What Will Work?

The implementation of the Baghdad troop surge is in swing, with the 2nd brigade arriving in town and the Iraqi troop strength finally climbing above the 50% mark. For a couple of days, as the Iraqis pondered the new situation, there was relative quiet. The easily-led media greeted us with a deluge of stories about how Bush's Surge was already working.

Well, unfortunately, they seem to have adjusted.
Militants struck back Sunday in their first major blow against a U.S.-led security clampdown in Baghdad with car bombings that killed at least 63 people, left scores injured and sent a grim message to officials boasting that extremist factions were on the run.

The attacks in mostly Shiite areas — twin explosions in an open-air market that claimed 62 lives and a third blast that killed one — were a sobering reminder of the challenges confronting any effort to rattle the well-armed and well-hidden insurgents.

Another bombing doesn't mean the plan is doomed, of course, but stopping the momentum on this civil war is not going to be so easy. I don't believe this minor tweak of a plan will work.

This is where the Republicans ask indignantly for my plan to fix their horrific, murderous mess, so I'll give it a try. What does have a chance of leading to a result that is not calamitous for America's interests?

First, I do believe that if we pull out there will be a massive amount of ethnic cleansing in the mixed cities of Iraq, notably the capital. The central government's writ wont run country wide at any point, and localized militias, or terrorist groups depending on your political persuasion, will operate pervasively in the country, providing the de facto security apparatus. In the western half of the country, the vast deserts of Anbar, Al Qaeda in Iraq will carry the banner of the same people who murdered 3,000 of my brothers and sisters in New York and Washington. Iran's influence will dominate the country, easily in the south and contentiously in Kurdistan. Turkey could mobilize with Iran against Kurdistan, and Saudi Arabia could make good on their threats to fund and arm the Sunni militia groups, thereby ensuring an ongoing civil war. The life in Baghdad will be punctuated by explosions for the foreseeable future. (Note that all Democratic withdrawal plans include measures to mitigate these negative effects)

How do we completely prevent this outcome? Only through the victory that we were originally assured of: Iraq must be a stable, transparent, secular democracy where the economy functions, rights of the minorities are assured, and oil revenues are split evenly. (I wont hold the Bush Administration to the requirement of Iraq being pro-Israel - the insanity of that was always readily apparent). There is only one way to achieve this: a massive troop infusion. This plan would effectively be a reinvasion of Iraq with the troop numbers the generals originally asked for before they were fired for doing their jobs. But, given that even Colin Powell is talking about a "broken army" at the current deployment levels, we don't have the troops to marshall a reinvasion three or four times the size.

So, what are the solutions to troop shortages? First, we might get international involvement. Maybe Mongolia - a massive country - could "plus up" from the hulking 160 troops it has there now to a few hundred thousand. This is, of course, absurd, as it's meant to showcase the paltry troop contributions other nation's have made to the Coalition of the Willing. Even Poland, who we are enjoined "not to forget" about, the third largest contributor, only has 900 men in Iraq. For this reason solving the shortfall via international commitments begins as unlikely, and is pushed further into fantasy-land by our current leadership. The Bush Administration has made America an international pariah on many issues, sullying the shining image of our nation and crippling the strategic power that flows from that moral authority. Given that our current President is implementing the strategy and his history of failure, would you want your countrymen under his influence? As a world leader, would you put your people's lives in his hands? There will be no international bail-out of our troop shortage.

If not an international solution, we must look inside our borders for more men. We can't meet our recruitment quotas now, even with more lenient requirements for service. We might be able to entice more recruits with a radical shift in compensation, but the tax increase required to pay for it would never be signed by President Bush, the Tax-Cutter-in-Chief. Even if something like a huge new incentive were created, I doubt very much that we would get the influx of troops we would need. Driving patrols through a civil war doesn't have a lot of fascination for my generation. There's no draw there. There's no hook. No zazz. We'd see increased enlistment, but it wouldn't bridge the huge gap we're dealing with.

That leaves a draft. That means there are really no ideas are left at all, since President Bush doesn't really believe this is the most important fight of our lives. If he sincerely believes that this is a war that our future security critically depends on - tantamount to the Civil War or World War II - then after this "last chance" surge fails we would move on to a draft. Right as the Presidential campaign was ramping up, we'd be getting our cards and waiting for the lottery. Don't hold your breath on that one.

Given that more troops aren't available, we cannot achieve the victory we were promised and we must restructure our goals. Security is the cornerstone on which all our other goals are based, for without it you cannot have a functional economy much less a stable democracy. The primary cause of security incidents has been the sectarian warfare, so it is that conflict we must cool. We do not have the troops to police every street corner, so despite the awfulness of forced relocation, separating the combatants is the only course available.

Partition of Iraq, a la Joe Biden's Plan, is the best choice I see from a list of horrible choices President Bush has left us with. Segregation is already happening via ethnic cleansing, and it's making it "better." The Dora neighborhood in Baghdad, for instance, used to be mixed but is now increasingly homogeneous Sunni. Now, instead of daily shootings, kidnappings and torture, the residents only have to deal with mortars arcing in from the increasingly Shiite neighborhoods next door. Amazingly, that's an improvement.

Even with Biden's Partition, we are still handing a significant chunk of Iraq to Iran - a result important enough to avoid that we gave Saddam tons of WMD and millions of dollars to assure it back in the 1980s. We still will have a Shiite theocracy running Iraq, with the "Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq" largely in charge (remember how the Islamic Revolution in Iran turned out for us?). We will still have to keep troops in Kurdistan to discourage Turkey and Iran and to launch strikes against "Al Qaeda in Iraq" when they present targets meaningful to America. We will be presiding, as occupying power, over the cutting up of a country and the forced relocation of millions.

It will be a strategic catastrophe for us, but that is what President Bush's war of choice has reaped for America.

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