October 03, 2004

Scoring Iraq

Phillip Carter's Intel Dump misses the point in the recent analysis on the offensive in Samarra. Here's the money graph.


So why does it matter that we're back at war? Well, if you're the type who likes to keep score, it matters. If you're going to judge this president on his wartime record, it matters. This administration, though a series of major miscalculations, has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Our best hope in Iraq is to leave some sort of lasting democratic government there and to set up the Iraqis as best we can to manage their own security mess. But hope is not a method, and this will be a gamble. Nonetheless, I do not see any way for the U.S. to impose order on Iraq, short of committing 2-4 times as many troops as we have there now and imposing absolute U.S.-controlled martial law on the country. And even then, we would continue to bleed slowly from IED attacks and ambushes on a regular basis. There aren't a lot of good options out there just varying degrees of bad ones. The tough part is picking the least bad option that will not lead to a failed state of Iraq that we must come back to again in 5 or 10 years.

Samarra is not all of Iraq, nor is Fallujah. In 14-15 of Iraq's 18 provinces, we successfully executed a strategy of takeover, handoff to local Iraqis, and support while they gain the experience necessary to take over on their own. In 3-4 provinces, the strategy was not completely successful with some towns working and others not. So much for plan A. Is there a plan B?

There is a plan B and we're seeing it in Samarra and are likely to see it in the rest of the insurgency hotbeds prior to polling in January. The plan is simple, adjust and experiment in different ways to do the handover to different groups of local leadership until, town by town, a formula is discovered that succeeds in defeating efforts by the insurgency to drive out the legitimate local government and security services.

The fact that we've not had 100% success with plan A but merely 80% does not mean that we've "snatched defeat from the jaws of victory". A solid B does not a defeat make. If we continue our present strategy, we're going to go through another 2-3 rounds of this cycle with more towns and cities successfully resisting insurgent efforts to take them over each time the US pulls back into "support the locals" mode. The only possible way we can lose this fight is to renege on the promise of launching as many cycles as it takes, something that is a real possibility with the election of John Kerry to the White House.

Victory is not going to be, and never was going to be, US troops in the streets. It always was going to be freely elected Iraqi governments running the show with their own police and troops keeping order. Even in the US, under conditions vastly more favorable to order than pertain to Iraq, municipalities sometimes go bad and need intervention to bring them back to a civilized, lawful state. How long did it take to eliminate Tammany Hall? How long did it take to fix the corruption of Cicero, IL? You can't answer because the corrupt practices law enforcement has been fighting for decades still aren't over yet.

If corrupt municipal pols in the US thought they could realistically resist anti-corruption action militarily, there's no reason to believe they would be any more peaceful than their ideological twins in Fallujah. The difference is that our military is so good as to make armed resistance unrealistic and nobody is pumping in arms and money to corrupt pols in the US to fund an insurrection.

Posted by TMLutas at October 3, 2004 11:48 AM