Monday, October 23, 2006

No Substitute for Victory

The President is trying to formulate a more sure path to victory in the face of Iraqi failures to end the Sunni insurgency:

"Our goal in Iraq is clear and unchanging: Our goal is victory," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "What is changing are the tactics we use to achieve that goal."

The President rightly is talking about tactics and not strategy. Victor Hanson notes:

We have the right strategy — birthing (through three elections already) an autonomous democracy; training an army subject to a civil government; and pledging support until it can protect its own constitutional government.

Few American officers are talking about perpetual occupation or even the need for more troops, but rather about the need for a lighter footprint, bolstered by teams of Special Forces and air support, to ensure Iraqi responsibility for their own future,. And the key to success — a diplomatic squeeze on the Sunnis to suppress terrorists in Nineveh and Anbar provinces in exchange for Shiite guarantees of more government inclusion — is now the acknowledged goal of both the Iraqi and American governments.

Calls to abandon Iraq and let them fight it out ignore that this is essentially a call for the destruction of Iraq's Sunni community and an invitation for Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to openly fight inside Iraq in some sort of modern version of 1930s Spanish Civil War.

Calls to ramp up our troop strength ignore the historical lessons that recognize that civil strife is not solved by force unless you consider genocide an acceptable solution--certainly not by our forces. We can't sustain such an increase in the first place and more importantly, it won't defeat insurgents who draw support from some fraction of the population. And on top of it, it would Americanize the fight and reduce Iraqi incentives to take on more of the burden of winning.

Calls to just pull out to Okinawa or somewhere else "nearby" and just bomb any visible threats just guarantees a long war of bombardment and al Jazeera/CNN/BBC films of baby milk factories and puppy mills going up in flames. How long could even a friendly Iraqi government remain our friend if we bomb at will? Has our experience with Pakistan screaming about limited strikes on al Qaeda in Pakistan taught us nothing? Has Lebanon where Israel was condemned for bombing threats by Hizbollah in that country taught us nothing?

Helping Iraqis to fight on their own is both the most humane and moral strategy as well as the best strategy to win. As the AP article cited first notes:

On Friday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said U.S. officials — Gen. George Casey, head of the U.S.-led Multinational Forces in Iraq, and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad among them — are working with the Iraqi government to develop projections as to when they think they can pass off various pieces of responsibility for security and governing.

The New York Times, in an article posted on its Web page Saturday, said a plan being formulated by Casey and Khalilzad would likely for the first time outline to Iraq milestones for disarming sectarian militias and meeting other political and economic goals. But it said the blueprint, to be presented to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by the end of this year, would not threaten Iraq with a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Pushing Iraqis recognizes that our strategy as outlined by Hanson will be pushed forward. This is classic counter-insurgency, people. We are providing the military shield behind which political and economic progress can be made. Sadly, for these metrics to advance further, we have to rely more and more on the Iraqi government. The Maliki government is failing to make hard decisions and we need to get them to make those decisions--not make them for them.

And with any luck, the President will take the opportunity that the Baker Iraq Study Group is providing to reassure the Iraqi and American people that victory is our only goal. If this Baker's Dozin' of policy advocates who seem to have slept through the end of the Cold War and 9/11 actually propose working with the likes of Syria and Iran to stabilize Iraq or call for dividing Iraq, President Bush should reject this group's work outright and once again end the debate that we aren't trying to win.

Work the problem, people. We were right to overthrow Saddam. We are right to fight for a democratic Iraq. And we will win this if we don't rush to perform mouth-to-mouth on the enemy so we can revive them enough to accept our sword in surrender.

UPDATE: Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih tells us not to panic:

"I'm obviously concerned about the debate both in the U.S. and Europe, I have to say, because there is too much of a pessimistic tone to this debate -- even I would say in certain circles a defeatist tone," he told BBC radio.

"We need to be realist but not defeatist. We need to understand that there is a need of utmost urgency to deal with many of the problems of Iraq but we must not give in to panic."

Seriously, what is with so many people these days? We've isolated the jihadis, kept the Baathists from broadening their appeal to a national resistance, and have contained the Sadr boys somewhat. And while we've done this the government has built governing and security institutions from scratch, and has begun to rebuild Iraq's economy. Only Iran from the outside can derail the victory that is slowly accumulating (and remember that victory could come fast if political deals are made with the Sunnis and some of the radical Shias).

You don't have to ignore the ugly reality of fighting and winning a war against a brutal enemy to also see that we are winning.

Work the problems. Don't give in to panic.