Also at Kos.
During a farewell ceremony at the Pentagon last week, Dick Cheney called outgoing cabinet member Donald Rumsfeld the best Secretary of Defense the United States ever had. Apparently, no one in the audience laughed, a sign that sanity has yet to be restored at the Pentagon.
Nor does sanity regarding what to do about the situation in Iraq seem to be busting out all over Washington D.C. On Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopolous, incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) that he might "go along" with a plan to add more troops in Baghdad as long as "it's part of a program" to get U.S. troops out of Iraq by some time next year.
I don't think putting more troops in Baghdad is a sound strategy for getting all the troops out of Iraq, and I don't think it's intended to be.
The Baghdad strategy, which Mister Bush is rumored to be favoring, is based on a report titled "Choosing Victory: a Plan for Success in Iraq" prepared for the America Enterprise Institute (AEI) by Frederick Kagan. The AEI is a neoconservative think tank closely associated with the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Kagan, a former professor of military history at West Point, has a long association with both AEI and PNAC. His brother Robert Kagan is a confederate of PNAC founder and Weekly Standard publisher William Kristol. Bob Kagan, Kristol, and others in the neocon-controlled media are touting Fred Kagan's "fundamentally simple" plan as the one that can "succeed."
I'm skeptical of this "plan for success" on two counts. First is that it's coming from the very people who pushed us into this quagmire. Second is that Fred Kagan's plan is a compendium of the same kinds of glittering generalities, appeals to emotion, questionable assumptions and PowerPoint aphorisms we've been listening to all along.
Fools, Fanatics and Familiar Phrases
"Victory is still an option" Fred Kagan claims in the opening of the executive summary to "Choosing Victory." America, after all, has more than ten times the population of Iraq, and America's economy is greater than Iraq's by orders of magnitude, and we have more than a million soldiers and Marines that can "regain control" of the war torn country.
That sounds encouraging, and it might mean something if we were actually at war with Iraq, but we are not. Iraq is at war with itself, and our troops are stuck in the middle of it. America's population, the size of its gross domestic product, and numbers of personnel under arms in its service serve little purpose when it comes to saving a smaller country from imploding on itself.
"Victory in Iraq is vital to America’s security," Kagan says. "Defeat will lead to regional conflict, humanitarian catastrophe, and increased global terrorism."
We already have regional conflict in the Middle East, and humanitarian catastrophe as well. Global terrorism has already increased. And these things have all occurred subsequent to our occupation of Iraq. Increasing the size of the occupation is more likely to expand the regional conflict, humanitarian catastrophe and global terrorism than it is to diminish any of those things.
In a conflict like the one we presently experience in Iraq, the terms "victory" and "defeat" have no real meaning. Tactical success against pockets of guerilla forces do not produce a political "win," and nobody is going to coerce our troops into laying down their weapons and letting themselves be led on a Bataan-style death march. Nor will Mister Bush and Congress have to submit to terms of surrender.
Kagan's Junk Art of War
Fred Kagan alternately describes Baghdad as the "decisive factor" and the "center of gravity" in the Iraq conflict. In the scholarship and practice of military art, these two terms are so ubiquitous and so vaguely defined that they're next to meaningless. A discussion of the proper use and application such warfare terms is enough to put the entire student body of a service war college into coma for the rest of the semester, so I'll spare you my lecture on the subject other than to say that Kagan is so far off base a six-year old sitting in the bleachers could pick him off at first.
Put in real person terms, Kagan insists that control of Baghdad is the key to victory in Iraq--an assumption that is questionable at best.
Kagan argues that the most pressing need in Iraq is to establish a secure environment for the population, and that Iraqi forces cannot establish that. I agree with that a great extent, but am not convinced that control of Baghdad can accomplish that goal.
The obstacle to security in Iraq is the amorphous collection of militias, terrorists and miscellaneous criminals and evil-doers presently operating in that country. If positioning significant U.S. troop presence in Baghdad could lure all those disparate groups of combatants into the city to conduct an all-or-nothing, win or lose decisive battle, then Kagan's idea might have some merit.
But that won't happen. Guerilla fighters know better than to offer decisive battle to superior conventional forces. The most likely outcome of an insertion of more U.S. forces into Baghdad will be that the guerillas will pack up and disappear, and regroup in places like Ramadi and Fallujah, where we've already played this cat roping rodeo game. And what happens then? We send all our extra cowboys from Baghdad to round up the cats in the provinces, and the cats all come back to Baghdad, and we start all over again?
We've been there. We've done that. And lamentably, thanks to the machinations of Fred Kagan and the rest of the core neocon cabal, it looks like we may go there and do it again.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.