Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bush Wants To Send 20,000 More Troops to Iraq

And lots of blogger folk are trying to figure out why. He doesn't really think 20,000 more troops in Iraq for the next six months or a year is going to turn a failed war around, does he? Wait a minute, I forgot who I was talking about:

"You've got to remember, whatever the Democrats say, it's Bush still calling the shots. He believes it's a matter of political will. That's what [Henry] Kissinger told him. And he's going to stick with it," a former senior administration official said. "He [Bush] is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is any more. But he is. But he knows he's got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work. If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall."

The "last push" strategy is also intended to give Mr Bush and the Republicans "political time and space" to recover from their election drubbing and prepare for the 2008 presidential campaign, the official said. "The Iraq Study Group buys time for the president to have one last go. If the Democrats are smart, they'll play along, and I think they will. But forget about bipartisanship. It's all about who's going to be in best shape to win the White House.

The official added: "Bush has said 'no' to withdrawal, so what else do you have? The Baker report will be a set of ideas, more realistic than in the past, that can be used as political tools. What they're going to say is: lower the goals, forget about the democracy crap, put more resources in, do it."

So it's all about perception, as usual. If we pull the troops now, right after the Democrats took back Congress, it looks like cut and run. It looks like Bush lost.

A "Former Republican" commenting at Blue Crab Boulevard agrees, it's not about winning, because that can't be done with just 20,000 more troops. It's about giving it the old college try, one more time for the Gipper, and then, when you do pull out in a year or so, it doesn't look like you lost, because there's a "process" in place:

On the merits, I agree with Robert. We seem to be losing the war. Certainly, if we pull out now we will be perceived as having lost. If you want to win, put in more troops. I also agree with Robert that 20,000 is not enough. Historical precedents suggest hundreds of thousands more, maybe even a million. To keep hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq, you might have to increase the Army by a million or two. That's easily with[in] US capabilities -- for a rich country of 300 million people it's not even breathing hard -- but it would require a draft. If you are serious about winning, if this really is comparable to WWII or the Cold War, then that's what you should do. It's a theoretical possibility, though, since it's obviously a nonstarter in American politics. If you were going to do something like that, you should have started in 2003 or 2004.

Personally, I think that the comparison to WWII or the Cold War is absurd, and that crushing the Iraq insurgency with hundreds of thousands of US troops would be a Pyrrhic victory. So I'm not in favor of a draft (and I doubt Robert is either).

I see no alternatives that (a) hold much promise of actual victory and (b) are politically possible. So I think we've already lost, and the only question is how bad the damage will be.

Of couse, I could be wrong. I'm an American, and the American record on making predictions about Iraq is pretty bad.

Barbara O'Brien and Rick Moran both are of the opinion that Bush "co-opted" the Iraq Study Group into moving from a phased troop withdrawal to more troops and no timetable:

Rather than sitting back and allowing the Iraq Study Group to dictate an endgame for the Iraq War, George Bush has decided to go all in and make one final effort to turn the security situation around and get the political process moving so that our troops will be able to start coming home and America can claim some kind of victory in Iraq[.]
Bush has altered the Commission's deliberations and changed its dynamic by engaging the bureaucracy in a long delayed (too long?) review of Iraq policy from which these recommendations have sprung. Baker's group had little choice but to incorporate them into their report or risk being shunted to the sidelines in the policy debate.

Rick goes on to give a pretty frank analysis of the Bush plan's chances for success:

Given the amount of flack I've taken from both the left and right recently whenever I write about Iraq, I am hesitant to lay it all on the line here. At times, I've truly felt battered and bruised by friend and foe alike. ... However, if y'all promise to be gentle, I will sum up for you exactly how I feel about this plan:

Too little. Too late.

The fact is 20,000 American troops is less than half of what people who know a helluva lot more about the subject than I do have been begging for. And any plan for "National Reconciliation" may be good on the macro level. But the violence in Iraq has now degenerated into micro conflicts[.]
National polity has been shattered. It is doubtful whether even the 50,000 troops recommended by many observers -- including Senator McCain -- could restore any semblance of peace and security in the 4-6 months that General Abizaid says we have before the situation becomes irreversible. Unless we are willing to stay for 5-10 years with this level of commitment and expenditure of blood and treasure, I can't see how the faith of the Iraqi people in government, in law and order, in civil society can be re-established.

