Thursday, May 26, 2005

Victory Strategy

The Moose wonders whether the Administration has a clue about how to "win" in Iraq.

While Washington's attention has recently been focused on judicial nuclear war, the Iraq war has been largely ignored. The glow from the January elections has long faded and the violence continues with no end in sight. Beyond the daily car bombings and continued casualties, it is difficult to get a handle on what is the real situation on the ground.

The grim scenario is that Iraq may be in the early stage of a civil war and that the country is on the verge of descending into chaos. Last week, there were even reports from some of our military leaders that we could fail. It is very clear we are very far from any notion of "victory" - a stable democratic government that can restore order and defend itself.

Yet, the Bush Administration acts as if we are on the path to success. And a Republican controlled Congress has completely failed to provide any meaningful oversight over Administration policy - they simply write the checks and that is the end of it. They don't even seem to be curious. The President appears more concerned about holding photo-ops about saving blastocysts than leveling with the American people about a war that is costing us dearly in blood and treasure.

In Tuesday's New York Times, Niall Ferguson provided a sobering assessment, based upon the British experience, of what it might take to create stability in Iraq. Consider this observation about troop levels,

"How, then, did the British crush the insurgency of 1920? Three lessons stand out.

"The first is that, unlike the American enterprise in Iraq today, they had enough men. In 1920, total British forces in Iraq numbered around 120,000, of whom around 34,000 were trained for actual fighting. During the insurgency, a further 15,000 men arrived as reinforcements.

"Coincidentally, that is very close to the number of American military personnel now in Iraq (around 138,000). The trouble is that the population of Iraq was just over three million in 1920, whereas today it is around 24 million. Thus, back then the ratio of Iraqis to foreign forces was, at most, 23 to 1. Today it is around 174 to 1. To arrive at a ratio of 23 to 1 today, about one million American troops would be needed."

Needless to say, we are completely incapable of matching these levels. The Administration failed to prepare for the occupation and then irresponsibly rejected requests for additional troops. With the military stretched to the limit and recruitment lagging, the Bushies and the Republican Congress have abdicated their responsibilities in addressing this situation as a crisis. Business as usual is the order of the day - the religious right and business interests come before the national security interests of the nation.

Public support for the war is falling - but what is worse is public apathy. A Paris Hilton ad for the Spicy BBQ Six-Dollar Burger gets more attention than the plight of our brave soldiers facing death, disability and danger in the hellish heat of Iraq.

While pulling out and conceding defeat is unfathomable - a slow defeat would be even more disastrous to the region and to the credibility of the United States. It is a good thing that Saddam's brutal reign is over. And it was a great achievement to hold a democratic election in a region that has only known tyranny. But it is unconscionable that our leadership class refuses to level with the American people about the status of this war and offer a strategy to prevail. If we continue on this current course, it is only a matter of time before support for this war collapses.

And then America will be haunted and plagued by the Iraq Syndrome...
-- Posted at 8:24 AM | Link to this post | Email this post