2006 December 19 Tuesday
Joint Chiefs Split With Bush On Iraq Troop Surge

The US military Joint Chiefs of Staff oppose a several month troop surge in Iraq.

The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.

Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of bigger packages, the officials said.

US officers see the White House's surge gambit as a sign of desperation given the lack of other alternatives that are acceptable given Bush's stated war aims.

But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.

The military believes a US surge will pull in more foreign fighers and present more US targets to kill. The military also believes Shia militias would just lay low and act like civilians until the surge is over. Then they'd pick up their arms again and conditions would return to the current status quo or worse. The US military is correct.

I suspect this information is getting leaked in part because the military doesn't want to get blamed for the inevitable failure of what passes for strategy in the Bush Administration. But they also don't want to throw away American lives and resources for no worthwhile result.

If Bush goes through with the surge plan he's setting himself up for a big political fall once it fails. Therefore the surge plan might well serve the best interests of the United States in the longer run.

The violence in Iraq has soared to a new high.

The Pentagon said yesterday that violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record and acknowledged that anti-U.S. fighters have achieved a "strategic success" by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni and Shiite death squads that threatens Iraq's political institutions.

In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and "little progress" toward political reconciliation.

"The violence has escalated at an unbelievably rapid pace," said Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed journalists on the report. "We have to get ahead of that violent cycle, break that continuous chain of sectarian violence. . . . That is the premier challenge facing us now."

The 50-page Pentagon report, mandated quarterly by Congress, also stated for the first time that the Shiite militia of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has replaced al-Qaeda as "the most dangerous" force propelling Iraq toward civil war, as Shiite militants kill more civilians than do terrorists.

Iraq is getting driven toward civil war? Look, the Sunnis have decided they will not be ruled by a Shia majority. The Sunnis will keep killing Shias as long as the Shias rule them. Shiite cleric and militia leader Sadr's response seems inevitable. "You kill mine and so I kill yours". It makes sense. Plus, it is even constructive. Either the Mahdi Army death squads will kill so many Sunnis that the Sunnis surrender or the Sunnis will flee from Shia-controlled areas and the country will become effectively partitioned. The killings drive events toward some sort of resolution.

Granted, few want to admit the need for killings of human beings in order to solve problems. But realistic alternatives require more honesty and realism than exists in Washington DC or among the Iraqis. Bush won't admit the scale of the Iraq problems and hence won't support less deadly ways to pull the Sunnis and Shias apart. Also, most Sunnis and Shias still want a united Iraq (at least I see no indications to the contrary) but continue to contest over the question of which group will rule the other.

Ivan Eland has an interesting list of 10 things not to do in Iraq. Here are 4 and 5

4. Don’t use any extra U.S. troops to train Iraqi forces. Even if the Iraqi army and police could be made larger and better quickly—which they can’t be—the biggest difficulty is not their competence. The main problem is that they will fight for their religious sect, ethnic group, or tribe, not for their country.

5. Don’t think that training Iraqi security forces is a viable U.S. exit strategy. Because of the fragmented nature of Iraqi society, training such forces is merely enabling one side’s combatants in an accelerating civil war. Many of those already trained are now operating as Shi’ite death squads attacking Sunnis.

A continued Bush Administration fantasy is that an objective Iraqi military force can be created that will be impartial between Shias and Sunnis, between tribes, between factions. Not going to happen.

The Iraqis are going to have to keep ramping up their attacks on each other and on US forces before realistic resolutions to the conflict will become acceptable.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 December 19 09:43 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs

John S Bolton said at December 20, 2006 12:54 AM:

One effect of increasing intercommunal 'death squad' activity is that loyalties are being built up on that sectarian basis.
This is how real, and real fast,
Nation-Building [trumpet fanfare]
multiplies organically and powerfully:
By distinct, geographically coherent, populations
with other underlying unities of language, custom, religion, relatedness, and historical political common loyalties,
rallying around hostility to their common enemy, who is close at hand.
The administration will of course be as willfully blind to these new buildable loyalties beyond immediate locality and clan, as befits those who would rather create mass failure than be called insufficiently disapproving of ethnic cleansing, or not steadfast in anti-discrimination,
regardless of how bad the consequences get.
The intercommunal warfare has created new almost-gelled sovereignties on that basis;
which is an opportunity to be developed.
Maliki and his national command can be deposed, and the boundaries drawn so as to leave no stranded populations of size, but with small ones in sovereignties which are at peace
sufficient to be more tolerant and fair, and with each larger sovereignty havingmore or less proportional resources.
Not all will be democracies though, and perhaps none would be.

Tony said at December 20, 2006 9:26 AM:

Bush's incompetence beggars belief.

Rick Darby said at December 21, 2006 6:26 AM:

One of the most striking things about the Iraq disaster is how many military commanders are willing to openly disagree with, or contradict, Bush. Surely there was nothing like it in World War II; MacArthur may have thumbed his nose at Truman through disobedience, but I don't believe he slapped the president's face in public; even during Vietnam, when I'm sure there was plenty of dissension, it mostly stayed behind the scenes.

I'd like to think that most of our military brass would prefer to maintain the traditional subordination of the armed forces to the commander-in-chief, but it looks like some of them are convinced we are on such a lethally foolish course that they can't afford the luxury of quiet deference.

How much worse will things have to get before we start to see mutiny in the top officer ranks?

Matt said at December 21, 2006 6:30 AM:

There is only one way to win the war, but modern America does not have the will to do it. It is to kill every family member and relation of anyone that opposes the US military, including destroying entire defiant villages and making an example out of them. I am not saying this is a good course of action, but it is the only way to win in Iraq in the present circumstances.

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