February 13, 2008

Behind the Pause

The case for temporarily halting the reductions was endorsed Monday by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who had previously voiced hope for greater reductions to ease the enormous strain on the military. But the die was cast last month when President Bush said during a visit to Kuwait that he was prepared to give his Iraq commander whatever forces he needed.

With Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander in Iraq, advocating that the United States “let things settle a bit” after the current round of troop reductions, and with Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, warning, by contrast, that the Army is “stretched and stressed” by its constant deployments, some sort of trade-off had to be made. For now, at least, securing Iraq has won.

Whenever Abu Muqawama reads the phrases "New York Times" and "military analysis" together in the same sentence he gets nervous. That having been said, the reliable Michael Gordon does a good job explaining some of the calculus behind the recent decision to pause in troop withdrawals from Iraq. Check it out. The main thing Abu Muqawama noticed about all this was the fact that, apparently, Sec. Gates made this decision before it got pushed up to the president. Abu Muqawama thus feels a little better about the decision than he would have if President Bush had made it, and that's just because he worries President Bush sees his presidency through an Iraq-shaped lens at this point and would do whatever Gen. Petraeus asked of him -- at the expense of the needs of both Afghanistan and the long-term health of the Army and Marine Corps.

Of course, if Abu Muqawama was President Bush, he would be pretty grateful to David Petraeus too. You think the president is in for a rough 2008? Try to imagine how bad it would have been for the guy if the situation in Baghdad had not improved. Try to imagine how bad it would have been for the country, too. That torture-monger Mitt Romney would have very likely been the Republican nominee rather than John McCain. (Yes, we know some of you like Mitt Romney out there. But after this, he was dead to us.)