This is the $64,000 question. No one can know for use but I believe there are a number of forces which are driving Bush. First, I believe that President Bush was surprised by the ferocity and the frankness of the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations. The recommendations were complete repudiation of his policies. Really, all of his policies. Therefore, he couldn’t endorse all of them. On the other hand, the Iraq Study Group was caught between a rock and a hard place. They had to come up with recommendations that were forceful enough to acknowledge the problems in Iraq currently. The American people would not have accepted an endorsement of the current policy.
Secondly, there are the regional realities. Saudi Arabia is a major player. Saudi Arabia is the home of most of the 9/11 hijackers. Saudi Arabia is made up of mostly Sunni Arabs. Therefore, a policy that punishes the Sunnis would not be suitable to Saudi Arabia. There was an interesting piece in the Washington Post by a Saudi adviser. The piece almost went unnoticed. Once the pieces read then it becomes clear of why the Vice President went to Saudi Arabia. I don’t know this for a fact but it appears that he was summoned to Saudi Arabia. I am positive that Vice President Cheney was told that if the United States begins a phased withdrawal in Saudi Arabia will enter the conflict to protect its Sunni brothers. This will cause to protect its Shiite brothers. Regional conflict will ensue. An article in today’s New York Times supports the fact that Saudi Arabia will become a major player if the United States begins to pull out of Iraq.
Thirdly, it is unclear how the new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, will fit into this whole mix. How much influence will he have over policy?
I think it is clear that President Bush is not going to do any type of withdrawal. The question is how much are we going to “stay the course?” Bush is a political animal. He has seen the polls no matter how much he tries to tell us he hasn’t. He also knows that he is unable to do much without the will of the American people. I look for Bush to try to convince the American people that we need to follow Senator John McCain’s idea — increasing troop strength. I look for only a few of the recommendations of the Iraqi Study Group to be implemented. Iraq is going to get uglier and our political scene is going to get uglier before we see any improvement, in my humble opinion.