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

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Still all to play for at our live iDebate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

The leak of Jennifer Lawrence's nude photos isn't her fault. But try telling that to the internet's idiots

Grace Dent
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor