When the curtain falls on the Bush Administration the chorus of boos is likely to be deafening. The final denouement may take eighteen months, unless a sudden call for impeachment upends Bush’s tragic run before the scheduled final act. The audience, save the few philistines would probably buy tickets for a musical called “Springtime for Hitler” if they could, has already thumbed its nose at the performance of Bush & Cheney.
Before Bush can make his ungraceful exit, however, he may be forced to endure a few more dramatic ironies. To wit, he may be forced to preempt a mass Republican defection by reversing the surge. As the New York Times, Time, and other publications are reporting, the White House is furiously debating how to get out ahead of the wave of Republicans that are expected to desert Bush’s Iraq approach in the coming weeks. If the president doesn’t call for a rollback of some sort, the thinking goes, a critical number of Republicans may join Democrats in passing legislation that would set a date certain for America’s withdrawal from Iraq.
The Bush Administration, of course, is looking for the right kind of language to sell its failed policy as something other than a defeat. Most likely, the president and his spin-doctors will talk about a “ post-surge redeployment,” a euphemism for “cut and run.” But basically, Bush will be forced by Congressional Republicans to accept the staged pullout recommended by the Iraq Study Group, the same Baker/Hamilton plan that the president rejected as “unwise” just eight months ago.
The full magnitude of Bush’s misjudgment in Iraq, of course, will take decades to measure. It is clear, however, that the Malaki government is in the processes of failing. Worse still, Iraqi factions are preparing to use their U.S. supplied arms and training to settle their differences in a civil war the Bush Administration’s invasion and botched occupation has instigated. The chief beneficiaries of the mayhem, of course, will be Iran and al-Qaeda, though staying the course in Iraq could only hope to forestall this outcome at the expense of degrading America’s armed forces even further.
The legacy of the Iraq invasion is certain to be far bitterer than America’s tragic involvement in Vietnam. According to some estimates more than 650,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives during the American occupation. This staggering death toll, however, may be only a warm up act for the expected Shiite/Sunni bloodbath and the potential regional conflagration Iraq’s full-scale civil war may spark. Already, there are reports that Turkey has amassed 144,000 troops near the Kurdish border area in the event that Iraq splinters and the Kurds declare independence. And Saudi Arabia and Iran will face off in a proxy war (and possible nuclear arms race) as each backs their respective Sunni and Shiite allies.
A surge in diplomacy may avert the worst-case scenarios, but given the Bush Administration’s woeful lack of competence, especially when it comes to diplomatic affairs, there is every reason to be pessimistic. Put simply, growing chaos in Iraq will mean a less stable Middle East, which will mean higher gas prices, which will mean more revenue for the forces associated with terrorism, which will mean a weaker and less secure America. And so a vicious and self-defeating cycle will feed on itself.
Historians will scratch their heads out how the Bush Administration blundered America into Iraq. Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector at the U.N. has recounted his dismay at being ordered out of Iraq by the Bush Administration just weeks before he and his team were due to complete their mission. Had Bush allowed the inspectors to complete their job the world would have known that Saddam didn’t have the banned weapons the administration claimed he had. When Blix got word that Bush was pulling the plug on the inspections he knew the fix was in; war was a foregone conclusion.