George was consistent. He was consistent with the essential purpose of this adventure of his, this departure from the pursuit of a bin Laden needle in the mountainous haystacks of Afghanistan and Pakistan ... a pursuit that was righteous and politically necessary, but which only with amazing good luck could have produced success. George was, as this observer has observed, fully and fiercely involved in the middle east, AS IF it were his to reassemble any way he wants. The consistency was Neocon consistency. But, the point of the speech was to explain to a weary populace that 21,500 additional troops in Iraq will make a difference. Actually, folks, he did not say that. He said that he has told Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq that he has to step up to the plate and drive in a run. He said that U.S. troops will "embed" with the Iraqis to assist them to clean up their own mess. He said that this gesture on the part of the U.S. should not be seen as an open commitment, yet everyone knows that Bush does not plan to EVER remove U.S. troops from Iraq ... else why build permanent bases.
Politically, Bush gave himself several ways out tonight. His charge to Maliki will almost certainly not be fulfilled. Bush did not state what the benchmarks of success might be, by the way, but it will be apparent even amid all the bloodshed Bush predicted whether or not Maliki will move to end the sectarian violence. Failure of the Iraqis will be Bush's first line of defense against political forces at home.
(The ensuing debate in Congress would do well, therefore, to address the problem of metrics for Iraqi success—additional troops or not!)
Bush also gave himself another way out as well. He said that the additional carrier task group now deployed to the region would be insuring ... as best aircraft carriers are able to deal with land-based insurgency supply lines (remember the Ho Chi Minh Trail, folks!) ... that Iran and Syria do not increase the mischief they are already guilty of. Chris and Keith at MSNBC were so taken with the emphasis Bush put on this that they saw a new front in the war open up tonight. This observer has been predicting this for months and months.
Iran and Syria are a political way out for George. His stock is so low right now, he will be tarred and feathered if he attempts to bomb the supply lines within Iran or Syria without a "Pearl Harbor" type of provocation. Bush's manipulation of intelligence and the press now comes all the way around to bite him. If he had played it more subtly he might have made do with something less than a "Pearl Harbor." Assad and Ahmani-Nejad both know that George is hoist on his own petard, so they will supply and rearm the insurgents with impunity, and this becomes Bush's way out. Hogtied by his own bellicose prevarications, he will claim the Iranians as the evil force in the region and present the 2008 Presidential election campaigns with an ugly choice: Iran as hegemon in the middle east or American action against Iran, despite the opprobrium and hatred from Islam that it will bring.
Democrats will do well to pounce on the benchmarks issue and to let the opportunity to augment the troops pass. Putting this in the hands of the Iraqi government by insisting on hard compromises among Iraqis is the only way. Americans have to stop being "enablers" to the ancient problems of these people. Iraqis will scratch out a hopeful government pointed in the right direction ... or not. It is theirs to decide.