Weak governments fail
In Iraq Visit, Bush Seizes on a Step Forward
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
Published: June 14, 2006
WASHINGTON, June 13 — In visiting Baghdad on Tuesday, President Bush was trying to deliver a carefully calibrated message to Americans: that Iraq and the administration's strategy there appear to be turning a corner, but troops will not be withdrawn anytime soon.
Mr. Bush could have spoken with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki by secure videoconference from Camp David. Instead, he embraced Mr. Maliki both figuratively and literally — at the same time embracing the political reality that Iraq is so central to his presidency that he cannot escape developments there, and must try instead to make the most of any good news.
"I'm impressed by the strength of your character and your desire to succeed," the president told the new prime minister, as the officials he left behind — Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — watched via remote video link. "And I'm impressed by your strategy."
It was powerful political theater, choreographed by an experienced team that played up the drama and secrecy of the moment, and were rewarded with a day of relatively unfiltered cable news coverage. The trip, including a stealthy nighttime helicopter departure from Camp David, unfolded with the precision of a campaign event, complete with the image of the commander in chief addressing cheering American troops.
But it was also a gamble. For Mr. Bush, the new Iraqi government is a life preserver, evidence of progress toward the goal of establishing democracy in a hostile environment.
Since the killing last week of the jihadist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, polls have shown some tentative signs of a reversal in the slide in public support for the war. Some foreign policy analysts, even those critical of Mr. Bush, see glimmers of hope."It's been a steady drumbeat of disastrous tactical news, so this is a very significant event," said one of those critics, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired Army commander, referring to the formation of the new government. "This is the decisive turning point, not whacking Zarqawi."
Yet experience suggests that steps forward with Iraq are often followed by more violence, which in turn erodes any surge in public support for the war.
And the fledgling Baghdad government is both fragile and untested. So the administration is putting all of its diplomatic and bureaucratic muscle behind Mr. Maliki, with the goals of turning things around in Iraq, putting a floor under the president's plummeting job approval ratings and keeping the war from leading to a Republican defeat in Congressional elections in November.
Is there a Minister of Defense? Interior? No?
By the end of the summer, we're going to see the government collapse, because there is no government, just interest groups. Everyone is jockeying for power while the country collapses into even greater anarchy. As long as we are screwing around with Iran, Iraqi instability is guaranteed.
Anyone who takes Bush at his word needs to stop playing with sharp objects.
posted by Steve @ 1:35:00 AM