Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Politics, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 12:46 pm

This post is a penance of sorts. Consider it an apologia for an overabundance of cynicism on my part about the President’s intentions regarding Iraq. For if reports from the Pentagon and elsewhere in government can be believed, it appears that the President is about to step up to the plate and go for the long ball in this, his last attempt at both defining victory and turning around the situation in Iraq.

The two are interconnected. In order to achieve victory, we must define it in the most realistic terms possible. This will necessitate a total rethinking of our strategy - a process underway as I write this - as well as the realization that what we want to happen in Iraq and what will happen in that country are irreconcilable and that our strategy must change to reflect that fact.

For instance, The goal of bringing “democracy” to Iraq will probably not be up to this generation of Iraqi leaders. Old hatreds, old scores to settle appear to be too much to put aside at the present. The best we can hope for is to stop the slaughter of the Sunnis and prevent a tragedy of historic proportions. We can do this by continuing to fight the insurgency while going after the perpetrators of the Shia on Sunni violence; the militias that are outside of government control and answer only to their warlords. The kind of government that will emerge from this process will not be entirely to our liking. It will be dominated by fundamentalist Shias who will see Iran as a natural ally.

The secular parties in Iraq are too weak, too divided at the moment to fight this trend. The two largest political parties - the United Iraqi Alliance and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) are too well organized and well financed to defeat at the ballot box. We must accept the fact that a united, secular Iraq is a goal for another generation of Iraqis and will not happen while the current crop of leaders govern there.

Where we can succeed is in making Iraq stable. As Tony Blankley so eloquently put it:

If Washington gossip is right, even many of the president’s own advisers in the White House and the key cabinet offices have given up on success. Official Washington, the media and much of the public have fallen under the unconscionable thrall of defeatism. Which is to say that they cannot conceive of a set of policies — for a nation of 300 million with an annual GDP of more than $12 trillion dollars and all the skills and technologies known to man — to subdue the city of Baghdad and environs. Do you think Gen. Patton or Abe Lincoln or Winston Churchill or Joseph Stalin would have thrown their hands up and say “I give up, there’s nothing we can do?”

Absolutely spot on. And that’s what was so extraordinarily disappointing about the ISG’s recommendations. While we may have been expecting too much given the fact that James Baker was in charge, there were other members of that group who should have dug in their heels until “The Way Forward” would have had the addendum “To Victory” attached to it.

I realize I’m raising the hackles of my lefty friends by talking about “victory” in Iraq. You have already decided that because our original criteria for winning the war has been superseded by events - admittedly largely as a result of our own blunders - that there is no honorable strategy that would lead to success. I would answer by saying that while you are technically correct that the kind of victory first envisioned by the Administration is not attainable, the fact is that we can vastly improve the security situation and assist the Iraqi government with training its troops as well as mediating deals on power sharing, reconciliation, and oil revenue - in other words, cobble together a viable Iraqi state. And while you and much of the rest of the world might insist on referring to our “defeat” in Iraq, it won’t matter if we can accomplish those goals in the next few years.

All depends on whether or not the President has it in him to go against the conventional wisdom in Washington as well as a skeptical and even hostile American public and dramatically - dramatically - alter course. Tony Blankley sums up Bush’s dilemma:

For rarely has a president stood more alone at a moment of high crisis than does our president now as he makes his crucial policy decisions on the Iraq War. His political opponents stand triumphant, yet barren of useful guidance. Many — if not most — of his fellow party men and women in Washington are rapidly joining his opponents in a desperate effort to save their political skins in 2008. Commentators who urged the president on in 2002-03, having fallen out of love with their ideas, are quick to quibble with and defame the president.

James Baker, being called out of his business dealings by Congress to advise the president, has delivered a cynical document intended to build a political consensus for “honorable” surrender. Richard Haass (head of the Council on Foreign Relations) spoke approvingly of the Baker report on “Meet the Press,” saying: “It’s incredibly important… that the principle lesson [of our intervention Iraq] not be that the United States is unreliable or we lacked staying power… to me it is essentially important for the future of this country that Iraq be seen, if you will, as Iraq’s failure, not as America’s failure.”

That such transparent sophism from the leader of the American foreign policy establishment is dignified with the title of realism, only further exemplifies the loneliness of the president in his quest for a workable solution to the current danger.

The elites have abandoned Iraq. Democrats want to but don’t want it to look as if they countenance defeat. Republicans are scrambling for cover. The rank and file of his party have all but given up. As Blankley so eloquently points out, the President is quite alone.

Or is he?

Apparently, the President still has the support for victory among the soldiers:

As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to “double down” in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff will present their assessment and recommendations to Bush at the Pentagon today. Military officials, including some advising the chiefs, have argued that an intensified effort may be the only way to get the counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory.

