Saturday, October 21, 2006

The genteel revolt that is remaking US policy on Iraq

Republican veterans push for end to interventionist approach

Julian Borger in Washington
Saturday October 21, 2006
The Guardian

"A "polite rebellion" is under way among previously loyal allies of President Bush aimed at persuading him to change course in Iraq and quietly abandon the foreign policy doctrine he had hoped would be the centrepiece of his legacy.
Many senior Republicans believe the "Bush Doctrine" has hit a wall in Iraq and lies in ruins. The rebels, including many foreign policy veterans close to the president's father, see it as an obstacle to stabilising Iraq and extricating US forces. But they have decided that earlier, head-on challenges have only deepened the president's resolve, and a less confrontational approach was needed that avoided blame for past mistakes if there was to be any hope of a fundamental rethink.

"It's a polite rebellion by moderate and military-minded Republicans," said Steven Clemons, a Washington analyst. "Any walk-away from the Bush line is going to be covered with a lot of cosmetics to make it look like it's not really a big change."

The focus of the new approach is the Iraq Study Group (ISG), a bipartisan commission co-chaired by the first President Bush's secretary of state, James Baker, which will present its recommendations after the November elections.

Those elections are another reason for urgency. If the Democrats capture the House of Representatives, as expected, they will be in a position to cut funding for the war if they are not listened to. Even if they fall short of an absolute majority in the Senate, there are now Republican senators signalling that they could side with the opposition if there is not a decisive rethink on Iraq. David Mack, a diplomat in the first Bush administration who helped rally Arab support for the Gulf War, said: "We are really at a point where any talk of victory is an illusion."

Those involved with the Baker commission hope that its recommendations, coming from friends and camouflaged as tactical tweaks, could offer President Bush a face-saving way out of the current bloody impasse. But they concede there is no guarantee of a decisive change.

There is no consensus on the way out of Iraq among the president's critics while resistance to change is entrenched and led by Vice-President Dick Cheney."I know what the president thinks. I know what I think. And we're not looking for an exit strategy. We're looking for victory," Mr Cheney told Time magazine."

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