Excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book in this morning’s Washington Post add more detail to a portrait of a President who fidgeted while Iraq burned:
Publicly, Bush maintained that U.S. forces were “winning”; privately, he came to believe that the military’s long-term strategy of training Iraq security forces and handing over responsibility to the new Iraqi government was failing. [...]
In October 2006, the book says, Bush asked Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser, to lead a closely guarded review of the Iraq war. That first assessment did not include military participants and proceeded secretly because of White House fears that news coverage of a review might damage Republican chances in the midterm congressional elections.
This is pretty consistent with past reports of a White House in which politics and policy were one and the same, in which matters of national security were considered in terms of how best to achieve political advantage for the President and his party.
Woodward also writes that Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the president’s commanding general in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, “came to believe that Bush did not understand the nature of the Iraq war”:
“Casey had long concluded that one big problem with the war was the president himself,” Woodward writes. “He later told a colleague in private that he had the impression that Bush reflected the ‘radical wing of the Republican Party that kept saying, “Kill the bastards! Kill the bastards! And you’ll succeed.” ‘ “
As we’ve written here before, quite a few members radical “kill the bastards” wing of the Republican Party are now part of John McCain’s campaign, and will likely be helping him plan those “other wars” McCain has promised American must fight.
Importantly, Woodward also confirms again that — despite the constant crowing of war supporters eager to exhume their reputations — the 2007 troop escalation “was not the primary factor behind the steep drop in violence there during the past 16 months.” Rather, factors like the Sadr militia “freeze,” the completion of large-scale sectarian cleansing, and the Anbar revolt, combined with a new counterinsurgency strategy which enabled greater cooperation between U.S. forces and the Iraqi population to reduce violence.
Further, as some predicted, the tactic of empowering independent Sunni tribal militias has yet to show results in terms of Iraqi political reconciliation. With Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki failing to make good on promises to find jobs for these some 100,000 Sunni militamen, and with Shia-dominated Iraqi government forces now arresting the movement’s leaders, there are few signs that that cutting deals with independent militias will result in a stable Iraqi state.