Archive for Sunday, August 12, 2007

Contradictions hinder progress in Iraq

August 12, 2007


ESTRAGON: Let's go.

VLADIMIR: We can't.

ESTRAGON: Why not?

VLADIMIR: We're waiting for Godot.

Samuel Beckett sets "Waiting for Godot" on a country road where two tramps desperately await someone or something that never comes. But I now wonder if Beckett was somehow foretelling this summer of inferno along the banks of the Potomac, where politicians wait in mixed dread and hope for an Army general to come and tell them whether the nation should continue the war in Iraq.

The general is David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. President Bush says the report that Petraeus will deliver in mid-September will become the centerpiece of his Iraq strategy. Rarely has so much depended on one man and his assessment of what he has accomplished in just seven months.

This situation will not faze the extraordinarily self-confident and ambitious Petraeus. The promise of Petraeus' arrival has already helped Bush buy time and temporarily stanch the hemorrhaging of vital congressional Republican support for the war. "The Washington clock" that was said to be outracing the Baghdad clock only a few weeks ago - as the Democratic majority moved to mandate U.S. withdrawals, then pulled back - has come to a stop for now as the Capitol waits for Petraeus.

Much decorated and a brilliant articulator of war-fighting doctrine, Petraeus will be no easy target for war critics. The preliminary signals are that he will report authentic - if still fragile - signs of progress in establishing security in Baghdad and Anbar province. He will ask for patience and time to continue what he has begun. He will not say much about political reconciliation, because there is so little positive to say.

The difference between Petraeus and Godot, of course, is that the general will come. He will report, spark new debate and probably buy Bush another month or two in the bitter domestic debate over Iraq that is now irrevocably intertwined with the 2008 presidential and congressional elections.

Moreover, Godot was almost certainly not a person but a larger force, one that an evangelical Christian such as Bush would recognize as salvation. Salvation is what Vladimir and Estragon await in Beckett's play, and what Bush and the Democrats hope for in their different ways when they look at Iraq today. But just as salvation does not arrive on that country road, it is unlikely to arrive any time soon in the enormous failure that the American occupation of Iraq has become.

Feedback during the past several weeks from military personnel serving in Iraq suggests to me that Petraeus can honestly report that his using more U.S. troops to pacify Baghdad neighborhoods and his arming and paying Sunni tribes to fight jihadists in Anbar have improved security.

But both of those efforts contradict and undermine Bush's avowed strategy of moving as quickly as possible to turn over responsibility for security to a national Iraqi army. U.S. troops are being pushed to produce short-term security gains that are likely to be temporary and perhaps ultimately self-defeating.

Similar contradictions mar the U.S. push for political reconciliation: The White House is pressuring Iraq's Kurds to vote for a national petroleum law that is not in Kurdish interests at exactly the same time that Bush representatives are suggesting to the Kurds that the U.S. does not support their constitutional right to a referendum on the status of Kirkuk this year. Likewise, the U.S. embassy pushes Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to make politically damaging compromises with his foes as the CIA starts yet another version of its long-running effort to install its favorite Iraqi politician, Ayad Allawi, in Maliki's job. And so on.

The policy contradictions and conflicts within his own government that Bush has never been able or willing to resolve have created a Beckett-like hell of unfulfilled expectations and immobility for both Iraqis and Americans.

Beckett foretold this too: As they realize that Godot is not coming, Vladimir says to Estragon, "I sometimes wonder if we wouldn't have been better off alone, each one for himself. We weren't made for the same road."

Estragon replies that it is not certain, and then asks: "Shall we go?" Vladimir: "Yes, let's go."

They do not move.

- Jim Hoagland is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

Keep in mind that that the TU-95 has a top speed that is subsonic and a radar signature like the Titanic.


max1 6 years, 8 months ago

Vladimir: "Yes, let's go."

09 August 2007 Iraq's oil minister says international companies that want to develop Iraqi oil fields will have to compete for bids in the open market. . . He was speaking Thursday in Moscow after talks with executives from Russian oil giant, Lukoil. Shahristani says Russia's Lukoil will have an advantage in gaining new contracts because of its previous work in Iraq.

August 10, 2007 An influx of oil money has allowed Russia to invest in new weaponry, expand its military presence in Europe and Asia, and conduct costly, elaborate exercises using aging elements of its arsenal. U.S. defense officials in Washington said Thursday that the Russian move in the Pacific was not seen as a provocation but that it did get attention. U.S. forces -- including 22,000 troops, 30 ships and 275 aircraft -- are working alongside Japanese forces in the waters near Guam this week as part of a massive war game dubbed Exercise Valiant Shield. Restoring the luster of the military has been a key element of President Vladimir Putin's effort to renew Russian pride

August 7, 2007 The Democratic Party of Japan, which trumped Abe's ruling coalition in the July 29 elections for the upper chamber, also said it might call for an end to the country's air force mission to support U.S. operations in Iraq - setting up a showdown over a key tenet of Japanese foreign policy. . . DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa signaled Tuesday that he may try to end Japan's mission to airlift coalition personnel and supplies from Kuwait to Iraq in support of U.S.-led operations there. . . "Be it Afghanistan or Iraq, I don't think Japan-U.S. relations are all about following the Bush administration's policies," he said.

August 10, 2007 Russian bombers have flown to the Pacific island of Guam for the first time since the Cold War during an Air Force exercise intended to show the nation's resurgent military power, a top general said Thursday. Air Force Major General Pavel Androsov said two Tu-95 bombers reached Guam, home to a large U.S. military base, as part of an exercise this week. . . Their crews smiled at pilots of U.S. fighters scrambled to intercept them, he said at a news conference.


i_tching 6 years, 8 months ago

This is what will happen:

Petraeus will issue his report, perhaps after a few delays. The media will murmur focus-group-approved terms like "progress." People like that word.

Then all the Very Serious People will decide to give the war another Friedman Unit, or six months, with the promise that by then we will know if we should "change course." Or whatever term the focus groups come up with.


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