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Ten Problems With Bush's Latest Iraq Plan

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On January 10th, President Bush presented his "new plan" for Iraq. Bush's proposal has ten serious problems: 1. It wasn't a plan: A realistic proposal starts with an accurate assessment of the current situation and then presents a detailed program for achieving a set of measurable objectives given time and budget constraints. Bush's "plan" has none of these elements. It's wishful thinking wrapped in sophistry. 2. His proposal was based on an inaccurate assessment: The President wasn't truthful about the current situation in Iraq. He talked as if this is a conflict primarily waged by "Al Qaeda terrorist and Sunni insurgents." That's a naive oversimplification. Iraq is embroiled in a civil war, where Sunnis fight Shiites, Kurds fight Sunnis, and they all fight the occupation forces. 3. Bush overemphasized the role of Al Qaeda: The President referred to "Al Qaeda" ten times and "terrorist" nine times; used these words more than "extremist" or "insurgent." However, the latest statistics from Iraq indicated that there are approximately 1350 "foreign fighters" in Iraq (only some of whom are members of Al Qaeda), while there are an estimated 25,000 insurgents and 50,000 members of Shiite Militias. Bush doesn't understand the nature of the conflict in Iraq. 4. He misstated what will happen when the US leaves Iraq: The President paraphrased his favorite line: we must fight terrorists there, so we don't have to fight them here. "Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States... Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions... Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people." Because Bush conflated terrorists and insurgents, he made it sound as if failure in Iraq is synonymous with victory for Al Qaeda, but that's not the case. Many observers believe the US-led occupation has already failed. This failure hasn't produced an Al Qaeda-led Caliphate, but rather a civil war that ultimately will be "won" by Shiites, in the southern part of Iraq, and Kurds in the north. Neither of these groups are supporters of Al Qaeda, whose members are primarily Sunnis. 5. Bush's "plan" didn't allocate enough US troops: The President intends to send 17,500 additional American troops to help secure Baghdad and 4000 to Anbar province. Most American military experts feel that these are not nearly enough new troops to make a difference. 6. He overestimated the capability of the Iraqi troops: "There will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort." Most observers are skeptical that these forces will prove to be effective. The December 20th New York Times estimated there were only 10,000 Iraqi Security Forces deemed "politically dependable." Many Iraqi brigades deployed to Baghdad will either not show up or will be ineffective. 7. The Baghdad mission wasn't clear: The President claimed: "Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs." After Bush's speech, observers immediately questioned what the difference was between this "new" mission and the current mission, which is not succeeding. 8. There was no schedule: The President reported: "I have made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people." By this, Bush evidently meant the commitment of the "18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades" in a reasonable period of time. However, Bush also noted, "the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November," an objective most military observers feel will not happen, either in November, or the foreseeable future. 9. There were no benchmarks: Because the President didn't present a schedule, other than sending more troops and spending more money, there will be no way for Americans to evaluate whether the "new" Bush "plan" is succeeding. For example, Bush declared: "Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis." He gave no schedule for this legislation or even a rough idea of what "sharing" implies. 10. Bush proffered an inadequate definition of America's objective in Iraq: The President reiterated: "victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world, a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people." Most observers believe that while laudable, this objective is unachievable in Iraq, so long as we continue the occupation. One of the many reasons George Bush failed, as a CEO, was his inability to prepare realistic plans. On January 10th, his deficiency was, once again, painfully apparent to the American people.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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