The Bush administration is at a crucial juncture. Bush faces the same choices as Johnson did nearly four decades ago:
- Escalate the war to salvage his mission
- Wind it down, declaring victory and going home
- Maintain the status quo
To escalate presents serious problems.
Bush would have to realistically assess the troop needs in Iraq, something he seems unable to do. The consensus is that to stabilize Iraq about 400,000 additional troops are required.
Where will they come from? The Bush administration insists there will be no draft. But the Reserve and National Guard are close to fully mobilized. About 40% of the soldiers in Iraq are made up of Reservists or the National Guard.
Escalation would cost a huge amount of money, take years to implement, and would require Bush to admit to mistakes that would be totally out of character for him to admit to. So I do not see escalation as in the cards. Still, only escalation would give the US the chance of killing and capturing insurgents faster than new people enter the ranks of insurgents. Imagine 1 million US soldiers in Iraq operating at 7 or 8 times the rate of killing insurgents than is currently the case. The insurgency couldn't keep up. But that isn't going to happen. The Bushies are never going to admit that the problem is that big.
How long will events in Iraq play out until the optimists admit that things are not going to improve by much? Killing or capturing Hussein, his sons, and his top lieutenants was supposedly going to end the insurgency. Well, it didn't and the insurgency has since greatly escalated. The turn-over of semi-sovereignty was supposed to help and it didn't. The staffing up of Iraqi National Guard and police was supposed to be the key. Not so far. Iraqis continue to be more enthused about fighting against Americans than fighting alongside them. Then the elections are coming up in January. This is the next supposed solution. The elections won't induce the Sunni insurgents to hang up their guns and give up planting bombs.
As I see it events in Iraq have to run their course perhaps for another year until yet more supposed solutions fail to make things better. The pessimists have to wait for the events to sink through to more of the optimists. Eventually support for the war will decline because George W. Bush will continue down the same path as Lyndon Baines Johnson travelled in the 1960s. The difference between Iraq and Vietnam is that the size of the US effort in Vietnam came closer to what was necessary to succeed than is the case with the US effort in Iraq. We had a draft then and better national finances. We could afford to send a half million soldiers when perhaps a million were what were required (as predicted by Bernard Fall if memory serves). Whereas in Iraq we are understaffed at about a quarter of what is required to put down the insurgency. Even with sufficient staffing we'd only be able to put down the insurgency until we leave.
Lots of Americans are dying pointlessly. Though if the US military was large enough to put down the Sunni rebellion I'm still not clear how we'd benefit from the result. My guess is that the main benefit would be that we'd convince the Arabs of our will and our prowess. Making the Jihadists and would-be Jihadists think they can defeat us is a bad idea and putting ourselves in a situation where we will eventually leave them with that impression may be the biggest harm (though not the only one) that will result from Bush sending US forces into Iraq in the first place. Or perhaps the bigger harm was handing the Jihadists a US intervention that they can point to as evidence that the US is engaged in a war to destroy Islam.
One final note: We might have a fourth choice as a way out: partition Iraq. One argument for that way out is that in Iraq there are multiple insurgencies fighting for conflicting goals. Divide Iraq up and let one of the insurgencies have the Sunni triangle. Then let the Shias have the south and the Kurds their zone. Then the US can leave claiming some form of victory. It might work.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 December 05 05:53 PM Mideast Iraq|