Suddenly, “surge” is the talk of the town. Gone, for the moment at least, is “surrender” – the leitmotif, if not the stated purpose, of Jim Baker’s Iraq Study Group. Now, we are told, President Bush is preparing to put substantially more troops in Iraq at least temporarily, as part of a final push to prevail there.
This idea has a certain appeal, particularly to those of us who believe that defeat is not an option. Advocates of more troops have long believed that inadequate U.S. force levels in Iraq have made it impossible to implement a “clear and hold” strategy – the only approach that has proven successful in dealing with insurgencies.
There are, however, several problems with this proposal. The obvious one is that we may not have the additional troops to send to Iraq. Military commanders have long been obliged to reckon with the consequences of predictably short-sighted decisions in the early- and mid-1990s that unduly shrunk our force structure in the interest of cashing in the “peace dividend.”
As a direct result, what is left of our armed forces is being sorely taxed by intensive and sustained combat operations in Iraq (and, increasingly, in Afghanistan). Army and Marine units are being cycled through the theater at a rate that is tough on the troops, their equipment, their families, the defense budget and, inevitably, on the all-volunteer force.
Under these circumstances, surging more troops into Iraq on even a short-term basis may be problematic, to say nothing of maintaining an extra 15,000-50,000 soldiers and Marines there for a couple of years time (various options said to be under consideration by the President). Then, there is the further question of whether it will have the desired effect.
Commanders in the field like the top officers in Central Command and Iraq, Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, respectively, have consistently argued in public against further expanding the American footprint in the theater. They believe it not only creates additional force-protection issues – especially when U.S. personnel are assigned hazardous duties involved in securing and patrolling insurgent strongholds. They recognize that an even larger military presence can further exacerbate the perception of many Iraqis that we are an occupying power, intensifying opposition to our efforts in country.
Assuming such logistical and strategic impediments can be satisfactorily addressed, if not easily overcome, there should be one further prerequisite to the idea of adding more forces into Iraq: Call it the “surge protector.”
If we are to have a chance of avoiding actions that simply add to the costs – both in terms of casualties and national treasure – associated with our deployments in Iraq, we need to ensure that our enemies will not interpret this as merely a desperate, but necessarily ephemeral, bid to defeat them. They would simply respond by redoubling their efforts, too, with a view to waiting us out and wearing us down.
To mitigate this danger while greatly increasing the chances of success in Iraq, President Bush must include one other component in his new strategy: A disciplined, multifaceted and determined effort to help the Iranian people overthrow their repressive and unrepresentative government.
Early returns in the local elections held in Iran last weekend offer fresh evidence of the restiveness of many Iranians with the bellicose and increasingly dangerous policies of their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While the regime goes to great lengths to prevent information about domestic ferment from becoming widely known, particularly outside the country, there is little doubt that we have natural allies inside the country who wish to bring down the mullahocracy as fervently as do freedom-loving people elsewhere.
Toward this end, the United States must complement whatever surging of forces it does in Iraq with focused military action against Iran’s operatives and operations there, including those that operate politically, ideologically and militarily against Coalition forces and our Iraqi partners. In addition, we must mount a concerted and unrelenting domestic and global media campaign emphasizing Iran’s leading role in the global jihad against the Free World and the danger a nuclear-armed Ahmadinejad government would represent.
Not least, we must use political warfare, information technologies and covert operations inside Iran, together with a comprehensive effort to cut off the Tehran regime’s cash-flow. This can be done by divesting the stocks of publicly traded companies that do business in Iran and by moving rapidly to exploit available alternative fuel and automotive technologies to diminish the role oil plays in powering this country’s transportation sector and those of other nations around the world.
To their credit, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have already rejected the advice of the Iraq Surrender Group and its former member, newly installed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, to begin negotiating with the Iranian mullahs. Now it is time to take the one step that can conduce to success in Iraq and make any surge of U.S. forces there justifiable: Taking on, and taking down, the terror-masters of Tehran.