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Hoping for a miracle?

He did precisely what was predicted: Announced a temporary escalation of American forces in Iraq by the curious number of 21,500, or approximately five brigades. Four brigades will deploy into the bloody streets of Baghdad and one brigade into the equally bloody towns of Anbar province to the west, the seat of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim insurgency.

The Decider said that he’s laid down the law to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki cannot put the huge Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City off-limits to American forces, and he must begin disarming all sectarian militias, especially the Mahdi Army commanded by radical, anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr.

The president made a perfunctory nod at humility, noting that if there’ve been mistakes in the conduct of the Iraq War _ and, boy, have there been some doozies _ that he bore responsibility for them.

Then he turned belligerent and uttered thinly veiled threats of unspecified U.S. military action against Iraq’s neighbors, Iran and Syria. President Bush already had underlined and telegraphed those threats by ordering a second aircraft carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf and sending additional minesweepers to the same theater.

Let’s review the bidding on this. As the Iraq misadventure heads toward its fifth year, everyone, including Bush, has admitted that the situation is grave and deteriorating and that constant combat deployments have stretched our Army and Marines to the breaking point.

Before the announced “surge” of the additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, we were already tapped out for any combat-ready reserve to deal with emergencies elsewhere in this troubled world. We have fewer than 10,000 troops who could in theory respond to trouble somewhere else. Say, Korea.

Iran occupies a very long and largely unguarded and unpoliced border with Iraq, whose Shiite majority shares the religious beliefs of the Iranians. Those Shiites sit squarely astride the U.S. supply lines that stretch some 300 miles through southern Iraq from Baghdad to Kuwait City.

Iran also sits on the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, through which supertankers haul Middle East oil to Japan, Europe and, yes, the United States.

Does anyone suppose that we can send bombers to strike Iran’s nuclear enrichment plants _ widely dispersed and dug deeply into the granite under mountains _ and not expect that action to set the Middle East on fire and paralyze economies at home and abroad by sending the price of oil beyond $100 or even $200 a barrel?

Does anyone think that Iran’s ayatollahs wouldn’t signal Iraqi Shiite militias and Iran’s own deeply embedded commando teams inside Iraqi to launch new and deadly attacks against our troops scattered across the Iraqi battlegrounds and cut our long and vulnerable supply lines that feed, fuel and provide ammunition to our forces? And what signals might the Iranians send to their Hezbollah allies in Lebanon and beyond, and to their Shiite allies in western Afghanistan?

The Iraq Study Group certainly urged the Bush administration to engage with Iran and Syria, but they recommended diplomatic engagement, not military engagements.

Throwing another 21,500 American troops into the cauldron that is the Iraq civil war is not a new way forward. It’s not even new: We’ve done this several times before, and it won’t work.

Expanding a war that we’re losing in Iraq to a neighboring nation three times larger, with a much better army and far more whacked-out religious fanatics, is hardly something that our commander in chief should even be dropping hints about at this juncture in a growing disaster.

Good God, man, what were you thinking during the last six weeks of supposedly listening to advice from all comers? Is this the best you can do?

Just when we begin to think that things couldn’t get much worse, they do.

Pardon me if I’m reminded of a time long ago when another disaster of a President, Richard M. Nixon, thought that he could turn a losing war in Vietnam around by bombing and invading neighboring Cambodia.

It didn’t work in Cambodia. It only set the stage for a Communist Khmer Rouge genocide that took as many as 2 million Cambodian lives after Indochina fell.

Perhaps it’s time for all of us to hope for a miracle. We can all hope, and pray too, that this commander-in-chief comes to his senses before he sets our world afire in the two years he has left in the highest office in the land.

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