December 14, 2006
It is moderately disturbing that even before potential new policy in Iraq is formally announced, there is already a catchy yet not quite accurate phrase in wide circulation to describe it. The news that President Bush may well support a temporary surge in US troops in Iraq is bound to create something darn close to the mother of all outcries from liberals and assorted corners of the media. Let me offer some preemptive commentary if such a policy comes to fruition, since our local papers and the liberal blogs may well meet the news with no small amount of incredulous, spittle-filled denunciations.
With many an "if," this is a policy many conservatives can and will support. Anyone following the Iraq debate closely in recent months knows a number of prominent conservatives (such as Rich Lowry at the National Review, Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard) have endorsed such a policy for a clear purpose: to smash the Mahdi Army, giving the Iraqi government and security forces a chance to solidify themselves, thus allowing us to begin a reasonable and appropriate draw down of US forces as a series of realistic benchmarks are met. Recent moves by the Bush administration in talks with non-Mahdi Shiites and assorted Sunni powers that be seems for the broader purpose of shoring of support for the current government, which will need all it can get if a serious move on the militias is made.
There are many nuances to Iraq policy and potential related changes, and many specific points that need to be examined if one is to understand the reasoning in full. Such a story is nearly impossible to cover well on TV, and hardly much better in typical daily newspaper. Nevertheless, one can expect to be inundated with news coverage should such a policy be announced. Earplugs may be necessary to protect oneself against the volume of howls from opposition aghast that the President would even consider acting like a Chief Executive instead of simply following our modern version of the national plebiscite, opinion polls.
Let me say one thing in advance of criticism that will no doubt be well covered if the President makes such a choice. The President is not elected to follow polls. He is not elected to function solely as an arm of popular opinion. He swears an Oath of Office to preserve and protect the Constitution, not to preserve and protect Gallup. Wartime leaders have had to make unpopular decisions throughout history; that's the reality of warfare and human nature. Sometimes those decisions work out, sometimes they don't. Often history is the only true judge accordingly.
If a troop surge is at least in part for the purpose of taking it to the Mahdi Army then good. Some objectors will screech "warmongers!" and other such terms. They will quaintly relive their halcyon days of Vietnam-era protest, regrettably oblivious, as many Americans are, that while such a move will be not without cost for either side it will be far from the violent scope of most armed conflict in our nation's past. Thus is the legacy of the comparatively sterile battles of the first Gulf War, and the Second as well during "traditional" hostilities. We expect war to be tidy, to go as planned, to fit nicely onto a TV screen. Tell that to the Greatest Generation.
No peoples should welcome war, but America's stomach for it in defense of her interest is alarmingly low. If President Bush does indeed increase troop strength temporarily, for the right reasons, then conservatives will likely support it as the best of a set of unappealing options. Even some Democrats will have the courage to agree. And in the end, it will remind all of us that this is one President who believes more in living up to the words and spirit of his Oath of Office than riding a feel-good wave of popular approval. That's not such a bad thing.
Posted by Eric Earling at December 14, 2006
08:00 AM | Email This
1. Good discussion, Eric. I am saddened that you even felt it necessary to bring it up, but it was necessary.
Eric, you simple, simple man. A troop SURGE is not neccesary. The CINC should mobilize every available aircraft in our arsenal and begin a 24 hour bombing campaign on any given Iraq city 72 hours after residents are given notice to leave. Kind of like Fallujah, but worse, displaying our military power. Pick one city and level it with conventional munitions. Time to remind the world of the 1,000+ plane raids we pulled on Germany in broad daylight.
We should have initially deployed with at least as many military allied forces as it took to take OKINAWA (read 584,000). Also, due to the failure of their governemnt to aid our cause, we should be the number #1 opponent of Turkey joining the EU and should have advocated their dismissal from NATO. We spend billions of $$$ in their county for 20+ years, the least they can do is let us pincer the Iraqis.
