Surfing the Surge to Inauguration Day

Friday, November 30, 2007

Want to know where the White House has placed its Iraq policy? Nope, its not in the President's in-box, nor is it in Condi's in-box. Its actually in a lock-box, tucked away far from the Oval Office with a sign "Do not Open Until January 21, 2009."

Like surfers "hanging-ten" off of General Petreaus's militarily successful surge strategy, President Bush and his team are just riding that wave all the way out of the Oval Office. They apparently decided that officiating at an Annapolis Road Map relaunch has far more appeal in the way of legacy potential than wasting time convincing Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to reach a political agreement that would justify the blood, sweat and tears that the surge required.

Political reconciliation is absolutely necessary for there to be a stable Iraq. In just a matter of months (come early April) U.S. troops will begin withdrawing to pre-surge levels. With Al Qaeda in check, with some semblance of safety and security returning to the streets of Baghdad, with Al Anbar province sufficiently pacified under the so-called "Sunni Awakening," one would think that this White House would want to capitalize on our military's success and corral PM Maliki and his recalcitrant government to demand political accountability, or develop an alternative political surge strategy to complement what our troops have so valiantly achieved.

Senior Iraqi officials seem not to care one iota that they have a political window opened for them as a result of the surge. Iraqi leaders themselves are defeatist. The central government in Baghdad (increasingly an oxymoron) is angry that the U.S. is training and funding Sunnis and seems to want to prevent reconciliation that is vital to stability and continues to squabble, dawdle and dither.

All this points to Iraq "battle fatigue" that is surely draining the White House's will just at the very time when new ideas and a reinvigorated policy could wrest some semblance of victory from the jaws of defeat.

Although it would never admit it, this White House is throwing in the towel and lowering any expectation that political reconciliation on its watch is possible.

If Bush and Rice cannot muster the will to make things happen politically in Iraq, then they must step aside and let someone else try their hand. That means a seasoned diplomat that has standing and stature among Iraq's warring factions. That person could be French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

President Sarkozy of France has already signaled his willingness to help resolve the political impasse in Iraq. FM Kouchner is a seasoned, well-respected and widely admired diplomat who has a natural understanding of all things Middle East and is likely an acceptable intermediary to the bickering factions.

It behooves President Bush, if just for the sake our troops' sacrifices, to turn that Iraq lock box over to the French and get out of the way once and for all.

Iraq's future and this nation's responsibility to its troops should not be dictated by a White House that is surfing its way to Inauguration Day.
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