I doubt whether there would be very much support in America for that kind of commitment. Especially since there is absolutely no guarantee that Iraq won't devolve into a jungle anyway.

There is still good that can be done that has a small chance of improving the situation. Going after the militias with those additional troops would at least solve one of those macro problems that are bedeviling the Iraqi government. And the idea of a regional summit is intriguing. Not direct talks with Iran and Syria but rather engaging them in the context of regional security with other nations might be just the ticket. Because once we leave, the real bloodbath begins. And unless the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States as well as Syria (although the ruling class in Syria are Alawis, the country is 90% Sunni) want to see their co-religionists in Iraq led to the slaughter, their best course may be to assist in securing a modicum of peace prior to our departure.

The idea that we can accelerate the training and deployment of the Iraqi army is all well and good except that to date, the Iraqis have been close to useless. When we moved additional troops into Baghdad to help with security back in August, Prime Minister al-Maliki promised us 3,000 Iraqi troops to assist us in holding neighborhoods where our sweeps ferreted out terrorists and death squads. To date, less than 1,000 have shown up. The reason: wholesale rebellion by entire units of Iraqi troops who refuse to serve in Baghdad.

I will let that fact speak for itself regarding the accelerated training of Iraqi troops.

I am going to support this last roll of the dice by Bush even though I don't think it will work. I am glad he is trying it. But if this is the best we can do at this late date, I fear that we will have to be satisfied with achieving the noble goal of kicking Saddam Hussein and his murderous henchmen out of power while falling short in our efforts to stabilize Iraq and bring some form of democracy to that bloody, tragic country.

Far short of victory, I'm afraid. And despite the catcalls and bric-a-brats thrown by the left, a noble undertaking, botched from the start, incompetently prosecuted, and in the end, a failure.

Captain Ed observes that if democracy is not achievable, and stability is now the primary goal, the long-term result is likely to be another brutal dictatorship like Saddam's:

Simon Tisdall quotes his anonymous source as saying that the plan can be described in a nutshell: "lower the goals, forget about the democracy crap, put more resources in, do it."

Lowering the goals makes more sense than running away, but depending on the extent of the abandonment, it risks making the entire effort pointless. The reason why the US insisted on engaging in the Wilsonian task of nation-building after toppling Saddam was twofold. Democracy should allow more rational outlets for political aspirations instead of allowing them to fester in tyranny, thus eventually reducing the impulse towards terrorism. The second follows from the first, and that was to seed Southwest Asia and North Africa with democracy, with its roots in Iraq.

Forgetting about the "democracy crap" means that all of that long-range strategy has just disappeared. Instead, the US presumably would put a strongman or military junta in place in Baghdad, probably secular, as a way of achieving stability. The new junta would likely attract the Ba'athist elements that have operated the majority of the insurgencies in Iraq, helping to end one form of terrorism in the country -- but putting the terrorists back in charge again. The Iraqi people, who turned out in force for three elections and who want democracy to work, would essentially be sold back into some form of authoritarian executive by the US.

Pardon me, but I hardly see how this strengthens us in the Middle East. If we send 20,000 troops to Baghdad in order to stand up a strongman, why would anyone in the region support democracy? Why would anyone trust us if we promised to back their activism for freedom and liberty?

Another article, published in today's New York Times, reports Gen. Abizaid's testimony Wednesday before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, in which he said that any kind of troop withdrawal in the near future would increase the violence in Iraq:

The top American military commander for the Middle East said Wednesday that to begin a significant troop withdrawal from Iraq over the next six months would lead to an increase in sectarian killings and hamper efforts to persuade the Iraqi government to make the difficult decisions needed to secure the country.

The commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, made it clear that he did not endorse the phased troop withdrawals being proposed by Democratic lawmakers. Instead, he said the number of troops in Iraq might be increased by a small amount as part of new plans by American commanders to improve the training of the Iraqi Army.