I suppose those nutcases in Iraq should be reminded that we have enough warheads and delivery systems to pick 10 of their cities and bomb them with nuclear weapons 3 times a day for at least a YEAR. At least according to the Times, which so graciuosly reminded everyone of the location of our stockpiles, the capabilities of our subs, their locations, and means to track changes. Good job, MSM! Maybe next time you can just sponsor the god damn terrorists or rogue nations.
3. Yeah, Aaron, but we should begin with Mecca and with each successive terrorist attack proceed to level another target; Tehran, Damascus, Medina, Cairo... and so forth. At some point, it will regretably come to this. Islam's goal is to control the world, and it appears the only real resistance will come from the U.S.
Eric -- where is the Mahdi Army at any given moment? Can you put it in one place where it can be "taken down"? Can you identify its members? Can you take down its members without creating blood debt between the member's family and every American? The Greatest Generation fought identifiable, uniformed armies, distinct from the surrounding civilian populations and they fought primarily for territory. As we learned, unfortunately, in Veit Nam, when ever we secured territory we lost it the next night to re-infiltration by ununiformed, unidentifiable irregular troops. Why will that not continue to happen in Iraq?
I don't mean these to be rhetorical questions. They are quite serious. If there is a way to take out the militias, I'm all for it. I would like to hear why you think it is possible to destroy them (as opposed to merely pushing them further underground).
Haven't you heard of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We waged war on civilian populations in WWII. At some point the U.S. needs to get serious about the war against terrorism and start fighting with tactics the terrorists fear.
Use pigs to clean up the remains of suicide bombings and kidnap and kill relatives of known terrorists. They need to be shown that the American people will not flinch when push comes to shove.
you don't have much credibility on this subject. of course you will support bush and his failing campaign in iraq--you never had the courage before to question his approach as possibly wrong-headed, why would you start now. instead of criticizing the "liberals" and "corners of the media," consider focusing your criticism on the person most responsible for the direction of the war: the commander in chief. that's not just a title, afterall.
also please consider what the military leaders in iraq (pace and casey) are saying about a troop build-up or military surge--they seem to be rejecting it. hey, but our president listens to the generals and gives them what they want, right?
as far as our expectations as a people regarding the prosecution of this war, perhaps you should remind yourself of what our leaders and war proponent's have said ("cakewalk"; "major combat operations are over"; "mission accomplished"). high expectations were set by our leaders, and they failed to deliver results. the general consensus is that the civilian planning of this war was inadequate.
more troops now? too little, too late.
p.s. here's a link to lowry.
"Bush simply has failed to run his war. Historian Eliot Cohen describes how, in contrast, the best American wartime president conducted himself: "Lincoln had not merely to select his generals, but to educate, train and guide them. To this end he believed that he had to master the details of war, from the technology to the organization and movement of armies, if only to enable himself to make informed judgments about general officers."
Bush has taken the opposite approach and — for all his swagger and protectiveness of executive prerogatives — is becoming a disturbing study in lassitude in the executive branch."
Eric said: "He swears an Oath of Office to preserve and protect the Constitution..." I agree 100%. As a reader of early American history I know that the founders believed in *defending* the Constitution. What is happening in Iraq is not a defense of our Constitution, we are on the offensive, our only business should be defending ourselves. Our Constitution says nothing about acting as world liberators. Find the terrorists, kill them all, leave. We have no business saving the world from themselves. THAT, is un-Constitutional.
Please show me where in the Constitution it allows us to go into another country because of perceived threats? Is this a giant Minority Report? We attack other countries because of what they might do?
If America had any guts or sway in the world, we wouldn't be having this problem because they would realize there is no point in attacking us because their cause will die as a result.
In response to 9-11, we should have gone after those responsible, destroyed them and then come back home. Our soldiers vowed to project our Constitution, not Iraq's.
TedR - Please show me where in the Constitution it prohibits us to go into another country because of perceived threats? Other than it specifically says that the Commander in Chief is to defend the country. That does not only mean react to an attack.
