Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The White House, Pentagon and State Department in this Post Election Phase

By John E. Carey
November 21, 2006

The stinging rebuke by the voters this month got the president’s attention.

By letting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld go, the president signaled a new direction in both Iraq and other areas is likely before long. Replacing Rumsfeld with former CIA Director Bob Gates, a member of the Iraq Study Group, indicates that a new team could soon have more influence over the thinking at the White House.

The Iraq Study Group is a bipartisan committee led by Republican former secretary of state James A. Baker III and Democratic former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (Ind.), who was a vice chairman of the panel that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Iraq Study Group was the brainchild of Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.). Wolf started to talk to people about a set of “new eyes” to study the situation in Iraq and make recommendations following his third trip to Iraq in September 2005.

Wolf said, "We wanted a bipartisan group, people senior enough that they weren't looking to get placed in a law firm or good job. The test was: Do you love your country?"

The members of the group include Lawrence Eagleburger (secretary of state under the first President Bush), Vernon E. Jordan Jr. (former adviser to President Bill Clinton),Edwin Meese III (attorney general under President Ronald Reagan), Sandra Day O'Connor (former Supreme Court justice), Leon E. Panetta (chief of staff under Clinton and Democratic former representative from California), William J. Perry (secretary of defense under Clinton), Charles S. Robb (Democratic former senator from Virginia) andAlan K. Simpson (Republican former senator from Wyoming).

Because the congress has been unable or unwilling to chart a new course for Iraq, Rep. Wolf though an outside team of “solons” might be able to come to conclusions, make recommendations, and persuade the president to go in a new direction.

There is something else at play here too. By removing Mr. Rumsfeld and replacing him with Mr. Gates, the president might be signaling that he is starting to listen more to men close to his father. This group would include “Bush 41” National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft (he was Condoleezza Rice’s boss at the time), Colin Powell (who some say was treated badly by George W. Bush who dismissed him as his secretary of state), Richard Armitage (Powell’s deputy at state), James A. Baker III, and, perhaps, President “Bush 41” himself.

If allowed to get the president’s ear often enough over the holiday season, one might expect this group to urge a diminishing reliance upon the overpower influence of Vice president Dick Cheney.

This team of advisors is interested in resolving foreign policy messes like Iraq before the next presidential election. They have already been influential in getting the phrase “stay the course” out of the Republican and White House lexicon.

This group would also allow some new thinking on Afghanistan and Iran.

“Iraq is the disaster we have to get rid of, and Iran is the disaster we have to avoid,” Joseph Cirincione, the vice-president for national security at the liberal Center for American Progress, said.

According to Seymour Hersh, who wrote “The Next Act” for The New Yorker Magazine (November 27, 2006 issue),

Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State in Bush’s first term, told me that he believed the Democratic election victory, followed by Rumsfeld’s dismissal, meant that the Administration “has backed off,” in terms of the pace of its planning for a military campaign against Iran. Gates and other decision-makers would now have more time to push for a diplomatic solution in Iran and deal with other, arguably more immediate issues. “Iraq is as bad as it looks, and Afghanistan is worse than it looks,” Armitage said. “A year ago, the Taliban were fighting us in units of eight to twelve, and now they’re sometimes in company-size, and even larger.” Bombing Iran and expecting the Iranian public “to rise up” and overthrow the government, as some in the White House believe, Armitage added, “is a fool’s errand.”
End Quote

Perhaps come January, between the new congress and the influence of the Iraq Study Group coming to bear, we shall see a real new direction in Iraq and some new strategic thinking (Bill Sammon of The Washington Examiner calls this “strategery”). In any event, next January’s State of the Union Address could well be a watershed that lays out the roadmap for the final two years of the George W. Bush presidency.

Rising price of the war on terror

With the Iraq war and clashes in Afghanistan grinding on, the cost to the US budget is $500 billion and still mounting.

By Peter Grier
The Christian Science Monitor
November 21, 2006

WASHINGTON – Whether troop levels increase in coming months, or decrease, or stay the same, one aspect of the US military effort in Iraq is unlikely to change: It will be expensive.

The cost of combat in Iraq has now surpassed $300 billion, according to government estimates. Add in activities in Afghanistan, and the total price of the global war on terror is about $500 billion, making it one of the most monetarily costly conflicts in which the nation has ever engaged.

Now the Department of Defense is in the process of drawing up its follow-on request for the remainder of FY 2007. Reports indicate that the Pentagon could ask for $120 billion to $160 billion, which would be its largest funding request yet for the global war on terror.

After they take control of Congress next year, Democrats will almost certainly investigate both the rate of Iraq spending and the manner in which it has been appropriated. Much of the war has been funded through supplementals, so-called emergency bills whose use in this case has become increasingly controversial in Congress.

"We're now at $507 billion for the global war on terror and counting, and almost all of that has been pushed through a process that doesn't give proper scrutiny to the budget. Are we spending it wisely?" says Gordon Adams, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center who was the senior White House official for national security budgets under President Clinton.

Last month, Congress approved $70 billion in spending intended to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through the first six months of fiscal 2007, which began Oct. 1 for the US government.

