Thursday, January 11, 2007


I'm divided on Bush's new plan. 20,000 is far too small a number to support a sustained counter-insurgency campaign. ~160k has always been too small for the post-"kinetic operations" (a.k.a. combat - don't you love DOD euphemisms?) mission in Iraq. Yet, parts of his predictions are correct, that if the U.S. leaves, certain areas in Iraq will become a haven for terrorists (but it's an open question whether they will be Iraqi, regional, or international ones), and there will certainly be a civil war (if it isn't there already). If the U.S. withdraws, Iran, I think, will be less overt about making a bomb, since the U.S. military will be freed up to launch strikes and insertions without fear of Iranian escalation of the Iraqi insurgency.

And there is of course the moral aspect, that the U.S. really does owe the Iraqis a stable, functioning government. But, a 20k temporary troop increase is not the answer. If the U.S. were actually committed to this war, a draft is the answer, but I have my doubts that even that would help things at this late juncture without political solutions and engagement. And, believe me, Iraqi politics is a nightmare, to say nothing of the region.

Two things Bush said get to me:

"We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas — where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny."

That would be great, except the Administration cut off all non-security-related funding in Iraq last year. Congress had to earmark additional funds for these activities, not the federal administration.

"Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have."

If Bush was referring to Maliki and other Iraqi politicians' obstructions, fine. But if Abu Ghraib was considered a restriction, I'm terrified. Beyond that, though, I don't think Bush has gotten the necessary support from Maliki. There is a reason that he and others have used and protected certain aspects of the insurgency, and that has to do with their own political power base (which is fragmented partly because of its horrendously complicated electoral system). But given the threats that Bush outlined about Iran, terrorism, et al, and the inherent weakness of the Iraqi government, I am extremely skeptical that Iraqi officials feel any kind of meaningful pressure to share oil wealth, quell the insurgency, and halt Iranian and Syrian support in a way that would not be shoving a resolution down the throats of the other sectarian groups.

Well, good luck to Petraeus, who has done an excellent job thus far, but is probably overmatched by the situation on the ground right now.


Jonny America said...

I have read in some places that Bush is sending more troops into Iraq to attack Iran. (Read Jan. 11 What do you think of that? Looks like 20,000 is way too few to attack Iran. No matter how many troops we had there, it would be a terrible idea nonetheless.

I relate to the "if you break it, you fix it statements." But, our troops may just be part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Chengora said...

Yeah, no chance in hell the U.S. will attack Iran. They have too much leverage in Iraq at the moment. The minute the U.S. pulls out of Iraq, however...

I think the U.S. can still do good in Iraq, but the window for that is and has been dwindling for some time. This, I imagine, will have to be the last push, and it has to concentrate on delivering concrete security to Baghdad, if not the rest of the country. Even then, the political situation is what worries me the most, and the U.S. has not devoted the necessary resources or leverage to get any kind of workable deal out of the various competing factions.