THE NEW STRATEGY
None of this means his plan will work.
The first goal of this war was "Regime Change," which, for a variety of reasons including Iraqi support for terrorism and the belief in Iraqi WMDs, had been US policy since Clinton's time. Bush actually did something about it, and the regime was changed.
The secondary goal was to move the entire Middle East toward a new and modern life by introducing a legitimate, freely elected, independent government which would settle internal differences in a civilized way. We were to create a nidus of civility, an example of the possibilities for all the people in the region to see as a better way for their future. The idea was that a decent future for them would defuse the attraction of radical Islam, and reduce and ultimately eliminate the terrorist threat to the West, particularly to America's interests at home and abroad.
This secondary goal has so far proved impossible. The depths of depravity, cruelty, hatred and barbarism as revealed to us by the action of Iraqi Arabs...not Kurds, by the way....Arabs, has shocked us, and defies defense by anybody. It's not an unpatriotic act to refuse to support people who
do not share our Moral Universe, and there are a lot of them in Iraq....that's not what the internal US fight is about.
It has been the policy of this government that long term, the secondary goal is sufficiently worthwhile to be "worth a shot," to use Lee Hamilton's phrase. After regime change, that's what we've been fighting for. The evidence that some millions of Iraqis want this future, and desire our help has been clear if not overwhelming....remember the 11,000,000 blue fingers, the cries of joy at the fall of Saddam Hussein, the digging up of hundreds of thousands of unnamed corpses, the detritus from his rule. It WAS worth a shot.
One question is, is it still? Or is it impossible to bring those barbarians into our Moral Universe? Who knows? Not me. Personally, I've NEVER met an Arab (as opposed to Persians and Kurds) that I thought was anything other than duplicitous and untrustworthy.
But there's so much at stake...so many lives in the balance, so much bloodshed to come if the Middle East continues in its cycle of hatred and murder and barbarism...that I support the President's attempt to "give it a shot." I also see this war as part of the greater war on Islamofascism. In a world where "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" it's clear that Saddam's Baathists were enablers and sources of support for those who'd kill us in a heartbeat if they could. We have to fight them somewhere. Better there than here.
It's clear that the time has come to play the hand out. The President's plan is clearly his last. The possibility of success, in my estimation, depends upon two things.
First, will the President release our forces to fight....will the new "surge" of troops be anything other than more targets? It's reasonable to wonder if more troops can do what the current troops, were they not constrained by rules of engagement written by Miss Manners, cannot do. Mr. Bush spoke of troops going door to door to demonstrate and reassure the Iraqis that we're there for them. Unless we kill the bad guys we find, next year's reassurance will be about as good as last year's. Will the addition of only 20K+ soldiers be such a great difference? Will they be social workers or will they be war fighters? Will they kill our enemies, take Baghdad, destroy the militia of Al Sadr, and him if necessary, and make it possible for civil life to be established in that Hell-Hole?
Second, given the corruption of Arab police and politics, will an incompetent Maliki government be able to hold the ground won for them? It's said that the Iraqis will be largely responsible for the new fighting force, but I doubt they have the balls to do it....especially if they doubt we'll be there to protect them in the future. Will Maliki inhibit our stopping his Shiite friends the Iranians, as he has done in the past? Will he insist on a free pass for Al Sadr, as he has in the past? Mr. Bush says no, he's agreed not to...but he's an Arab...I told you what I think of Arabs. Racial insensitivity? Maybe. True? Probably.
If the answer to either of the questions is "no," then the cause will be lost and we'll leave, with disastrous consequences.
I'm skeptical that this will work, largely because it will take a degree of political courage both here and in Iraq that we've not seen lately. Just think of the media hysterics when we start fighting with the brutality of our enemy. Think of the increase in our own casualties, and the media's caterwauling as the coffins come home. War IS hell; there will be more losses. Remember, cowardice is an infectious disease. Think of Republicans running for cover from a lame duck President.
I don't doubt the integrity, courage, intelligence of our new Commander, General Petraeus, but unless he's able to fight this war as brutally as our enemy will fight it, the second question is moot.
I'm sure the President will say yes to any request made in the field, and we're going to see a renewed vigor and level of fighting, and more casualties than we've seen for a while. It's already started. But we're fighting savages, and if we're not going to fight savagely, then what's the point? They disappear for a while, and re-emerge later to behead their neighbors. If we fight them, we have to kill them. Then, the neighbors can feel safe, and life may go on, even get better.
I'm particularly skeptical of Maliki and his government. I doubt they have the balls to fight to protect anything but their own asses. They know that someday we'll leave, and that they'll be left to live with the people we're telling them to fight. Yet, for once, their asses will be on the line, for real. If this strategy fails, the US will withdraw, and they're either dead men walking, or selling pizzas in Bulgaria. It's possible that such a choice will concentrate their minds, and upon this possibility rides the whole enterprise. Perhaps that's what's "new" in the equation. We'll see.
Finally, I'm skeptical about the role of Iran and Syria. Both are serious players in this melodrama, and unless we're going to do something about and to those bad-boys, the Baghdad Plan may not come to much. Pacify one area, while Iran and Syria undermine another, and what's the net gain? I found President Bush's recognition of their role to be thin gruel, unless he's just being cagey about a real plan....maybe he is. One hopes, still.
In any case, the question for us is whether to hold or fold. The consequences of failure are so great that I see no choice but to fight. I hope we fight hard, no holds barred, no enemy to be safe from our soldiers....no tolerance. Go back a few posts in this blog and read what Ralph Peters suggested. Then let's kick ass.
I'm reminded of the punchline of the joke about Freddie the Oral Sex Frog. "Dammit Freddie, I'm gonna show you just one last time."
Mad Mahmoud The Iranian is coming to visit Hugh the Chavez, over here on our side of the ocean. Just what do you think they'll talk about? What the girls wear under the burqua? Maybe killing infidel yanquis? Maybe porous Southern US borders?
We must prepare for that, and start now.
ADDENDUM: The Morning After.
My guru...Ralph Peters... has his morning's take on where we are now. Not surprising, it's basically the same as mine, above, but more informed and therefore better. Click here ...please read the whole thing. Here are some fragments
Will the plan work? Maybe. It's a last-hope effort based on steps that should've been taken in 2003...Given that we're now committed to a strategy of sending more troops, a larger increase of the sort proposed by Sen. John McCain would make more sense....the number feels like another compromise measure for an administration and country still unwilling to accept that we're really at war..
... should we support the president's plan? Yes. The stakes are too high to do otherwise - the president's right about that. Iraq deserves one last chance. And I say that as a former soldier well aware of the casualties ahead.
Ultimately, it's the Iraqis, not the additional American soldiers and Marines, who'll decide Iraq's future. And the acid test will be their government's handling of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.
Paradoxically, a burst of fighting would be a positive sign, indicating that Maliki meant yesterday's disarmament ultimatum to Muqtada's militia. But if the Mahdi Army just goes to ground and the prime minister claims that - poof! - it's no longer a threat, it will mean that he cut another deal with Muqtada. ...If we and the Iraqis try to avoid Sadr City's challenges, you'll know the entire effort's a hollow sham.There are no guarantees that this plan will work, but it deserves a chance. Surrender isn't a strategy, and cowardice won't save us from the deadly threats we face