Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that President Bush will soon request an additional $50 billion from Congress for the war in Iraq. The request, which is expected to be made after Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify to Congress about Iraq, “appears to reflect the view in the administration” that Bush’s escalation strategy “will last into the spring of 2008 and will not be shortened by Congress.”
On Fox News’ Special Report last night, host Brit Hume revealed that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was unaware of the White House’s plans. “A Pentagon spokesman said Defense Secretary Gates saw the published report this morning and said, quote, ‘this is news to me,’” reported Hume.
Gates’ admission of being out of the loop on the funding request coincides with a report by McClatchy that military brass are trying to “distance themselves” from the President on Iraq strategy:
The Pentagon said Wednesday that it won’t make a single, unified recommendation to President Bush during next month’s strategy assessment, but instead will allow top commanders to make individual presentations. […]
Military analysts called the move unusual for an institution that ordinarily does not air its differences in public, especially while its troops are deployed in combat.
“The professional military guys are going to the non-professional military guys and saying ‘Resolve this,’” said Jeffrey White, a military analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “That’s what it sounds like.”
White said it suggests that the military commanders want to be able to distance themselves from Iraq strategy by making it clear that whatever course is followed is the president’s decision, not what commanders agreed on.
The White House’s marginalization of the Pentagon comes on the heels of a report that Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, will recommend reducing “the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half.” Gates’ position on continuing the escalation “is not known, but he was a member of the Iraq Study Group, which advocated a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.”
Additionally, the marginalization of the Pentagon on Iraq by the administration is not a new development. In December, when the White House was first discussing an escalation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were in “unanimous disagreement” with the administration, arguing that “any short-term mission” would create “bigger problems when it ends.”