Saturday, September 15, 2007




No Exit, No Strategy

Published: September 14, 2007

This was the week in which Americans hoped they would get straight talk and clear thinking on Iraq. What they got was two exhausting days of Congressional testimony by the American military commander, hours of news conferences and interviews, clouds of cut-to-order statistics and a speech from the Oval Office — and none of it either straight or clear. WORDINESS

The White House insisted that President Bush had consulted intensively REDUNDANT ADVERB with his generals and adapted to changing circumstances. But no amount of smoke could obscure the truth: Mr. Bush has no strategy to end his disastrous war and no strategy for containing the chaos he unleashed.

Last night’s speech could have been given any day in the last four years — and was delivered HAS BEEN DELIVERED- TENSE SEQUENCE a half-dozen times already. PASSIVE VERBS EDIT: “MR. BUSH COULD HAVE GIVEN LAST NIGHT’S SPEECH ANY DAY IN THE PAST FOUR YEARS; HE HAS DELIVERED IT A HALF-DOZEN TIMES ALREADY. Despite Mr. Bush’s claim that he was offering offered a way for all Americans to “come together” on Iraq, he offered served up the same divisive policies — repackaged this time with the Orwellian slogan “return on success.”

Mr. Bush’s claim that things were going so well in Iraq that he could “accept” his generals’ recommendation for a “drawdown” of forces was a carnival barker’s come-on. The Army cannot sustain the 30,000 extra troops Mr. Bush sent to Iraq beyond mid-2008 without serious damage to its fighting ability. From the start, the president said that the increase would be temporary. That’s why he called it a “surge.”

Before he MR. BUSH DON’T START A PARAGRAPH WITH A PRONOUN AND EXPECT THE READER TO PLOW BACK THROUGH THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH FOR THE ANTECEDENT. spoke, Iraq’s brutal reality had debunked General Petraeus’s and Ambassador Crocker’s. claims of political and military success made by Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the ambassador in Baghdad. WORDY Edit: “Before MR. BUSH spoke, Iraq’s brutal reality had debunked General Petraeus’s and Ambassador Crocker’s claims of political and military success.” 40 versus 20 words

First, The Times reported that the only sliver of political progress — a tortuous compromise on sharing oil revenues — was evaporating. Then came news of the assassination of the Anbar tribal leader whose decision to fight alongside the Americans was cited by Mr. Bush Passive verb; Mr. Bush had cited as proof that the war’s tide was turning — even though it had nothing to do with the increase in forces.

Mr. Bush’s claims last night about how well the war is going are believable only if you use Pentagon numbers so obviously cooked that they call to mind the way Americans were duped Passive verb into first supporting this war.

Edit: Last night’s Pentagon political numbers call to mind the way the White House duped Americans into supporting this war. 38 versus 20 words

There will be a lot said in coming days about Mr. Bush’s “new strategy,” No comma: trailing restrictive adverbial clause just as there was after each of his previous major addresses on the war. If there was Is this a sneer at subjunctive mood, or do the editors not know this refinement? a new strategy, it would be easy to recognize. Mr. Bush would drop the meaningless talk of victory and stop trying to sell Americans the fiction that the war keeps them safe from terrorism. (To his credit, General Petraeus declined to adopt that bit of propaganda.) Instead, Mr. Bush would do what the vast majority of Americans want — plan an orderly withdrawal while doing what he can to mitigate the consequences of the war.

Mr. Bush was right when he said last night that the aftermath of withdrawal would be bloody and frightening, but that is a product of his invasion and his gross mismanagement of the aftermath. Mr. Bush’s endless insistence on staying the course will only misplaced modifier make Iraq “Only” goes here. more bloody and frightening.

If Mr. Bush had a new strategy, he would have talked to the American people last night about what he would do to draw Iraq’s neighbors into a solution. Last January, when he announced the troop increase, WORDY:In last January’s troop increase, Mr. Bush promised to “use America’s full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East.” The world is still waiting.

A strategy for Wordy ending the war would include real efforts to hold Iraq’s government to verifiable measures of political conciliation — and make clear to Iraq’s leaders that they cannot count on America’s indefinite and unquestioning protection.

A real shift in strategy would have included an effort to deal with the massive problem of refugees. Nine months after the surge began, ever more Iraqis are being driven PASSIVE VERB from their homes EDIT: “THE WAR IS DRIVING EVEN MORE IRAQIS FROM THEIR HOMES’— and Mr. Bush never even Redundant adverb mentioned them last night.

If Mr. Bush were AH HA, THIS WRITER DOES KNOW THERE IS A SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD. serious about ending the war, No comma REST5TRICTIVE ADVERBIAL PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE rather than threatening Iran and Syria, he would make a serious REDUNDANT ADJECTIVE effort WORDY: SUBSTITUTE “TRY.” to persuade them that they too have a lot to lose from a disintegrating Iraq. And he would enlist the help of the leaders of Britain, France and Germany for serious REDUNDANT ADJECTIVE negotiations. Then, perhaps, Mr. Bush’s promise from January to stanch the flow of men and weapons into Iraq from Iran and Syria would not have sounded so hollow.

Once again, WORDY it is clear that Mr. Bush refuses to recognize the truth of WORDY his failure in Iraq and envisions a AN ENDLESS military commitment that has no end. WORDY Congress must use its powers to expose the truth and demand a real REDUNDANT ADJECTIVE change in strategy. Democratic leaders, forever parsing polls, are backing away from proposals to impose a deadline for withdrawal and tinkering with small ideas that mostly REDUNDANT ADVERB sound like ways to enable the president’s strategy of delay.

The presidential candidates, as well, REDUNDANT have a duty to take Iraq head-on. Some Democrats have started to talk in some detail about how they would end the war, but the burden is not just on the war critics. Republicans like Rudolph Giuliani and John McCain, who love to proclaim their support for the president and hide behind the troops, need to explain WORDY SHOULD EXPLAIN their vision as well. What do they think would constitute victory in Iraq, NO COMMA: IT SPLITS A COMPOUND DIRECT OBJECT. and how, precisely, REDUNDANT ADVERB do they intend to achieve it?

After all, it seems WORDY the burden of ending the war will fall to the next president. Mr. Bush was clear last night — as he was WORDY when he addressed the nation in January, September of last year, the December before that NEEDS A COMMA HERE FOR ITEMS IN A SERIES TO ENSURE CLARITY and in April 2004 — that his only real REDUNDANT ADJECTIVE plan is to confuse enough Americans and cow enough members of Congress to let him muddle along and saddle his successor with this war that should never have been started. PASSIVE VERB: “THAT HE SHOULD NEVER HAVE STARTED.”


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