With air strikes on Somalia and a surge in troops in Iraq, he is staking everything on a finale he can call victory
Wednesday January 10, 2007
"Say what you like about George Bush, but no one can accuse him of following the crowd. When everyone from the American electorate to the US military brass, along with a rare consensus of world opinion, cries out with one voice to say "enough" of the war in Iraq, Bush heads in the opposite direction - and decides to escalate. When his army chiefs complain of desperate overstretch in the war on terror, he takes that as his cue to open up another front. And that's just this week.
On Sunday night the US military launched an air strike - not on Iraq or Afghanistan, but on southern Somalia. Some reports last night claimed that the bombing has continued ever since. If you didn't know that Somalia was on the enemies' list - if you're finding it hard, what with Syria and Iran and North Korea, to keep track of Washington's foes, don't blame yourself. These days the axis of evil is expanding faster than the European Union, with a couple of new members added every January......
The Republicans have form in this area, of course. In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected on a promise to end the war in Vietnam: instead, it intensified until another 55,000 US troops were dead, along with an estimated 2 million south-east Asians. But Bush's showing of his middle finger feels more brazen, if only because it is not only the American public he is ignoring, but people you would think he might respect.
Only weeks have past since the Iraq Study Group, led by his father's consigliere, James Baker, recommended a face-saving extrication from Iraq. That plan is now binned. So too are the senior military leaders who counselled against sending more troops to fight a losing war. General George Casey will no longer be in charge, while General John Abizaid has been relieved of his post running Central Command, or Centcom. Both men opposed the "surge", calling instead for a gradual US withdrawal. The Arabic-speaking Abizaid had the audacity to say as much publicly: "The Baghdad situation requires more Iraqi troops," not more Americans, he said.
So now we know what the much-vaunted new Bush strategy for Iraq amounts to: throw more gasoline on the fire. It's conceivable that Bush is, in fact, planning an eventual withdrawal, but hoping that one last push will give him something he can call victory as a finale. Psychologists spot similar behaviour in compulsive gamblers who, when in trouble, increase their bets, hoping for a win that will allow them to leave the table with dignity. They have a word for such thinking: delusional......"