Bush’s War, Bush’s Defeat, America’s Loss
I think it’s important for something to be made widely clear: this war was Bush’s failure, not anyone else’s. If he follows his past and present patterns, and those of the GOP in general, he will try to declare Iraq a victory. When that position inevitably fails to remain tenable, even as he continues to insist it was a victory, he will blame the loss on his political opponents, both pointing out that they voted to give him war powers and so were with him, while at the same time blaming them for undercutting the war effort, allowing “the terrorists” to win. He’s already doing it now.
The fact is, Bush was completely responsible for this one. The Democrats were in no way eager or willing to go to war; Bush politically boxed them in, forcing them, with just weeks to go before an election, to either give him war powers, or else vote against the war and be overwhelmingly smeared as being pro-Saddam and pro-terrorist, and likely lose the election in far greater numbers than they suffered as it was. Remember Andrew Card’s “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August”? This war was a marketing move from the beginning, a political ploy played out in classic Rovian style.
So the Democrats voted him the powers on the condition that he use them only as a last resort, though they likely knew full well Bush had zero intention of honoring that promise. But the point here is that it was Bush’s call, not the Democrats: if Bush had not rammed this war through, it never would have happened–and most certainly the Democrats never would have started it. So any claim about how the Democrats were “with him” or “for the war” is complete bull. They may have been culpable as far as they did not stop it, but politically, they did not have much choice.
The war itself was ill-conceived from the beginning, and there was no secret or mystery about it. Bush made massive errors right from the start. Fully aside from his knowing lies about Saddam’s offensive and WMD capacities, Bush’s conditions for going to war were never sufficient to allow for victory in the first place. Even his father, with a full, actual coalition behind him, was wise enough not to venture that far. And nothing less than a real coalition would have sufficed this time–not for invading forces, but for securing, staying and rebuilding forces. Bush did not wait for a full coalition to form, however, nor was he willing to do what it would take to form that coalition–assuming he even had the diplomatic skills to pull something like that off, which he almost certainly did not. So instead he went in with a small, partial coalition, so weak and fractured that even Bush called it a “coalition of the willing.”
There were not enough troops for the long haul. There was no exit plan. While the military strike worked (you can count on the U.S. military to do a good job in that regard), there was no planning for obvious contingencies like looting or an insurgency. There was no long-term planning, and the contingencies for setting up an internal government in Iraq were half-assed at best. The question is, why was that the case? And I believe the answer is, none of these things mattered to Bush. This was about politics, this was about oil–but it was never about really building a stable nation or a democracy.
The oil fields were paramount, but not the people, the infrastructure, national coherency or security, or anything else. The focus was on the mercenary desires of the administration; after all, only the political maneuvering and oil field control were well-planned, and that betrays their real focus. If making Iraq a true and secure Democracy were their real focus, if freeing the people were their real focus, why were there no plans for how to accomplish that? Either through pipe-dream naivety or, more likely, sheer neglect, the Bush administration did not feel anything else was worth planning for, or that it would simply take care of itself. By noting the only things that the Bush administration was careful about, what they did plan for, what they were assiduous about–by this you can see their real goals in the conflict.
As a result, very soon we saw the results of this poor planning. Oil and oil-related companies like Halliburton reaped huge windfalls, as did Bush and the GOP, politically: mission accomplished. After that, everything started to fall apart because none of it was a serious focus of the administration.
There were possibilities of success, had the affair been handled properly. Not much possibility, which is why Bush Sr. stayed away. But at least there had been a chance. Had a real coalition been built. Had any care been taking to securing Iraq and its people and not just the oil fields. Had international and especially Arab involvement been deeply and significantly established the moment the invasion ended (instead of greedily hanging on to absolute control of the economic goodies, the literal spoils of the war). Had any realistic and convincing intention of handing Iraq back to the Iraqis been put on the table immediately. Had the borders been guarded more carefully. Even with all that, it would have been touch-and-go, but at least there would have been a chance.
Right off from the start, Bush botched all of this. At every turn where something constructive could have been done, Bush turned away from it because it would have meant giving up the spoils. As time went on, the chances of salvaging something, anything close to stability, still existed but dwindled. As every month went by and the liquid opportunities for hope instead congealed into a quagmire, Bush “stayed the course” and closed up one possible window of hope after another, until the last strains of hope died out and there was really very little hope left, no matter what Bush or anyone else did. And that’s where we are now.
I believe, like many now do, that there is no remaining hope for salvaging Iraq. Bush has destroyed any such hope with his mismanagement and endless string of blunders, the hallmarks of a domestic political war applied to a real foreign country. Whether we leave now or leave ten years from now, the situation will differ little, except for the lives of American and other “coalition” soldiers destroyed in the interim.
Unfortunately, Bush has screwed up far worse than that: he’s created a situation where doing anything will cause disaster. If we leave, collapse and a civil war is likely, and even if not, Iran’s designs will likely replace our own, allowing them to take power in the region and the oil resources within. If we stay, it remains a quagmire for us, with an endless insurgency killing off our soldiers and the Iraqi people continuing to suffer under our control–and eventually, it is most likely that civil war and breakdown will be inevitable anyway.
The greatest irony here is that as bad as he was, Saddam Hussein was probably the best solution to a bad problem. Contained, Hussein would have been of little threat to us and would have kept Iraq in place, checking the Iranians, keeping the country secular and non-terrorist. More Iraqis are dying today under our control than they were under Hussein, and the future looks even more bleak than it did before we invaded. The Iraqis are not better off today than they were under Hussein. Count on Bush to do a worse job than Saddam Hussein did.
And that returns me to my thesis: Iraq is a totally botched job, a hopeless, bloody quagmire with no more hope of a solution and only the promise of bloody civil war with Iran waiting patiently to capitalize from it–and all of this is Bush’s design, Bush’s will, Bush’s incompetence. Bush is fully responsible. He owns it. He can’t blame the Democrats when he outmaneuvered and bullied them into giving him his way. Only Bush himself is to blame for what has come to pass, and what will come to pass in the years ahead. And when he tries to claim victory and at the same time blame the defeat on his political opponents, see it for the dishonest, cowardly whining that it is.