Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Hadley memo


The NYT prints all of Stephen Hadley’s Nov. 8 secret memo on the conclusions he formed on his trip to Iraq. Maliki, who has been known to call Bush up in a panic asking to be reassured that the US still backs him, will be reading this right before what I’m guessing will be a rather awkward meeting with Bush.

The big surprise is that the memo blames everything on George Bush. Wasn’t it brave of Hadley to write this about his boss?: “The information he receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of... advisers, coloring his actions and interpretation of reality. His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans... [b]ut the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests [he] is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.” OK, I probably didn’t fool any of you, that was about Maliki not Bush, but I think I made my point.

The “Steps Maliki Could Take” section includes:

The Clintonesque: “Announce an overhaul of his own personal staff so that ‘it reflects the face of Iraq.’”

The humorous: “Demand that all government workers... publicly renounce all violence for the pursuit of political goals as a condition for keeping their positions.” Because they might associate with militias and death squads, but they wouldn’t, you know, lie.

The fantastical: “appoint... nonsectarian, capable technocrats in key service (and security) ministries.” For fifty years, US officials have said that what Latin American, African, Asian, etc countries need is to be run by technocrats, near-mythical beings whose only goal in life is to make the railroads/sewers/banking systems etc run properly. I’m not saying there are no technocrats, I’m saying there are maybe 6 in Iraq.

Stay the course: “Declare that Iraq will support the renewal of the UN mandate for multinational forces”.

Tear everything down and start over: “Declare the immediate suspension of suspect Iraqi police units and a robust program of embedding coalition forces into MOI [Ministry of the Interior] units while the MOI is revetted and retrained.”

The “What We Can Do To Help Maliki” section mostly involves building up his image: “let Maliki take more credit for positive developments” (notice who is “letting” who take credit). But just when you’re thinking that this is the most realistic statement about Iraq you’ve seen from within the Bush administration, it suggests that the US can “help him form a new political base among moderate politicians from Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and other communities. Ideally, this base would constitute a new parliamentary bloc that would free Maliki from his current narrow reliance on Shia actors.” Total fantasy. Even if there were a sizeable constituency for such a party, how on earth could we create it (oh, wait, it says later on that “We would likely need to use our own political capital to press moderates to align themselves with Maliki’s new political bloc”; see, I knew there was a reasonable answer, we’d just use our political capi–- wait, our what now?) (also, money, and lots of it), and how would it grow and become strong enough to serve as the basis for a legitimate government without the existing parties, parliament and cabinet noticing, and doing something violent about it? It says that such a realignment could take place without an election (the next one isn’t scheduled until 2009), but it would require getting Sistani’s permission.

All of this would require Maliki to be much bolder (or you could say more foolhardy and quixotic) than he has appeared to be to date. My first impression of Maliki was that he was a blowhard, and I’ve seen nothing since then to alter that impression.

(Update: as I was writing, news came that the Maliki-Bush talks were postponed until tomorrow. Something’s up.)
(Updatier: Dan Bartlett explains: “I just said that [Maliki] had a meeting -- he had a bilateral earlier today with the King [of Jordan]; they had a very good conversation, and afterwards they felt, well, since we had good conversations, we addressed issues, there was not an agenda for the three for a trilateral that they felt was necessary.”)

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