Leading article: Bush's reshuffle prepares the way for a sharp change of course in Iraq

Bush has effectively replaced the whole chain of command and extended the purge to the intelligence services

Share
Related Topics

If there is anyone who still believes that US policy in Iraq is less than disastrous, the reshuffle announced by President Bush this week, and the major speech on strategy expected next, should supply an appropriate corrective. To be sure, the New Year is a time for change, and some of the moves Mr Bush announced were necessitated by earlier job moves. It is also true that military men, even the most senior, come to the end of their tours of duty.

Nonetheless, the sweeping list of removals and appointments made known by the White House in the past 24 hours must have few precedents in any presidency. Mr Bush has effectively replaced the whole chain of military command for Iraq and extended the purge to the intelligence services. He has appointed a new head of central command for Iraq and Afghanistan, a new leading ground commander for Iraq, a new director of national intelligence and a new US ambassador to Iraq.

Even to the two positions that were already vacant - at the UN and the State Department - Mr Bush has nominated men of a very different stamp from their predecessors. If this is not intended to signal a change of policy direction, it is hard to know what would. The Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the head of the NSC, Stephen Hadley - who was her deputy at the NSC - are among the few senior officials with anything to do with Iraq policy who emerge unscathed.

In one way, the purge may mark the completion of the process begun with the replacement of Donald Rumsfeld as Defence Secretary by the less ideological Robert Gates. In another, it may reflect the reality that the President has to deal with a new Congress in which the Democrats have a majority. The overall message conveyed, however, is ambiguous. The outgoing military commanders seemed to be increasingly at odds with Mr Bush, not because they sought a more aggressive policy in Iraq, but rather the reverse.

Precisely what President Bush has in mind will become fully apparent only when he delivers his much-anticipated speech next week. The latest word is that he is preparing to reject the approach set out late last year by the Congress-initiated Iraq Study Group, which would have entailed a gradual withdrawal, and support instead a "surge" of more troops in one last, all-out effort to quell the violence. If this is Mr Bush's preferred option, we see difficulties ahead, not only for White House relations with Congress, but for transatlantic relations as well. The Iraq Study Group recommendations seemed much closer to British government priorities. But the likely efficacy of throwing more firepower at the problem must also be questioned. Not only would it offer a vastly increased number of targets to the different groups of militants, but it also could alienate international opinion further.

The US and British governments would do well to study the blueprint drafted by Iraq's former defence minister, Ali Allawi, which was published in The Independent yesterday. This detailed plan has the benefit of an Iraqi author. It envisages guarantees for the country's minorities, the direct involvement of neighbouring countries, and an international force to replace the present US-dominated force. It is essentially a plan for the internationalisation of the conflict, with provision for a series of international conferences similar to those that ended the Afghan civil war.

If sufficient troops could be mustered, the true internationalisation of the Iraq conflict could point the way to a solution. Unfortunately, Mr Bush's military and political reshuffle suggests that his thinking is moving in the very opposite direction.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam