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    09 August 2007

    The Surge of Optimism

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    I kind of stumped at the establishments hyperventilating over military successes in Iraq. It's as if they have learned nothing. Our military is big and bad, they are more than adequately funded, they are well trained and sometimes well led. Of course more of them in the streets of Iraq will make a difference. Just like General Shinseki said way back before this fiasco in Iraq started.

    However, all this means nothing in the larger scheme of things. The surge was described as a tactic to allow the Iraqi government to stand up politically and military. The Iraqis have done little if anything in either regard. In fact in Anthony Cordesman's latest assessment he concedes that military successes are accompanied by political backsliding. The tactic settled upon by the White House was to clear, hold and build; with increased Iraqi participation. We've cleared, we've held, we're trying to build; yet the Iraqis have done--for the most part--nothing. The tactic was to create space for the Iraqi government to unify and legislate. They have done neither.

    So it seems that 3 choices await us next month.
    1) We begin to pullout and redeploy our troops so they can be used to fight for ends based in reality in this "war on terror". Some want to pull out immediately. Taken literally this is impossible and irresponsible.

    2) We continue the surge for another 6 months or so. A Friedman Unit if you will and the same rhetoric that numerous pundits, scholars, and politicians from both parties have used since before the war in Iraq started.

    3) We increase the surge to match the recommendations in the counterinsurgency manual. As I said in February, "...I believe that if we could muster enough man power to match the recommendations of the counterinsurgency manual, then we would be looking at a statistical chance of military success; at least one worth looking into provided we reassess what the final result in Iraq will look like and lose the rose-colored glasses)... ." But, "[t]he fundamental problem is that no level of military successes will ever win this war. There has to be political progress and the likelihood of that happening is slim, even with zero or a million troops in Iraq.

    There are obvious problems here. Both #2 and #3 are unpopular all the way around. The public realizes that one of the side effects of the surge--and future surges--are more US service members dying. No one wants that. If we sustain the surge (as is) we have till mid-2008 until the military passes a foreseen breaking point. Therefore a reduction is forced at this point assuming drastic measures aren't invoked to sustain the surge. This--like this war--would be unacceptable the the American body politic. The public wants us out of Iraq soon.

    #3 is an impossible short- to mid-term plan due to the reasons stated above. We're stretched too thin and the new political establishment in Iraq is not with us.

    So basically we can prop up and wait out the Iraqi government, thereby fulfilling the dreams of al Qaeda (this will the legacy of the neocons and their supporters, along with being labeled as the architects of the worst foreign policy decision in decades). Or we can reset and refocus on other priorities. The British expect this to be the plan after the September reports.

    There is a legitimate case to be made that as we reassess the situation in the real fight against terrorism the regional actors will begin to play ball in Iraq. This, of course, could be beneficial or detrimental. Provided we act reasonably and diplomatically we can coax this transition in a beneficial way. In this process we can easily retain the capability to attack al Qaeda and likely aid the Iraqis as they reject them. Additionally we can still keep tabs on and provide a check to Iranian influence. All this will prod the Shiite led "unity" government to actually unify or face failure and possibly mass death.

    The only problem is, that going forward with a plan like this would soil the reputation of many politicians, analysts and armchair know-it-alls. To them I ask: What's more important? Your pride or the lives of our soldiers? Your political party or the future of the population of Iraq? Your ill-conceived ideology or the starving of al Qaeda's premier recruitment and training tool?

    I think the answer is obvious.

    Posted by Geoff

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