Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The National Strategy.

The Bush team has finally laid out a rational case for further action in Iraq and the plan for getting the job done. It is nothing you haven't heard here already, but the new National Strategy for Victory in Iraq is brilliantly organized, erudite and complete. It's overdue, but here's the short version, I'll comment at length later.

Executive Summary

Helping the Iraqi People Defeat the Terrorists and Build an Inclusive Democratic State

Victory in Iraq is Defined in Stages

Short term, Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.

Medium term, Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential.

Longer term, Iraq is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.

Victory in Iraq is a Vital U.S. Interest

Iraq is the central front in the global war on terror. Failure in Iraq will embolden terrorists and expand their reach; success in Iraq will deal them a decisive and crippling blow.

The fate of the greater Middle East -- which will have a profound and lasting impact on American security -- hangs in the balance.

Failure is Not an Option

Iraq would become a safe haven from which terrorists could plan attacks against America, American interests abroad, and our allies.

Middle East reformers would never again fully trust American assurances of support for democracy and human rights in the region -- a historic opportunity lost.
The resultant tribal and sectarian chaos would have major consequences for American security and interests in the region.

The Enemy Is Diffuse and Sophisticated

The enemy is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaida. Distinct but integrated strategies are required to defeat each element.

Each element shares a common short-term objective -- to intimidate, terrorize, and tear down -- but has separate and incompatible long-term goals.

Exploiting these differences within the enemy is a key element of our strategy.

Our Strategy for Victory is Clear

We will help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq with a constitutional, representative government that respects civil rights and has security forces sufficient to maintain domestic order and keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. To achieve this end, we are pursuing an integrated strategy along three broad tracks, which together incorporate the efforts of the Iraqi government, the Coalition, cooperative countries in the region, the international community, and the United Nations.

The Political Track involves working to forge a broadly supported national compact for democratic governance by helping the Iraqi government:

Isolate enemy elements from those who can be won over to the political process by countering false propaganda and demonstrating to all Iraqis that they have a stake in a democratic Iraq;

Engage those outside the political process and invite in those willing to turn away from violence through ever-expanding avenues of participation; and
Build stable, pluralistic, and effective national institutions that can protect the interests of all Iraqis, and facilitate Iraq's full integration into the international community.

The Security Track involves carrying out a campaign to defeat the terrorists and neutralize the insurgency, developing Iraqi security forces, and helping the Iraqi government:

Clear areas of enemy control by remaining on the offensive, killing and capturing enemy fighters and denying them safe-haven;

Hold areas freed from enemy influence by ensuring that they remain under the control of the Iraqi government with an adequate Iraqi security force presence; and

Build Iraqi Security Forces and the capacity of local institutions to deliver services, advance the rule of law, and nurture civil society.

The Economic Track involves setting the foundation for a sound and self-sustaining economy by helping the Iraqi government:

Restore Iraq's infrastructure to meet increasing demand and the needs of a growing economy;

Reform Iraq's economy, which in the past has been shaped by war, dictatorship, and sanctions, so that it can be self-sustaining in the future; and

Build the capacity of Iraqi institutions to maintain infrastructure, rejoin the international economic community, and improve the general welfare of all Iraqis.

This Strategy is Integrated and its Elements are Mutually Reinforcing

Progress in each of the political, security, and economic tracks reinforces progress in the other tracks.
For instance, as the political process has moved forward, terrorists have become more isolated, leading to more intelligence on security threats from Iraqi citizens, which has led to better security in previously violent areas, a more stable infrastructure, the prospect of economic progress, and expanding political participation.

Victory Will Take Time

Our strategy is working: Much has been accomplished in Iraq, including the removal of Saddam's tyranny, negotiation of an interim constitution, restoration of full sovereignty, holding of free national elections, formation of an elected government, drafting of a permanent constitution, ratification of that constitution, introduction of a sound currency, gradual restoration of neglected infrastructure, the ongoing training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, and the increasing capability of those forces to take on the terrorists and secure their nation.

Yet many challenges remain: Iraq is overcoming decades of a vicious tyranny, where governmental authority stemmed solely from fear, terror, and brutality.

It is not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy, able to defeat its enemies and peacefully reconcile generational grievances, to be in place less than three years after Saddam was finally removed from power.

