There it was, in black and white: one lone sentence in the Washington Post's lead paragraph on the latest in Bushian strategery, symbolizing the span of six sorry-ass years of presidential chuckleheadedness on one side and an entire universe of informed, expert opinion on the other.
"The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
Welcome to the club, Joint Chiefs.
I can't think of a solitary issue of national or world import -- be it fiscal policy, health care, global warming, preemptive war, torture ... all the well-known, usual suspects -- in which the vastest majorities of respective experts haven't wildly differed with Mr. Bush's ideological instincts in action, which invariably seem grounded in nothing more than arrested development.
Now it's your turn, Messrs. Joint Chiefs, to sit in frustrated anxiety and wonder how in hell a stubborn child ever gained final authority over you, your informed judgment, and your cumulative centuries of studied professionalism.
I've lost track of the number of times Master George has lied to us, but this -- the administration's internal tangle with the JCS -- is only the last in a long, long list.
How many times have we heard the administration indignantly assert that it listens to and follows the generals; that it is loathe to monkey with military strategy like some frothing, mustachioed dictator moving about toy soldiers and tanks on a map in contravention of adult, expert opinion.
No, no. That's the military chieftains' job, the public -- and the chieftains -- have been humored endlessly. They report, we decide.
But now, in true form, comes the altogether anticipated addendum: unless we don't like the report.
Also in true primate form comes again the administration's monkeying with language. It wants a "surge" of American troops in Iraq. That tactical concept was once, in the leaner, lesser days of Orwellian manipulation, called "escalation."
But that terminology gained a rather bad reputation, seeing how it translated in reality and more lengthily into "more and more needless American deaths in someone else's civil war."
Ewwww, bad call. Let's call this one a "surge," which, by the way, Webster's definition 4(b) calls a "jerk or strain" -- which is likely how the Pentagon views Mr. Bush these days, so perhaps the designation is apt after all.
And just why do the Joint Chiefs unanimously believe a "surge" is a less than sterling idea? Because they unanimously know that ...
"the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission....
"[Bush] is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives....
"a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq -- including al-Qaeda's foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias -- without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army....
"a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops....
"even the announcement of a time frame and mission -- such as for six months to try to secure volatile Baghdad -- could play to armed factions by allowing them to game out the new U.S. strategy."
You think, maybe, that's enough?
But at least we've solved the riddle of the administration's curious delay in announcing a new policy.
Master George has known all along what he'll do. He also knew it would take time to bully and browbeat the men with battle-earned stars into submission.
If those men are honorable, they'll just say "No." They'll resign before signing off on more failure, more needless deaths.