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Thursday, January 11, 2007

bush vs. reality

The Plan

Last night, President George W. Bush unveiled his new plan to secure Iraq over the course of the next two years. Speaking from the White House library, a frazzled Mr. Bush told the world, "The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people--and it is unacceptable to me...Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me." That admission is a step in the right direction. Finally, the Bush administration is acknowledging the same reality that the American people acknowledged this past November: Iraq is bad, it is the administration's fault, and it is time for a change in strategy.

The centerpiece of Mr. Bush's plan is to send about 17,000 soldiers to war-torn Baghdad and about 4,000 Marines to Anbar province. In Pentagon/media-speak, this tactic has been dubbed the "troop surge." The mission of the military in Iraq will also shift from a search-and-destroy operation to a search-destroy-hold tactic in which Iraqi troops and police, backed by a substantial U.S. military presence, will engage and defeat the enemy and then occupy territory in order to prevent the reorganization of the militias. This new tactic (often referred to as an "ink-blot" tactic) is a common counterinsurgency practice that has, up until now, been ignored by the Bush administration.

President Bush also explained that the Iraqi government would commit USD10 billion to reconstruction of infrastructure. Furthermore, the U.S. will ensure that Iraq passes legislation to share oil revenue amongst the population, and will hold provincial elections later this year. Iraq will also alter the de-Baathification process in order to bring more people with political experience back into play in Iraq, possibly including security officials.

Many Democrats are rightly incensed that President Bush ignored the exalted Iraq Study Group's suggestions to negotiate with Syria and Iran. While the ISG report was a bit nearsighted, Bush should have headed the advice of Vali R. Nasr at the Council of Foreign Relations:

"He recommends a regional conference that includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as Iraq’s six neighbors (Iran, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kuwait). He suggests a UN envoy be appointed to “shuttle” between the various states and assess what their shared interests are and how to leverage their influence over Iraq’s feuding parties."

Good idea.

We Broke It...

Bush's new plan has a lot of potential. The increase in troops may provide the necessary edge to defeat the Shi'a militias that are fighting in and around Baghdad. If the Iraqi and U.S. militaries can successfully gain control of the capitol, then the political process in Iraq will be able to move forward, unencumbered by security considerations and the looming threat of civil war. Congressional Democrats argue that the U.S. should seek to jumpstart the political process in Iraq and bring all interested parties to the table. Realistically, the use of force will be a much more effective peacemaker than any overly-optimistic political dealings. As long as Shi'a militias are engaged in an insurgency, political unification of Iraq will remain stalled. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen whether or not an extra 20,000 troops will be a large enough presence to really secure Iraq. This may be a case of too little, too late.

Democrats are opposed to any troop increase in Iraq and instead argue for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops. They maintain that the Bush plan is no different from strategies put forth by the administration in the past, that it is time for the Iraqis to step up and the U.S. to leave Iraq. It is not time to leave Iraq. The United States is responsible for the toppling of the Iraqi government and the destruction of Iraqi infrastructure. The current situation in Iraq is entirely a byproduct of American policies. It would be immoral and irresponsible to withdraw from Iraq without America putting forth its best efforts to bring peace and stability. At this point in time, an Iraq left to its own devices will be either an oil-rich country in a perpetual state of civil war or an oil-rich extremist Shi'a-led state with allegiance to Iran. Neither circumstance is in the interest of the United States or the world. Mr. Bush's plan may not work, but simply leaving Iraq will guarantee failure. Democrats (the majority of whom voted for this war in the first place, and therefore bear some blame for the current situation) owe it to Iraq and the world to work with President Bush to develop a comprehensive solution for the Iraqi problem, based on Mr. Bush's new proposal.

Click here for a full transcript/video of the Presidential address.

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