Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 04, 2003
WAR: Iraq Strategy

One of my pet peeves about the media’s coverage of the war in Iraq is when reporters use headlines or catchphrases like “U.S. Death Toll in Iraq Mounts.” The fact that a death toll goes up over time is not surprising (by way of analogy, the total number of car accident victims in the U.S. mounts virtually every day and that trend is unlikely to reverse…ever). It would be more surprising, since it is impossible, if the flat number of casualties were going down.

Yet, there is no denying that there have been setbacks of late and that our military is paying a heavy price for our temporary occupation of Iraq. The sacrifices of our individual soldiers over there are staggering. They are truly bearing an awesome burden. Every casualty is to be regretted and should focus our efforts on doing what needs to be done in Iraq as quickly and efficiently as possible to allow for the eventual turnover of control of that country to its population. Every serious American observer must recognize that, regardless of one’s view of whether the U.S. should have invaded, our military needs to remain in country until the Iraqis can effectively govern itself without reverting to chaos and radicalism. Leaving prematurely would run the risk of leaving Iraq an even greater threat to regional security than it was before, if that is possible.

With the exception of the fringes of both parties (objectively, a larger segment on the left), most responsible politicians generally recognize this fact. However, I do think it is fair to ask more from the Bush Administration than to simply reaffirm that we will not cut and run. We need to make sure we win the reconstruction just as decisively as our military won the actual war.

A couple of thoughts:

1) We must get Saddam as soon as possible. This is hugely important symbolically and perhaps even important tactically. Saddam ruled Iraq with an iron fist and was the most feared strongman in the region for a long time. Seeing him killed or, ideally, captured, would be a huge morale blow to resistance forces and would send a strong message that his time is over. I have a hard time believing he could travel anywhere in complete anonymity and am frankly very surprised we have not already found him. Getting Saddam is as imperative as it is inevitable.

2) We should use Iraq as an opportunity to kill, capture or monitor as many al Qaeda as possible. Iraq is proving to be a magnet for al Qaeda radicals which is both good and bad. It is bad because it means additional danger for our troops. It is good because, if these individuals are going to Iraq, they are not trying to go to New York, L.A. or Washington and it provides an opportunity for our heavily-armed military to kill them out in the open or, alternatively, for our intelligence services to learn more about them.

3) We should prepare for the possibility that we may need more U.S. forces, even if it turns out we do not. The military commanders in Iraq have reiterated that they do not need more American troops and they should be the ones to know. The problem over there seems to be too many U.S. troops getting picked off and maintaining too high a profile. The ideal goal is, of course, training more trustworthy Iraqis to provide for their own security. However, if the situation becomes one where we need more U.S. troops in order to maintain order or crush resistance, we should be prepared to meet that challenge without depleting our other force commitments around the world.

4) We should, of course, encourage more foreign contributions, but we should not rely on or expect them. From the beginning, nations like France, Germany and Russia have shown disinterest in enforcing the will of the international community in Iraq. They thwarted the notion of collective military action and blocked any meaningful action by the Security Council to enforce relevant U.N. resolutions concerning Iraq. It would be desirable for them, at this late date, to change course and contribute troops and resources, but it is not a hope on which we should base our policy.

5) We need to protect the moderate Iraqis who will work to form a new government and to establish a written constitution. Jim Woolsey and Bernard Lewis wrote a good editorial in the Wall Street Journal last week, suggesting the interim adoption of the 1925 Iraqi constitution. This seems like a constructive idea and one that, by providing for a written template from which to start, might speed the process of developing a more permanent foundation for governance.

6) We must recognize that creating a stable and moderate Iraq is part of a larger regional project and must tailor our reconstruction efforts to dovetail with reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and perhaps a policy of engagement with moderate forces in Iran. The cause of Iraq is the cause of America’s credibility and influence in the Middle East for probably the next twenty years at least and should be part of a bigger picture of a less radical, more peaceful and economically successful Gulf region. It is, and needs to be, a relatively comprehensive political, diplomatic and military effort arising out of America’s post-September 11th war on terrorism.

7) Finally, we need to find out the truth of what became of Iraq’s WMD programs. It was a widely accepted truth, domestically and internationally, for about twenty years that Iraq had and was developing weapons of mass destruction. Less evidence than expected has been found, which raises some very serious and puzzling questions.

In the end, the real test of long-term victory will come when, in a few years, the U.S. substantially pulls out of Iraq. Will it fall into chaos and set up an autocratic or theocratic government to again brutalize its people and ally with terrorists? Or will it form and preserve a moderate, relatively secular and imperfectly democratic state, which will be at peace and which will focus its efforts on the well-being of its citizens, rather than invading and threatening its neighbors? We do not yet know, but must do all we can to influence the outcome.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 11:04 AM | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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