Friday, November 25, 2005

Why a Timetable is a Bad Idea?!

The war in Iraq is not going as planned. It’s longer and bloodier than anticipated. The most important publicly given Casus Belli, WMD, has proved to be a red herring. These problems have led to more and more extreme political divisions. President Bush is suffering record low approval ratings that have been hovering below 40%. In congress, some Democrats normally hawkish on defense and even some Republicans have joined the chorus of voices calling for an exit strategy, a game plan with a timetable for getting our troops out of Iraq.

What’s wrong with a timetable? It certainly seems like an attractive idea, politically. Surely the Bush team must be tempted by the idea. But publicly members of the administration refuse to discuss any strategy besides ‘staying the course.’ The President is determined to avoid any appearance of a pullout. So why not an exit strategy?

Because fundamentally it’s a bad idea. “Exit strategy” became a popular catch phrase in the 1990s. As part of the Powell doctrine, the idea gained currency and cachet. Powell had learned lesson of Vietnam, and believed that American troops should not intervene overseas, without a clear strategy for withdrawal. Unfortunately while Powell meant that our goals should be clearly defined, the term has been co-opted, and is now being used to indicate mere chronological measure.

President Bush and his team have learned their lessons from Vietnam and from more recent conflicts like Reagan’s peacekeeping in Lebanon, and the events in Somalia a decade ago. When we give our adversaries the idea that we are willing to quit the field, they will seize the initiative. Publishing a timetable will provide the terrorists in Iraq, who are now blowing up children and hospitals, with an operational template. It offers them an advantage that they don’t need. Our goals are far better served if the insurgents know that our withdrawal depends on the security situation then on a predetermined schedule.

The president is aware, that while he could gain short term political relief by acceding to calls for a withdrawal schedule, such a commitment could backfire. The situation in Iraq is still fluid. Any withdrawal schedule would be susceptible to revision. Imagine the outcry, if after committing to a timetable, the President felt compelled to keep some troops in Iraq longer.

The president and the administration surely want to end the current situation in Iraq. As much as anyone else in the country they want an end to conflict, and the return of our forces from Iraq. The military has recently offered the possibility that some troops, possibly three brigades worth, or about 15,000, may come home early next year. The last time the Pentagon floated such an idea, in August, the White House shot them down. This time they have quietly acceded.

The White House has a Strategy for Iraq. It is a victory strategy. While there are some grounds for criticizing particulars of the current strategy, the lack of a concrete schedule is not among them. The administration’s criteria for an end to our military presence in Iraq have remained clear and consistent. We need to train and equip enough Iraqi forces to secure their own country. We need to ensure that the Iraqi government is self sufficient. And we need to maintain our ability to combat terror organizations such as Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq. It is worth remembering that we are at war with al Qaeda, an organization that has chosen to fight in Iraq.

As Iraqi security forces continue to improve and assume more responsibility for security in Iraq, our forces in Iraq will conversely decrease. As more regions of Iraq become secure American troops will be freed up. As the insurgents and terrorists are defeated and killed or captured we can begin to stand down. That is our strategy. As frustrating as it is to endure an open ended commitment, we should all realize that picking a date to bring our troops home is no guarantee of success or safety. It may even prolong the war.

As seen in today's Mudville Gazette!

Worth a look:

Rightwing Nation

OTA Weekend

Oblogatory Anecdotes

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Zarqawi: Why we're still in Iraq.

On Sunday Evening early reports from Iraq indicated that Abu Musab al Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq just might may have been killed during a raid on an organization safehouse in Mosul. In any event at least eight terrorists were killed during the firefight. Three of the targets died by setting off explosives to take their own lives rather than be captured, confirming the reliability of the intelligence behind the raid. Eight members of al-Qaeda in Iraq are now dead. Terrorists, insurgents against democracy, members of an organization that beheads Americans and targets other Arabs even fellow Sunnis for suicide bombings.

The anti war movement, including members of the media and Democratic members of congress would have us believe that the current state of the war in Iraq indicates that we are losing the War on Terror. They claim that the situation in Iraq is dissolving into chaos. This despite the evidence of the elections and the new constitution. So it is unlikely that this raid will dissuade them, but it is none the less another significant indicator that we are making a difference in Iraq.
It is not merely that the raid destroyed an active cell of terrorist insurgents, dedicated to the destroying democracy in Iraq, and attacking America’s interests everywhere, though that is significant. It is also indicates that the security situation in Iraq is not as bad as the press reports, that focus on American casualties, would have us believe. The kind of intelligence, in this case a reliable tip, that leads to successful raids like this, only happens when ordinary people feel safe passing on information to American or Iraqi forces.

It would appear that al-Qaeda in Iraq miscalculated the atmosphere in Mosul, they obviously thought they would be safe there. But the someone in that city recognized that Mosul was better off without them. American commanders claim that intelligence about insurgents has continued to improve, which in turn indicates that in much of Iraq the security situation has improved. Every raid that nets another real insurgent makes ordinary Iraqis more willing to inform provide information.
This is not to say that the struggle is decided. Obviously this is a war, and al-Qaeda and Zarqawi, if he lives, can still operate where the people are supportive or cowed. But for those who still cannot see any link between Iraq and the War on Terror, al-Zarqawi offers a counterpoint. Whether or not there was a link at the war’s onset, there is now.

President Bush since September 11, 2001, has repeatedly avowed America’s willingness to “Hunt down terrorists, wherever they are.” Many of them, like Zarqawi, are in Iraq. Zarqawi has equaled or eclipsed bin Laden as the symbol of radical Islam’s hatred of America. When America chose to destroy Saddam’s despotic regime Zarqawi leapt into the fray, hoping to replace Hussein’s regime with al-Qaeda’s theocratic vision of rule, opposing America’s vision of Democracy. In 2004 Zarqawi formally proclaimed his allegiance to bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

Terrorism lives in Iraq. With or without Zarqawi, it will continue to try to nest there. Voices in America who are weary of this war, forget who it is we are fighting against. Some advocate an immediate pull out, others talk of a reasoned “withdrawal.” But unless they have a plan for defeating the forces of the insurgency, they are ignoring the facts.

The insurgents in Iraq are fighting to destroy a democracy. A few thousand violent insurgents are out to overcome the will of the millions of voters who turned out in the last two elections. The insurgency includes at least one faction that considers itself al-Qaeda’s franchise in Iraq. A franchise of the same al-Qaeda that has repeatedly declared war on the US. A franchise of the same group that attacked American interests over and over again. That attacked America itself on September 11, 2001. the antiwar movement wants us out of Iraq. After overthrowing Hussein, are we really willing to abandon Iraq to Zarqawi, or his heirs in al-Qaeda in Iraq?