Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ours to Lose

The surge has ended and we achieved more than I thought possible in this limited time. This is excellent. A new phase of the Iraq War is upon us. We need a new strategy for this phase:

Top US commanders have said the surge of forces will have met their goals only if the improved security on the ground is "irreversible." The fear remains that the gains could all slip away if the Iraqi government doesn't cement the progress with political reconciliation on key issues and an increased level of governance.

The Government Accountability Office warned earlier last week that with the new- found security in Iraq, the US now needs a new strategy. The report noted that surge of forces, the last brigade of which returned home this month, is now over, and the war in Iraq is entering another phase.

As Gen. David Petraeus prepares to move to his next post at US Central Command and Gen. Ray Odierno succeeds him in Iraq, the GAO says there is the need for a new plan.

I called this stage our Phase VII of many phases in the war. Phase VII as I saw it would be critical to winning the war:

Whether Congress mandates retreat or not, we will face pressure to start pulling out in 2008. Maybe that pressure will be resisted until fall 2008, but we will start to pull out. Perhaps it will only be a brigade per month actually deploying back to their bases, but we will pull back from offensive combat faster.

Then we will need to prepare to participate in Phase VII of the war where we help the Iraqis finish off their enemies with the government and security forces we helped them build[.]

I am happy to say that I was too pessimistic about what our Congress would allow us to do. Because the surge was so successful, we've bought the space to win Phase VII.

The Iraqi operation in Diyala that just kicked off involving 50,000 Iraqi security forces is a good example of what we will need to do in this new phase:

The operations were primarily carried out by Iraqi security forces in the latest display of Iraq's readiness to take over its own security and enable American troops to eventually withdraw.

The U.S. military was providing intelligence, fire support and logistics as Iraqi forces gradually assumed front-line roles, a factor that contributed to sharp decrease in the number of U.S. troop deaths this year.

In time, we will train Iraqis to fill these roles, too. And before you ridicule the Iraqis too much, remember that most of our established allies need our intelligence, fire support, and logistics to fight at our side. Yet this is relatively little effort to cement a lot of effort these past 5+ years.

We just need to avoid blowing it to finish this off with a victory. With an explicit strategy that addresses this phase, war opponents won't be able to argue we are just executing the same strategy of staying in Iraq forever. A strategy will explain what we hope to achieve in Phase VII.

With that, even our Left can't succeed in losing this, I think.

UPDATE: Victor Hanson sees victory in Iraq:

There is a growing confidence among officers, diplomats, and politicians that a constitutional Iraq is going to make it. We don’t hear much anymore of trisecting the country, much less pulling all American troops out in defeat.

And Kissinger says it well about the need to define Phase VII so we can win it:

The American presence in Iraq should not be presented as open-ended; this would not be supported by either Iraqi or American domestic opinion. But neither should it be put forward in terms of rigid deadlines. Striking this balance is a way for our country to come together as a constructive outcome emerges. Thirty years ago, Congress cut off aid to Vietnam and Cambodia two years after American troops had been withdrawn and local forces were still desperate to resist. Domestic divisions had overcome all other considerations. We must not repeat the tragedy that followed.

Now is the proper time for the Vietnam analogies to be hauled out--how our Left lost the war for us two years after we left.