Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Iraq: How Long Will We Pray the Course?

The Pentagon is revealing a new wrinkle in its "Go Long" strategy. From David S. Cloud of the New York Times:
The idea, dubbed the “surge option” by some officials, would involve increasing American forces by 20,000 troops or more for several months in the hope of improving security, especially in Baghdad. That would mark a sharp rise over the current baseline of 144,000 troops.

It looks like Pentagon planners are listening to John McCain now. Funny how they'd suggest sending another 20,000 troops to Iraq a month or so after McCain suggested it. Funny too that the Pentagon would leak news of the "surge option" the week after McCain ran a cheese grater across General John Abizaid's five o'clock shadow at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings.

Whatever is really going on between McCain and the Pentagon, it's high time we quit coming up with snappy sounding names for new strategies that don't look a whole lot different from the ones they replace. Let's pick a title and stick with it.

I recommend "grabbing at straws" (GAS).

Faith Based Strategy

The latest talk of "change" to the Iraq strategy sounds like the same old GAS we've been hearing for three years.

Not everyone is sold on the surge option. Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, told Congress last week that the land services were stretched so thin that a troop increase could not be sustained for an appreciable period of time. And no one seems at all confident that a temporary surge in troop strength would do any good.

Everybody seems to agree it’s a good idea to increase the number of U.S. troops specifically assigned to train Iraqi Army, police and border guard units. But, according to Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post, the Iraqi training program has already taken a Humpty Dumpty spill off the wall.
The U.S. military's effort to train Iraqi forces has been rife with problems, from officers being sent in with poor preparation to a lack of basic necessities such as interpreters and office materials, according to internal Army documents…

…In dozens of official interviews compiled by the Army for its oral history archives, officers who had been involved in training and advising Iraqis bluntly criticized almost every aspect of the effort.

Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-California) prefers a strategy that will redeploy Iraqi units from relatively calm areas of the country to hot spots like Baghdad. That kind of thinking on Hunter's part should make us all grateful that Hunter is losing his job as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). As Tom Ricks and other Pentagon correspondents have been telling us for years, large numbers of Iraqi Army troops have consistently balked at fighting other Iraqis. They refused to fight in Fallujah, they refused to fight in Ramadi, they refused to fight in Baghdad. Nobody wants to make Iraqi soldiers fight if they don't want to because they might desert, and drift into private militias, further compounding the security situation.

And Hunter wants to order more Iraqi troops into areas they've already refused to fight in? Thank God and Greyhound he's gone from the HASC chairmanship.

Help From the Periphery

Iran and Syria have offered to help stabilize the Iraq situation. Cooperation from these two Muslim countries that border Iraq is essential to establishing long term stability in the Gulf region, but enlisting their help will require competent diplomacy, and don't expect any of that from the Bush administration. "Doctor Ditz" Condi Rice, Secretary of State, was never anything more that young Mister Bush's history and geography tutor. And UN Ambassador John Bolton is a Dick Cheney acolyte: a rightwing jerk and a bull feather artist committed to proving the neoconservative agenda's prime directive that "diplomacy doesn't work."

So despite the Democratic victories in the recent congressional elections, expect more of the same old GAS from the neoconservative executive branch: a continued march down the path of never ending war.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. Anonymous2:52 PM

    How long so you think it is going to take before the realization sinks in that we are no longer in a position to effect any change in Iraq. It is in a complete state of anarchy. We are impotent to do anything but watch it's further collapse. It should be evident by now that if, in fact, we did have control over events there we would have seem some positive effects. None have been forthcoming so it is pretty safe to assume that we are no longer capable of doing anything but dodging bullets and bombs as best we can.

  2. I don't know. I've been saying we're impotent for over a year.

  3. I see the current round of re-branding ("Go Long" etc.) as just calculated political theater aimed at the U.S. voter audience -- stringing things along until we're closer to the '08 election preseason.

    Can't say what's really happening or going to happen in Iraq, but my guess is this: BushCo.'s real focus... er... that's right, focus, will be on getting those enduring bases and that giant embassy-fortress set up.

    Maybe by summer '08 they can begin rotating some larger numbers of troops home, in time for dramatic heart-wrenching homecoming parades around, say, 9/11/08...?

    Yes, this is bitter and cynical. Remember who and what we're talking about.

  4. Interestingly enough, Bob Kagan was apparently on PBS News Hour suggesting an increase of 20,000 to 50,000 troop for up to two years (!) might be needed to do whatever job it is he thinks we need to do.

  5. Jeff,

    Bitter and cynical, perhaps, but I tend to agree with you.


    Bob Kagan. One of the key neo-clowns who got us into this mess. Why are people still listening to these guys?

    His brother Fred was on Diane Rehm yesterday, saying the same thing as I recall.

  6. Because our broken news industry is either in denial that the 14 year zombie parade is over or their bosses won't allow them to report real news.

    I'm sorry - was that question addressed at me or was it rhetorical?