Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Confused Way Forward in Iraq

Apparently, President Bush plans to announce tonight that the 20,000 troop surge/escalation in Baghdad will serve in a solely in a support role. According to White House spokesperson Bartlett, Iraqi soldiers are “the ones who are going to be knocking on doors,” he said. “We’re going to be there in a support role.”

The general idea behind the "surge" is that we, meaning the US, is demonstrating a commitment to the government of prime minister al-Maliki. Most informed observers agree that al-Maliki's approach to the insurgency has been a disaster, largely because he's refused to commit the Iraqi Army to controlling Moqtada Sadr's private Mahdi Army. Perhaps, like me, you've spotted the obvious irony here: al-Maliki is securing additional US troops to "support" an effort that that thus far he's shown no inclination to pursue.

What say the US generals? Here's a paraphrased quote (from the NY Times) from our new men in Iraq:

But General Odierno and the officer named by President Bush to be the new overall commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, have said they support the troop increase. General Odierno said in the interview that Mr. Bush’s new strategy could allow American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand, although he cautioned that it might take another “two or three years.”

Incidentally, here's General Odierno in an interview from three years ago:

Where have we come? In seven months, we've removed a regime. I tell everyone, although we have resistance -- and although I'm not happy that we're taking casualties -- the status quo is a loss for the enemy, because every day we move forward is another day Saddam's not in power. It's another day that the infrastructure gets better. It's another day that the new government is in place. It's another day that they see economic development occurring. It's another day that the Iraqi police and the Iraq Civil Defense Corps are taking better control and becoming better trained.

As these things continue to occur, they will gain confidence in themselves. They will gain confidence in the establishment of a new government. I'd like to see it go faster, and I think we can make it go faster. We can do that by maybe eliminating a little bit more of this threat. I think you've seen a change in the threat, that they're much more stand-off now in their attacks. Basically their attacks are down to IEDs [improvised explosive devices], some mortar and rocket attacks, that are for the most part very, very ineffective.

For the record, I think Ordiono is a smart guy who's heart and mind is generally in the right place. But the point here is that we continue to misapprehend the nature of what's happening in Iraq, as we have done virtually since the day we invaded. Like most Americans, I have 0% confidence that Bush's new strategy will do anything to change the dynamics of what is happening: sectarian civil war.


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