White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten says that Bush has been urging candidates not to paint themselves into a corner on ending the war. The
implication seems to be that Bush has plans to make that impossible for whoever inherits the war.
Bolten was quoted as saying, "he (Bush) wants to create conditions where a Democrat would not only have the leeway, but the obligation to see it (the
Bush has even gone so far as to tell candidates, "Don’t get yourself too locked in where you stand right now. If you end up sitting where I sit,
things could change dramatically".
The question is, how much subtext is there really to this. If taken at face value, it's just Bush encouraging people to keep an open mind and saying
he wants them to have the wiggle room to come to see things his way once election-year politics are behind them.
Given the skill with which the current administration has played the political game (much to the chagrin of those who think congressional elections
ought to be a matter of some consequence), I can't help wondering if there's a deeper meaning here. What might Bush have up his sleeve to ensure
that the next president can't get out of the middle east in a single term?
The obvious answer is probably a war with Iran.
Suppose that Bush gave the order to attack Iran on November 5th 2008- 1 day after the election and 41 days before the end of his presidency.
We have seen many surges that came to nothing in the past, and we have grown rather skeptical of claims that various surges etc are of any
consequence. What if that was the point?
It takes a couple of months to mobilize even an Afghanistan style operation. The buildup for the Gulf War took more than 6. Bush can't afford for the
cat to come out of the bag before the election though, because if at the very least he needs enough Republicans in the senate in 08 to deny cloture-
this would allow the Republicans a little bit of leverage to keep the war going, if they had the party discipline to make it happen- they could
attempt to blackmail the new president and the majority in congress with threats to ruin the first 100 days with fillibusters of all major
initiatives, and they would also be able to prevent ratification of treaties (or Congressional-executive agreements, a common circumvention of the
constitution). That is important, because if Bush can get a good war going, the new president might not be able to just get out of it without giving
treaty assurances that could be blocked as long as there are 41 disciplined Republicans in the Senate.
So what Bush will need to do is get the pentagon to play with troop rotations and arrange for another token surge, placing a couple of additional
brigades in Iraq at the time of the election, then stop the units they are replacing from cycling out after the election. At the same time he will
need 2 battle groups in the region and a 3rd ready to deploy, plus a couple of Marine Expeditionary Units.
Ideally, a terrorist attack on election day or a false flag op in the region would provide justification. Then on 11/5/08 Bush could give the order
and the war would be on.
The interesting thing is that if the goal is not just to get Iran, but to corner the democrats into a long-term middle-east presence, Bush can't
afford to win the war before he leaves office. If he wanted to win the war it would be easier, assuming he was willing to use nukes. But stacking the
deck so that America gets into a 41 day stalemate, forcing a Democrat to finish the conquest of Iran and become responsible for such a large portion
of the middle east that withdrawl is impossible, is a little trickier.
It would be necessary to strike quickly in Southern Iran and secure Khuzestan
with as little
collateral damage as possible, because that's where the oil is. The strait of Hormuz would have to be secured and Bush would have to do some fast
talking with China to keep their involvement limited, basically by ensuring that their oil and gas didn't stop flowing during the war, although
prices would have to go up obviously, and accounts would probably be set up to ensure that China's money went to the new Iranian government after the
At that point however, Bush would want an operational pause to let the Iranians get moving and let this turn into a bit of a blood bath. He'll want
it to look like they started it when we weren't entirely ready, and he'll want American lives lost that need to be avenged, all while burning out
the clock so that his successor has to be the one who takes Tehran.
He might even attempt to play peacemaker at this point, calling a cease-fire and offering peace terms: If Iran lays down its arms and withdraws its
forces to certain locations, lets American forces take up station outside of major population centers, with secure lines of supply, allows Americans
to take control of its nuclear facilities, recognizes Israel's right to exist, and recognizes the legitimacy of US strikes against terrorist groups
in Iran and calls elections within a certain timeframe, then America won't come into the cities and take them by force. Obviously Iran will reject
such terms, but it stalls the war.
Pakistan is another related card that could be played. Suppose that America encouraged Musharaff's hand-picked allies in the military to coup on him,
and some of their nukes went missing during the commotion? American troops go in hunting the nukes and America starts violating Iranian territory
regularly with special ops and airstrikes in pursuit of "leads" on those nukes.
The new President, rather than inheriting an admittedly far-fetched Iran war right at the beginning, could inherit a very delicate situation in
Pakistan and a quasi-war with Iran, and India might very well be warning the new President that US efforts are the only thing keeping them out of
Pakistan. We could hardly start pulling out of Iraq when things were at a high boil with Iran like that.
Add tensions with Turkey to that if you like. What if Turkey were provoked into an invasion of Kurdistan, and America's reaction made Turkey
unwilling to allow US troops anywhere near them without a fight. With tensions with Iran making it hard to get out via the gulf without the threat of
missile attack, the only option is to put a whole American army in Saudi Arabia until it can be withdrawn, and have to supply it all either by air or
via the Red Sea and across SA- IF the Saudis will allow it. I admit again this is unlikely, but it would make it hard to say no to a war with Iran.
Anyway, this isn't the best developed scenario I ever put out, just a series of thoughts really. Feel free to say there's no way, feel free to
modify it to come up with something plausible. But is it within the realistic abilities of the executive branch to put America in a position where the
next president can't stop a war?
And consider the implications. If the democrats get trapped into a war in their first term with the presidency and can't end it in 4 years, who wins
in 2012? A Republican? Ron Paul? Denny Kucinich? A 3rd Party? or Do American politics get so ugly that the democratic process breaks down entirely?