Bush Cornered

In almost complete disregard for the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group’s Report the Bush Administration has decided to push ahead with more troop deployment in Iraq. It has ignored the recommendation calling for regional diplomacy, capacity building of Iraqi security and administrative forces and gradual withdrawal of US troops. Recent steps taken by the administration on Iran, Syria and the Palestinian issue do not indicate that any substantive change in US policy is imminent. Instead of diplomatic overtures towards the regional States that encourage engagement, threatening and confrontational rhetoric continues to be the hallmark of US policy. For example on Iran Bush has give authority to US forces to fight and kill Iranian groups operating inside Iraq. Abroad Washington continues to be resented for what the havoc its 2003 invasion has wreaked in Iraq.

At home the Bush’s decision to send decision to send additional 21500 more troops to Iraq is being resisted by US lawmakers. The newly appointed Defence Secretary Robert Gates is meanwhile confident that past the logistical hurdles these additional troops will be on their way to Iraq. Gates maybe right. The troops may soon be on their way but for Bush there is now a rapidly mounting cost of the Iraq war. Across the US there is severe criticism of the four year old war. Undoubtedly Bush is cornered. His Iraq war is now seen as an endless and un-winnable war.

There is unprecedented opposition of the Iraq policy within Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The US lawmakers are demanding that Bush give a time frame for pulling back troops. They are demanding that only a handful of US troops be left behind. The ranking member Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has said this is the worst foreign policy of any president ever of the US and is bound to fail. He asked all the members at a recent Senate Hearing on Iraq to face the cameras and ask all members to say the Iraq policy is a failure. Hence the consensus is against Bush.

From the Democrats the most hard-nosed criticism has come from the Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy. The veteran Senator, also an important member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, did some plain speaking on a recent television program. On January 22nd in the Meet the Press program Kennedy categorically stated that Bush’s Iraq policy completely countered majority of the public opinion that opposed the continued presence of US troops in Iraq.

The public vote, Kennedy said, in the recent congressional elections was a vote against the Iraq policy, according to the opinion polls majority of the public opposed the war, generals Casey and general Abiziad have both opposed troops increase in Iraq. Interestingly General Casey who opposed sending of more troops in Iraq has been removed from command. Lt. General Petraeus will now be leading the US troops in Iraq. Kennedy also pointed out that the US Constitution forbids sending of troops in what is essentially now a civil war zone and the Iraqi leadership too does not want more troops. Finally he argued that the Iraqi Prime Minister made this point during his end 2006 meeting with Bush in Jordan.

The only point raised by the Republican Senator McCain’s favoring sending of additional troops was that they were necessary to ensure that the regional countries do not move in to take control of regions within Iraq incase the country was to fall apart as a result of civil war. The only answer to such a challenge, Kennedy maintained, was a diplomatic engagement with the neighboring countries.

In addition to the conviction and common sense there is also the politics of this positioning. The endless war in Iraq has clearly become the crowing blunder of the Bush presidency. This blunder is one that the Democrats have obviously identified as a key political asset in the 2008 presidential race. As the Bush presidency’s Iraq policy is worn to shreds the Democrats see themselves as the net gainers. They have already tasted blood in the Congressional elections. This is going to be a bigger election issue than ever before. The Democrats will convert the growing public and media anger into the rationale for the Congress setting up a number of inquiry commissions into the handling of Iraq war.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to pass first a non-binding resolution. This censure resolution will pass with a generally high majority. It will basically state that the Congress has right to oversight and will criticize Bush him so; Senator Harry Reed majority leader of the Senate is all prepared that if the President does remain adamant on sending the troops and makes no significant diplomatic moves a Senate would pass a binding resolution which will try and stop further troop deployment in Iraq. Constitutionally that may not be simple. Ever since president Roosevelt’s’ Article 2 of the US Constitution did extend the federal powers detailing the capacity of the US president to make decisions on matters of War and Peace. The Congress has the power to cut war apportionments but the Executive office had its own budget. Hence the president has the capacity to fund the war.

The question however will be how does the president with all this opposition morally and politically push ahead with this Iraq policy ? President is after all not the pre-eminent body in a republican form of government. Clearly it is the absolute opposite of kingship. The American public strongly believes that the government is answerable to society and if the Americans are not committed to the war how much longer can the president hold out ? Bush will also be pushed on the domestic accountability front.

Bush continues to remain dismissive of the growing chorus of criticism. His latest assertion that "I’m the decision-maker" coupled with the warning that an Iranian attack on US and Iraqi forces will be resisted by US forces is unlikely to blunt the criticism. On January 26, Bush spoke to reporters as he met Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus in the Oval Office shortly after the general was confirmed by the Senate 81-0 to lead US forces in Iraq. Petraeus will carry out a plan that has drawn sharp criticism from lawmakers who worry Bush is deepening US involvement in Iraq at a time when Americans are weary of a nearly 4-year-old war that shows no sign of winding down.

The US invasion of Iraq which has reduced Iraq into dozens of killing fields and destroyed the people, culture and resources of Iraq has created an unprecedented crisis within the US itself. It’s a bloody blunder of their government that the Americans are not able to deny. The original critics, initially in the minority, have increasingly gained strength. What is the good that this Iraqi invasion has created they ask themselves. The Iraqis hate us tells them their general who until recently commanded the US forces in Iraq.

For the US the only way forward is that the Bush Administration adopt a five point Iraq policy; 1) the accelerated capacity building of Iraqi administrative and security apparatus, 2) initiation of intra-Iraqi dialogue which includes insurgents, 3) opening of dialogue with the regional states including Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon; 4) placement of UN-led international troops and 5) the gradual withdrawal of US troops.