Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Iraq: Up and Out?

Yesterday, the NY Times ran this important "military analysis" article that quotes a number of retired generals who think it would be a mistake -- some would say disaster -- to reduce troop levels in Iraq, including General Zinni -- one of the Bush administration's chief critics, and the former CENTCOM commander in the Middle East.

The problem, of course, is that the Democrats just seized power by running -- on somewhat vague terms -- "against" the war in Iraq. The political mandate for increasing troop levels? Nonexistant!

But that's exactly why the Democrats have an incredible opportunity here to (a) do the right thing, (b) demonstrate independence from the Bush administration, and (c) begin the phased withdrawal from Iraq that most of the country wants. How, you ask?

Proposal: "Up and Out"

First, the Up: The U.S. commits to increasing ("upping") troop levels in Iraq -- immediately. Not by 10,000, not by 50,000, but by another 150,000, double the forces currently in theater. Speech soundbite: "Donald Rumsfeld was unwilling to commit the troops necessary to finish the job. We are not."

Then, the Out: The U.S. informs Iraqi President Maliki that troops will begin a phased withdrawal from Iraq in one year's time (around the spring of 2008). By the end of 2008, we plan to reduce to a 50,000 soldier contingency devoted to securing American interests and hunting for al-Qaeda. General security/policing functions will no longer be the province of American forces.

The obvious problem, of course, is that if we "upped" we might not "out," particularly if the security situation worsened after the increase in troop levels. Rebuttal: yes, but if violence increases even if we commit more troops, then the troop levels themselves are part of the problem! Alternatively, if the violence decreases, a phased withdrawal will be more palatable to the Iraqis (since the situation will appear, and will in fact be, more stable). Either way, by "upping" first, we set the stage for a justified "outing" in the not-too-distant future.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read General Zunni’s comments and listened to General Abizaid this morning. These are serious men who know their stuff and deserve serious consideration. Many of us who were adamantly opposed to the start of the war recognize that we have obligations of all kinds in Iraq and it’s not as simple as packing up and going home.

In his testimony today, General Abizaid expressed optimism that things could improve significantly in the next six months. Abizaid is one of the few I trust to speak his mind truthfully and I hope he is right. (However, it’s worth remembering that General Casey predicted in June, 2006, that we could begin withdrawing troops this past September and that US troop levels would be down from 14 combat brigades to 3 or 4 in 2007. URL on request)

However, seems to me that when the political smoke clears, we have a defacto policy: (1) The Baker committee will give political cover for “reaching out” for a political solution, both within Iraq and with it’s neighbors; (2) The President will be in charge regardless of what the Democrats say and do (given that cutting funds is “off the table”); General Abizaid has provided a reasonable timeline to evaluate progress, i.e., if things don’t improve within six months, it’s hard to imagine that there will be anything left for us to do that might make things work or that there would be any political support for a continued effort. In short, looks to me like we have six months to see progress. I hope it happens but it’s also possible that it will all go to hell by then.

As for sending more troops, General Barry McCafferty went through the numbers yesterday on John McCain’s suggestion that we send a similar number. Bottom line: we don’t have the troops. Many of the brigades that have been rotated back to the US simply aren’t combat ready and we would have to draw upon, i.e., abandon, many places where we are now (esp. Korea, where we have already cut troops by 50%), leaving us strategically vulnerable. Even if it were possible to cobble up the formations, let’s be realistic: the public simply isn’t going to go along and it’s like going all-in on a small pair.....

Iraq will determine Iraq, long before the Democrats can do anything about it.

-- Big Daddy

1:28 PM  
Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

Sounds a bit like a devil's bargain. I imagine people like LBJ thought upping troop levels would "get the job done" so we could come home honorably. That is such a misguided ethic that I can't even begin to express my anger toward it. Dems won because people want less troops in Iraq, NOT more.

The "mission" in Iraq (as far as our publicly stated goal - and not the covert goal of securing Iraq's vast oil reserves for ourselves) has been accomplished. Saddam has been arrested and is standing trial. The dictator has been overthrown. At this point, there is nothing wrong with leaving. If Iraq can't sort itself out and develop an independent government that looks after the affairs of Iraqis and takes Iraqi values to heart... then maybe the UN should get involved. Our continued presence only ensures that Iraq will NOT have a strong independent government that looks after the best interests of Iraqi citizens. And in the meantime, any Iraqi civilians that are worth a damn (the doctors and social workers and such) are fleeing the country because it's a hellhole occupied by an unfriendly military. Things probably have to get worse before they get better... but worse for whom... and better for whom? If we send more troops, things get worse for us, and we may get more oil out of the deal. If we withdraw, things will get temporarily worse for Iraq, but at least then they'll have a shot at a autonomous, respectable nation... rather than a dysfunctional puppet government that we might set up. (See the US's long history of dysfunctional puppet governments for clarification of what I mean.)

10:33 AM  

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