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Three Bad Signs for the Surge

01/10/2007 10:47 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The more we see, the more it appears that militarily and strategically, the surge/escalation/whatever it is just does not amount to much - i.e., it is not fundamentally different from what we've seen before.

The single selling point for this is that it is, indeed, different, a "new way forward." But the one thing that really is new - Bush overruling the generals - isn't exactly reassuring. Now it's all in the president's hands. Yikes.

Meanwhile, there are three clear echoes of past mistakes, George W. Bush's familiar cul de sacs.

One: in the overall scheme of things, 20,000 troops aren't all that many. There aren't more available. At least, not without some big and inadvisable strategic changes in our deployments that no one wants make. If the president really wanted to "double down" on Iraq, he'd do this. But he's not. He's just trying to squeeze more juice out of the rind.

Two: The generals were apparently convinced to come on board not because of the compelling military logic of the White House's arguments, but because of a commitment for more nonmilitary money and programs:

Pentagon insiders say members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have long opposed the increase in troops and are only grudgingly going along with the plan because they have been promised that the military escalation will be matched by renewed political and economic efforts in Iraq.

"Political and economic efforts"? Nation building? Now? It was never the Pentagon's strong suit, and all those schools they built (and, it must be noted, the even more stuff that they failed to build due to contracting snafus) haven't made much difference in Iraq's slide into civil war.

Three: This appears innocuous, but the president spent a lot of time teleconferencing with Maliki on their joint plans, and apparently became convinced of his commitment and ability to deliver:

The president and prime minister spoke by secure video conference, with the second half of the conversation involving only the two leaders and their translators, Snow said.

Whenever Bush personally bonds with a foreign leader, it's a red flag. Putin's soul and so on. As we've seen many times, the president's sincere belief that someone's a "good man" has nothing to do with what that man will actually do.

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