“It looks like the president would rather let the whole operation go down in flames than admit he was wrong.” Joseph Cirincione, a foreign policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. [Bush Digging In Heels on Iraq Course Change – Reuters]
Pat Lang, US Army, Ret.: Things are NOT going well. The president is going to approve a reinforcement of 4 Army brigades and two or three marine regiments for the express purpose of fighting a decisive battle of attrition first against the Sunni insurgents in the Baghdad area and then to “disarm” Sadr’s Mahdi Army. This is a hell of a gamble.
EH via David Kurtz @TPM “In all of this talk of increasing troop levels to accomplish some kind of success or unstated goal, I’m reminded of a software engineering principle called Brooks’ Law: “Adding manpower to a late project makes it later.” This meshes nicely with analysis of the escalation being designed to carry the war into the ’08 election cycle, but I think the administration is cynical enough to push the surge just for this reason, especially since the reasons and goals of the surge have remained nebulous throughout the past weeks.”
Matthew Yglesias: Consider the process here. It’s not that the president has some policy initiative in mind whose operational requirements dictate a surge in force levels. Rather, locked in the prison of his own denial he came to the conclusion that he should back an escalation, prompting the current search for a mission.
Okay. Jack keane and Fred Kagan, of the AEI, have volunteered to be the neocons of record on the surgescalation. They’ve gone out front while Cheney Inc and Rasputin’ Rove manage the more complicated details in the background. Today in the Washington Post, Keane and Kagan offer their thinking (as-it-were) on the coming hail Mary.
You really have to read their piece. It’s amazing for many reasons, not the least of which is that it makes assumptions throughout that defeat it’s logic throughout. (Ahh, more of interest to a logician like me, perhaps.)
“We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad — the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development — is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.”
“The key to the success is to change the military mission — instead of preparing for transition to Iraqi control, that mission should be to bring security to the Iraqi population. Surges aimed at accelerating the training of Iraqi forces will fail, because rising sectarian violence will destroy Iraq before the new forces can bring it under control.”
“In addition, a short surge would play into the enemy’s hands. Both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias expect the U.S. presence to fade away over the course of 2007, and they expect any surge to be brief. They will naturally go to ground in the face of a short surge and wait until we have left. They will then attack the civilian population and whatever Iraqi security forces remain, knowing them to be easier targets than U.S. soldiers and Marines. They will work hard to raise the level of sectarian violence in order to prove that our efforts have failed.”
“The only “surge” option that makes sense is both long and large.”
Let’s highlight one assertion.
“In addition, a short surge would play into the enemy’s hands. Both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias expect the U.S. presence to fade away over the course of 2007, and they expect any surge to be brief. They will naturally go to ground in the face of a short surge and wait until we have left.
Why couldn’t you plug in any year where the ‘2007’ is? Why wouldn’t they go to the ground and wait out any surge of any length? Keane and Kagan are caught in a kind of temporal fallacy here and then compound it by assuming the insurgents can plan for a short surge and would be defeated by a long one. Yet they suggest the tactic the insurgents would use to weather anything long and large. Heck, you go to war with the surge you get!
Just on the face of it this staying the escalated course is presented as a human resource solution to the problem of clearing and holding those neighborhoods in Baghdad from which the Sunni insurgency operates. How does this come back to bite us in the ass?
First, if it doesn’t work, a big chunk gets chewed. Really the question is how might it not work?
Unspoken is that this sketch of a plan does take sides in the civil war. Taking the side of the Shi’a militias, death squads, compromised Iraqi police force, and the violence-enthused part of the Shi’a majority, does point in the direction of a big downside if the plan does work, which is that when the US leaves after ‘winning’ the Shi’a irregulars would finish the job.
But, the more likely downsides accrue should the Sunni insurgents melt away and wait us out. Keane and Kagan seem to think the Iraq catastrophe is suddenly going to become symmetrical simply because we move bigger chess pieces onto the board. And this is just one commonsense flaw in their argument.
But, it’s much more likely that the guerilla war will reconfigure itself to attack targets all over Iraq rather than fight something like a set piece series of battles in the Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad.
And, training an Iraqi army to set aside tribal and sectarian codes of honor (in favor of military discipline’) when this likely amplification of insurgent violence will surely stab at vulnerable targets closer to their own homes rather than at anything else, seems to be a ridiculous assumption even it is implicit that the Iraqi army will be the coalition’s focused partner.
Then there’s the unspoken and time-honored regimen of counter-insurgency: to kill the fish in the sea, which is to say to break the back of the insurgent’s support by. . .killing their non-combatant friends and families. History teaches that this is necessary as a precursor to pacifying once unfriendly areas where unfriendlies operate. This has seldom worked out, but this is what is meant when somebody suggests ‘the gloves should come off’.
Read this Sectarian Ties Weaken Duty’s Call for Iraq Forces too. See if you can square the danger signs with Keane and Kagan’s wild eyes b.s.
(I’ll comment about the political conundrum posed by this latest reprise of ‘after 9-11 everything changed and now a generation is called to fight a world war against Islamofascists over there so we don’t have to fight them over here’.