Bush followers demand escalation in Iraq
Yesterday, the President -- as he has been doing regularly over the past couple months -- met with eight Bush followers who masquerade as "journalists," including Tony Blankley of the Washington Times, Charles Krauthammer, Mark Steyn and Michael Barone. As Byron York (who was also there) reported, one of the principal themes was that Americans are dissatisfied with the war in Iraq because we aren't going all out to win (emphasis added):
The frustration in the room stemmed not so much from internal divisions and paralysis in the Iraqi government, or lagging indicators like oil and energy production. Rather, it came from the fact that American forces simply do not seem to be winning the war — on anyone’s terms — and that most Americans are disinclined to leave the troops in Iraq without some clear movement toward victory.
“The American people were solidly behind this when you went in and you toppled the Taliban, when you go in and you topple Saddam,” columnist Mark Steyn said to the president. “But when it just seems to be a kind of thankless, semi-colonial, policing, defensive operation, with no end — I mean, where is the offense in this?”
The President himself said that he believes dissatisfaction with the war is based on the view that we aren't being aggressive enough in fighting it:
Most of all, though, Bush said he realizes that the American people share that frustration, too. “People, most of them, are out there saying, ‘What are you doing? Get after ‘em,’“ Bush said. He’s heard it himself. “I’m from Texas,” Bush continued. “My buddies are saying, are you doing enough, not are you doing too little. They want to know, are we winning. They want to know, this mighty country, are we doing what it takes to win?”
Similarly, Ralph Peters wrote yesterday in his New York Post column that the solution to our woes in Iraq is to start doing a lot more killing, with a lot less restraint (emphasis in original):
Iraq deserves one last chance. But to make that chance even remotely viable, we'll have to take desperate measures. We need to fight. And accept the consequences.
The first thing we need to do is to kill Muqtada al-Sadr, who's now a greater threat to our strategic goals than Osama bin Laden.
We should've killed him in 2003, when he first embarked upon his murder campaign. But our leaders were afraid of provoking riots.
Back then, the tumult might've lasted a week. Now we'll face a serious uprising. So be it. When you put off paying war's price, you pay compound interest in blood.
We must kill - not capture - Muqtada, then kill every gunman who comes out in the streets to avenge him.
And in the Vice President's interview with the right-wing radio host I referenced in the prior post, the same point was stressed:
I've heard from a lot of listeners -- that's what we do for a living, talk to good folks in the Heartland every day -- and I've talked to as many who want an increased military presence in Iraq as want us out, which seems to be the larger debate, at least coming from the left -- cut and run, get out of there. One fax said, when you talk to the Vice President, ask him when shock and awe is coming back to Iraq. Let's finish the job once and for all.
This is all just from the last 24 hours. For months, the standard neoconservative complaint has been that their Great War was failing because it wasn't being prosecuted with enough violence, enough force, enough troops, enough killing. If only we would step up and act like we want to win, things would be great there.
This seems a critically important issue to note. Escalation of this war -- not a draw-down of it -- will become the new strategy after the election. There are simply no other choices. What we are doing now simply isn't working, so much so that not even the White House bothers to deny that any more. At the same time, the President yesterday made expressly clear what has been obvious for some time -- we aren't leaving Iraq. And we don't have nearly enough additional troops to make a meaningful difference in the troop strength we have there or to enable new strategies by increasing our military presence.
What other real option is there for trying to change the course of the war there other than to try to bomb and kill our way to "victory"? That is clearly what the President's hardest-core supporters are demanding, and the history of this administration is that it ultimately adheres to the views and demands of the extremists who comprise its base (largely because those who control the administration are themselves extremists in that mold). Nobody knows for certain, but it is a clear possibility that our post-election strategy in Iraq will entail a substantial escalation in violence, attacks, killings and resources. That is what the President's supporters believe is the missing ingredient to allow them to finally achieve Victory in this great war.