Our comprehensive strategy will help Iraqis overcome remaining challenges, but defeating the multi-headed enemy in Iraq -- and ensuring that it cannot threaten Iraq's democratic gains once we leave -- requires persistent effort across many fronts.

Our Victory Strategy Is (and Must Be) Conditions Based

With resolve, victory will be achieved, although not by a date certain.

No war has ever been won on a timetable and neither will this one.

But lack of a timetable does not mean our posture in Iraq (both military and civilian) will remain static over time. As conditions change, our posture will change.

We expect, but cannot guarantee, that our force posture will change over the next year, as the political process advances and Iraqi security forces grow and gain experience.

While our military presence may become less visible, it will remain lethal and decisive, able to confront the enemy wherever it may organize.

Our mission in Iraq is to win the war. Our troops will return home when that mission is complete.

On Mudville

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Heroes I Have Known

This one's for New Yorkers in particular.

In the National Guard, unit bloodlines are often as crossed as those of European royalty. In New York’s infantry units this seems particularly true. In 2000, when I joined the 1-105th Infantry, Sgt. Christian Engledrum was already in the unit. Like everyone else who spent five minutes with him I began to think of him as a friend. Chris wasn’t the best looking guy, or the funniest, or the most charismatic, but he had a quality, a likeability that made him seem like an old friend right off. Four years later we were both in Iraq. On November 29, 2004, he was fresh in country with the famous 69th Infantry; I was almost through my tour with the 2-108th.

A roadside bomb took Chris’s life that day, along with PFC Wilfredo Urbino, another 105th Alumni. Their deaths hit my company hard. We had all been in the 105th together. Those who had been in Bravo Company with Chris flew down to Baghdad for his memorial. December 3rd was a bittersweet day of reunions and mourning. Men cried who I’d never imagined would. From the soldiers who were there I heard accounts of the ambush.

Mostly they talked of the incredible heroism of Spc. Daniel Swift, who like Chris was a New York Firefighter. Dan Swift also wounded in the attack, crawled out of the disabled vehicle and immediately fired his weapon at the most likely enemy position. As the rest of the patrol began to engage the enemy Dan began to work to save the wounded. According to one sergeant there that day, Swift did “everything right that day.” His Bronze Star medal hardly seems adequate recognition for his heroism.

I met Dan Swift briefly this past summer at the NYPD-FDNY rugby match dedicated to Sgt. Engledrum and his family. But I didn’t get the chance to really talk to him. I wish I had. I still want to thank him, soldier to soldier for doing his best to save my friends. For continuing to risk his life for theirs despite his wounds. For keeping his head in combat. Daniel Swift is truly a hero. Thank you!
On November, 29 2005, Americans and New Yorkers lost another hero. Staff Sgt. Steven Reynolds of Jordan NY was the 100th New Yorker to give his life in Iraq. He is unlikely to be the last. Again and again people who hear about my time in Iraq ask me: “Is it worth it.” As I think about our most recent losses, and about those closest to my heart, and about the close calls I had in Iraq, I still have to answer yes, I think it is.

It was worth it to dismantle the evil Hussein regime. Worth it to see that dictator and his colleagues sitting in a courtroom, answering for hundreds of murders in Dujail. Worth it to bring elections, a constitution, and democracy to Iraq. Worth it to pursue and cripple Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq organization, killing or capturing hundreds of terrorists along the way.

I can’t speak for every soldier, only myself. But as a soldier, I understand the risks. I went to Iraq I knowing I might not come home. Stopping tyrants and terrorists requires that some of us make that sacrifice. In a post 9-11 world we no longer have the luxury to wait out our foes. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my friends the heroes. Chris Engledrum, soldier, firefighter, husband, father, son and friend is foremost among them.

There are some in our country who would have us believe that Chris and Wilfredo Urbino, Steven Reynolds and the rest have died for nothing. Nothing could be further from the truth. They died to protect us from a destabilizing dictatorship in Iraq that supported terrorists. They died to protect us from an insurgency that harbors a group that identifies itself with al –Qaeda. My friends and comrades have died to bring the freedom, security and prosperity that we enjoy at home to a place where the lack of these qualities breeds hatred and terrorism. Terrorism that directly threatens us at home.

Continuing thanks to The Mudville Gazette