As President George W. Bush challenges public opinion at home by committing more soldiers to Iraq, he is confronted by an essential paradox: An Iraqi government that does NOT really want them. Even as the extra troops are readied — more than 20,000, Bush was expected to propose — the Iraqis are drawing up their own plans.
The Shiite-led government is skeptical of American intentions and is determined to push back the reach of Washington's authority to run the war the way it wants.
Haidar al-Abadi, a member of Parliament who is a close associate of Maliki's, said: "The government believes there is no need for extra troops from the American side. The existing troops can do the job."
That opinion is broadly held throughout the ranks of the Shiite political elite, which after two years in power is stretching its wings and trying to stamp its authority on a chaotic capital. taken away at any moment.
"You can't solve the problem by adding more troops," said Redha Jawad Tahi, a Shiite member of Parliament.
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Excerpts from editorials in U.S. newspapers on President Bush's new plan for Iraq
Bush is sending more troops to Iraq. He's sending something else as well: warnings to Iraqi leaders. ...
America has set benchmarks before. And then it has retreated, fearful that too much pressure would undercut the Iraqi government and embolden the insurgency. The upshot: a confusing mix of signals from Washington to Baghdad.
The Dallas Morning News:
No patriot can hope for him to fail. There is far too much at stake for America and the world. ...
Our concern is that it's too little, too late. Like all Americans, we want a good outcome in Iraq, and we pray that we've misjudged Mr. Bush and the situation on the ground.
Yet if this new plan -- including a troop surge of 21,500 -- proves unsuccessful, we hope the president again displays his new willingness to change course. And that time, for so long on our side, has not run out.
The Denver Post:
The president wants to send more than $1 billion in additional funding for reconstruction and job creation, but these efforts depend upon security and stability. Until they're achieved, it's unworkable. ...
He ignored the core advice of the Iraq Study Group, which called for troop withdrawals to begin in early 2008 and for the U.S. to make diplomatic contacts with Iraq's trouble-making neighbors, Syria and Iran.
In deploying additional troops, Bush is going it alone once again.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
The United States ousted a terrible (though functioning) government but left in its place a leadership vacuum, and that has had bitter consequences. The administration has presented no workable plan beyond more death and destruction. The Band-Aid applied by Bush only forestalls the inevitable at great expense and tragedy.
Los Angeles Times:
It is unlikely that the additional troops will be enough to make a difference, or that Maliki will honor his latest pledge. But America, and Iraq, will know in a matter of months whether U.S. troops can operate freely and whether Maliki's government is worth defending.
It would have been nice to have this answer months ago, and Bush deserves the blame for not demanding it sooner. At least he is finally making that demand. For his sake, and for the hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and millions of Iraqis, we hope it's not too late.
New York Daily News:
President Bush presented his new battle plan for Iraq with heartening resolve last night, and he put the American military where it belongs: on the offensive with new strength and a new strategy. ... Despite the dicey uncertainties, Bush's approach is far sounder than a so-called phased withdrawal that would leave average Iraqis, the region and the world to suffer the maelstrom, and it makes more sense than pulling back while riskily embedding American forces in Iraqi units to serve as trainers and muscle. Troops will be embedding, as the Iraq Study Group recommended, but in tandem with a muscular use of American power. ... Until yesterday, thanks to an admittedly futile strategy and compounding blunders, the U.S. was heading inexorably toward failure. Today, there's at least hope.
New York Post:
Sad to say, many in Congress fail to understand the larger ramifications if America suffers a defeat in Iraq. ... Congressional Democrats, and their weak-kneed Republican allies, have it in their power to stop the so-called troop surge in its tracks. Indeed, they can de-fund the entire war, virtually overnight, if they so choose. They need to put up, or shut up. They should either cut off funds for the war -- or leave President Bush alone as he directs freedom's battles in Iraq, and in the larger War on Terror. We believe that America can't afford to lose this struggle. But if the Democratic Congress means for America to lose, let it pull the trigger now. And live with the consequences.
The New York Times:
President Bush told Americans last night that failure in Iraq would be a disaster. The disaster is Mr. Bush's war, and he has already failed. Last night was his chance to stop offering more fog and be honest with the nation, and he did not take it.
Americans needed to hear a clear plan to extricate United States troops from the disaster that Mr. Bush created. What they got was more gauzy talk of victory in the war on terrorism and of creating a "young democracy" in Iraq. In other words, a way for this president to run out the clock and leave his mess for the next one.
St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times:
His way promises only to delay the day of reckoning that is drawing near. His way will lead to an increase in American casualties and further strain our military. His way forces U.S. military commanders to carry out a policy they strongly advised against. His way ignores overwhelming public and congressional opposition to the war. His way is an escalation in the fighting that is unlikely to end the sectarian slaughter of innocents, force the Shiite majority to compromise with the Sunni minority, or achieve national reconciliation and political stability.
Imposing order on the Middle East has always been difficult. When Lawrence of Arabia faced similar difficulties in the region in the early 1900s, he had this advice: "It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them." Bush has cast his new strategy as doing just that. But chances that it will achieve a stable Iraq remain a long shot.
The Washington Post
President Bush is right to recognize that U.S strategy in Iraq is not working and to seek a different policy. He is right to insist that the United States cannot afford to abandon the mission and to reject calls for an early withdrawal. But the new plan for the war Mr. Bush outlined last night is very risky. It envisions new missions and dangers for U.S. troops and counts on unprecedented military and political steps by the Iraqi government. The plan is likely to cause a spike in U.S. casualties, while the chances that it will stabilize Iraq are far lower. Moreover, Mr. Bush appears prepared to embrace this approach despite strong opposition from Congress and the public -- setting up a conflict that in itself could hurt the war effort.
As President George W. Bush challenges public opinion at home by committing more soldiers to Iraq, he is confronted by an essential paradox: An Iraqi government that does NOT really want them.
Even as the extra troops are readied — more than 20,000, Bush was expected to propose — the Iraqis are drawing up their own plans.