Senator John Warner (R-VA) has introduced a resolution that opposes sending more U.S. forces to Iraq. Warner's resolution also calls on Mr. Bush to keep American troops out of sectarian fighting.
Keeping American troops out of sectarian fighting in Iraq will take some doing--it's pretty much all sectarian fighting.
More sides than the Pentagon
Yes, much of the violence in Iraq is still aimed at U.S. troops, but most of the death and destruction results from conflict between opposing sectarian groups. Some of it is probably conducted or goaded on by external elements like al-Qaeda, but even that, strictly speaking, is "sectarian" as it involves conflict between religious denominations.
In Iraq, we have sects within sects. We have a uniformed Iraqi security force that's infiltrated by sectarian militias, and a "unity" government whose members are more loyal to sectarian factions and militias than they are to the central government.
I can't read the tealeaves on the situation with Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr yet. 600 members of his Mahdi Army have been detained recently, yet he has agreed to end his political bloc's two-month boycott of the Iraqi parliament. Clearly, strong words were exchanged behind closed doors that convinced al-Sadr his best option was to throw some of his followers--perhaps the ones he reportedly lost control of--and play ball with the unity government.
One has to wonder how many of these 600 prisoners just arrested were among the 2,500 prisoners Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki released last summer as part of his "national reconciliation" program.
Al-Maliki has urged the U.S. to arm Iraq's security forces with more and better equipment so they can play a larger role in rounding up the militias. But will Iraq's forces use the weapons on the militias or give the weapons to them?
I'd like to think a troop surge, if it takes place, will improve things in Iraq. I'm concerned, however, that we would just be placing more G.I.s into the middle of a Hobbesian nightmare. Don't let anybody convince you that they'll be conducting a "peacekeeping" mission. Peacekeeping is something you do when the belligerent factions genuinely want peace. The U.S. surge troops will be doing something called "peace enforcement," which is a military euphemism for "fighting a war."
In peace enforcement, the enforcers have to pick a side, and alliances have shifted so often within the Iraqi government we may have trouble figuring out whose side we're on from day to day.
Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post reports that Lieutenant General David H. Petraeus, about to become the U.S. commander in Iraq, intends to deploy the 17,500 additional troops earmarked for Baghdad whether Iraqi units participate as planned or not. Yet we've been hearing all along that the "new way forward" plan would be contingent on Iraqi cooperation.
We've heard that this is an "Iraqi" plan that will work because the Iraqi politicians won't interfere. We've heard that chain of command issues will be solved, and that forces will operate under control of Petraeus. But then we've also heard that Iraq is a sovereign nation. How does a sovereign nation allow a foreign army to operate on its sovereign soil outside the control of its sovereign government?
If that's sovereignty, George W. Bush is Abraham Lincoln.
I don't know if non-binding resolutions by Congress will have any effect on Mr. Bush's decision making, but I don't see any reason not to give them a try. The argument that such resolutions will send a demoralizing signal to the troops is worse than disingenuous. It's the latest in the series of tactics the administration and its fawners have used to hide behind the troops to force bad policies down our throats. A sane society doesn't support policies and strategies on the basis of how they make the troops "feel," and it doesn't let its political leaders get away with that kind of manipulation.
What do you figure the odds are of Mr. Bush pulling this card from his sleeve in his State of the Union speech tonight?
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.