08/25/2005: Time to cut our losses and run.
Larry Johnson at No Quarter makes the powerful case that it's time to just get the hell out of Iraq:
Sometimes in life there are no good options. It is part of our nature to always assume that we can fix a problem. But in life there are many problems or situations where there is no pleasant solution. If you were at the Windows on the World Restaurant in the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 9 am on September 11, 2001 you had no good options. You could choose to jump or to burn to death. Some choice.Bottom line: we've lost in Iraq, because we're not willing to make the sacrifices that it will take to win. Time to leave and cut our losses. But make sure you read the whole thing.
A hard, clear-eyed look at the current situation in Iraq reveals that we are confronted with equally bad choices. If we stay we are facilitating the creation of an Islamic state that will be a client of Iran. If we pull out we are likely to leave the various ethnic groups of Iraq to escalate the civil war already underway. In my judgment we have no alternative but to pull our forces out of Iraq. Like it or not, such a move will be viewed as a defeat of the United States and will create some very serious foreign policy and security problems for us for years to come. However, we are unwilling to make the sacrifices required to achieve something approximating victory. And, what would victory look like? At a minimum we should expect a secular society where the average Iraqi can move around the country without fear of being killed or kidnapped. That is not the case nor is it on the horizon.
We may even be past the point of no return where we could impose changes that would put Iraq back on course to be a secular, democratic nation without sparking a major Shiite counteroffensive. Therefore the time has come to minimize further unnecessary loss of life by our troops and re-craft a new foreign and security policy for the Middle East.
We could potentially defeat the Sunni insurgents if we were willing and able to deploy sufficient troops to control the key infiltration routes that run along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys. But we are neither willing nor able. It would require at least 380,000 troops devoted exclusively to that mission. Part of that mission would entail killing anyone who moved into controlled areas, such as roadways. In adopting those kinds of rules of engagement we would certainly increase the risk of killing innocent civilians. But, we would impose effective control over those routes. That is a prerequisite to gaining control over the insurgency.
We cannot meet the increased manpower requirements in Iraq without a draft. We do not currently have enough troops in the Army and the Marine Corps to supply and sustain that size of force in the field. But, even with a draft, we would be at least 15 months away from having the new batch of trained soldiers ready to deploy. More importantly, there is no political support for a draft. In other words, we’re unwilling to do what is required to even have a shot at winning.
While the insurgency is not likely to acquire sufficient strength to fight and defeat our forces directly in large set piece battles, they do have the wherewithal to destroy infrastructure and challenge our control of lines of communication. The ultimate test of a government’s legitimacy is whether or not it can protect its citizens from threats foreign and domestic. Thus far the Iraqi Government has made scant progress on this front. Today’s attack in central Baghdad, by a uniformed unit of masked insurgents, represents another disturbing milestone in the continued growth of the insurgency. One of these days we should not be surprised when an insurgent force breaches the Green Zone and takes some U.S. diplomats hostage.
An ideal, but unlikely outcome, is that the secularists, who are trying desperately to craft a legitimate government, will persuade a sufficient number of Shia and Sunni leaders to turn their back on a religious-based government. Unfortunately, they don’t control weapons or militia. Force remains the ultimate means for deciding a country’s fate. In this case the guns are in the hands of those who favor an Islamic state over a secular nation.
If the United States tries to intervene now to compel power sharing on behalf of Sunni interests we are likely to trigger a backlash by the Shia majority. Mullahs like Moqtada al Sadr have demonstrated that they can mobilize combat units to kill Americans when their interests are challenged.
Our choice is simple—either we invest in the military resources and personnel required to defeat the Sunni insurgents and allow the Shia and Kurds to consolidate power or we withdraw and let the Shia, Sunni, and Kurds find their own solution. We cannot ask our soldiers and Marines to give their lives and sacrifice their bodies for a new Islamic state. It is true that our withdrawal will create a major vacuum and damage our prestige. But the alternative, i.e., that we stay and try to train up sufficient Iraqi forces and help the fledgling Islamic Government get on its feet, will leave us the favorite target of insurgents and terrorists. And after we have shed the blood of our sons and daughters in trying to create a new government that will be controlled by Islamists, those Islamists will ultimately insist that we leave Iraq and no longer meddle in their affairs.
Len on 08.25.05 @ 07:59 AM CST