Denish - so if the Ds want to 'listen to the generals' then why are they going to pull the troops back? Or is the 'Commander (look up that word) in Chief' the only one that is meant to blindly follow his advisors?
9. Right said Fred: The same place it prohibits us from bombing the rain forest.
The only logical result of the war was the empowerment of Iran and radical Shiites. There's nothing that can be done to stop it now, other than trying to put in place a Saddam-like non-Shiite strongman. Congratulations.
(Whine all you want about moderation, democracy, and pessimism. It's not going to change the reality of what's happening on the ground and what will continue to happen in the future.)
11. Nancy - What part of the DoD do you work in?
12. Don't pay attention to what liberals say. They are never placated, and programmed to never approve of anything. Just do what's right and keep going.
13. Nancy, don't you mean "the only logical result of the election is ..."?
14. daisycutter-Right On!!! What a pleasure it would have been to serve in the Military with #6,#7 and#10
S, Iran and the Mahdi army were taking over long before the elections.
G, agreed that you might not fare well among realists.
16. Wake up! This is a Suni - Shiite thing. Our guys are just in the way. Back em out a few clicks, secure the oil fields and let these religious nuts go at each other. If there wasn't any oil in this country, we would be MIA - like some of the slaughter areas of Africa. This is the most corrupt, immoral administration in history - and I worked for Barry Goldwater.
And yet these armchair doves would be the first people to complain not enough was done
to thwart the next terrorist attack.
I mean, there's no way Iraq would be willing to harbor terrorists, right? Saddam was secular, right? It's not like he would do anything to get back at the Great Satan, right? There's no way when we attacked 'those responsible for 9/11' (and you opposed that, too, Soviets/Afghanistan/QUAGMIRE!!!) that some of them would end up in the rich, safe, secure conclave of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, right? Of course not.
Because if that would've happened and we left Iraq alone, you'd all be bellering about how stupid Bush is because we know how much of a threat Saddam is, blah, blah, blah. Why didn't we do something about him, blah, blah, blah. It's easy when all you have to do is sit there with your 20/20 hindsight and complain because the 'wrong' political party occupies the White House.
Thing is, none of this would be necessary now if we would've simply removed Saddam back in 1991. Or removed him the first time he violated the cease fire. Or the second, third, fourth ....
But no. You opposed that, too. If it were up to you military experts on the Left, Kuwaitis would be getting fed feet first into plastic shredders, and those dumb brown people who can't handle democracy (nothing like the soft bigotry of low expectations, eh, Nanc?) would continue to visit the rape rooms of Hussein's spawn and henchmen, and the Oil for Palaces program still in full swing ... while we sit and wait for the next terrorist attack here at home.
To hell with you.
Isn't it amazing how simple things are for you and GW, Jim? And yet things don't seem to be turning out quite like they're supposed to, do they? The bottom line is that if you start a war, you better damn well win it. Bush hasn't shown any indication that he's capable of winning what he's started. We will feel the consequences of his incompetence for generations, and this will go down as the biggest foreign policy catastrophe in US history.
What are we doing about the rape rooms our friends are running in Russia and Pakistan, by the way, and what were Rumsfeld and Cheney doing about them back when they were keeping Saddam in power?
The war in Iraq has gone nowhere for several reasons.
1. Timidity. Bush is afaid to wage a war for the selfish reason of making America safe from it's enemies. He wages this war for altruistic reasons calling it "Operation Iraqi Freedom" instead of "Operation American Freedom". Our soldiers lives are sacrificed to build a "democratic" Iraq. When the Iraqis get around to electing a theocracy that's alright with Bush because we're just there to help them.
2. Appeasement. For some unfathomable reason Bush thinks he has to bend over backwards to show the Muslims that we just want to be their friends regardless of how barbaric they are. The Islamists see this as weakness and think they're winning, which they are.