Abizaid also said that the military was stretched too thin to send in more than just a small additional force. And then he said that there was no real point in sending in even a small number of additional troops -- like the 20,000 Bush wants -- because "... when you look at the overall American force pool that's available out there, the ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something that we have right now with the size of the Army and the Marine Corps."

So what is he suggesting?

Under the immediate initiative that General Abizaid described, the number of American military advisers working with Iraqi forces will be increased, with advisers to be assigned even to small Iraqi units with fewer than 200 soldiers.

"We need to put more American capacity into Iraqi units to make them more capable in their ability to confront the sectarian problem," General Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It is possible that we might have to go up in troop levels in order to increase the number of forces that go into the Iraqi security forces, but I believe that's only temporary."

But if an increase in troop levels cannot be sustained because the Army and Marine Corps are so overextended, how is "going up in troop levels" going to help? I don't know, maybe I'm missing something, but this guy seems to be saying in one breath that more troops may be needed, and in the next that more troops will not work.

Plus, Abizaid does not have any explanation for how putting more U.S. "advisers" into Iraq's security forces will do anything to stop the anarchic level of violence in Iraq when even the far better-equipped and trained American military is powerless to stop it. To me, this looks like a finger-in-the-dike approach that does nothing to fix the hole in the dike.

I'm reminded of something Geoffrey Millard said at a recent luncheon for antiwar activists in New Jersey. Millard is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and I was at the luncheon event where he spoke. He was asked how he answers people who say that the U.S. has to stay in Iraq because if we leave, there will be a bloodbath. His response (I'm paraphrasing) was that there is a bloodbath going on in Iraq right now. He added that he can't know, and no one can know, exactly what will happen in Iraq when U.S. troops leave. But what he does know, and what he can say for certain, is that as long as we do stay the violence will continue.

That is why when Gen. Abizaid, and others like him, argue against troop withdrawals -- phased or immediate -- on the grounds that such an action would precipitate terrible violence and bloodshed and civil war, I want to laugh. Or scream.

Abizaid did say one thing that should have been said a long time ago:

General Abizaid also publicly said for the first time that the American position in Iraq had been undermined by the Bush administration's decision not to deploy a larger force to stabilize the country in 2003. That decision was made after Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff at the time, told Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be needed. His testimony was derided by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and the general was ostracized at the Pentagon before his retirement a few months later.

"General Shinseki was right that a greater international force contribution, U.S. force contribution and Iraqi force contribution should have been available immediately after major combat operations," General Abizaid said. "I think you can look back and say that more American troops would have been advisable in the early stages of May, June, July."

How convenient that this admission comes after the man who publicly humiliated Shinseki for speaking the truth was himself sacked from his job. Donald Rumsfeld should apologize to Shinseki -- publicly, the same way he derided the general. Bush should apologize, too.

And both Bush and Abizaid need to explain why, when they were so profoundly wrong about troop levels needed, and when they insisted for three years that there were more than enough troops to do the job, anyone should believe them when they say now that we have to stay in Iraq.


Anonymous said...

I saw John McCain echoing the 20,000 more troops motto in his questioning of the General. At first I thought McCain's idea might work till I heard the 20,000 figure, in Baghdad if all of our troops are right there now, according to the news and Bush that number is 150,000. That leaves us at 1 soldier vs almost 47 Iraqi. If we take John McCain's theory, we stand at 1 soldier vs 41 Iraqi. We don't have enough soldiers to bring the sectarian violence and civil war under control.

In an interview with Lt. Col. Grunow who was embedded with the troops over a year, Grunow said it would take years to accomplish anything in Iraq. I think whether we leave now or years from now the same result will be achieved, they have started looking at Iraq as the war on terror, in other words we whoop up on Iraq and the rest of the terrorists will be scared, or they have all massed in Iraq and we exterminate them there, personally I don't believe all terrorists are holed up in Iraq.

Nice blog, first time I ran into it, keep posting the truth.

Kathy said...

Thanks, Floyd.