Monday, November 20, 2006

"Go Big but Short While Transitioning to Go Long"

That headline comes from a defense official in Thomas Ricks's article in today's Washington Post. Apparently, we can add that Going Home will follow Going Long, whether Iraq is stable or not, according to the Christian Science Monitor:
The numbers would not be huge, perhaps 20,000 on top of the 144,000 US soldiers already fighting the war. But the idea would be to stabilize Baghdad - a priority that has proved dishearteningly elusive since September - and to allow for a major diplomatic push aimed at drawing Iraq's neighbors into resolving the spiraling violence.

Implicit in the perspective of the officials and experts who see this as a kind of military "Hail Mary" pass is the assumption that a phased reduction of US troops would begin next fall - whether or not Iraq had been brought back from the brink of all-out civil war.
Key excerpts from Ricks (with my emphasis):
"Go Big," the first option, originally contemplated a large increase in U.S. troops in Iraq to try to break the cycle of sectarian and insurgent violence. A classic counterinsurgency campaign, though, would require several hundred thousand additional U.S. and Iraqi soldiers as well as heavily armed Iraqi police.


"Go Home," the third option, calls for a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops. It was rejected by the Pentagon group as likely to push Iraq directly into a full-blown and bloody civil war.

The group has devised a hybrid plan that combines part of the first option with the second one -- "Go Long" -- and calls for cutting the U.S. combat presence in favor of a long-term expansion of the training and advisory efforts. Under this mixture of options, which is gaining favor inside the military, the U.S. presence in Iraq, currently about 140,000 troops, would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period, the officials said.

The purpose of the temporary but notable increase, they said, would be twofold: To do as much as possible to curtail sectarian violence, and also to signal to the Iraqi government and public that the shift to a "Go Long" option that aims to eventually cut the U.S. presence is not a disguised form of withdrawal.

Even so, there is concern that such a radical shift in the U.S. posture in Iraq could further damage the standing of its government, which U.S. officials worry is already shaky. Under the hybrid plan, the short increase in U.S. troop levels would be followed by a long-term plan to radically cut the presence, perhaps to 60,000 troops.
The stigma of occupation is not addressed sufficiently in this article. It is vital to the political front against the Sunni insurgency that the United States announce that it will not garrison a force in Iraq on a long term basis. This must be done before we go long, big, shot, tall or else we will be sent home.

More on Iraq...

This is the environment in which we will be going a little bigger.

The Washington Post:
"There are a lot of lives that are lost," Adelman said in an interview last week. "A country's at stake. A region's at stake. This is a gigantic situation. . . . This didn't have to be managed this bad. It's just awful."

The sense of Bush abandonment accelerated during the final weeks of the campaign with the publication of a former aide's book accusing the White House of moral hypocrisy and with Vanity Fair quoting Adelman, Richard N. Perle, and other neoconservatives assailing White House leadership of the war.

Since the Nov. 7 elections, Republicans have pinned their woes on the president.

"People expect a level of performance they are not getting," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Republican of Georgia, said in a speech. Many were livid that Bush waited until after the elections to oust Rumsfeld.

"If Rumsfeld had been out, you bet it would have made a difference," Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said on television. "I'd still be chairman of the Judiciary Committee."
The Los Angeles Times:
Yet with Iraq near chaos 3 1/2 years later, a key Army manual now is being rewritten in a way that rejects the Rumsfeld doctrine and counsels against using it again.

The draft version of the Army's Full Spectrum Operations field manual argues that in addition to defeating the enemy, military units must focus on providing security for the population — even during major combat.

"The big idea here is that stability tasks have to be a consideration at every level and every operation," said Clinton J. Ancker III, head of the Army's Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate and an author of the guide.
The New York Times:
In a cycle that has been tracked by the American military since May and June, after months of apparently random sectarian violence the pattern has become one of attack and counterattack, with Sunni militants staging what commanders call “spectacular” strikes and Shiite militias retaliating with abductions and murders of Sunnis.

Militias come to funerals and offer to carry out revenge attacks. Gunmen execute blindfolded people in full public view. Mortars are lobbed between Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods. Sometimes the killers seem to be seeking specific people who were involved in earlier attacks, but many victims lose their lives simply to even out the sectarian toll.

