I don’t know when Scott Stanzel started working as a White House spokesman, but his rejoinder to Joe Biden’s anti-escalation views doesn’t make much sense: “I would hope that Senator Biden would wait to hear what the president has to say before announcing what he’s opposed to.” So while the Decider dithers none of us are allowed to offer our opinions about what he should do? I suppose it would be convenient for the White House message team if things worked that way. I think Gary Schmitt from PNAC is insightful on the psychodynamics here:
“No president wants to be remembered as the guy who lost a war,” he said. “Who knows whether this is a day late and a dollar short, but it is a striking example of presidential will trying to bend the system to what he wants.”
Roughly speaking, the fixed point of the president’s thinking is an unwillingness to admit that the venture has failed. For a long time the best way to do that was to simply deny that there was a problem. Political strategy for the midterms, however, dictated that the president had to acknowledge the public’s concerns about the war and concede that things weren’t going well. At that point, simply staying the course doesn’t work anymore. But de-escalating would be an admission of failure, so the only option is to choose escalation. Thus, the idea of an escalation starts getting pushed and we start reading things int he paper like “Top military officials have said that they are open to sending more U.S. troops to Iraq if there is a specific strategic mission for them.” Consider the process here. It’s not that the president has some policy initiative in mind whose operational requirements dictate a surge in force levels. Rather, locked in the prison of his own denial he came to the conclusion that he should back an escalation, prompting the current search for a mission.