Tuesday, August 30, 2005

LAT to Dems: Become Hawks

The LA Times strikes a hawkish chord:

Beyond stopping the cut-and-run strategy brewing in the House, Democratic leaders must define a meaningful victory as 1) a unified, stable Iraq with 2) a non-theocratic democracy that protects minority and women's rights and 3) a functioning economy. If the constitutional process crumbles and these goals prove impossible, the U.S. will need enough troops to stop a partition from becoming a bloodbath and jihadists and radical clerics from grabbing power. The key, then, remains security.

Democratic Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware and John Kerry of Massachusetts have offered proposals such as deploying Iraq's militias and introducing NATO troops. But militias are neither loyal nor answerable to government authorities. And Germany would never agree to send NATO troops with general elections scheduled for this year.

While Democrats admonish Bush to come clean about the task ahead, they have not shown the political courage to do what is necessary: call for more American troops. Although 135,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq, at most only 60,000 American and coalition troops, along with a much smaller number of Iraqi soldiers, are available for combat. Democrats should urge the U.S. to increase combat forces by up to 20,000 troops for the period necessary to elect and secure a permanent government. This would approximate the force during successful interim elections in January. More troops can stop jihadists from infiltrating Iraq and prevent enemy fighters from retaking territory, as in Fallouja.

The administration argues that newly trained Iraqis should fill this role. But only a fraction of the 107 Iraqi battalions being trained can operate independent of American support. We cannot afford to wait. Rumsfeld announced last week that he will boost troop strength temporarily to about 160,000, mostly by juggling troop rotations. But those levels will fall again after Iraqi elections in December - too soon to secure the new government.

Opponents claim that a larger U.S. presence would fuel anti-Americanism. Yet higher troop levels late last year did not spark an anti-U.S. backlash. Also, most new troops would deploy along sparsely populated borders.

Bush has said he will send more troops if U.S. military authorities ask. Widespread press reports confirm that ground commanders privately say they need more. Yet no Democratic leader currently supports increasing troops. Like the president, Democrats fear that increasing troop levels could be politically costly, even though an August CBS poll found Americans divided on the issue.

Democrats have a tremendous opportunity - as FDR and JFK did - to appeal to service and sacrifice to help the nation achieve long-term security. Democrats must stop following the polls and start assuming leadership on national security. Sixty percent of Democrats think that the Iraq war has increased the threat of terrorism against the United States, according to the CBS poll. They may be right, but losing the war will definitely hurt our security.

Unless Democrats demonstrate the political courage and resolution to win a war, rather than just criticize it, they will remain a minority party no matter what the polls show.

There is much good advice here, but it's doubtful that the Democrats will follow it since to do so would be to hand a boon to George Bush. The president is at present reluctant to do what it would take to win more quickly in Iraq because, quite simply, what it would take is more troops, and that might entail some sort of draft, and that's politically undoable as long as the Democrats are yelping and sniping at his ankles.

If the Dems, however, suddenly exhibited the same ferocity toward the insurgents in Iraq that they have shown toward Mr. Bush's judicial and U.N. appointments, then the president would have a green light to increase the size of the military with political impunity and be able to prosecute the war with much more alacrity. The Democrats, of course, find the idea of a Bush success in Iraq insufferable, and it would be made even more so by the fact that they would receive zero credit for it.

The only way the Democrats would take the advice of the Times on this one is if there were a Democrat president in the White House, and that won't happen, if it happens at all, for another three years.

Walter Reed Protests

A blog called Conservative Propaganda has an interesting report on the Walter Reed protest and counter-protest complete with photos. The Code Pink anti-war protestors are apparently completely out-matched by their antagonists in terms of numbers, wit, and knowledge about what's going on in the world.

Among the most interesting things about the report are the anecdotes about the reactions of the soldier/patients. The Code Pink group claims to be supporting the troops, but the patients want nothing to do with them and have bluntly expressed this sentiment in the universal sign language of disdain. On the other hand, several of them stopped to thank the counter-protestors.

The guys who have paid a heavy price know who's really on their side and who's merely trying to use them as a prop to promote their agenda.

A Strategy, Not a Sound Bite

One of the criticisms of the administration's approach to the current war has been that it seems to lack a grand strategy beyond training Iraqis to take over the burden of fighting it. Andrew Krepinevich, a retired West Pointer, is contemptuous of the calls to withdraw and finds the administration's "stay the course" rhetoric something less than a plan. He presses for an alternative known as the oil spot strategy. In an article in Foreign Affairs that is being widely heralded in the blogosphere he writes:

Instead of a timetable for withdrawal, the United States needs a real strategy built around the principles of counterinsurgency warfare. To date, U.S. forces in Iraq have largely concentrated their efforts on hunting down and killing insurgents. The idea of such operations is to erode the enemy's strength by killing fighters more quickly than replacements can be recruited. Although it is too early to tell for sure whether this approach will ultimately bring success, its current record is not good: even when an attack manages to inflict serious insurgent casualties, there is little or no enduring improvement in security once U.S. forces withdraw from the area.

Instead, U.S. and Iraqi forces should adopt an "oil-spot strategy" in Iraq, which is essentially the opposite approach. Rather than focusing on killing insurgents, they should concentrate on providing security and opportunity to the Iraqi people, thereby denying insurgents the popular support they need. Since the U.S. and Iraqi armies cannot guarantee security to all of Iraq simultaneously, they should start by focusing on certain key areas and then, over time, broadening the effort -- hence the image of an expanding oil spot. Such a strategy would have a good chance of success. But it would require a protracted commitment of U.S. resources, a willingness to risk more casualties in the short term, and an enduring U.S. presence in Iraq, albeit at far lower force levels than are engaged at present. If U.S. policymakers and the American public are unwilling to make such a commitment, they should be prepared to scale down their goals in Iraq significantly.

It sounds like a good concept to this untrained observer, but it also seems that it's not much different than cleaning out a rat's nest and leaving trained Iraqi troops in the nest to make sure the rats don't come back. I'm sure I was mistaken, but I had thought that this is what we had been doing as competent Iraqi forces became available.

Anyway, there's much more to Krepinevich's argument at the link.