The Plank

Plan B Follies


Belatedly: This morning's Washington Post indicated that Bush has a "Plan B" in mind for Iraq:

Participants in Tuesday's White House meeting said frustration about the Iraqi government's efforts dominated the conversation, with one pleading with the president to stop the Iraqi parliament from going on vacation while "our sons and daughters spill their blood." The House members pressed Bush and Gates hard for a "Plan B" if the current troop increase fails to quell the violence and push along political reconciliation. Davis said that administration officials convinced him there are contingency plans, but that the president declined to offer details, saying that if he announced his backup plan, the world would shift its focus to that contingency, leaving the current strategy no time to succeed. [emph added]

But how does that square with the opinion of surge architect Fred Kagan?

One of the most common criticisms of the current "surge" in Iraq is that its proponents have not developed a Plan B in case it fails. The skeptics liken this lack of a backup strategy to the Bush administration's failure to plan for various contingencies after the initial invasion in 2003; they see a continuity of errors between previous strategies in Iraq and the new one.
In fact, the debate shows only how little the critics of the war understand about military operations. As one of the initial proponents of the surge, I argue that there is no Plan B because there cannot be one. The idea that there can be a single alternative strategy, developed now, just at the beginning of the surge, is antithetical to the dynamic nature of war. At this early stage, there are only possible general responses to various contingencies, which will become more focused as operations move forward. [emph added]

Just asking!

P.S. The notion that the Iraqi parliament will take a two-month summer vacation is astounding. It seems like the kind of crystallizing outrage that could wipe out remaining support for the war, even within the GOP base, once and for all. I'm surprised it's not a bigger story. (And not to sound all Bill O'Reilly, but perhaps we could offer to give any U.S. troops assigned to guard those legislators the summer off as well, while the lawmakers sunbathe in Basra or whatever....)

P.P.S. Memo to John Boehner: Somehow I don't think it's going to cut it to argue that "we have district work periods where we go back and work with our constituents. I'm sure [Iraqi legislators] have the same type of activity there."

--Michael Crowley

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