The approach overlaps somewhat a course promoted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). But the Pentagon proposals add several features, including the confrontation with Sadr, a possible renewed offensive in the Sunni stronghold of Al Anbar province, a large Iraqi jobs program and a proposal for a long-term increase in the size of the military.

Such an option would appear to satisfy Bush’s demand for a strategy focused on victory rather than disengagement. It would disregard key recommendations and warnings of the Iraq Study Group, however, and provide little comfort for those fearful of a long, open-ended U.S. commitment in the country. Only 12% of Americans support a troop increase, whereas 52% prefer a fixed timetable for withdrawal, a Los Angeles Times/ Bloomberg poll has found.

“I think it is worth trying,” a defense official said. “But you can’t have the rhetoric without the resources. This is a double down” — the gambling term for upping a bet.

This is most welcome news. And before someone in the comments suggests that there are no troops to send, you are incorrect. There are tens of thousands of National Guardsmen and reserve troops who could be deployed in Iraq within 6 months. The problem is that the political pain involved in dipping even more into the National Guard units and Reserves for forced call ups could very well start a mass anti-war movement that would would be reminiscent of the Viet Nam era. There is also the chance that denuding the United States of these troops, we would be vulnerable if another conflict broke out in the world where American troops would be necessary. And there’s always the chance that the Democrats and some Republicans would cut war appropriations if such a plan were proposed.

But if Bush is willing to give it a shot, I’ll be with him. The military realizes that there’s still a chance for success in Iraq if we gamble that increasing troop strength by 30% will allow us to fight the insurgency as well as keep the peace in Baghdad. We will have increased casualties. And I have no doubt that the insurgents will see to it that civilian casualties skyrocket by hiding amongst them whenever they get the chance and daring us to ferret them out. But if the military can do its job and the bureaucrats can do theirs, there is a chance - just a chance - that we might succeed.

Much will depend on the new Iraqi government that we are organizing - one that will not include Prime Minister Maliki or his puppetmaster Muqtada al-Sadr. And if the Iraqis can put someone in charge that will allow us to go after Sadr and his militia, I would up our chances for success greatly. It will then be up to the Iraqi government to convince the people that they are serious about governing the country for all Iraqis - not just the Shias. For this, national reconciliation is absolutely essential. This would mean bringing to justice some of the worst of the Saddam era gangsters as well as hunting down some of the more recent Shia death squad leaders who have taken such a fearful toll on Sunnis.

This is not impossible. It can be done. But it starts with security for the people. And until the insurgency is cut down to size and the militias and death squads put out of business, the rest won’t mean a thing.

And the only way to better security is by substantially upping our commitment of troops. Argue that they should have been there all along if you want to. All it proves is that you are looking at Pearl Harbor while the rest of us are looking at V-J Day, to use a WW II analogy. And given all that has gone before - the mistakes, the waste, the miscalculations, and yes, the lies told by our government to downplay the seriousness of the situation there - I will support moving forward dealing with the situation we have now rather than criticizing or bemoaning how we got ourselves into this serious crisis.

There’s nothing we can do about what’s gone on the last three years. What is important is what we do now. And in that, I will support the President as long as he is committed to really changing the situation in Iraq for the better and not just fiddling with his policy around the edges.

Boldness will win the day in Iraq. Let’s hope the President, lonely as he might be, has it in him to see this venture through to success.


Justin Logan at Cato at Liberty disputes the idea that any number of troops (save a massive commitment) would make any difference in counterinsurgency efforts.

His reasoning is probably sound but I don’t think mere numbers can tell the story here. Can a 40-50,000 increase in troops for Baghdad improve the security situation enough that more Iraqi troops would be able to do some good there?

This NY Times article would seem to indicate that much of Logan’s numbers deficit might be made up by Iraqi troops. And as far as “defeating” the insurgency, there are other aspects to the “neo con” plan such as the jobs program and a stronger government that might affect his conclusions there as well.

All things considered, don’t give me a “mulligan” as Logan sneeringly refers to this final effort but rather one more round before throwing in the towel. What Logan doesn’t allude to are the consequences of total failure - a place that he believes we’ve already arrived at. I reject that idea completely. Vast improvements can be made if we make the effort and if the Iraqis do their part. And that is definitely worth it.


Nikolay correctly points out in the comments that the SCIRI and the UIA are the same party.

Technically, the UIA is the governing coalition made up mostly of Shia parties - including SCIRI - as well as Chalabi’s secular Iraqi National Congress, al-Maliki’s Dawa party, and a smattering of smaller Shia and Sunni parties. Al-Sadr’s influence arises from a party that he does not officially endorse but that is made up largely of his militia, the National Independent Cadres and Elites. The hidden hand behind the UIA was at one time the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani. But jostling for power by the likes of al-Sadr soured the old man on politics and he supposedly “retired” from the fray last summer.

