December 29, 2006
New Plan for Iraq III
If we're going to surge troops, let's make sure we do it right, say Frederick Kagan and Jack Keane, authors of a proposal to win the war in Iraq that has received a favorable review by the White House. Writing in the Washington Post two days ago, they say that
We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad -- the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development -- is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.
The key to the success is to change the military mission -- instead of preparing for transition to Iraqi control, that mission should be to bring security to the Iraqi population. Surges aimed at accelerating the training of Iraqi forces will fail, because rising sectarian violence will destroy Iraq before the new forces can bring it under control.
Writing in the New York Post, Ralph Peters largely agrees. The theme of his article is do it right or not at all, but if we do it, go for broke:
Focus exclusively on security. Concentrate on doing one thing well. Freeze all reconstruction and aid projects. Halt every program and close every office that doesn't contribute directly to pacifying Iraq.
Empty the Green Zone. Pack off the contractors. Reduce the military's overhead to those elements essential to support combat operations. Make it clear to "our" Iraqis that it's sink-or-swim time. Remove our advisers from any Iraqi unit that can operate marginally without them (and let the Iraqis do security their way without interference).
Above all, establish unity of command: Stop pretending there's a fully functional government in Baghdad, recall our ambassador until the fighting's over and make this a purely military effort until Iraq has been pacified.
Peters may go a bit far in some of his ideas, but he's generally on the right track, as are Keane and Kagan; the war is still winnable, we must prevail, so no more half-measures.
Opinion on whether the Keane-Kagan plan is a good one or not is split, mostly but not exclusively along predictable lines.
Barack Obama and John Edwards, both presidential hopefuls, have come out against a troop surge surge. Hillary Clinton says that she's against it too, "unless it is part of a larger plan to end the violence in Iraq".
Democrat presidential candidates Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack have are against a surge, as are Senators Joseph Biden and Christopher Dodd.
John Kerry says that he's against increasing the number of troops "absent some kind of political resolution in Iraq".
Unsurprisingly, Senator Joe Lieberman is strongly in favor of a surge. Writing in today's Washinton Post, he says that our basic problem in Iraq is a lack of security, and unless that is fixed, nothing else much matters. Money quote
In Baghdad and Ramadi, I found that it was the American colonels, even more than the generals, who were asking for more troops. In both places these soldiers showed a strong commitment to the cause of stopping the extremists. One colonel followed me out of the meeting with our military leaders in Ramadi and said with great emotion, "Sir, I regret that I did not have the chance to speak in the meeting, but I want you to know on behalf of the soldiers in my unit and myself that we believe in why we are fighting here and we want to finish this fight. We know we can win it."
On the Republican side, Senator John McCain has been calling for an increast in troop levels for some time. Recently he urged the president to reject the Baker-Hamilton recommendations and increase the level of troops in Iraq. As Larry Kudlow points out, if the president does decide to send in more toops, McCain's support will be crucial.
To be fair, there are some Republicans against a surge too, notably Rep Duncan Hunter, who believes that the job can be done with existing Iraqi troops.
Others, such as conservative blogger Paul Mirengoff of Power Line, are also skeptical, writing that "unless there is very good reason to believe that a sustainable troop surge can bring permanent security to Baghdad, it may be time to redefine what constitutes success."
Likewise, Glenn Reynolds points out that some generals are "not thrilled" with the idea of a surge either, because in their view "the strife in Iraq is mainly a military problem; in their view it is largely political, fed by economic distress."
So there you have it. Not a comprehensive survey, but I believe that from it we can reach a few conclusions. One, the hard left is unalterably opposed to any increase in troops no matter how good the plan. They do not care whether we win or lose, apparently seeing no ill effects from a loss.
A few Democrats hedge their bets. They say that they might be in favor of a troop increase, but only if certain vague conditions are met. Call me partisan, but think that they're just trying to have it both ways; if it succeeds they can say they were for it, and if it fails they can say that they had been against it all along.
On the left, Lieberman is the odd man out, but this is hardly a surprise. With the death of the Cold War Democrats over twenty or thirty years ago, he's the only one to have picked up the mantle of the late Henry "Scoop" Jackson.
On the right opinion is much more split. A few seem to have given up on the enterprise, some just think that a surge is the wrong strategy, and others will support it if their questions can be answered.
So in the end it all falls on mostly predictable fault lines. Those who turned against the war once it was discovered that there were no WMD do not think that anything we do can win it, and those in favor of the war believe that it can be won but are divided on strategy.
As I've mentioned in previous pieces on this matter, I think it can be won and that the Keane-Kagan plan represents our best choice for success. I used to think that more economic development and free elections would do the trick. I now believe that without security they don't matter so much, or at least they won't have as much effect as we would like.
Posted by Tom at December 29, 2006 8:16 AM
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I wish you the best New Year that will bring you health, happiness, success, and all that is good in 2007.
Happy New Year Tom!
Posted by: Layla at January 1, 2007 8:41 PM