George Will

Yes, and as the old saying goes, ``If 'ifs' and 'buts' were candies and nuts, we'd all have a wonderful Christmas.'' The stark fact is that U.S. forces around the world are stretched thin by today's tempo of operations. What U.S. forces in Iraq need most are Iraqi forces to free U.S. forces to do what they are trained to do and do superbly.

Wolfowitz says that when U.S. soldiers guarding a hospital are killed by a hand grenade dropped from that building, one question is: Why are Americans being used to guard buildings? He has a robust -- even Rumsfeldean -- dislike of ``highly trained American soldiers doing stationary guard duty.'' The proper use of U.S. troops is, he says, not to guard pipelines but to use ``actionable intelligence and pursue killers.''

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referring to Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the forces in Iraq, says, ``If he wants more troops, he can have more troops.'' Often when asked if he needs more, Abizaid has said, ``There's a lot of things that we need.'' But he also says: The number of ``boots per square inch'' is not the issue. The issue is intelligence that maximizes the efficacy of the troops there. Furthermore, Abizaid says, ``There's a downside where you increase your lines of communication, you increase ... the energy that you have to expend just to guard yourself.''

Still, the elemental problem is that decades of Baathist rule crippled Iraq's infrastructure -- Myers visited a Baghdad hospital unimproved in half a century -- and reduced Iraq's population to a dust of individuals, unpracticed in individual initiative and social cooperation.

Abizaid briskly defines the modest, nuts-and-bolts but potentially momentous development that must happen soon: ``We've got to do a lot more to bring an Iraqi face'' -- beyond the nearly 60,000 Iraqis already under arms in reconstituted security forces -- ``to the security establishments throughout Iraq very quickly.'' As Wolfowitz says, the basic U.S. strategy is to ``get us into the background before we become the issue.''


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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