Thursday, November 16, 2006

Onward Christain Soldiers

It looks like it's going to be a last big push.
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.
I suppose it was too much to expect that he wouldn't insist on the most ridiculous of all the available options.

Dubya has not after all managed to become reacquainted with reality. The advice coming from his Dad's friends at the Iraq Study Group will not influence his thinking any more than anyone else because George made up his mind four years ago and that was that. That is the always the problem with a crusade. If you're on a mission from God, you're going to believe that you cannot lose. It isn't a matter of the facts on the ground; it's a matter of faith.

I know some people question whether Bush is sincere in his Christian beliefs. For some, his past alcohol and drug problems make this unlikely but that is to misunderstand Evangelicalism. Many Evangelical Christians have surprising past lives. My family has a lot of connections to evangelicals and I've read and listened to a large number of "testimonials" over the years. These real life tales of being "born again" are remarkable in that so many of them are told be people who were "saved" from the deepest miseries of human existence. I've met a few of these converts, had dinner in their houses, and I can tell you that their sincerity is, almost universally, like granite. As you can probably tell, I'm firmly of the view that the evangelical concept of being "born again" has particular appeal for those who have lost their way in life. (Many Evangelicals are not like this, of course.)

In other words, I think he really does believe God wanted him to invade Iraq.

The Guardian quotes a former senior administration official:
He [Bush] is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is any more. But he is. But he knows he's got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work. If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall.
As time runs out and "victory" remains elusive, he is likely to become even more erratic and dangerous in his judgements. Almost certainly, many more innocent Iraqis will be killed at the hands of U.S. troops operating under ever increasing pressure from the Whitehouse as George demands that they "make it work" in this one last futile push. Equally, the casualty rate among U.S. troops is also likely to increase significantly and this in turn will lead to even more aggressive military responses. I don't think you need to have studied insurgency and counter insurgency to understand this. It's just human nature.

The U.S. troops, unable to distinguish friend from foe, and under increasing pressure to defeat the insurgents, will err more and more on the side of caution (from their point of view) and will tend to kill many more "insurgents" who are nothing of the sort. These killings will appear barbaric, arbitrary and unjust to the families and friends of those killed for the very good reason that that is ultimately what they are. This will then stoke support for further actual attacks on the troops. As individual soldiers watch their friends die, again in ways which are essentially barbaric, arbitrary and unjust (war generally is*), and with the "enemy" as hard to identify as ever, the vicious circle takes another spin on its downward spiral.

[* The difference is, of course, that U.S. soldiers are there as volunteers who understand that their job means people may try to kill them. Iraqis have had this arbitrary brutality come into their own cities, towns, villages and homes. Unlike the troops, they are not in the middle of this carnage by choice. And yes, Saddam's Iraq was defined by arbitrary brutality. Iraqis were told that the invasion would end that. Instead, it has made it worse.]

If the above report is correct and the U.S. militarily really is about to be ordered to carry out one last big push, the result will be almost certainly be a significant increase in the viciousness of the circle.

Saudi Arabia's proximity to Iraq means that the Saudi government cannot afford to ignore the realities of the situation. When a disaster of the magnitude of Iraq is happening on your border, pragmatism is the order of the day. The Saudis have just announced that they intend to build a $12 billion barrier along their border with Iraq to try to isolate their country from the chaos unfolding next door. It is expected that this barrier will take five years to complete. It's impossible to tell whether they had been informed that Dubya favoured a last big push before they decided to build the wall but it's certainly possible. In any event, the close relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi government is well known. They know who they're dealing with and they have made their judgement.

Iraq's future is increasingly likely to reassemble John Carpenter's New York on a budget busting scale. Many Iraqis are already attempting to escape. Many, however, will be left behind when the last helicopter lifts off and the last brick is laid.

There is nothing we can do now to help the Iraqi people. It is hard to face but it is also impossible to ignore. The situation in Iraq and the situation in President Bush's head are both far beyond the ability of anyone in this country to control. All we can do is make sure that those responsible for creating this mess are held to account. And here, that means Blair. Martin Kettle recently said that Blair's decision to participate in this disaster was "a monumental piece of military/political miscalculation". The consequences of that miscalculation have also been monumental. Blair must be held to account for that.

It will be no comfort to Iraqis but it might just make future Prime Minister's think twice before so recklessly playing dice with other people's lives.

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2 comments:

Bill said...

Hi there,
You might like to update the title of this post, when you get a moment; I make the same kind of typing mistake all the time. I never thought i was in any way 'dyslexic' until I began blogging, but now wonder if I don't have it slightly. (PS/ 'Christian', not 'Christain', if my comment is not immediately obvious)
Cheers! Bill

CuriousHamster said...

Ah yes. Thanks and drat.

I think editing post titles causes problems on Blogger because its already part of the URL for this post. Last time I tried to correct one it all went horribly wrong so I'll probably just live with it.

I could pretend that I was trying to imply that this was a "stain" on our consciences but I don't think anyone would buy it.