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.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, , , , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. glasnost says:

    Not to denigrate the Iraqi blogger, but this is a very vague, almost vapid post in its lack of detail, insight, and guidance. You’re right in that “keep the troops in there but don’t have them patrol much” won’t help the war become more popular. It’s essentially the strategy we were following between mid 05 and the surge – “they stand up, we stand down”. Except, surprise, as people stood up, the conflict got larger, not smaller. This might have been because an occupying army can’t really stand down as long as it continues to, um, occupy, and more or less aggressive postures don’t really eliminate the aggravation of the locals and distortion of their political system.

    What the post really demonstrates is how marginal the utility of active US peacekeeping efforts are to this Iraqi blogger. Stand and watch, mix it up, he doesn’t seem to think his life is made much better by either of those options.

    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.

    Here, he’s just flattering his conservative U.S. readership.

    Nevertheless, what you’re talking about is clearly politically sustainable, even mainstream. The Senate “withdrawal plan” explicitly excepts training and Al-Quieda hunting from the withdrawal request. US troops are not abandoning those two tasks – especially #2 – anytime soon under anyone’s suggestions. For better or worse.

    You’re right, though. US troops will likely bleed as long as they guard the Green Zone. Of course, in Kurdistan, where they are welcomed, they might be viable.

  2. graywolf says:

    How much longer before Lieberman switches control of the Senate to the GOP (who don’t want it)?…….Rightly so.

  3. anjin-san says:

    Not sure how this reasonable strategy fits in with the Bush Admin’s goal for Iraq, which is basically “make sure someone else gets the blame”.

  4. brainy435 says:

    “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.”

    Uh… isn’t part of Petraeus’s strategy to get American troops OUT of large, fortified bases and onto the streets to engage everyday Iraqis? This would seem to mean that this was more anti-surge than middle ground.