Archive for Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New U.S. plan for Iraq based on delusions

January 17, 2007


All the angst in Washington over President Bush's plan for a troop "surge" in Iraq is obscuring this fact - there is no plan.

And there is no surge.

A surge, according to Webster's dictionary, is a "sudden, strong increase." But the president is sending only a trickle of new U.S. troops to Baghdad this month and next month. The number is not 21,000, as he stated, but 7,000, according to congressional testimony last week by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the join chiefs of staff.

An additional 10,500 may come in installments over the next several months - IF the Iraqi government delivers on its promises, such as ending the sectarian violence. The likelihood of that is about as high as the odds that you or I will win the lottery.

In other words, the president's plan is based on thin air.

The whole premise of a surge reflects a belated recognition that the United States never sent enough soldiers to Iraq in the first place. The president finally admitted "mistakes were made" (although he just gave a medal to Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary who refused to send sufficient troops).

Yet Bush seems determined to keep on making similar errors. The president rightly notes the reason that previous U.S. troop surges failed: There weren't enough U.S. or Iraqi soldiers to hold areas that the Americans had cleared of insurgents. When U.S. troops left, insurgents returned and renewed the killing and intimidation of Iraqi residents.

But, according to the army's new counterinsurgency manual, you need 20 soldiers per 1,000 population to secure conflicted areas. By that math, 120,000 troops would be required to bring stability to Baghdad, a city of 6 million.

There are 24,000 U.S. forces already in Baghdad, according to Pace, so even if 17,500 more U.S. soldiers dribbled in over five months, the numbers would hardly be sufficient.

The president claims that Iraqi troops will make up the slack. But Iraqi forces have repeatedly failed to hold cleared areas in the past. They fail to show up or fight and have been penetrated by sectarian militias and death squads. Why should it be different this time?

It will be different, Bush argues, because his new plan was really proposed by Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has promised this time to provide security for Baghdad. The Iraqi leader has also promised, according to Bush, that he will no longer prevent U.S. troops from entering neighborhoods controlled by Shiite militias.

I found it hard to believe that the president could make this claim with a straight face. This was not Maliki's plan, as Maliki himself has made clear. On the contrary, the prime minister wanted Bush to pull U.S. troops out of Baghdad and give Iraq's Shiite-led government carte blanche to go after the Sunnis.

Maliki never even showed up for an Iraqi government press conference on the Bush plan on Thursday. His advisers stressed - contrary to Bush claims - that Maliki will decide whether U.S. forces can enter Shiite areas. From conversations with Iraqi government leaders, I am convinced Maliki will not take on the Mahdi militia of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - a prime goal of the new American plan.

Indeed, the new Bush plan is based on a series of delusions. A trickle is not a surge. Maliki is not on board. Iraqi leaders will not meet the president's benchmarks - on providing security or pursuing reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis.

And Iraq, contrary to the president's claims, is now engaged in a civil war. Such was not the case in 2003-2004 - when more U.S. troops might have made a difference. But it is the case now.

The U.S. presence prevents the cycle of tit-for-tat ethnic violence from escalating to its full fury, but the new, small troop infusion has little chance of stopping the sectarian warfare.

The real question Americans should be debating, a question obscured by the fuss over the surge, is this: Do we still have any military role in Iraq, or should we let Iraqis settle their quarrel in their own way?

If we choose the latter option, we must confront the most crucial question of all: What kind of regional diplomacy is required to prevent Iraq's civil war from spilling over its borders and engulfing a region that produces much of our oil? Bush rejected serious regional diplomacy in his surge speech, ruling out talks with Syria or Iran. In fact, he hinted at outright confrontation with Damascus and Tehran.

Thinking Iraq can be stabilized by expanding the war is the greatest of delusions. Let's stop obsessing about the surge-that's-not, and start discussing how to contain the spillover from the Iraq war.

- Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer.


chmills57 11 years, 5 months ago

There is a good chance President Bush is delusional. He has manifested a number of traits seen in people who suffer from bipolar disorder, and his mother has said that "she" has bipolar disorder.

The President's plan for a troop "surge" in Iraq is believed to have originated with Frederick Kagan at The American Enterprise Institute. See Right Web - Profile - Frederick Kagan at

Following are several lines from Frederick W. Kagan's "A Plan for Success in Iraq," an interim report presented as a PowerPoint presentation at the AEI event "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success" on December 14, 2006. (The official version was published January 5, 2007.) . . . "This approach requires a national commitment to victory in Iraq:

  • The ground forces must accept longer tours for several years. National Guard units will have to accept increased deployments during this period.
  • Equipment shortages must be overcome by transferring equipment from non-deploying active duty, National Guard, and reserve units to those about to deploy. Military industry must be mobilized to provide replacement equipment sets urgently.
  • The president must request a dramatic increase in reconstruction aid for Iraq. Responsibility and accountability for reconstruction must be assigned to established agencies. The president must insist upon the completion of reconstruction projects. The president should also request a dramatic increase in CERP funds.
  • The president must request a substantial increase in ground forces end strength. This increase is vital to sustaining the morale of the combat forces by ensuring that relief is on the way. The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this age." . . . .

C.D. Mills

Commenting has been disabled for this item.