away anytime soon, the President could have rallied the American people by abandoning much of his domestic agenda, slashing the budget, perhaps even (gasp! Here’s a novel idea)...) raising taxes to pay for the war.

It’s a good thing Bush didn’t listen to me. He would have been slaughtered in the November election.

That being said, I still feel the burden of this war is falling disproportionately on the military and their families. I think the President should have put everything else on the backburner in order to win this war. If that meant abandoning social security reform, so be it. What we have in Washington is too much “business as usual.” What we need is a sense of urgency. At the moment, we have North Korea and Iran on the horizon. Either one of those problems could lead to some kind of crisis that would involve the military. And with 125,000 of our best troops tied up in Iraq, this severely limits our options.

The President’s failure to rally the people and instead, depend on the 50% of us who couldn’t stomach the idea of Kerry’s wishy-washy internationalist approach to the conflict was the biggest mistake of his Presidency. He could have done better.

As this article points out, at least some in the military feel exactly the same way:

From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military’s war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: if America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?

There is no serious talk of a draft to share the burden of fighting across the broad citizenry, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq, Afghanistan and new counterterrorism missions.

There are not even concerted efforts like the savings-bond drives or gasoline rationing that helped to unite the country behind its fighting forces in wars past.

“Nobody in America is asked to sacrifice, except us,” said one officer just back from a yearlong tour in Iraq, voicing a frustration now drawing the attention of academic specialists in military sociology.

The question is why this should be so?

Surely one of the reason’s is the very nature of the war we’re fighting. If we were to overturn our lives too much, the terrorists could claim a victory of sorts. This was a fine rationale as far as it went.

But I submit that things have changed to the point that only a Presidential call to arms can now reverse a situation that many whose opinion we should respect are saying includes problems such as military recruitment, our occupation isn’t succeeding fast enough in turning over security responsibilities to the Iraqis, and our enemies are gathering strength to not only hit us again but also take the fight successfully to our allies.

MILITARY PROBLEMS

The fact that army recruiting goals have been met for the last two months cannot hide some alarming trends that, if not fixed, could inhibit our ability to project our power in the near future to places where our national security is threatened.

While recruitment is actually up for the Marine Corps, and the Navy and Air Force are easily meeting their goals, army recruitment is down significantly and worse, enlistment in National Guard units has also fallen off precipitously. And while it’s encouraging that re-enlistment rates among troops serving in Iraq is very high, this doesn’t help if a crisis develops in either Iran or North Korea. The fact is, more than 45% of our combat troops are engaged in Iraq. What would this mean for both the near future and long term?

In order to maintain the current high level of overseas activity many of the previous guidelines and “rules of thumb” for limiting overseas deployments have been set aside. Thus, combat assignments for Army troops have been extended from six months to a year or more, and average time between deployments has been cut. Guard and reserve tours have been extended, too.

Generally speaking, service leaders have sought in the past to routinely deploy one-third or less of warfighting forces overseas at any one time, while permitting relatively brief and infrequent surges to higher levels, such as during Operation Desert Storm. (One-third of the fighting force equals about 20 percent of active personnel overall). This pacing was meant to sustain morale and ensure that training, repair, and modernization cycles could be completed. The point of such guidelines was to strike a balance between current and future requirements.

Recent practice raises the prospect of two types of problems: first, a near-term decline in force cohesion and combat effectiveness while the military is still engaged in current operations; and, second, a long period of force recovery after current operations conclude. During this strategic “reset period” the capacity for large-scale military operations would be lower – perhaps significantly lower – than it was during the pre-war period. According to the Chief of the British Defence Staff, Sir Michael Walker, Great Britain already faces the second of these problems. In March 2004 he reported to the House of Commons Defence Committee that “[w]e are unlikely to be able to get to large-scale [operations] much before the end of the decade, somewhere around 08 or 09.”

With the election in Iran of a hard line ideologue who has already indicated that he wants to go forward with unranium enrichment regardless of what deal he strikes with the EU Three of Great Britain, France, and Germany, and with Israel poised to take military action in the event the enrichment programs are resumed, the middle east is a powder keg ready to explode. And as it stands now, we just do not have the forces available if the region becomes unstable to both police Iraq and protect our vital interests.

