June 30, 2007

Surge Strategy

Two good pieces this week at the Standard, doing what one rarely if ever sees on the left side of the political divide these days.. that is, talking seriously about what the U.S. is actually doing in Iraq as the surge gets underway. First Frederick Kagan's Understanding General Petraeus's Strategy:

It is now beyond question that the Bush Administration pursued a flawed approach to the war in Iraq from 2003 to 2007. That approach relied on keeping the American troop presence in Iraq as small as possible, pushing unprepared Iraqi Security Forces into the lead too rapidly, and using political progress as the principal means of bringing the violence under control. In other words, it is an approach similar to the one proposed by the ISG and by some who are now pushing for political benchmarks and the rapid drawdown of American forces as the keys to success in the war. It is no more likely to work now than it was then. Political progress is something that follows the establishment of security, not something that causes it. The sorts of political compromises that Iraq's parties must make are extraordinarily difficult--one might even say impossible--in the context of uncontrolled terrorism and sectarian violence. And the Iraqi Security Forces, although significantly better than they were this time last year, are still too small and insufficiently capable to establish security on their own or even to maintain it in difficult and contested areas without significant continuing coalition support.

And Bill Kristol does not think Sen. Lugar's recent speech qualifies as "serious":

Students of American politics should read Lugar's 50-minute speech as a case study in pseudo-thoughtfulness, full of cheek-puffing and chin-pulling. It fails to deal seriously with the real strategic choices the United States faces in the war we're fighting. ---

Lugar also fails to explain how the partial withdrawal and redeployment of U.S. troops that he recommends, along with various diplomatic initiatives, would actually achieve the fundamental goals he identifies--preventing horrendous violence in Iraq, denying victory to al Qaeda and/or Iran, and avoiding great damage to U.S. credibility. The speech is hollow at its center, and unserious to the core.

Contrasting Lugar's political posturing with an actual analysis of the surge by Australian David Kilkullen, long a critic of Bush's Iraq policy, Kristol concludes...

....this is the voice of a serious and thoughtful man, working with other serious and thoughtful men to change the situation in Iraq. The appropriate response of a serious and thoughtful political leadership in Washington would be to give Petraeus, Odierno, and the troops at least a fighting chance to implement the surge--and to succeed.

But too many of our politicians are not serious. As retired General Jack Keane told the New York Sun last week, "The tragedy of these efforts is we are on the cusp of potentially being successful in the next year in a way that we have failed in the three-plus preceding years, but because of this political pressure, it looks like we intend to pull out the rug from underneath that potential success." I would only qualify Keane's statement in this way: Such a frivolous and thoughtless betrayal of our fighting men would be too contemptible to be called tragedy.

Posted by dan at June 30, 2007 12:30 PM