The Middle Way
Alaa, The Mesopotamian, proposes a middle way for the U. S. between the poles of the surge and total withdrawal:
Thus a middle course, which seems to me a sensible alternative, is for the U.S. and allied forces to withdraw to secure bases within Iraq and concentrate on providing training, material and strategic support to the Iraqi forces. This of course, hinges on bringing up these Iraqi forces to the required level of ability. But this process will be greatly accelerated by allowing these forces to work and manage on their own more and more, and ASAP. It is like any other training task. If you are teaching somebody to swim, the sooner you can let him float on his own the quicker will he become a swimmer. But of course the trainer must keep a watchful eye.
That’s pretty close to a strategy suggested by Juan Cole perhaps a year and a half ago.
I agree with Alaa’s assessment of the impact of total U. S. withdrawal from Iraq:
Complete abandon and retreat by the Americans would indeed constitute defeat and a victory for the enemy, and would turn the tables completely and ignite a larger conflagration in the region.
I don’t feel that I can comment in anything like an informed manner on the surge.
However, I don’t think that what Alaa proposes is politically sustainable here in the United States. Congressional leaders have clearly made up their minds. You have only to turn to the current headlines for that:
WASHINGTON — Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman rebuked Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Friday, saying he strongly disagreed with Reid’s assessment that the Iraq war is “lost.”
“This is exactly the wrong time to question our strategy in Iraq,” said Lieberman, “or that our new strategy has failed.”
Reid Thursday triggered an avalanche of Republican protest when he said that “the secretary of state, secretary of defense and — you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows — [know] this war is lost and the surge is not accompolishing anything…”
In my view that view will dominate so long as bombs keep going off in Baghdad markets even if no American lives are lost. And can there really be secure bases for American soldiers in Iraq? As Alaa notes, the enemy has no hope of achieving his objectives so long as American forces stay in Iraq.
In essence that’s the reason for the surge. The conventional wisdom here is that there’s no place for American forces in the middle of an Iraqi civil war (even if that middle is far from the war itself) and, until things are substantially more secure there than they are right now, that’s where they’d be.