Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"The Tar Baby" Strategy

President Bush is preparing to unveil his latest twist on military strategy for the Iraq conflict. According to this news report:
"President Bush will tell the American people tonight that the United States can safely withdraw its troops from Iraq only after it augments those who are already there with about 20,000 more, his aides said today."
This approach is contrary to the just released findings of the Iraq Study Group which reported:
"Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq, which is the absence of national reconciliation. A senior American general told us that adding U.S. troops might temporarily help limit violence in a highly localized area. However,past experience indicates that the violence would simply rekindle as soon as U.S. forces are moved to another area. As another American general told us, if the Iraqi government does not make political progress, “all the troops in the world will not provide security.” Meanwhile,
America’s military capacity is stretched thin: we do not have the troops or equipment to make a substantial, sustained increase in our troop presence. Increased deployments to Iraq would also necessarily hamper our ability to provide adequate resources for our efforts in Afghanistan or respond to crises around the world."
In other words, the President's own bipartisan advisory panel advised against any increase in troop levels.

So where did the President get this idea? The surge idea probably came from Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute.

Mr. Kagan wrote about a possible "surge" of troops in the Washington Post on December 27, 2006, along with retired Army General Jack Keane. President Bush's privatization of war extends so far to include private consultants from the AEI, over the United States Institue of Peace, which according to their website is
"The United States Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan, national institution established and funded by Congress. Its mission is to help:

* Prevent and resolve violent international conflicts
* Promote post-conflict stability and democratic transformations
* Increase peacebuilding capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide"
But why should the President listen to anything as 'cuddly' as a Peace Institute, when he could listen to a former professor of Military History?

Back to Kagan's plan. And the President's.

Kagan and Keane's plan:
"U.S. forces working with Iraqi troops can clear neighborhoods fairly quickly. Unfortunately, past endeavors such as Operation Together Forward relied too much on that ability. We sent forces into the city that were large enough to clear a few neighborhoods at a time but not large enough to maintain the security they had established. Any plan for bringing security to Baghdad must include forces for the "hold" phase as well as the "clear" phase."
In other words, Kagan recognizes that American soldiers can clear areas but now is proposing that they "hold" them. In other words, act as police in the middle of the sectarian violence of civil war in Iraq.

This is a recipe for failure. A recipe for more death, more injuries, and more cost to the brave American men and women serving our nation in uniform.

One of my favorite columnists, Maureen Dowd, writes in the New York Times today of the "story" of Iraq. (subscription required) She comments:
" At times, the American-Iraqi relationship seems so cursed that the most apt metaphor would be a fairy tale like “The Golden Goose” of the Brothers Grimm, in which a girl sees a bling bird that belongs to a despised boy and tries to pluck a feather for herself, but instead her hand gets stuck fast to the goose. Her sister comes along, thinking she can snatch a feather, but she gets stuck as soon as she touches the first girl. Then there’s a Surge, when the third sister rushes to help but ends up stuck in a daisy chain of disaster.

With the Surge, as with the invasion of Iraq, W. is like the presumptuous date “who reserves a hotel room and then asks you to the prom,” as my friend Dana Calvo put it."
But the fairy tale isn't about a Brothers Grimm story. It is the famous Uncle Remus Tale of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby.(Image from

As the Tar Baby story relates:
"One day Brer Fox thought of how Brer Rabbit had been cutting up his capers and bouncing around until he'd come to believe that he was the boss of the whole gang. Brer Fox thought of a way to lay some bait for that uppity Brer Rabbit.

He went to work and got some tar and mixed it with some turpentine. He fixed up a contraption that he called a Tar-Baby. When he finished making her, he put a straw hat on her head and sat the little thing in the middle of the road. Brer Fox, he lay off in the bushes to see what would happen.

Well, he didn't have to wait long either, 'cause by and by Brer Rabbit came pacing down the road--lippity-clippity, clippity-lippity--just as sassy as a jaybird. Brer Fox, he lay low. Brer Rabbit came prancing along until he saw the Tar-Baby and then he sat back on his hind legs like he was astonished. The Tar-Baby just sat there, she did, and Brer Fox, he lay low.

"Good morning!" says Brer Rabbit, says he. "Nice weather we're having this morning," says he.

Tar-Baby didn't say a word, and Brer Fox, he lay low.

"How are you feeling this morning?" says Brer Rabbit, says he.

Brer Fox, he winked his eye real slow and lay low and the Tar-Baby didn't say a thing.

"What is the matter with you then? Are you deaf?" says Brer Rabbit, says he. "Cause if you are, I can holler louder," says he.

