As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff will present their assessment and recommendations to Bush at the Pentagon today. Military officials, including some advising the chiefs, have argued that an intensified effort may be the only way to get the counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory.
The approach overlaps somewhat a course promoted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). But the Pentagon proposals add several features, including the confrontation with Sadr, a possible renewed offensive in the Sunni stronghold of Al Anbar province, a large Iraqi jobs program and a proposal for a long-term increase in the size of the military.
That sounds very unlike playing to lose. I like it.
Rich Lowry notes that the State Department and National Security Adviser are both talking up a surge in troop numbers.
The Army, which has 507,000 active-duty soldiers, wants Congress to fund a permanent "end strength," or manpower, of at least 512,000 soldiers, the Army officials said. The Army wants the additional soldiers to be paid for not through wartime supplemental spending bills but in the defense budget, which now covers only 482,000 soldiers.
The Marine Corps, with 180,000 active-duty Marines, seeks to grow by several thousand, including the likely addition of three new infantry battalions. "We need to be bigger. The question is how big do we need to be and how do we get there," a senior Marine Corps official said.
Allah on the political shuffle to accompany the soldier shuffle:
They want as many as 40,000 more troops and, to make sure no one’s going to call off the dogs once they’re unleashed, a shuffle within the Iraqi government, which is almost certainly what Bush’s meeting with Iraq’s Sunni vice president was about yesterday. Some experts are knocking the plan on grounds that you can’t kill your way to victory here. You can’t not kill your way to victory either, though — we tried that by turning al-Sadr onto politics and look where it got us. Gen. Chiarelli wants to split the difference by introducing an aggressive jobs program alongside the military maneuvers to give would-be jihadists an alternative to fighting.
It's interesting who isn't keen on the plan-- Abizaid and Pace.
If successful, wouldn't a troop surge cast doubt on the wisdom of the "light footprint" policies backed by Abizaid and Pace all along? With so much having been staked on that light footprint policy, and with things going to badly, doesn't this give Abizaid and Pace a motive to oppose a move that could make their past positions look bad?
So, to whom does Bush listen?