Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Difference between War and War Games

Jonathan Rauch National Journal:A Bad Idea That Deserves A Try
President Bush, characteristically, is not leveling with the public about the risks he is taking with his plan to "surge" more U.S. forces into Iraq. Jack Keane, a retired Army vice chief of staff and a leading proponent of the strategy, is more frank. Here is what he told Charlie Rose earlier this month:

"If we have to go into Sadr City" -- a Shiite stronghold in Baghdad -- "what will happen will be rather dramatic. The Badr Corps and the Jaish al-Mahdi [two major Shiite militias], which are not aligned, will align. And they'll also be able to align the vigilante groups, which are essentially protecting the neighborhoods and causing some mischief and havoc. They'll all get aligned, and we'll have to contend with about 70,000 people under arms in one of the heavily and most densely populated areas of Baghdad."

Read that again. Then repeat after me: Uh-oh.

Painfully aware that the Iraq war has given commentators a lesson in humility, I offer the following assessment with no certainty at all but with the hope of at least contributing to clarity: The Bush Surge is unlikely to work, but Congress should not try to stop it.

Going to war against the Shiites would be a nightmare, and everyone knows it. American forces could soon find themselves in firefights not only with tens of thousands of armed and angry Shiite militants but also with Iraqi police and army units, in or out of uniform. The Pentagon could win such a conflict militarily, Keane told Rose, "but in my judgment we should avoid it at all costs, and try to resolve it politically."

In effect, Keane appears to be saying that the plan works at an acceptable cost only if the United States can pacify the Shiite militants without forcibly confronting them. To me, and possibly also to the Sadrists, this looks like what gamblers call a bluff.

So why shouldn't the Democratic Congress block such an unpromising strategy? Three reasons point, I think, independently in the same direction.

First, the Constitution. It provides for one commander-in-chief, not 536.

A determined president can evade all but the tightest congressional attempts to override his military decisions, and any sufficiently tight congressional strictures are likely to emasculate the presidency and fracture the Congress.

Second, politics. Blocking the president's last-resort plan would divide the country for years to come. Many Republicans would believe that the war was winnable and that Democrats lost it. If the United States is going to leave Iraq, it should do so when even Republicans agree that there is little reason to stay -- which they will, if Bush's Hail Mary pass fails.

Third, morality. America has not quite discharged its debt to Iraq.

Apart from evacuating as many as possible of those Iraqis who personally aided the American effort, the United States can do nothing for moderate and peace-loving Iraqis if the Baghdad government is determined to press or abet a sectarian agenda. A tragedy will unfold. But if there is any chance that the Iraqi government might yet be salvageable, then the United States owes it to the Iraqis to find out.

Once the surge takes place, Americans are likely to know in a matter of months whether the Maliki government is serious about pacifying Shiite militants, coming to terms with Sunnis, and cleaning up the ministries and security forces. If not, Washington can begin withdrawing forces and shift into damage-control mode -- not without guilt, but at least with certainty.

Politically it makes sense. Morally it seems outrageous to advocate sending troops, or more accurately allowing troops to be sent, on a disastrous course of action that you believe will result in a good number of them coming home in flag draped caskets without a reward worthy of their sacrifice.

1 comment:

RoseCovered Glasses said...

USA Today reported on 16 January 2007 in its Washington Section that the CIA plans to utilize more open sources and blogs in its intelligence work and outsource more of its intelligence software development to commercial contractors in an attempt to re-establish itself as the premiere world intelligence agency.

The "Strategic Intent" is posted on the CIA public web site. Defense Industry Daily further reports that General Electric is gobbling up Smith's Industries for $4.8B.

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak. Let's look at this for a moment and do our patriotic duty by reading along with the CIA (after all, they have announced they are reading this blog)

1. The new CIA approach comes exactly at the formation of the agency’s new "External Advisory Board", which consists of the following:

* A former Pentagon Chairman of the Joints Chief who is now a Northrop Grumman Corporation Board Member

* A deposed Chairman of the Board of Hewlett Packard Corporation (HP)

* A Former Deputy Secretary of Defense who now heads up a Washington think tank with Henry Kissinger

2. Northrop Grumman Corporation and Hewlett Packard are two huge government contractors in the Pentagon and CIA custom software development arena. Their combined contracts with the government just for IT are in the multiples of millions. I wonder what the advisory board is filling the CIA's ear with?

3. Washington "Think Tanks" are fronts for big time lobbies, sophisticated in their operations, claiming non-partisanship, but tremendously influential on K Street. If a lobby cannot buy its way in, why not sit on the advisory board?

4. GE already has the military aircraft jet engine market. In buying Smith's, it takes one more major defense corporation out of the opposition and further reduces the government's leverage through competition. GE now joins the other monoliths such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon with tremendous leverage in the $500B +++ per year defense market.

5. Note the synergy that now exists between the Pentagon and the CIA. Note the influence by the major corporations.

6. Also note the balance in your bank account and your aspirations for the generations of the future. Both are going down.

7. The huge Military Industrial Complex (MIC) continues to march. Taxes and national debt will be forced to march straight up the wall to support it. Do you have any "Intelligence” to offer the Pentagon, the CIA and the MIC? For further inspiration please see: