Sunday, January 23, 2005

Facts on the Ground

Knight Ridder discovers that U.S. in danger of losing the war. I'd say that what they are reporting looks lot more like "has already lost the war."

The whole article is worth a read, but I'll pick out one point with some juxtapositions:
Attacks on the U.S.-led coalition since November 2003, when statistics were first available, have risen from 735 a month to 2,400 in October. Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, the multinational forces' deputy operations director, told Knight Ridder on Friday that attacks were currently running at 75 a day, about 2,300 a month, well below a spike in November during the assault on Fallujah, but nearly as high as October's total.
Things have really gone to hell since November 2003. I suppose that has nothing to do with Condoleeza Rice being named to unstick things in Iraq in October 2003.
The new structure will give Bush's top White House aides a stronger voice in decisions and will make the president more directly accountable. Because of their close relationship, many people will assume Bush signed off on Rice's decisions.
Okay, I'll be nice and point out that the increase in insurgency is not because Rice was appointed to fix things in late 2003. However. we all should note who was supposed to refrain from exacerbating the increasingly disastrous Iraq debacle. This is the person whose genius is now to be elevated to run the whole State Department. God help us.

Of course, in her confirmation hearings, Condi took full responsiblity for the failure of her Iraq Stabilization Group, right? Oh, you know better than that.
SEN. KERRY: The Iraqi Stabilization Group that you were put in charge of, October 2003 -- by almost everybody's judgments, it has disintegrated. People have left it. It has not been successful. And I wonder if you would speak to that. I mean, there were a half-dozen agencies or so that were supposed to identify and resolve problems. How would you characterize the work and effect of that group?

MS. RICE: The Iraq Stabilization Group, Senator, was actually an internal NSC group. It was not an interagency group. It --

SEN. KERRY: But you had a half-dozen agencies that were part of it, that were reporting to you as part of it, were they not?

MS. RICE: No, the role of the Iraq Stabilization Group was to improve the information flow during the period of time when we had the CPA in place. It was to try and de-bottleneck back here when there were problems for the CPA. We were very active and, I think, played a very important and useful role in the governance issues, so that Bob Blackwill, who at time -- at the time was heading the Iraq Stabilization Group on Governance and had an undersecretaries group on governance -- he was very active in working with Lakhdar Brahimi in bringing about the Iraq interim government. So that was a very successful outcome of having the Iraq Stabilization Group.

But it was a group that was really there for the period in which the Coalition Provisional Authority was moving from one that had been almost exclusively in the chain of command for the Defense Department to one that needed more interagency backstopping back here.

Many of those functions have really now been taken over by the United States embassy and by the State Department.

SEN. KERRY: Well, in The Washington Post, and maybe they got it wrong, but they characterized it as the new group to be led by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and drawn from more than a half-dozen Cabinet agencies --

MS. RICE: Let me just make the distinction.

SEN. KERRY: -- is intended to -- (inaudible word).

MS. RICE: The Iraqi stabilization group was an intra-NSC group.

SEN. KERRY: No, I understand that.

MS. RICE: It reached out to and tried to help the CPA by bringing together interagency teams when it was necessary to try and get something done. We tried to improve the information flow, we tried to improve the coordination back here, we tried to de-bottleneck for the CPA. When the CPA needed some help, for instance, on the currency forms, we worked with the Treasury to get the right people out there from Treasury to do the currency reform, which was actually very successful.

SEN. KERRY: Was this an effort to try to straighten out what the military itself was not able to do or not doing?

MS. RICE: It was an effort to move from a stage at which it had been almost exclusively Defense Department and military to a period at which you needed better interagency support for what the CPA was doing.

SEN. KERRY: How successful would you say it was?

MS. RICE: I think it was successful in a number of ways. If you look at several projects, the currency reform, I think, was very successful; I think that we were very successful on the governance issues. Again, Bob Blackwill, who was the chair of the governance Iraq stabilization group, was very active with Lakhdar Brahimi in bringing about the Iraqi interim government. I don't think it would have happened without the activities of that group. So it had its successes. Bottlenecks also remained and we continue to work on them. I think it's a much smoother system, frankly, with an embassy and an ambassador who can oversee those things with the backstopping of the State Department and the interagency process of which the State Department is in the lead.

SEN. KERRY: Has been -- ?

MS. RICE: I think it's been smoother --

SEN. KERRY: Smoother.

MS. RICE: -- with an embassy in place that can be the coordination in the field. We've always had the view that most of the interagency coordination ought to actually be done in the field.
Rice seems to have a problem accepsting responsibility for anything that goes wrong on her watch at the National Security Council. But it's really hard to believe what she's trying to say here. Her group had committees on counterterrorism, economic development, and political affairs (and media messages, too -- no doubt the most important). Each committee was headed by a Rice deputy and included representatives of the State, Defense and Treasury departments and the CIA. The group was called the "Iraq Stabilization Group," for goodness sakes. Everything her committees have touched have gotten arguably worse, most things have gotten much worse, and still she's elevated based on failure.

This seems to be the Bush strategy, often noted: Fire people who were right, promote people who were wrong or incompetent. Condi's just one major international incident disaster from a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Let's just hope she isn't awarded that medal based on the debris of American foreign policy that is yet more harmful to American interests than what she's already been responsible for.

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