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by Julian E. Barnes
Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006 at 8:49 AM
Looks like Emperor Bush just wants to keep his head in the sand!!!!
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff will present their assessment and recommendations to President Bush at the Pentagon today. Military officials, including some advising the chiefs, have argued that an intensified effort could be the only way to get the American counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory.
The approach somewhat overlaps a course promoted publicly by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
But the Pentagon proposals add several additional features, including a confrontation with Sadr, a possible renewed offensive in the Sunni stronghold of Anbar province, a large Iraqi jobs program and a proposal for a long-term increase in the size of the military.
Such an option would appear to satisfy Bush's demand for a strategy focused on victory rather than disengagement from Iraq. It would disregard key recommendations and warnings of the Iraq Study Group, however, and provide little comfort for those fearful of a long open-ended American commitment in the country. Only 12 percent of Americans support a troop increase, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has indicated.
"I think it is worth trying," a Defense official said. "But you can't have the rhetoric without the resources. This is a double down (a gambling term for upping a bet)."
Such a proposal, military officials and experts caution, still would be a gamble. Any chance of success likely would require major changes in the Iraqi government, they said.
More money needed
U.S. Embassy officials would have to help usher into power a new coalition in Baghdad that was willing to confront the militias. And the new military strategy also would require more spending by the United States, both for growth of the U.S. military and additional money for an Iraqi jobs programs.
"You are dealing with an inherently difficult undertaking," said Stephen Biddle, a military analyst called to the White House this week to advise Bush. "That doesn't mean we should withdraw. But no one should go into this thinking if we double the size of the military the result will be victory. Maybe, but maybe not. You are buying the opportunity to enter a lottery."
The wild card in the Pentagon planning process is Robert Gates, due to be sworn in as Defense secretary Monday.
Gates had breakfast with Bush on Tuesday morning and will participate, along with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in today's meetings.
Bush is making a public drive this week to collect recommendations from his administration as he crafts his new strategy for Iraq.
But some Defense officials say Gates may make a bid for more time so he can weigh other military options.
Before endorsing an increase in the number of combat forces, Gates could press commanders in Iraq for assurances that U.S. forces can hold off an escalation of the sectarian civil war that has gripped the country.
"This is the big moment," the Defense official said. "It is enormously important for the new secretary of Defense to revisit what the overall objective is ... and what is needed to achieve that."
Defense officials interviewed for this article requested anonymity because the deliberations over the Pentagon's recommendations are continuing and have not been made public.
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