Recently in this space I expressed cautious skepticism about the consensus forming among the grown-ups in this country around the proposition that the Bush/McCain surge is a terminally dumb idea. I remain convinced that even a small chance — say, one in twenty — of converting a likely catastrophe into a mere disaster would justify further expenditure of blood and treasure.
But Fred Kaplan’s piece in yesterday’s Slate pushes me back toward the consensus position. At least, if I were in Congress I’d like to hear Gen. Petraeus explain slowly and carefully why he expects to succeed in Iraq without the numbers or the organizational culture his own counterinsurgency manual identifies as essential.
I’d also like to know why Mr. Bush has been unable to convince his buddy Tony Blair to play along. It’s hard to believe that Blair is just clinging to office, since he’s promised to step aside within months in any case. Perhaps he simply doesn’t have the votes in his own Cabinet to push more chips into the center of the table. But if he thought that there was merit in the proposed escasurge, or whatever we’re calling it this week, wouldn’t he say so?
But here’s the clincher, in my view: the Young Churchill is taking a combat battalion out of Afghanistan, in the face of a coming Taliban offensive, to move it to Iraq. Looks to me as if Kevin Drum is right: GWB seems to be determined to make history by becoming the first American President to lose two wars at once.
Update The account in today’s Washington Post by Michael Abramowitz, Robin Wright and Thomas Ricks of the political process that produced the plan to be announced tonight is the opposite of reassuring.
Second update Matt Yglesias points to a Weekly Standard essay, published just last month, in which Gen. Jack Keane and Fred Kagan, the two key outside proponents of “surging,” say that any escalation involving fewer than 30,000 additional troops or lasting less than 18 months is “likely to fail.”