In November 2006, Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki said Iraqi forces would be ready to assume control of security in his country by June 2007. On May 30, 2007, Maliki told CBS News that he fears the possibility of a coup by the Iraqi Army.
Maliki also told CBS that his government is running the show in Iraq. "The Americans don't order us to do this or not to do that," he said. "On the contrary, we're the ones who tell them to do this and don't do that."
What in the wide world of sports are we doing in that country?
We're supposedly trying to train an Iraqi security force to do its own fighting, but we wind up doing their fighting for them because if Iraqi forces say they don't want to fight a particular fight, they don't have to fight it. Iraqi police forces are still apparently rife with militia members who form death squads off duty. One Iraqi police station commander says that "Fifty percent of the recruits belong to the militias. They come here to collect information on the other sects."
It's little wonder that top U.S. military leaders in Iraq now doubt whether Maliki's government can meet the political goals outlined by Mr. Bush in January by the time General David Petraeus reports on the "surge" to Congress in September. Some of Patraeus's advisers say those goals were never realistic in the first place.
The New York Times and other media sources suggest that the White House, already doubtful of any timely decisive outcome of the surge plan, are looking at alternate strategies, one of which may involve cutting back on mission goals in Iraq and reducing force levels there.
All Their Beautiful Ugliness
At the first hint that the administration might already be disenchanted with the escalation strategy, neoconservative Bobbsey Twins Bill Kristol and Fred Kagan redeployed to their citadel to defend it. In the latest issue of The Weekly Standard, Kristol and Kagan decry that while Mr. Bush in on the course of "what looks to be a winning strategy," some in the Bush administration "continue to toy with exit strategies and diplomatic strategies that imperil the victory strategy the president has embraced."
That victory strategy, of course, being the one that Kagan proposed in January and that Kristol endorsed.
"With congressional obstruction on hold," Kristol and Kagan assert in their latest article, referring to the passage of the war funding bill, "The Bush administration…can move ahead with policies that deal with reality."
Bush administration policies that deal with reality? Which one of the Sunshine Boys came up with that gem?
The reality Kristol and Kagan cite to bolster the validity of their escalation strategy is that "foreign fighters are flowing into Iraq to kill Iraqis and Americans… And the reality is that Iran and Syria are enemies [of the United States, they presumably meant, not of each other]."
This assertion flies in the face of Kagan's January statement in support of his escalation plan engaging Iraq's neighbors would fail because "the basic causes of violence and sources of manpower and resources for the warring sides come from within Iraq."
Still, Kagan and Kristol are dead set against diplomacy with Iraq's neighbors. "[T]he State Department toys with fantasy diplomatic solutions based on overtures toward Iran and Syria," they write, followed by unsubstantiated claims about "policy decisions in Tehran and Damascus to defeat us in Iraq."
But Syria and Iran aren't "the major threat to progress since the president began pursuing the right strategy in January." Oh, no. The major threat has been "congressional battles calling into doubt our commitment to winning." Supported by congressional Republicans, Kagan and Kristol say, Mr. Bush has "beaten back" that threat. Now, Bush "needs to deal with his own administration, which has not made up its collective mind to support the president's strategy wholeheartedly." If all of Bush's advisers and cabinet members don't get on board, they'll send mixed messages that will "undermine the efforts of our commanders in the field."
And there you have it, all in one nice neo-package. The Kagan/Kristol solution is the only one that will work, and it will only work if everybody else gets behind it.
The Winning Strategy?
In May the surge produced the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq in two and a half years. Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the number two American commander in Iraq, says that four fifths of the militants now fighting U.S. forces may be ready to join Iraq's political process. To that end, military officials are seeking local ceasefire agreements with militant cells.
Any local ceasefires will likely involve the exchange of many, many dead presidents. We will, in essence, be paying militants not to attack us any more, but that's probably cheaper that continuing to fight with them. And heck, if we can get those local militants to stop fighting, maybe we can bribe the Iraqi police to stop killing their countrymen, and bribe the Iraqi Army to not overthrow Malaki's government.
Then all we'll have to do is bribe Maliki into giving us permission to leave.
What do you reckon it would take to get Kristol and Kagan to buy off on that idea?
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.