Bob Casey, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, was asked recently what he would do differently than Rick Santorum to promote success in Iraq. He replied that the first thing would be to get rid of Don Rumsfeld. Firing a cabinet secretary, of course, is not within the power of a senator so it's not something that distinguishes Mr. Casey from Mr. Santorum. Even so, it appears that Mr. Casey has no recommendations for Iraq that differ substantially from what the Bush administration is already doing there, unless he believes we should withdraw from Iraq immediately. This, however, he does not say, so his plan appears to be essentially to do what Bush is already doing, except do it better, whatever that means.
What is the Bush policy for Iraq? Do the Bush people really have a strategy? I think they do, but for whatever reason they're not very interested in articulating it. Their plan, as best as I can tell, involves the following four elements:
1. Hold the lid on in Baghdad for the time being. Most of the violence that is occurring in Iraq is occurring in and around Baghdad. There are two reasons for this. The coalition has been effective in suppressing the insurgency in much of the rest of the country, and second, the insurgency knows that if they're going to break the will of the American people they have to strike where the American media are.
2. Gradually secure the border (would that that were part of their domestic plan as well). As long as the insurgents are able to be resupplied across the Iranian and Syrian borders destabilization efforts by those neighbors will continue. The infiltration of men and material has to be stopped, but this takes time. Once the border is secured the insurgency in Baghdad will begin to suffocate.
3. Continue to build and protect the infrastructure of the country so that the people have a sense of being better off than they were under Saddam. This means, in addition to building schools, hospitals, electrical grids, etc., supporting the government of Iraq until it is strong enough to withstand the sundry threats to its existence.
4. In the long-term Syria and Iran must be dealt with. Until they are they will continue to make the lives of the Iraqis as hellish as they possibly can.
That's what I surmise the Bush plan to be, and I think that's what they're doing. Indeed, what else could they do short of nuking the entire country? Certainly none of the Democrats have offered an alternative course of action that makes any sense. I just wish the administration had a better PR program to explain their goals to the American people, and I wish they had more troops there to help expedite #1 and #2.
If the Democrats win the House and/or Senate on Tuesday it will, of course, be very much more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve these objectives, and, if they're rendered unattainable, the only recourse will be to withdraw. Withdrawal, however, would precipitate an unmitigated human disaster. The reasons why this would be so are explained here.