Bill Kristol knows that the current strategy in Iraq will not work as it was designed to do. He's not crazy. The chances of national reconciliation in Iraq have gone backward, not forward, this past year, and the U.S.'s empowerment of anti-Shiite propaganda in Anbar will only isolate Maliki further. The best that can happen is an indefinite occupation of a dismembered Iraq to slow down genocide and make ethnic cleansing more orderly. But even that is a very risky proposition. And the events of last week mean that the Republican party now owns the Iraq occupation more exclusively and deeply than they ever had - and indeed intend to maintain it for another decade.
So what to do? Remember that Kristol's loyalty to the Republicans often trumps national security. How else to explain his support for the GOP last November, even though a Republican victory would have prevented the surge in the first place and kept Rumsfeld in the Pentagon? One option: Change the subject by launching wars against Syria and Iran, and so polarize the country that the choice is framed as: MoveOn or America? That's much better than having, you know, an actual debate about the merits of the war in Iraq and the war against Islamist terror. On that, Republicans lose. If the war is far wider and more terrifying, if the enemies can be multiplied and amplified, then the dynamic plays to the advantage of the GOP. It's for us or against us again.
Remember it doesn't matter to the current Bush Republicans if they cannot persuade a majority of thie necessity of extending the war to Iran and Syria. They have dropped attempting to persuade a majority on the war. They are concerned only with shoring up their own party, which can enable them to launch new wars before the current presidency ends. Hence the two-pronged agenda for the next few months:
Bush needs to prevent others in his own administration--generals (and some civilian leaders) who have given up on the war, or who are jealous of Petraeus, or both--from undermining Petraeus's efforts and Bush's strategy in various subtle ways, which, judging from reports from within the Pentagon, is not a trivial danger. And second, Bush needs to succeed in preventing Iran and Syria from subverting our successes in Iraq. They cannot be allowed to serve as safe havens for the training and transporting of enemy fighters, or as providers of advanced weapons used against our soldiers in Iraq.
I'm not sure what the first thing means unless a purge of any voices within the administration wanting to save what's left of military preparedness under the strain of the Iraq deployments. Gates and Fallon have been warned. But the second is obvious. They're trying to prepare their base for new wars, under the guise of winning the current one. This is the game-plan for keeping power.
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