General David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, says there's no "military solution" to that nation's conflict. From AFP:
At his first news conference since taking charge of US-led forces in Iraq, Petraeus said he had felt "shame, horror and sadness" on Tuesday when he heard of a suicide attack that killed more than 100 Shiite pilgrims.
"There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq. Military action is necessary to help improve security... but it is not sufficient. There needs to be a political aspect," he said.
There's no military solution but military action is necessary but it is not sufficient. Hmm.
The necessary but insufficient military action involves a buildup of U.S. forces that Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the number two man in Iraq, says will need to last through February of 2008. However, military officials say that the troops levels will begin to decline in August 2007 unless more units are sent or held over.
Only two of the five "surge" brigades have arrived in Iraq. The last of the brigades won't be ready to conduct operations there until June 2007. So unless somebody figures something out, the "surge" will be in full force for a whopping three months at best. That's probably not enough time for the Iraqi government to get its political act together. And it's probably not enough time for the Iraqi army and police to get their act together either. The latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq said that “the Iraqi Security Forces, particularly the Iraqi police, will be hard pressed in the next 12 to 18 months to execute significantly increased security responsibilities, and particularly to operate independently against Shia militias with success.”
Which means that at best, Iraqi Security Forces might be ready to rock and roll around February 2008, which is about the time Odierno says the surge can ebb.
That leaves at least a four-month gap that needs to be filled, and the gap will likely stretch out much longer than that. All previous projections on Iraqi force readiness have been, to say the least, optimistic.
Something will have to give. Tours in theater will have to be extended, and rotations home will have to be curtailed, which will almost certainly have an adverse effect on training. Looming somewhere in the not too distant future is a material readiness crisis--the gear can't last forever.
We continue to grind our military into sand by throwing it at a problem it can't solve. Democrats in Congress are still groping to craft legislation they can pass that will stop the madness, but they're not having much success.
Meanwhile, the national debate on Iraq remains at the level of "they'll follow us here" platitudes, generalities, appeals to emotion and insults. One neoconservative pundit, himself a former Marine, compared John Murtha to Lee Harvey Oswald. This vituperative didn't come from some A.M. radio or Fox News hack. It came from a distinguished professor at one of our most prestigious graduate level war colleges.
Mr. Bush keeps pursuing something that will have a vague resemblance to "victory," anything short of which he classifies as "defeat." Most of the rest of us have no idea what victory or defeat in Iraq might consist of.
This war has more sides than the Pentagon, and it's already spilled beyond Iraq's borders. We have Shias on Sunnis. We have Shias on other Shias. We have the Shias and the other Shies and the Sunnis on U.S. forces. We have the Kurds involved in there somewhere. Some hardcore Baathists are still around. Iran is supposedly mixed up in the fray. The Saudis probably are too. And Syria maybe. The Turks might get drawn in. Russia and China are somewhere on the periphery. Then we have those pesky terrorists: al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim brotherhood. And don't forget the Taliban!
Pro-war types warn us that if we leave, a regional war will break out in the Middle East, but that war already exists. Conflicts at various levels of intensity are underway in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries, all related in some way to the strife in Iraq--the strife for which there is no military solution and that we continue to pour more troops into.
Some empires went out with a bang; others went out with a whimper. We're setting ourselves up to go out in a straightjacket.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.