At the moment, there is no serious rival to the SCIRI although al-Sadr weilds influence in several of the minor Shia parties as well as the Cadres and Elites party. Whether he can emerge as a true electoral rival to the SCIRI remains to be seen.

Thanks to Nikolay for correcting the error.


  1. This post is spot on. I could not have expressed this better myself. I have been saying for years that we need more troops in Iraq. We needed them all along. This should have been obvious by about June 2003 that we needed more troops. This should be a lesson that we need to learn should there be future wars. What we did in the past is only relevant with regards to lessons to be learned. I’m pleased to see that perhaps someone has figured out that we need more troops and maybe the issue will be seriously addressed.

    The notion that we can’t commit more troops is an just an excuse not to do it. It is a valid point that more troops for Iraq may make us vunerable elsewhere. This is why, for the long haul, we probably need a draft.

    What many Americans do not seem to understand is that failure to achieve an Iraq that is at least nominally allied with the US in the GWOT and is stable is inconsistent with the US remaining one of the world’s major powers and may, in fact, place the very survival of the country in grave danger.

    The US has faced greater challenges than it currently faces in Iraq and has survived them and even prospered. In order to win, we will need to properly define the enemy and it will need to make the appropiate commitment of troops and resources. The terrorist enemy is a group of people who adhere literally to their religous text of the Koran. the tactics we choose going forward must have the goal in mind of either eliminating the current Iranian government or removing it entirely.

    If any politician thinks they are going to save their political skins by abandoning Iraq, they are mistaken. If we fail in Iraq, America’s global position will be lost and the very survival of the country will probably be in grave danger. In other words, there will not be any political skins to save.

    Comment by B.Poster — 12/14/2006 @ 2:24 pm

  2. I am totally with the President should he choose to go “all in” in Iraq. Sure the left will squawk and moan - but they already do that.

    Comment by Gayle Miller — 12/14/2006 @ 3:57 pm

  3. The mad/rad left was in a frenzy a while back over the retired generals who were being publicly critical of Bush/Rummy, assailing them for putting an insufficient number of boots on the ground at various points in the campaign.

    Of course the implications of the generals’ statements are that more recruits are needed to achieve success in Iraq, but the mad/rad left is so preoccupied with bashing the administration and inflating the recent slight electoral shift into a mandate that they’ve yet to realize these generals are speaking to all Americans, not only to Bush supporters.

    It’s amazing what is considered to be reasonable and logical in LibWorld, where Bush really isn’t the president, somebody else’s war is being fought in Iraq, a Republican/corporate conspiracy exists for every occasion and it is only conservatives who are being intolerant.


    Comment by Chip — 12/14/2006 @ 5:26 pm

  4. The two largest political parties – the United Iraqi Alliance and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)

    Correction: SCIRI and UIA are not two different parties. SCIRI is a part of UIA.

    Comment by Nikolay — 12/14/2006 @ 7:38 pm

  5. While these call ups may lead to a short term reduction of troops at the ready , there are millions of veterans,myself included,that would readily return to service at a moments notice if the need arose.

    Comment by rockdalian — 12/14/2006 @ 8:13 pm

  6. I share your sentiments - I’m with the president if he chooses to go “all in”.

    As for the recommendation that there has to be an increase in the number of US troops, we have to ensure that this isn’t just a short-term measure that would simply result in more targets for the death squads and insurgents to trip over one another to kill. [More]

    Comment by harrison — 12/14/2006 @ 8:37 pm

  7. I still think we can pull this out, but it has to be fought on the battlefield but there needs to be a communication team to counter the overwhelmingly hostile media. Of course, facts on the ground will be what counts, but the president has to communicate the stakes. He’s been terrible doing that.

    Comment by Kate — 12/14/2006 @ 8:40 pm

  8. Although I find myself in agreement with Cato, I hope he’s wrong and Rick turns out to be right. I really want the U.S. to successful in pacifying Iraq which seems to be edging towards an abyss of complete anarchy by the day.
    My brain tells me 30,000 more troops won’t be enough for what Bush wants to accomplish; my gut hopes my brain is wrong.
    And B.Poster may be right: to fight a long term Globar War on Terror we probably will need to initiate a military draft.

    Comment by Johnny Tremaine — 12/14/2006 @ 9:28 pm

  9. Perhaps even more important than an increase in the number of troops is allowing the ones who are currently in Iraq and Afghanistan to actually fight. Right now American troops are essentially fighting with one hand behind their backs. I think both more troops are needed and the ones who are there need to be allowed to pursue the enemy more aggressively.