The size of the request under discussion reflects both the continued nature of the mission and past wear-and-tear. Both the Army and the Air Force need billions to replace expensive hardware worn out by the pace of warfare in Iraq.

Before the invasion of Iraq, the White House estimated that combat operations there would cost about $50 billion. That forecast, however, was based on a quick end to the war and a rapid drawdown of US troops.

Three years later, Iraq alone is costing the US some $8 billion a month.

Estimates of total spending vary, due to the fact that Department of Defense records on obligations do not provide comprehensive specifics, and the supplemental bills voted by Congress do not have the line-item details of regular sending bills.

Congressional Research Service figures puts the cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other war-on-terror activities at $507 billion. Of that, the Afghan campaign has cost at least $88 billion, according to CRS. Iraq accounts for the bulk of the rest.

The drain of continued fighting in Iraq has meant that the global war on terror has steadily moved up the list of the most costly conflicts in US history (in terms of money, not casualties). In 2005, it passed the Korean war's inflation-adjusted cost of $361 billion.

Next year it will almost certainly pass the Vietnam War's $531 billion, making it the second most expensive US war ever, behind World War II.

Given the uncertainty of troop levels, it is very difficult to estimate the US military's future costs in Iraq.

Overall, each individual soldier deployed in Iraq for a year costs about $275,000, according to CRS. The cost rises to $360,000 if required additional investments in equipment and facilities are added.

Using a scenario in which US troop levels fall to 73,000 by 2010, and then stay at that level, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cumulative cost of the global war on terror could reach $808 billion by 2016.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon and the Bush administration have continued the practice by which funding for the war on terror is requested in the form of supplemental appropriations.

Supplementals are prepared much closer to the time when the money will actually be spent.

The Vietnam War, for instance, was funded via supplementals at its outset. Later, Vietnam costs were folded into the regular budget process.

Supplementals provide much less detail as to where money will be spent than do regular budget documents, and receive less congressional oversight than do regular budget bills.

So far, the White House has shown little inclination to fund Iraq and Afghanistan via the regular budget, despite some pressure from Congress to do so. In addition, the nature of items paid for via these war spending bills may have begun to expand, to include items related to peacetime missions as well.

A Democratic-controlled Congress will almost certainly look for ways to increase pressure on the White House to abandon the flexibility and opaqueness of the emergency bill approach.

The Only Real Option: Leave Iraq Now

By Eugene Robinson
The Washington Post
Tuesday, November 21, 2006; Page A27

Good lord, if even Henry Kissinger now says that military victory in Iraq is impossible, pretty soon George W. Bush really will be left with just Laura and Barney on his side.

The Decider Agonistes must be feeling betrayed and abused these days. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's admission that the war has been "pretty much of a disaster" was just a slip of the tongue, but the president must have felt it as a cut most unkind.

And Kissinger? The oracle who has been dropping by the White House regularly to whisper sweet nothings into the presidential ear, urging him to hang tough? The sage who wrote in August 2005 that "victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy" is now listing Bush's conditions for withdrawal -- a stable government, ruling all of Iraq, with the ability to control the violence -- and pronouncing them unattainable. Will anyone be surprised if Henry the K soon reveals that he knew the whole thing was folly all along?

Meanwhile, the neocon architects of the war are making a spectacle of themselves in their undignified flight from the sinking ship. Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, Michael Rubin -- they all take pretty much the same line, which is that the invasion was a great and noble idea but that the White House and the Pentagon bungled it horribly.

Defections, recrimination and finger-pointing among the people who got us into this mess provide an amusing sideshow. But the main event is the mandate that midterm voters imposed this month, in no uncertain terms: Find a way out.

Sen. John McCain has planted his flag at one extreme of the debate, making the counterintuitive argument that the way to get out of Iraq is to send in a lot more U.S. troops who would stabilize the country as a necessary prelude to withdrawal. By "counterintuitive," I mean "divorced from reality as we know it." For one thing, the troops McCain wants to send do not exist -- the military is stretched paper-thin as it is, and I don't think Rep. Charles Rangel's proposal to reinstate the draft is going to get very far. For another, McCain doesn't specify how all those magically conjured reinforcements are supposed to accomplish such a mission.

In a sectarian civil war, the last place you want to stand is in the middle. Is the United States really going to choose sides and then lend a hand as Shiite or Sunni death squads go about their awful business?

At the other end of the debate is Rep. John Murtha, who says we should cut our losses and start pulling out. At least Murtha doesn't pretend we'd be leaving behind a secure, viable Iraq, because we wouldn't.

The new, post-midterm mainstream position in Washington is to support "phased withdrawals," with or without telling anyone in advance when a new phase will begin, and to involve "the neighbors," meaning Iran and Syria, in forcing Iraqi politicians to reach "a political solution."

James Baker and his Iraq Study Group will probably come up with some variation of this scenario. But we should be honest and acknowledge that phased withdrawals, with or without a stated timetable, really mean just telling the Iraqis good luck and adios, drawing the whole process out in a belated attempt to save face.

