Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Victory In Iraq"

Lots happening on the "Victory in Iraq" front. Fred Barnes has an article in the Weekly Standard claiming that Bush has decided to throw out the Iraq Study Group Report and instead use a plan (pdf) drawn up by the American Enterprise Institute that calls for drastically increased troop levels in Iraq for the foreseeable future, as well as massive reconstruction aid. Here's the AEI summary of their plan:
    • We must change our focus from training Iraqi soldiers to securing the Iraqi population and containing the rising violence. Securing the population has never been the primary mission of the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and now it must become the first priority.
    • We must send more American combat forces into Iraq and especially into Baghdad to support this operation. A surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments [an additional 30,000 combat troops] to support clear-and-hold operations starting in the Spring of 2007 is necessary, possible, and will be sufficient.
    • These forces, partnered with Iraqi units, will clear critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shi’a neighborhoods, primarily on the west side of the city.
    • After the neighborhoods have been cleared, U.S. soldiers and marines, again partnered with Iraqis, will remain behind to maintain security.
    • As security is established, reconstruction aid will help to reestablish normal life and, working through Iraqi officials, will strengthen Iraqi local government
The costs? Again, from the AEI summary:
    • The ground forces must accept longer tours for several years. National Guard units will have to accept increased deployments during this period.
    • Equipment shortages must be overcome by transferring equipment from non-deploying active duty, National Guard, and reserve units to those about to deploy. Military industry must be mobilized to provide replacement equipment sets urgently.
    • The president must request a dramatic increase in reconstruction aid for Iraq. Responsibility and accountability for reconstruction must be assigned to established agencies. The president must insist upon the completion of reconstruction projects. The president should also request a dramatic increase in CERP funds.
    • The president must request a substantial increase in ground forces end strength. This increase is vital to sustaining the morale of the combat forces by ensuring that relief is on the way. The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this age.
Although not mentioned in the summary, the body of the report admits that American casualties will be much higher, at least in the short to medium term. As is usual for the right they never mention Iraqi casualties, military or civilian, as a cost.

And here's the money quote:
Victory in Iraq is still possible at an acceptable level of effort. We must adopt a new approach to the war and implement it quickly and decisively... Failure in Iraq today will require far greater sacrifices tomorrow in far more desperate circumstances. Committing to victory now will demonstrate America's strength to our friends and enemies around the world.
This would have been a credible and realistic plan three years ago. But Iraq is a disaster, and we no longer have the ability to send 30,000 extra combat troops to Iraq indefinitely. Nor do we have the equipment to supply and support them, and robbing what little is left from the Guard and Reserve isn't going to be enough.

Not that these problems are likely to stop Bush is he's made up his mind. The question is, what do we do about it. Democrats could cut off money for the deployment, but Bush would likely use our troops as pawns by sending them to Iraq anyway, and then blaming Democrats for the inevitable shortages of supplies and equipment. The American public may not support the war, but they will not stand for anything that's seen as hurting our troops. If Republicans successfully portray Dems as not supporting our troops, or having "lost" Iraq, then we're going to be in a much worse position in the long run. The political winners in this fight are going to determine the direction of American foreign policy for a generation.

It looks to me like Harry Reid has already spotted this trap and figured out how to avoid it. He says that he'd go along with an increase in troops if it's part of a program to get out of Iraq "by this time next year." Sort of telling Bush that we'll give him a blank check for one more year, but this is the last chance and if it doesn't work (and it won't) we're taking our ball and going home.

It's unfortunate that this war has to be prolonged another second, but in a constitutional pissing match Bush will win unless we play smart and tough. We can't afford to lose.

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