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Who's President?

11:21 AM, Oct 3, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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George Will, a supporter of the Iraq invasion, writes approvingly about this nugget from Bob Woodward's State of Denial:

The book actually includes one heartening story that should enhance Rumsfeld's reputation. On Veterans Day, 2005, the president traveled to a Pennsylvania Army depot to deliver a speech announcing the new military policy for Iraq, the policy of "clear, hold and build.'' Woodward says Rumsfeld, having read the speech, called Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, a half-hour before Bush was to deliver it, and said, "Take that out.'' Card replied that the three words were the centerpiece of the speech, not to mention the war strategy. Rumsfeld replied, "Clear, we're doing. It's up to the Iraqis to hold. And the State Department's got to work with somebody on the build.''

Astonishing. The commander-in-chief is announcing a new war strategy for Iraq and his defense secretary stonewalls it. If Secretary Rumsfeld didn't agree with the "clear, hold and build" strategy, fine. He should have stepped aside and handed over the keys to the Pentagon to someone who supported the new strategy. Instead, the new strategy was implemented without sufficient forces, a critical problem going back to 2003 (see here, here, here, here, here, and target=_blank>here) and noted again today in this piece by a 101st soldier. This Washington Post piece, "Rice's Rebuilding Plan Hits Snag," is a good example of how the stonewalling worked:

On Nov. 11, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced trip into Mosul, Iraq, to grandly inaugurate a new concept for rebuilding the country that she said "will marry our economic, military, and political people in teams to help these local and provincial governments get the job done."

The idea centered on establishing Provincial Reconstruction Teams, or PRTs, a tactic promoted in Iraq by the new U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, who had built similar operations when he was ambassador to Afghanistan. He declared in November that extending a coordinated U.S. presence into the provinces was "a new addition to our strategy for success in Iraq."

Three teams were rapidly established in Mosul, Kirkuk and Hilla, largely because the functional equivalent of consulates -- known in Iraq as regional embassy offices -- were simply relabeled PRTs. But the rollout of the rest of the plan appears uncertain as State and Defense Department officials haggle over a series of tough questions, including how to fund them, how to staff them, how to provide security -- and even whether they help or hinder plans to reduce the U.S. troop presence....

Other officials said, however, that the PRTs have become caught in a crossfire of different priorities. Rice and her aides have felt strongly that civilian officials need to pay greater attention to the provinces, a view that is seconded by military officials in those areas. Establishing the PRTs thus would be part of a counterinsurgency campaign, State Department officials said.

At the same time, the Pentagon is eager to reduce its military footprint in Iraq, making officials wary of a project that could require the deployment of troops on yet another new mission when they are trying to reduce the visibility of U.S. forces and turn over more areas to the Iraqis....

And during all this, Woodward writes, Henry Kissinger is visiting the White House advising the administration against "even entertaining the idea of withdrawing any troops [which] could create momentum for an exit that was less than victory." But that's exactly the message that was target=_blank>coming out of the defense secretary's office. And so it goes.