Friday, December 29, 2006

Surge Effort Not Troops

Let's unleash cash, spooks, and commandos on the Sadr problem.

We can't lose the Shias of Iraq. And we need to neutralize the Shia death squads who make the Sunni Arabs too scared to surrender. To add to our problems, home morale to win is shaky so whatever we do will be under the unblinking (and unthinking) media eye.

Surging military force not only won't solve our problem but will be counter-productive:

The more U.S. firepower and military force would be used against the militias, and the more civilian casualties that would be inflicted as a by-product of military operations the more the Shiite population of Baghdad would become bitterly opposed to the U.S. presence. As the conflict escalated, U.S military forces would become embattled and beseiged. The Iraqi government that is a government in little more than name in the Iraqi capital at best would try to help ineffectually and at worst could easily become a conduit for intelligence and sabotage on behalf of the Shiite militias.

So going on offense with a surge of troops won't do any good. We may just anger Shias and simply drive Shia militias underground while we surge.

And just parking our troops there as guards just provides targets even though we'd likely calm down the areas we are in while we are there. But we can't do this for long anyway.

And all this will be reported by our beloved press. Talk about being between Iraq and a hard place.

Baghdad's Shia death squads are not a problem for large-scale kinetic solutions unless they openly revolt as in 2004. The real solution barring that unfortunate event is to surge an effort against the Sadr boys and other assorted flunkies of Tehran. This effort should be centered on our Special Operations Command.

We could certainly surge Iraqi troops and police into Baghdad with Americans embedded for training and to restrain an impulse to vent sectarian hatreds. With sufficient density, they could provide the conventional military shield for the population that enables our offensive effort to gut the enemy.

Behind this shield of conventional security forces, unleash a surge of special forces, regular snipers, and spooks--Iraqi and Coalition--to take down Shia death squad leaders and key technical and money men. Let militias who agree to be regularized and simply provide local security to continue to exist. For the rest who defy the government, use money, blackmail, targetted killings and arrests to break apart the leadership of the death squads. Make Baghdad the real Commando Olympics (as Strategypage calls Afghanistan). When fighting urban death squads and militias, the cannon fodder are plentiful so it is pointless to count their dead. Go after the key people and the mass of actual and potential gunmen will drift away leaderless and without resources.

It would be tragically ironic if those who still support the war plant the seeds of our defeat with a misguided effort to surge wholly inappropriate forces to Baghdad to win a victory. I cannot emphasize this enough--surging troops to control Baghdad is an extremely bad idea.

Remember, we enterred a new phase of the war since the February Golden mosque bombing, and so a different approach should be considered for the new phase of war the Bush administration is mulling over. We could win on our present course, I think--though the new threat of Sadr makes this approach take much longer than it would have otherwise taken if we faced the old threats of Sunni terrorists and insurgents. If we don't surge an effort as I describe it, it would be far better to stay the course than to tack the troop surge way.

I want to win--not feel good about appearing to "do something."