No Cut and Run for Bush

Friday, January 12, 2007

Written by Gonzalo Moreno

Wednesday night, U.S. President George W. Bush unveiled his renovated strategy for his country's involvement in Iraq. In a televised speech to the nation that ran in all major and cable news networks, the President revealed that his solution to the Iraq problem is centred on a troop scale-up that will see over 20,000 new American soldiers deployed in Iraq in the next few months.

Bush identified Baghdad as the cornerstone of Iraq's troubles: "Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital," he cited. "The vast majority of [the new troops] -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad," Bush went on. The President hopes that the additional troops will, in collaboration with Iraqi security forces, help to weed out terrorists and secure enclave neighbourhoods in the country’s capital.

At the same time, Bush also insisted that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people should pick up a lot of the slack: "America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced." This includes pursuing insurgents to the full extent of the law, something that the Government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has often been reluctant to do. Bush also included vague references to an increase in the amount of diplomatic talks to be held in the region, in the hopes that they will help the Iraqi government stand on its own two feet.

In a very rare exercise in self-criticism, Bush assumed responsibility for the quagmire that Iraq has become: "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me." However, the recent switch of the balance of power in Congress, and the release of the unflattering findings and recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, had many hoping that an assumption of responsibility such as Wednesday's would be coupled with a 180-degree turn in the U.S.’s Iraq policy – an expectation that dramatically failed to come true.

Reactions in Washington and around the world were not favourable. Democratic heavyweights, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leaders Harry Reid and Steny Hoyer, and presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, expressed anything but mild scepticism at the plan. This was echoed by some Republicans, most notably would-be presidential candidates Sam Brownback and Chuck Hagel. European Union leaders have voiced similar opinions, while no opinion has been immediately forthcoming from the Canadian Government.

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