Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pace and Replace Our Troops

Kevin Ryan notes that our generals in Iraq aren't calling for more troops:

Those commanders have overlapped units to increase troops before; during Iraqi elections in 2005 and this past fall in Baghdad. They also have 15 US brigades in Iraq, only five of which are in Baghdad. If the commanders thought that three or four extra US brigades in Baghdad would turn the tide, they could have arranged that. The fact is that the generals in charge of Iraq, George Casey and John Abizaid, have said they do not want more US troops. They want more Iraqi troops, and they know the Army and Marines cannot sustain 30,000 additional troops in Iraq.

We've managed to increase troops inside Iraq for brief periods by overlapping troop rotations. I've noted this possibility since the summer of 2003 (we did this in Europe during the latter years of the Vietnam War to make it look like we had more strength in Europe than we did, if memory serves me). And our past "surges" were done without increasing expectations even though we were up to 160,000 troops for a while.

With so much hype surrounding the current round of speculating about a surge, we may be about to do what we did in the past successfully but with the added burden of high expectations ("one last effort").

Any surge of our troops must end. Our enemies can fade away while we surge and tire ourselves out. The extra US troops will do some good while there, but in the end will not win the war. There will be no climactic battle to settle the war. The enemy, knowing that a surge will not only end but likely harm our ability to sustain the pre-surge numbers, will have good morale knowing they just have to endure just a little longer and then the fight may get easier.

While it is possible that the time during our surge will allow us to add more Iraqi troops than we will lose as the result of the surge, we might also foster some more reliance on our forces by surging and taking the lead.

I'd rather not take a chance. By all means, figure out how to take down Iran-supported Sadr and other militias, the most recent threat we must defeat. But the big picture is that this is a long fight and we must pace ourselves and replace ourselves with Iraqi troops. Surge American patience--not troops.