Monday, February 05, 2007

Support the troops? Support the surge?

There are two camps. Warner, Webb and Hagel, all veterans, oppose the surge (Washington Post). McCain, a veteran, supports the surge (Washington Times). McCain and those in his camp state that the resolutions of the former camp affect troop morale.

For every soldier or Marine quoted against the surge (McClatchy), there are quotes readily available supporting the measure (Lawrence Journal World).

Is this surge sound policy? Probably not. General Casey said last week that there are more than enough troops in the surge to secure Baghdad. However, the general has been so terribly wrong in previous predictions that he has little credibility. Casey initially held a brigade in early May of 2006. This was after the Samarra shrine was heavily damaged and just before the sectarian violence took on a terrible new magnitude. My post on that day. In late April, Casey had plans to reduce troop levels by 30,000. That post. That seems insane in retrospect, and on that day I thought it was very questionable. The commanding general in Iraq should have been aware that the return-point for the Mahdi might be important to the Shiite.

One now questions why he is up for a promotion.

As for troop morale, the four most important lines in the soldier's creed are as follows:

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade

A non-binding resolution imploring the president of the United States and the Iraqi government to find a political solution to this crisis would be appropriate. Public concerns that this troop surge will fail -- perhaps backfire -- are appropriate. (The Mahdi Army may use violence against Shiite, like that massive truck bomb over the weekend, as an excuse to openly challenge the government if the surge does not produce stability.) The problem in Iraq was political. Now, it is cultural and societal. The conflict is between tribes, sects, cults, economic classes, Salafist terrorists and nations.

A military solution did not address the political. It is even less appropriate for a societal schism along these numerous fault lines.

Soldiers must live those four lines above. There are thousands of additional soldiers going into Iraq with this surge. They cannot quit and they cannot settle for anything less than success, their lives and the lives of their friends are at stake. Even if the mission is poorly wrought, they must do what they are told. For this reason, the tone of the resolution should take into account the difficult and complex situtation on the ground.

The present debate does not take this into account. It is a half-measure and in McCain's words it is intellectually dishonest. If Iraq is past the point of recovery with an all volunteer force and tax breaks, then sterner resolutions are needed. If McCain's camp wants a surge, then they need to state what we will do if the surge fails. Yesterday, he said it was obvious but he couldn't speak of it.

I guess he did not want to weaken his stance as a tough advocate for engagement by stating that a failed surge means a clear United States defeat.


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