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Monday, January 01, 2007

Clark Clifford's ghost lives

I just hung Saddam. You think
30,000 men will stop me?

A 'Surge' Faces Trouble In the Senate
Even in GOP, Few Back the President

By Robert D. Novak
Monday, January 1, 2007; Page A13

Sen. John McCain, leading a blue-ribbon congressional delegation to Baghdad before Christmas, collected evidence that a "surge" of more U.S. troops is needed in Iraq. But not all his colleagues who accompanied him were convinced. What's more, he will find himself among a dwindling minority inside the Senate Republican caucus when Congress reconvenes this week.

President Bush and McCain, the front-runner for the party's 2008 presidential nomination, will have trouble finding support from more than 12 of the 49 Republican senators when pressing for a surge of 30,000 troops. "It's Alice in Wonderland," Sen. Chuck Hagel, second-ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, told me in describing the proposal. "I'm absolutely opposed to sending any more troops to Iraq. It is folly."

What to do about Iraq poses not only a national policy crisis but profound political problems for the Republican Party. Disenchantment with George W. Bush within the GOP runs deep. Republican leaders around the country, anticipating that the 2006 election disaster would prompt an orderly disengagement from Iraq, are shocked that the president now appears ready to add troops.

The recent McCain congressional delegation was composed of sophisticated lawmakers who have made many previous visits to Iraq. They do not minimize the severity of sectarian civil war. They left their meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki doubting any "sense of urgency" after advising him that he must disarm the militias. They recognize that the national police, corrupt and riddled with radicals, constitutes an unmitigated disaster.

McCain has long called for more troops in Iraq. He was supported within the delegation by his ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the only Democrat on the delegation (though he now calls himself an "Independent Democrat" after losing the Democratic nomination in Connecticut and being elected with Republican votes). But Sen. John Thune (S.D.) calls his support for the surge "conditional." Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) returned from Baghdad opposing more troops. Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, the only House member on the trip, is described as skeptical.

How big and how long should a surge be? The 7,000 or 8,000 troops that were first mentioned now have grown to at least 30,000. Congressional advocates talk privately about an infusion of manpower ending about halfway through this year. But retired general Jack Keane, who has become a leading advocate of additional troops, wrote in The Post last week: "Increasing troop levels in Baghdad for three to six months would virtually ensure defeat."

I checked with prominent Republicans around the country and found them confused and disturbed about the surge. They incorrectly assumed that the presence of Republican stalwart James Baker as co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group meant it was Bush-inspired (when it really was a bipartisan creation of Congress). Why, they ask, is the president casting aside the commission's recommendations and calling for more troops?

Baker was supposed to fix this. He didn't, because Bush wiped his ass with the ISG report. People attacked it because it didn't deal with a lot of issues. That wasn't the point. It was to get Bush to accept withdrawal. He won't.

Unlike Atrios, I don't think this lasts until 2009. I think when it's clear you have 70+ votes against you in the Senate, that either you change your plans or you leave. Bush cannot escalate in the face of massive opposition and the reality that the Sadrists control the government. Saddam's hanging was a Mahdi Army special. The Hakim coup is not only dead, but dead and buried, because Sistani refused to back it.So the Sadrists run the show in all but name.

Do these geniuses think that the Iraqi Army will support an attack on the Mahdi Army? I don't think so.

posted by Steve @ 5:01:00 PM

5:01:00 PM

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