    Also, part of a successful war effort is effectively getting our message accross. Essentially we have allowed the lies of the enemy to go virtually unchallenged. This will need to change.


    I’m not aware of a major war effort that has been fought with only non drafted troops. I could be wrong of course. A draft was used in WWII and I think a draft was used in other major wars. The enemy we currently face has goals that are every bit as mbitious as those we faced during WWII and they are steadily growing stronger. I estimate we have, at most, a five year window to be able to deal with this. After five years, we may find ourselves either unable to deal wtih this enemy or our enemies will force on us a war that will be even more costly in terms of lives lost and money spent than WWII was.

    In the past, we have tried to appease implacable enemies and it did not work out. It appears some people want to go down the same path. If we do so, I don’t think it will end any better than it has in the past. I don’t want to make the same mistakes again. This is why I think it is imperative to defeat this enemy now while we still can.

    Comment by B.Poster — 12/14/2006 @ 9:51 pm

  10. Although I don’t read Andrew Sullivan much, I clicked on a link to his site where he describes what is going on now in Iraq, Lebanon, and soon the rest of the Middle East as the beginning of a new Thirty Years War based on religious and ethnic conflict akin to the one that decimated Europe. He says basically that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was the trigger. I think he’s probably right, that we’re at the beginning of something pretty fricking terrible in world history, but did the U.S. trigger it? Probably not. Did it give the existing simmering conflict a shot of adrenaline? Probably so.

    Comment by Johnny Tremaine — 12/14/2006 @ 10:10 pm

  11. While I would like to go “all in” for Iraq and achieve a situation where the country is stable and allied with the US, we will need to ask how such a decision impacts broader American national security. We need to get back to basics and properly identify our enemies and then list them in the order of how dangerous they are to American national security. Once this done, then we can devise plans to deal with each of them or all of them together.

    In the following order, America’s most dangerous enemies are Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran, Al Qaeda, North Korea, and Iraqi “insurgents.” We need to determine if a greater commitment to Iraq helps or us or hurts us when dealing with these threats.

    With regards to Iraq our primary goals should be containing and rolling back the influence of Iran and Al Qaeda within Iraq. Patrolling the streets during an Iraqi Civil War should not be the top priority unless it can somehow be demonstrated how this helps us with the above mentioned national security threats. Right now I just don’t see it.

    With all of this said, if we can maintain the ability to deal with other national security threats, I would like to go all in for Iraq, however, I’m concerned that all of the focus on Iraq has caused us to lose sight of other more serious threats to national security.

    Comment by B.Poster — 12/15/2006 @ 2:05 am

  12. The most blatant threat may not always be the most potent one, agreed, b.poster.

    Yet it is not a coincidence that Ahmadinejad just so happens to be harbouring nuclear ambitions and is in the process of fulfilling them, as well as attempting to reduce our effectiveness to deal with him via Iraq. And now the Sunni bloc is considering a Nuclear Proliferation Treaty in order to counter Iranian hegemony and ensure MAD. All because of what has transpired in Iraq.

    Now, I’m not implying that Iraq is “key to the Middle East”, as most would have said the same for the Israeli-Palestinian issue a few years back. But Iraq is the vantage point from which we should approach regional problems, because all the fault lines of the Middle East run through Iraq.

    Comment by harrison — 12/15/2006 @ 2:18 am

  13. It will work. But, adding troops and “doubling-down” efforts won’t be enough. As B. Poster said, we have to allow them to actually fight. And, by fight, I mean fight ruthlessly, without regard for the opinions of the world’s media and governing elite, because the only opinions that matter are ours and the Iraqi’s.

    In America, support for the war will return. America loves a war time president, but only if he is winning.

    In Iraq, those citizens who were with us after deposing their brutal dictator will start to support us again and those who have always been against us will fear and respect us.

    In a culture with a “King of the Hill” mentality, we have to march up the hill, proclaims ourselves their King, then re-start democracy building. We say, “Your King orders you to choose your own government. It’s safe now.”

    Break ‘em down, then build ‘em back up.

    Comment by Doug Purdie — 12/15/2006 @ 11:30 am

  14. I agree with B. Poster. If those there now had been allowed to engage the enemies, the war would be over. Political changes must be made in Iraq, and more political will must be found here in the U.S. Shove the diplomats back to the State Department.

    Many of the current functions of our troops should be done by the Iraqi police except their training is two years behind that of the Iraqi Army. The training of the Iraqi police and equipping both the police and the Army must be given the same priority as adding more U.S. combat troops. It might be more troops are not needed.

    Comment by zaq — 12/17/2006 @ 12:49 am

  15. The real problem is that Bush didnt use overwhelming force in Iraq to begin with.

    Comment by chep — 12/19/2006 @ 3:50 am

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