Sunday, March 4, 2007

Why have a backup plan if you don't have any worries?

The Bush camp continues to run the Iraq war as a P.R. problem. Look confident and no-one will blame you for the ensuing chaos.

Bush Iraq Strategy Has No Option for Failure

Eager to appear resolute and reluctant to provide fodder for skeptics, U.S. officials rebuff questions about failure with a mix of optimism and evasion.

Over the years of U.S. involvement in Iraq, new plans have been launched with assurances of success -- the return of sovereignty to a handpicked Iraqi administration in the summer of 2004; a democratically elected government in January 2005; "Plan Baghdad," designed to retake the capital from insurgents and militias, in the summer of 2006. The current Plan A is arguably already Plan D or beyond.

Since last summer, public opinion has turned against Bush's handling of the war and favors withdrawing, rather than increasing, troops. Although the administration has said the new strategy should show progress within months, many officials privately say it could be years, if ever, and the Democratic majority in Congress has shown little inclination to wait patiently.

Any substantive administration planning for other contingencies is occurring at the margins of policy, far from key decision-makers. "Planners plan, but I don't think anyone is saying, 'Let's do the partition,' or 'Let's pull back and let Baghdad burn,' " one Pentagon official said. "That would be a tectonic shift. That would be catastrophic failure."

One military officer and another defense expert said they believe that retired Army Col. James Kurtz, a specialist in strategic planning, has been asked by the Pentagon to begin studying alternative strategies at the Institute for Defense Analyses, a government-run think tank.

Bush has warned that the U.S. commitment to Iraq is not open-ended and will require increased effort from Iraqis. Pressed to specify U.S. limits, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there would be ample opportunity "to see whether or not in fact the Iraqis are living up to the assurances they gave us."

"And what if they don't?" Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) asked.

"I don't think you go to Plan B," Rice replied. "You work with Plan A."

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