The president clearly doesn't want to hear any of this. The bizarre analogy he made in Hanoi -- comparing Iraq to Vietnam and saying, "We'll succeed unless we quit" -- doesn't even make sense in his own parallel universe. He should ask his friend Kissinger to tell him about that Ho Chi Minh guy whose picture is plastered all over Vietnam.

But while the Decider covers his ears and rewrites history, the center of gravity of the debate has shifted from whether we should get out of Iraq to how and when.

If we are ready to acknowledge, as Kissinger does, that the president's goals in Iraq will never be accomplished, then how do we justify the American lives that will be lost next year, next month or next week, while the phases of a face-saving withdrawal run their course?

If American troops begin pulling out tomorrow, Iraq surely will suffer a terrible spasm of bloody violence. But if we wait a year and then pull out, there is no reason to expect any different outcome. Quite the contrary: The longer we stay, the more lawless and chaotic the country becomes. And the more young Americans die in a war that no longer has an attainable goal.

Why Only Darfur?

By Anne Applebaum
The Washington Post
Tuesday, November 21, 2006; Page A27

There was a photograph: a weeping Sudanese woman, standing before a freshly dug grave. There were statistics: 400,000 people dead, 2.5 million driven from their homes, "untold thousands" raped. There was an appeal: "Innocent civilians are being slaughtered in Darfur. You can end it," and a Web address, http://www.dayfordarfur.org.

This advertisement -- which appeared on a full page of the International Herald Tribune last week, and previously in Le Monde, the Guardian, and many other newspapers in Europe and the United States -- was truly arresting. But what really made me look twice was the slogan across the top: "When all the bodies have been buried in Darfur, how will history judge us?"

"How will history judge us?" Like much of the grass-roots campaign that has sprung up to oppose the genocide in Darfur, this slogan is intended to evoke the genocides of the recent past.

Earlier this fall 120 survivors of the horrors of the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia signed an open letter calling for a U.N. peacekeeping force in Sudan. The stunning variety of organizations that have joined the Darfur campaign -- they range from Amnesty International to the World Evangelical Alliance to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum-- also speaks to the evocative nature of the Sudanese conflict.

And their call upon the witness of history has made an impact. Indeed, it is fair to say that were it not for the Christian, Jewish, human rights, genocide-prevention groups and others that have been talking about Sudan with such dedication, the massacres of Darfur might not be on the international agenda at all. The ads and the rallies got "people in the street talking about something that happens far away," as an activist at Global Day for Darfur told me. Public interest has forced politicians to act.

The result: The United Nations is trying to form a multilateral peacekeeping brigade in Darfur, and the White House and Tony Blair are involved, too. And yet -- it is not simple to explain why this particular grass-roots action has been so successful. After all, Darfur is not the only place in the world where there has been mass murder, even ethnic mass murder, on a large, historically familiar scale. The North Korean regime has for years run concentration camps, directly modeled on the camps of Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union. But though there is excellent documentation of Pyongyang's camps -- the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea even has satellite photographs on its Web site -- and though some religious and university groups have made an effort, the level of interest, and therefore perhaps of U.N. involvement, is much lower.

The same is true of arbitrary arrests in Iran, some of which have also targeted particular ethnic groups for intimidation or elimination. For that matter, Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons to murder tens of thousands of Kurds never caught the popular imagination, not before the war and not afterward.

I can offer no scientific explanation as to why the tragedy of Darfur conjures up the specter of history's judgment and why other tragedies do not. But the answer must lie in the fact that this conflict has so few strategic or geopolitical implications. Because it seems to be in no one's "interest" to do so, a call for U.N. intervention in Darfur surely feels -- at least to Americans and Europeans who haven't followed China's involvement in Sudan's oil industry -- like an act of real charity, and not more evidence of the West pursuing its interests.

Equally important is the fact that Sudan plays no real role in Western domestic politics. Any discussion of North Korea will still evoke the Cold War, any conversation about Iran must touch on radical Islam. By contrast, when most of us look at Sudan, all we see is what Jan Egeland, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator, last weekend called"acts of inexplicable terror."

Taking a stand against genocide in Sudan does not require anyone to take a parallel stand on communism, the war on terrorism or the war in Iraq. It does not imply that you are left-wing, right-wing, pro- or anti-Bush. Once the United Nations is there, this may change: The U.S. intervention in Somalia immediately politicized what had also appeared to be an apolitical conflict. But at the moment, it is still possible to think of Darfur as an appropriate target for neutral humanitarianism.

None of this, I should emphasize, is meant to disparage the work of the extraordinary Darfur coalition, which has pushed an obscure and terrible war into the international spotlight. Nor do I mean to deny that "history will judge us," for surely it will. But when future generations look back on this era, they will judge us not only for how we responded to the most primitive and the most apolitical of horrors. They will also judge us by the consistency with which Western and international institutions battled sophisticated totalitarianism in all its forms: That is, they will judge us by the United Nations' application of its own declarations on human rights, by America's ability to live up to the rhetoric of its leaders, by Europe's willingness to stand behind its stated values.

The creation of an international coalition to end genocide is a stunning achievement, but its goals are still not deep or broad enough.