The Tar-Baby stayed still and Brer Fox, he lay low.

"You're stuck-up, that's what's wrong with you. You think you're too good to talk to me," says Brer Rabbit, says he. "And I'm going to cure you, that's what I'm going to do," says he.

Brer Fox started to chuckle in his stomach, he did, but Tar-Baby didn't say a word.

"I'm going to teach you how to talk to respectable folks if it's my last act," says Brer Rabbit, says he. "If you don't take off that hat and say howdy, I'm going to bust you wide open," says he.

Tar-Baby stayed still and Brer Fox, he lay low.

Brer Rabbit kept on asking her why she wouldn't talk and the Tar-Baby kept on saying nothing until Brer Rabbit finally drew back his fist, he did, and blip--he hit the Tar-Baby on the jaw. But his fist stuck and he couldn't pull it loose. The tar held him. But Tar-Baby, she stayed still, and Brer Fox, he lay low.

"If you don't let me loose, I'm going to hit you again," says Brer Rabbit, says he, and with that he drew back his other fist and blap--he hit the Tar-Baby with the other hand and that one stuck fast too.

Tar-Baby she stayed still, and Brer Fox, he lay low.

"Turn me loose, before I kick the natural stuffing out of you," says Brer Rabbit, says he, but the Tar-Baby just sat there.

She just held on and then Brer Rabbit jumped her with both his feet. Brer Fox, he lay low. Then Brer Rabbit yelled out that if that Tar-Baby didn't turn him loose, he was going to butt her crank-sided. Then he butted her and his head got stuck.

Brer Box walked out from behind the bushes and strolled over to Brer Rabbit, looking as innocent as a mockingbird.

"Howdy, Brer Rabbit," says Brer Fox, says he. "You look sort of stuck up this morning," says he. And he rolled on the ground and laughed and laughed until he couldn't laugh anymore.

By and by he said, "Well, I expect I got you this time, Brer Rabbit," says he. "Maybe I don't, but I expect I do. You've been around here sassing after me a mighty long time, but now it's the end.

And then you're always getting into something that's none of your business," says Brer Fox, says he. "Who asked you to come and strike up a conversation with this Tar-Baby? And who stuck you up the way you are? Nobody in the round world. You just jammed yourself into that Tar-Baby without waiting for an invitation," says Brer Fox, says he. "There you are and there you'll stay until I fix up a brushpile and fire it up, "cause I'm going to barbecue you today, for sure," says Brer Fox, says he."
So tonight, the President of the United States is going to ask Americans to send some more soldiers to get stuck in the tar-baby of Iraq.

Maybe if we just butt our head into it, we can get our hands and feet out!

Or maybe we should be doing what Senator Kerry has suggested, redeploying our troops:
"We have already tried a trimmed-down version of the McCain plan of indefinitely increasing troop levels. We sent 15,000 more troops to Baghdad last summer, and today the escalating civil war is even worse. You could put 100,000 more troops in tomorrow and you're only going to add to the number of casualties until Iraqis sit down together at a bargaining table and compromise. The barrel of a gun can't answer the question of how you force Iraqi nationalism to trump sectarian loyalty.

The only hope for stability lies in pushing Iraqis to forge a sustainable political agreement on federalism, distributing oil revenues and neutralizing sectarian militias. And that will happen only if we set a deadline to redeploy our troops."
Thank you Senator Kerry for providing some reason in the midst of what appears to be a developing American tragedy.

We need Senator Kerry's leadership at the helm of this nation. To provide reason when folly is adopted as our foreign policy.

Keep on coming John! We have got your back!



Anonymous D. R. Armstrong said...

Dear Bob (Dr. Freedland),

Many years ago, with the Vietnam era, South American CIA meddling and Middle East adventures in mind, I was reminded of the Uncle Remus tale of Bre'r Rabbit and the Tar Baby, having seen Disney's hysterical version when I was a young lad (I'm anearly "boomer"). One or more of the Founding Fathers warned against "foreign entanglements". Long since that era of uncommon wisdom, Tar Babies have become the favorite targets, it seems, of latter-day politicos and administrations. Makes me wonder if one or more Bre'r Rabbits are really in charge.

Thanks very much for your uncommon sharing of the down-to-earth wisdom of Uncle Remus. What a tragedy that Federal power, time after time, vaunts itself so much that it cannot see the harm that it causes to all, especially when applied with force to overpower and dominate the Tar Babies of the world, who are otherwise minding their own business.

-- D. R. Armstrong

11:20 PM  

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