SITREP on Iraq: The gnarly circumstance --and the road out

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Dec 14, 2006 10:10 AM

So, in military lingo, a “situation report” (SITREP): Regarding Iraq, the past months have brought these developments. . .

  • Deterioration of conditions on the ground — no question. And more (emphatically too many) deaths of Iraqis and of the American expeditionary troops in-country to assist in the Iraqis’ protection.
  • Lopsided Democratic success in the November elections, putting into narrow congressional control many individuals who no longer support the American Iraqi enterprise, and testifying that on the war President Bush has lost his political base.
  • The departure of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
  • The 79 findings of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), which resemble perhaps nothing quite so much as refried tapioca — and the ISG itself recalling perhaps nothing quite so much as the late-1960s Senior Advisory Group on Vietnam that advised President Johnson how to resolve a war resulting by the mid-1970s in a defeat for liberty and the United States. The essential recommendation of both groups: Pack it in and bring home the troops.
  • Testimonies from Iraq — by American generals down to privates — that either a withdrawal or diminution of forces there would lead to chaos.
  • Poll findings that more than half of American adults think the U.S. is losing the war.
  • OK. What to do?

    We have this July 8, 2005, observation by al-Qaida’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri: “We are in a battle, and more than half this battle is in the (U.S.) media.” That was the circumstance during Vietnam, as well, when U.S. battlefield victories (e.g., Tet) were written as defeats, and when American reporting emphasized body counts, failure and alleged free Vietnamese lack of determination to fight.

    Today, as then, we hear the government we are there to help — indeed, helped create — is inept, the locals’ have no heart, the U.S. military has the wrong equipment and the wrong tactics in the wrong sort of engagement, and we have no legitimate business in what is, let’s face it, a civil war. Already, as we instigated repeatedly in Vietnam — even including the murder of President Ngo Dinh Diem — there is talk of the compelling need in Iraq for regime-change if the American enterprise is to persist.

    In the face of all this, let us remember a few things:

  • The press, or media, may not like the U.S. presence in Iraq, but they are neither making U.S. policy nor running the war.
  • With favorable ratings in the low 40s, President Bush’s numbers are more than twice those for Congress (typically in the mid-teens).
  • Winston Churchill’s resolve prevented a Nazi victory in mid-1940. President Truman’s perseverance in Korea helped give him favorable ratings in the low 20s (half Bush’s now); those ratings came about the time he fired Douglas MacArthur. Churchill and Truman, unpopular largely because of war, pressed on.
  • So should Bush.

    Three senators making particular sense on Iraq are Democrat Joe Lieberman, who fell out with many of his leftist colleagues over (principally) the war, and Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain. Sen. Graham: “The Islamic fascists that we’re fighting in the War on Terror have several goals: to drive us out of the region, not just Iraq. . . . (T)he terrorists will say, ‘If you want to be safe, America, leave the region to us . . . (and) give us Israel.’ That’s their agenda. So we’ve got to win in Iraq.” We need to “make a World War II commitment to winning in Iraq and ensure the American people fully understand what is on the line should we fail.”

    Sen. McCain: “I believe that (the ISG report) is a recipe that will lead to, sooner or later, our defeat in Iraq.” And: “The consequences of failure (in Iraq) are catastrophe. . . . We leave this place (and there’s) chaos in the region and they’ll follow us home.” And: “I believe there are a lot of things that we can do to salvage this, but they all require the presence of additional troops.”

    Regarding troops, nearly all the generals are saying we cannot get along with fewer in Iraq, yet we have insufficient numbers overall to send more — unless we unfairly send back yet again those deployed there already two, three, and four times. We need more troops, but we have no ready, quickly trainable pool. XXX

    Despite the prattling of peaceniks, summer soldiers and sunshine patriots — and despite the ISG’s tapioca — the United States must persist in Iraq. It may need new generaling. It absolutely needs more military forces. Congress and the president should co-operate now on a draft or a new program of universal service, but the effect of such new manpower would not be felt for several years. The public — all the public — must be summoned to sacrifice if the war is to be won.

    Meanwhile, existing American forces must be moved to secure Iraqi bases for the training of Iraqis to defend themselves — and most U.S. forces assigned to that purpose. Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders must be persuaded to cooperate in the stability and effectiveness of the Iraqi government. Finally, Iran’s and Syria’s regimes must be enlisted to cooperate in Iraqi (and Lebanese) democracy on threat of the destruction of Iran’s nuclear program — swift and sure.