Currently (as much as I hate to admit it), the only realistic plan I’ve seen has been proposed by Hillary Clinton to increase the size of the army by 80,000. In order to fill that kind of order, the President is going to have to come before the nation and issue a call for volunteers. And while some would see Hillary’s sponsorship of this measure as her trying to move toward the middle as she prepares to make a presidential run in 2008, it’s still a good idea.

More troops wouldn’t solve all of our problems, but it could be a stop gap measure as we move into the fall and early winter which is when some experts believe the crisis with Iran could come.

THE PACE OF IMPROVEMENT IN IRAQ

As far as Iraqi politics, things are going remarkably well, better than anyone had a right to expect from a country that had never had representative government. However, several recent trends reveal some weaknesses in our strategy that are being exploited by our enemies.

First and foremost is the problem with the number of “boots on the ground.” As it stands now, we’ve painted ourselves into a corner by refusing to up the number of combat personnel in country. It’s clear that the pace of training for the Iraqi military and police is not proceeding as planned. And while the numbers of recruits are encouraging, the fact is that unit cohesion, developing competent officers, and deploying battle ready units is lagging.

This puts us in an almost impossible position. If we increase our troop strength to more effectively fight the insurgency, we undermine the training of the Iraqis. But we can’t draw down our strength because the Iraqis are not coming along fast enough. And since the insurgency is now changing and adapting to new realities, we’re hindered from doing the same. In short, the terrorists are trying their best to keep one step ahead of us.

The biggest change by the terrorists has been the increase in targeting Iraqi civilians on a sectarian basis hoping to ignite a civil war. So far, Shia moderates such as Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have done a remarkable job of restraining the Shia’s but things are starting to deteriorate. Just a few days ago, we heard this from a close associate of al-Sistani:

“What is truly happening, and what shall happen, is clear: a war against the Shias,” Sheikh Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, a prominent Shia cleric and MP, told the Iraqi parliament.

Sheikh al-Saghir is close to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the supreme Shia spiritual leader and moderate who has so far managed to restrain powerful Shia militias from undertaking any outright attack on Sunni insurgents. His warning suggests that the Shia leadership may be losing its grip over Shias who in private often call for an armed backlash against their Sunni assailants.

A civil war between the Sunnis and Shias would be a nightmare for our forces. One encouraging development has been the inclusion of the Sunnis in drafting the new constitution. It’s devoutly hoped that if the Sunnis feel they have a political stake in the future of a democratic Iraq, that part of the insurgency could subside.

The problem with Zarqawi and al Qaeda is totally separate but once agian reveal a big weakness. Those foreign fighters are still infliltrating through Syria and Iran and we just don’t have enough forces for effective border control. And al Qaeda is playing our national media like a violin, making sure their attacks are spectacular in the numbers of innocent civilians killed which guarantee coverage in our press.

From August.2004 through May, 2005 Iraqi civilian casualties have been estimated at 800 a month. These include several thousand police and army recruits who are routinely attacked as they line up outside recruiting stations. This has had a deterimental effect on Iraqi civilian morale as the people lose faith in the new government to protect them.

AL QAEDA REORGANIZING

While some are saying that the London attacks prove al Qaeda’s reduced operational capabilities, they may also point to a reorganization of the terror network that relies more on small cells for execution while using a top level al Qaeda “overseer” to help plan the attack and be in charge of logistics.

The problems associated with ferreting out these small cells in a free and open democratic society have been demonstrated both here and in Great Britain. But the nightmare scenario is one of these small cells getting a hold of either dangerous chemicals or even a small amount of deadly biologicial material. This is what keeps policy makers awake nights.

But what of the organization’s strategic goals?

Al Qaeda sees the United States not as the primary focus of its long-term goals, but as a challenger to its ultimate goal: the establishment of a pan-Islamic state stretching across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Al Qaeda’s aims are political, and it sees the United States not only in military or ideological terms, but also as a tool to be manipulated to help achieve a desired end.

