Friday, December 29, 2006

This day in history: December 29

On this day in 2005, Air Force Brigadier General C.D. Alston reported that "insurgents in Iraq are showing little capacity to keep up numerous and persistent attacks." The U.S. State Department, in its release of the general's assessment, noted that with this improvement in the situation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had announced that "the United States would reduce the number of combat troops [in Iraq] by approximately 7,000 in 2006."

A year later, neither of those reports has proven true, and President George W. Bush is said to be considering an increase in the number of American troops in Iraq.

Former president Gerald Ford told the Washington Post's Bob Woodward a couple years ago that he disagreed with Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. In the interview, which was not released until Ford's death earlier this week, Ford was also critical of Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, who served three decades ago in his own administration, for their role in the current war.

At the end of his story on the interview, Woodward noted that "Ford was often labeled the only American president to lose a war," after Presidents Johnson and Nixon had kept the United States in Vietnam for almost a decade. "The label always rankled."

And now another president is facing that same label. As Gary Schmitt, of the American Enterprise Institute, said the other day, "No president wants to be remembered as the guy who lost a war," so we can't leave Iraq. And after the 2006 elections, we can't simply "stay the course." As Josh Marshall points out, "That leaves escalation as the only alternative."

Hence, a year after reports that the war was all but over, President Bush considers a "surge"--to avoid that rankled feeling.

Thanks to Chris Bray for the suggestion!