3. Refusal to name the enemy. We've all cringed when Bush called Islam a "religion of peace". He finally wised up for a couple weeks and started talking about "Islamofacism" but then CAIR squawked and Bush immediately retreated. He's now back to insurgents and "hijackers of Islam".
Our main enemy is not primarily the Mahdi army or any of the factions in Iraq but Ahmadinejad and the mullahocracy in Iran. Iran is the Nazi Germany of militant Islam. Wipe out totalitarian Islam and the problems with militant Islamists in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza will quickly go away.
20. I suppose I could point out to dinesh that the very article I linked to at the start of this post has leaders from the Pentagon talking about how they actually support more troops. Moreover, I could also point out I read the Lowry column - no defense of GWB by any means - when it came out, and agreed with it. And I could also point out that the logical extension of the combination of his two points is that Bush, like Lincoln, should have the courage to overrule reluctant commanders on the ground and do what needs to be done at a difficult point in the armed conflict in which we find ourselves. But, never mind.
Those in the comments wishing for a return to WWII style tactics are off the mark. No modern President is likely to engage in such behavior, nor would it be tolerated by Congress or the American people. Regardless of whether or not it has value, it isn't going to happen.
doc benton - our Armed Forces in Iraq have had the Mahdi army in various stages of distress, ranging from inflicting serious damage during near open war a couple years back in Najaf and other locales, and more recently in Sadr City. In both cases, the troops were pulled back for reasons of politics. Between that and the stated belief oft seen in the news from assorted analysts that such a policy is necessary now, one has to assume serious confrontation is possible. I think you underestimate the ability of the Army to fulfill a mission absent the restraints of politics. Finally, in this case, the goal may not be total destruction of the Mahdi army, which as you note may not be 100% possible. But if it can be seriously weakened, and al-Sadr preferably removed from a position of power, then the current Iraqi government has a fighting chance to actually demonstrate control of their own country.
eric: you could point out that the article indicates that anonymous defense officials from the pentagon believe that a troop surge "may be the only way to get the counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory."
but in doing so, you might have to acknowledge the following 2 points:
1) these may be the same incompetent people who failed to plan for a post-saddam iraq in the first place; and
2) general casey, the top commander in iraq is against more troops.
so apparently, you, eric put more faith in the analysis of the likes of lowry and kristol (who have been so wrong on this war from its inception--remember lowry's "we're winning" cover of the national review?) and anonymous defense officials over casey.
yes, one conclusion is that bush should be more like lincoln, as you state.
another conclusion is that bush is lost in the woods and has steered the country off a cliff.....
there are many conclusions that can and will be drawn from this disaster.
dinesh - on your two points.
1) Yes, they might be, though the multiplicity of voices in the policy process makes it tough to make such generalizations. Moreover, even if it is the exact same people, humans are capable of recognizing mistakes and attempting to fix things from there (which is a constant process in virtually any war). Lastly, as I said before, this is the best of a set of bad options at this point.
2) I'm perfectly happy to admit Casey is against more troops. But an increasing number of military and political decision makers seem to disagree. History is filled with examples of well-meaning but stubborn commanders in the field being overruled from following their continued preference in action. This is part of the problem that Lowry raised; Bush has been to deferential to commanders in the field for too long. Now that he's seems to have decided to disregard their counsel you're in the odd position of using Lowry's column to bash Bush and the same time you're trying to bash him for now following Lowry's advice to do something other than what Casey suggests. Make up your mind.
Quit making our troops work with thier hands tied behind their back (ROEs), more troops with their hands also tied buys nothing.
Gen. Curtis LeMay: "If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting".
It really is just that simple and until we get simple this is all pissing to windward...
25. Dear Eric,
I don't quite understand. The Times and P-I *are* liberal blogs.
26. Is it just me, or is it peculiar that Generals Abizaid and Casey do not want more troops? I don't recall ever reading about a general who wouldn't gladly have more forces at hand.