Bush is afraid. He's afraid that the deepening sectarian violence he's sparked with his overthrow and replacement of Iraq's sovereign government will mar his legacy, and that his presidency will be marked in history with responsibility for the escalating deaths of thousands of American soldiers in the 'ideological' war he's waged against Iraqis.
The White House has decided in recent days to advance the whispered neocon strategy that's been floating around for months of casting Iraq as Korea. The idea is to convince Americans already weary of the quagmire which has claimed the lives of almost 3500 American troops, that Iraq should be viewed as a long-war; a multi-generational conflict. The vain hope is that they can hold back the total collapse of their faltering junta just long enough to allow Bush and his complicit administration to slip around the carnage and chaos, and effectively commit future administration and generations to either cleaning up his mess or be branded with abandoning it.
The White House's embrace of Bush's use of the 'Korea model' as his vision for Iraq's future is startling on its face. The immediate red flag is the prospect of our nation's defenders hunkered down in Iraq for the same 57 years we've separated South Koreans from their North Korean rivals. A more ominous analogy is the manner in which N. Korea developed behind the military curtain of U.S. forces and generations of political posturing into an even larger threat to the region and to the world.
More importantly to Bush, the 'Korean model' would cast Bush as Truman; unpopular as he prosecuted his Korean aggression in his term, and rehabilitated by history as the failures of other successive administrations in untying his Korea knot obscure his own fostering and fumbling of the conflict.
Bush's new war chief rose to his defense when questioned about the possibility of a protracted occupation which would extend far beyond this presidency.
"I think that the reason Korea has been mentioned is - and it's been mentioned in contrast to Vietnam, where we just left lock, stock and barrel - the idea is more a model of a mutually agreed arrangement whereby we have an enduring presence, but one that is by consent of both parties, and under certain conditions," Gates told reporters.
In Gates' utopia, the U.S. military would transition from their role as muscle for their Iraqi junta to some sort of buffer force between the Iraqi forces vying for power which have been provoked and aggravated by our one-sided defense of the one faction Bush has enabled into power behind the sacrifices of our soldiers. In his vision, the dozen or so resistance groups would be separated by our military, presumably allowing some sort of propped-up authority use their elevated position to lord over the rest of the country. In that scenario, it makes perfect sense that the U.S. would remain in Iraq indefinitely, defending Bush's investment of American lives for decades to defend whatever 'ideology' successive presidencies conjure to manage there.
"Well, the war on terror is a long war," Presidential spokesman Tony Snow told reporters this week in defense of Bush use of the Korea model.
"As far as what happens in Iraq," Snow said, "you constantly have to default to the reasonable position that you defer to commanders on the ground. There were reports not so long ago that half the forces would be out next year. The fact is you have to take a look at what is going on in terms of the growing capability of Iraqi forces and, frankly, the growing reassurance on the part of the Iraqi people to step up and to go after those who are responsible for sectarian violence, and those who are responsible for foreign-fed violence, especially al Qaeda . . ."
There it is. That unmistakable hook which Bush hopes will bind generations of Americans to his contrived war on terror. 'Al-Qaeda in Iraq' has become the moniker for one spoke of the wheel of resistance to the new Iraqi authority. Bush and his surrogates have repeatedly and seamlessly entwined their 9-11 fugitives with their Iraq fiasco to shift focus from their failure to produce any of the weapons they claimed threatened America and justified the mobilization and sacrifice of the bulk of our nation's defenses in Iraq as they diverted from the hunt in Afghanistan for the suspected orchestrators of the original September 11 attacks.
Bush orchestrated his 'terror war' in Iraq as he called on all of those in the region who would resist his swaggering expansionism to bring it on, and fight our forces there. However, the al-Qaeda which now menaces Iraqis was not present before Bush removed Saddam from power. Even now, those in Iraq who identify themselves with the fugitive terror group are in the minority among the dozen or so Iraqi factions whose followers are violently resisting the U.S. occupation and the puppet regime.
Yet, Bush still insists that, beyond the token political 'progress' of the new Iraqi regime he says he's trying to facilitate behind the sacrifices of our troops, there is another mission he says is unresolved against the al-Qaeda mimics in Iraq he's inspired to violence along with the rest of the resistance.
"Failure in Iraq would endanger the American citizens because failure in Iraq would embolden the enemies of a free Iraq," Bush said as he met with his junta leader, Talibani. "David Petraeus said, public enemy number one in Iraq is al Qaeda. Al Qaeda happens to be public enemy number one in America, too," Bush said. "And that should say loud and clear to citizens who still remember the lessons of September the 11th that it's in our interest to help the Iraqis defeat al Qaeda."
It's apparently no matter to Bush that the very forces our military is aiding in Iraq against the al-Qaeda mimics are still resolved to armed resistance against his cynical occupation. Where is the Korean model's dividing line to be drawn between those who threaten the U.S. consolidation of power in Iraq and the increasingly autocratic regime Bush has pledged and devoted American lives and livelihoods to support and defend? Who will be left on which side of the 'Great Wall of Baghdad' they've erected to divide Iraqis from whatever benefits the propped-up government can manage from their dictatorial hosts to lord over and dispense to compliant Iraqis intimidated and cowed by the heavy hand of the American military?
Whether you take the studied words of Gates about maintaining an "enduring presence" in Iraq; or the White House's refusal to predict how long it will take to force a stable democracy out of the state of anarchy they've deliberately fostered there, it's clear that Bush intends for a significant contingent of our military to remain in Iraq - not only "for as long as he's president," but for generations to follow - to either maintain his imagined legacy as a 'defender of freedom' or to "pass the buck" and muddle the record of his failure with their own misfortune and missteps.