“The problem is that every time there’s a sensational event, that starts the whole sectarian cycle again,” said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for the American command in Iraq. “If we could stop the cyclical nature of this in Baghdad, we could really change the dynamics here.”

General Caldwell said that a recent and intensive series of American raids against Al Qaeda cells, as well as against Shiite militias that have struck back at Sunnis, had seriously damaged some of their networks. But American commanders have made similar claims on several occasions in the course of the war only to have the killing resume later at a higher level.

Scores of survivors and witnesses have noted the emerging cycle of revenge in interviews, describing highly personal attacks that involve a bullet in the head far more often than a bomb. In the past eight days, at least 715 Iraqis have been killed or have been found dead, according to The Associated Press. The death toll has reached 1,320 already this month, higher than the 1,216 who died in October, according to The A.P.’s count.
The New York Times:
"You have to define win, and I think everybody has a different perspective on winning,” General Odierno said during an interview at the Army’s III Corps headquarters here.

“I would argue that with Saddam Hussein no longer in power in Iraq, that is a partial win,” he said. “I think what we need is an Iraqi government that is legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi population, an Iraq that is able to protect itself and not be a safe haven for terror. That’s what I think winning is.”

As a bugle sounded across Fort Hood with the call to lower the flag at dusk, General Odierno paused, and added, “Notice I left out a few things, such as a democracy in the sense that we see a democracy in the United States. We have to allow them to shape their own democracy, the type of democracy that fits them and their country.”
The Financial Times:
Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state who has advised the Bush administration on the war in Iraq, on Sunday said he no longer believed a military victory was possible in the conflict.

“If you mean by clear military victory an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control . . . I don’t believe that is possible,” Mr Kissinger told BBC television.
No one can say with any certainty whether 20,000 or 30,000 additional United States troops in Baghdad will stop the cycle of sectarian violence. Sectarian violence in Iraq is a result of the al Qaeda driven salafist/Sunni insurgency and the pervasive involvement of Shiite militias in the security forces of the country. Expanding the number of troops would only help to limit the symptoms but would not address the problems that caused the illness.


Blogger Publia said...

Ah, such fond memories of the Killing Fields. Such glorious visions of helicopters leaving the embassy--in a hurry.

Guess next time I am working on my coloring book, I'll have to put away my "Army Strong" crayon and use "Army Yellow" instead.

Well, the Democrats will have fulfilled their promise and the Islamic world will be jumping for joy.

Time to brush up on my French, n'est-ce pas?

12:04 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I take it you view this Hail Mary (the football analogy really bothers me) as the last hurrah?

12:08 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

But, how would this be the Dems fault? Fault the commander in chief, his Sec of defense, and these generals for thinking "outside the box" when the situation has unraveled catastrophically.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

I don't want to waste any more soldier's lives, but perhaps we need to exhaust every military option so that we don't keep making this same mistake.

Otherwise people like Publia will blame the anti-war crowd (and the Democrats) for the failure and we will be doomed to repeat again and again.

We have come this far, and if you ask the soldiers they would probably say, "let's give it all we have so at least we know we tried."

I'm even willing to say that maybe it could work (even though I don't believe it will).

Pulling out now just let's the architects off the hook and places the blame for failure on the above mentioned.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Chuck said...

I would be willing to bet we will pull out and leave the Iraquis high and dry. Kusenich (sp) wants to cut funding and Murtha just want to cut and run.

I am ashamed that the US has become so weak willed that we don't finish what we started. We could win the war in Iraq if we just told the military to go win it.

It seems our government will never learn that political correctness and war do not go together. We have imposed rediculous restraints on our troops and the casualties we have incurred are a direct result.

I say if we are going to go to war go in to win and let the devil take the hindmost. War is about kicking ass not kissing ass.

12:32 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

If we are going to fight to win, then we need 400,000 or more (most likely more) troops in that country. We'd need a new UN mandate. A huge, competent reconstruction effort.

George W. Bush needs to reinstate the draft and accept his place in history alongside other bad presidents. This 20,000 addition will only kick the bad news into the next year.

12:35 PM  

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