That’s the abridged version of Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe’s and Holly Bailey’s article. Here’s some of the details from their article:
You could be forgiven for thinking there was something big in the works. President Bush is holding a three-way summit in the Middle East. Washingtonâ€™s political insiders are swapping leaks about forthcoming studies on Iraq. Even the network news anchors are flying halfway across the world. So the White House is ready to change course in Iraq, right?
Not quite. The president and his senior staff arrived in Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday with a deep sense of discontent about the direction of Iraq. But that doesnâ€™t translate into a major course correction, no matter what the pundits, or the Democrats, or James Bakerâ€™s study group, suggest. Somewhere between Stay the Course and Reverse Course lies Bushâ€™s new approach. Call it Adjust the Course.
To their credit, I think Wolffe and Bailey get that right. People who expected President Bush to get railroaded by Jim Baker’s report were discounting President Bush’s determination to actually defeat the terrorists in Iraq. While it’s true that there will be some major adjustments made, those adjustments don’t include a John Murtha-styled cut and run policy or a Barack Obama-styled cut and walk policy. Rather, it’s about President Bush telling Nouri al-Maliki that he needs to crush the violence instead of cozying up to Muqtada al-Sadr.
So Bushâ€™s goal in Amman is not to deliver an ultimatum to Maliki or to get tough with him. Instead of isolating Maliki, Bushâ€™s message will be that he and the Iraqi prime minister are in this hole together.
The ultimatums won’t come from the Bush administration. Many of them will come from tough-talking Democrats who voted against the war. Other ultimatums will come from Democrats who think that their regaining the majority was a mandate for their pacifist policies.
In his big set-piece speech of the trip, at the Latvia University in Riga on Tuesday, the president described his goals in Amman. “Weâ€™ll continue to be flexible, and weâ€™ll make the changes necessary to succeed,” he said. “But thereâ€™s one thing I’m not going to do: Iâ€™m not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.” In other words, anyone, such as the newly empowered Democrats, expecting troop withdrawals will have to wait either until Iraq is able to govern itself, or until Bush leaves office.
Right after the election, I said that the President needed to pick a fight with Democrats. My choice was to pick a fight with them on terrorism but the President didn’t take my advice, choosing instead to pick a fight with Democrats on Iraq. That’s fine with me because Democrats don’t have a coherent strategy for Iraq, the GWOT or foreign policy of any sort. Frankly, President Bush doesn’t even need a clearcut victory over Democrats on this. Picking a fight with Democrats will help get the GOP base back with him.
Bushâ€™s aides note tartly that if thatâ€™s all Baker is suggesting, he wonâ€™t be able to live up to the expectations surrounding his report. Dealing with Bakerâ€™s report may be relatively easy if Syria and Iran are the big new ideas, these aides say.
The Agenda Media were hyperventillating when the first Baker Report leaks happened, figuring that President Bush wouldn’t say no to Bush family friend Baker. I didn’t completely buy into that notion, though I was a bit worried for awhile. It’s good to see the President getting back to his feisty self.
Cross-posted at California Conservative