Iraq notes (Gratitude and Napoleon edition)

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Two quick notes on Iraq.

First, in an interview broadcast on last night's 60 Minutes, President Bush was asked "if he owes the Iraqi people an apology for botching the management of the war". His response, "Not at all", will come as no surprise to anyone who has noticed over the past six years that Bush doesn't do apologies. His elaboration of those three little word was a little surprising, however.

"We liberated that country from a tyrant," Bush said. "I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude."

Um, yeah. Huge debt of gratitude. I'm sure the only reason the Iraqis haven't gotten around to expressing their huge gratitude is that Hallmark doesn't make a card that quite covers what we've done to them.

If that answer suggests that President Bush has lost touch with reality when it comes to Iraq, then his choice of advisors on strategy for Iraq suggests… that he has lost touch with reality when it comes to Iraq.

Consider Fred Kagan, one of the main proponents of our new-and-improved Surge policy. The president has relied heavily on Kagan's council while working out his brave New Way Forward. Currently, Kagan's porcine features may be seen all over cable news in support of the Surge. Fortunately for Kagan, the cable news performers are polite enough not to point out that Kagan's original plan for a surge involved 50,000-80,000 troops, not the 22,000 Bush is sending and Kagan is now yipping in approval of.

So, who is Fred Kagan? A retired military man, with a long distinguished career? No, he's yet another neo-con suckling at the sugar-teat of the American Enterprise Institute, who has never heard a shot fired in anger. But at least he must be an expert on fighting insurgent forces, right? Not quite. But if you want to know the name of Napoleon's favorite horse, Kagan may be your man.

From Talking Points Memo:

Just a note on Fred Kagan – the guy is not an expert on insurgency, civil war, or stability ops. He has a Ph.D in history, with a focus on the 19th century Russian military. His major scholarly book is on Napoleon from 1801-5. From what I can tell, he has no serious background studying the issues that are at the core of his "surge" plan (his AEI bio page is below). So I am completely baffled by the extent to which the media has given him credibility as a "military expert"; one imagines how the surge would have been received if Kagan was accurately identified as "an expert on Napoleon and the early 19th century Russian army." His CV reveals no publications in refereed history or political science journals in the last decade. Basically the intellectual architect of the surge is an oped/Weekly Standard writer whose only substantive expertise is on Napoleon. Great. . . .

Great, indeed. I'm sure the Iraqis would be suitably grateful, if they knew this is the kind of expert Bush relies on.


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