To build a pan-Islamic state and re-establish the caliphate, al Qaeda requires a social/revolutionary movement stretching across several Muslim states. Stirring such a revolution is not easy, given the fractious nature of the Islamic world and the strength of many of the key Muslim regimes. To bring about a general uprising, al Qaeda needs to produce two initial elements—a common enemy against which to rally the people and a prospect for success. To some degree, the United States serves as the vehicle for both.

By striking at the United States, the security guarantor of many of the Muslim states, al Qaeda can show that Islamist militants are anything but impotent, even when facing down the world’s sole superpower. This, in turn, shows that the United States is vulnerable—and by extension, that the Muslim regimes backed by Washington are equally vulnerable, if not more so.

Using this rationale, al Qaeda wouldn’t have to carry out another 9/11 style attack. But can you imagine a series of bombings in various cities throughout the country on a scale of the London bombings of 7/7? If it’s a strategic goal of the organization to make the United States look impotent, such a demonstration could in fact embolden others to carry out attacks against American interests and our allies in the middle east.

*******************************************
I realize much of this article has been of the “glass is half empty” variety but I did it for a purpose. Too often those of us who support the President automatically reject any bad news coming out of Iraq or the War on Terror as being biased baloney from a bunch of Bush hating reporters and columnists. While this is true some of the time – and goodness knows I’ve debunked enough articles and columns over the last year – the problem as I see it is approaching crisis proportions. Not today. Not next week or month. But certainly within the year as threats materialize elsewhere and perhaps our luck runs out as far as avoiding a terrorist strike here.

Our military is doing a heroic job under extremely trying circumstances in Iraq. And they’re wondering what we here are doing besides giving lip service to their effort.

It’s long past time for the President to put this country on a war footing regardless of what the terrorists, his political opponents, the press, or anyone else may think. There are several things he could do to help our military and I’ve highlighted some of them in this article.

1. He could increase troop strength which would ease both our recruitment woes and shore up our strategic needs for the longer term.

2. He could increase pay and benefits so that the hardships suffered by soldiers families at home would be lessened.

3. He could make a constant effort to remind Americans of the suffering and sacrifices of our military and their families. He could ask Americans to help the families in the hundreds of ways to be found on the americasupportsyou.mil website.

4. He could get more outfront on the war. The President’s speech of June 28 was the culmination of a 10 day media blitz on Iraq. We don’t need media blitzes. We don’t need token references to the war scattered throughout speeches. We need leadership.

5. Raise taxes across the board to pay for the war. No one – not you, not Rumsfeld, not your OMB director – not anyone believed that 2 1/2 years after the cessation of major combat operations that we would still be paying $5.8 billion per month to fund the war. There is no shame in admitting you miscalculated. And such a proposal would wake this country up and let them know there’s a war on.

6. Scale back your reform plans for taxes, social security, and other domestic concerns. Cut entitlement programs while at the same time encouraging young people to enroll in Americorp and other volunteer organizations. Increase funding for your faith based initiative program. Get out front and lead!

These are just a few things the President can do to wake this country out of the slumber we’re in and help us all recognize there’s a war on – a war that will probably get worse before it starts getting better.

Our men and women in uniform deserve no less. And the President is the only one who can lead us in this effort.

By: Rick Moran at 3:03 pm
3 Responses to “BUSH’S BIGGEST FAILURE”
  1. 1
    Jay Said:
    3:37 pm 

    Throw in the fact that he refuses to secure the borders, and you will have a masterpiece critique here. Excellent stuff! Wish you would write something up for me one day…you’ve got talent. And it is a half empty glass approach, but thats what a crique is…many things have been a success in his presidency. I think he will go down in history as one of the best, but nowhere near Reagan.

  2. 2
    NIF Trackbacked With:
    4:55 am 

    Master Paladin Junior Grade

    Wednesday’s dose of NIF - News, Interesting & Funny …

  3. 3
    JP Said:
    1:02 am 

    Bush’s biggest failure, and his legacy is that he did not capture and kill Bin Laden. If he did, he may have very well been one of our greatest Presidents. Because he failed, however, he will go down as one of the worst.

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