Last night we heard from Mr. Bush that it is important to keep the present horror show playing out in Iraq on the road. After having acknowledge that the territory that was Iraq is now a deeply divided and violent place where "outrageous acts of murder" recur daily, he spent the bulk of his speech speaking as if this is merely the product of a lapse in "strategy" on our part, and not a further confirmation of what we all know to be the case, namely that the sterility of troops in the effort to "stabilize" Iraq has been proven many times over. The greatest evil Mr. Bush can conjure up is a rogue regime in Iraq, intent on killing Americans. By invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush believes he courageously and heroically removed one such regime. But his solution has become the problem. Or rather, he never had a solution for how Iraq would be governed without Saddam. And he continues to use the mortal terror that has gripped Iraq in the wake of America's invasion and occupation as an excuse to deploy more violence with the hope that once Baghdad and the rest of Iraq has been "clear and secure," Iraqis will finally come together as a plural yet united nation. Yet how can this hope can be squared with the known conditions of Iraq? "Americans know," the Times editorial notes, "that this Iraqi government is captive to Shiite militias, with no interest in the unity, reconciliation and democracy that Mr. Bush says he wants." Hence it is that the problem in Iraq is more fundamental than security and reconciliation, it is about the integrity of the state of Iraq, about how it will run. Telling it to run a different way simply begs the question and ignores the way it is already being run.
Mr. Bush is under the illusion that Iraq is basically good, except for the bad elements which can be purged and cleared with more troops. This misbegotten belief in the cleansing act of violence only points in one direction: overkill. "Rationalistic metaphors about cleaning," as William T. Vollmann writes in Rising Up, Rising Down, his massive study of violence, suggest "processes which require overkill for their effectiveness to be guaranteed." Hence the problem with Bush's "surge" of troops is not only that it will fail, but that from the get-go it stops well short of the numbers that would be required to impose an effective police state in Iraq. As the Times says, "There is nothing ahead but even greater disaster in Iraq."