An intelligence surge needed.
Thud! What's a war president to do when he's got less than 30% of the public behind him? Go to a military base in the south, of course. Yesterday, W. made his way down to Fort Benning Ga. to rally the troops and bask in their adoration. I'm sure that to-a-man they were ecstatically happy to be going back to Iraq for another year or 18 months (or longer). But, who cares if they're weren't, they're a captive audience and surrounding W. in all that camouflage really makes him look macho.
Unfortunately, what can't be camouflaged quite so easily is the reality that W. doesn't even have the generals behind him. Thomas Ricks said on the Charlie Rose Show Wednesday night that he hadn't spoken to anyone in the military who supported W.'s plan. (Better make a bee-line for Ft. Bragg!)
But, hold the phone, Lt. General Petraeus is on board! This is what we keep hearing. People are talking about this guy like he's the second coming of Ulysses S. Grant or something. But unless he's got about 80,000 more troops up his sleeve and can convince the American public to give their full support for the surge for another few months, or years, then he's going to fail just like Casey and Abizaid did.
He may be a very capable and intelligent officer, but he's not a miracle worker. He has nowhere near the number of troops he needs to accomplish his task. His much touted counterinsurgency manual says that "the minimum troop density required" is "20 counter insurgents per 1000 residents." [Q&O blog] He's about 80,000 short. The manual also says that bipartisan support over the long term must be maintained in a counterinsurgency war. (I refer you again to the AP/Ipsos poll above.)
But let's give W.'s plan a chance, right? How will we know if it's failed unless we give it a chance to fail? Bob Gates said in his testimony at yesterday's House Armed Services committee hearing that it shouldn't take long to figure out if al-Maliki & Co. are going to play ball. "I think most of us, in our minds, are thinking of it as a matter of months, not years." There are those benchmarks, remember? What were they again?
W. said, "If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people." Well, it's already lost the support of the American people, so all we've got left to do is see if they break their promises. (That shouldn't take long.)
And then what? Condi was a little vague about what plan-B was. Senator Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) asked her what would happen if W.'s "benchmarks aren't met." She replied: "It is a mistake to speculate about what you will do if a plan fails that you are trying to make work." See, you don't plan for contingencies like failure, because if you do, you'll fail. It's better to plan for a stunning victory, like they have been for the past three years. This is a long slog, remember, in their minds its going to take months not years, or years not decades, or something along those lines. Ever get the feeling they haven't got the slightest clues of what they're doing?