January 9, 2007 - Tomorrow evening President Bush will let the American people in on his new way forward in Iraq. What are said to be bits and pieces of his plan have been leaking out. It is said that he will call for a temporary increase in the commitment of American troops. It is said that he will ask for a Billion dollars or more for a program to provide Iraqis with jobs and rebuild the Iraqi economy. The plan he will announce to the American people is perhaps his last chance to salvage what is left of his stature as President and to recapture the support of the American people for his military adventures in the Middle East.
The American people are focused on Iraq. The Congress of the United States is focused on Iraq. The President, the State Department, and the Pentagon are focused on Iraq. At today’s news briefing Tony Snow repeated the Administration mantra that our national security depends upon being successful in Iraq. No one is talking about the swelling guerilla war in Afghanistan. No one is talking about the roadside bombings and suicide attacks along the highway to Kandahar. No one is claiming that our national security depends upon what happens in Kabul. It is another war that we are not winning but is the war that everybody forgot.
Today it was revealed that America has become actively engaged in fighting Islamists in the Horn of Africa. Riding on the backs of Ethiopian troops the provisional President of Somalia has moved into the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu. One of his first Presidential decrees was to “give the US permission” to carry out air strikes at Islamist strongholds outside of the capitol. The targets of the strikes are said to be training camps for Al Qaeda and fugitive suspects in the embassy bombings in East Africa a decade ago. It is the first public American military involvement in Somalia since Blackhawk Down. There has been no clear cut announcement of the result of the strikes. The Somali provisional Defense Minister has said that up to fifty people have been killed in the strikes. Most of them were terrorists he said. Reports from people who claim to be residents of the area of the raids say that many of the victims were women and children.
When he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colon Powell set the standard high to justify the commitment of American military might. The first of those standards was that there must be a clear and achievable objective which it was possible that American troops could achieve. What is the clear and achievable objective to be achieved in Iraq? For that matter, what is the objective to be achieved in Afghanistan and in our new commitment in Somalia? Until those objectives have been concisely defined we can’t know whether the President is offering us a new way forward or an eventual abject defeat.