Monday, September 26, 2005

Iraqi strategy: the Bush view versus the military view

Ignatius (WaPo) claims that the US military has a strategy for Iraq, and that it's very different from what Bush says. It would be nice to know if it's merely different from what Bush says publicly, or whether it's quite different from what Bush says privately (and probably believes).

The military is concerned about eroding public support. Maybe they'd get somesupport if their strategy was presented directly and honestly. It at least seems plausible -- if hardly idealistic. The Bush rhetoric is insane, and even the American public has trouble with an insane strategy.

I think the military strategy boils down Afghanistan II. It's letting the Iraqis fight it out, while moving US forces off the scene. The US would provide air support, but would otherwise strive for invisibility. No more 'hearts and minds'. Whatever government emerged is Iraq's problem, and human rights and democracy are nowhere on the radar. The goal is 'stable' Iraq and a base for future US military operations in the region, but no "permanent bases".

Note the prediction of a very sharp force reduction. That fits with the story that Blair told the Japanese that the Brits would leave in May of 2006.
A Shift on Iraq(emphases mine)

The Generals Plan a Slow Exit
By David Ignatius
Monday, September 26, 2005; Washinton Post

... The commanders who are running the war don't talk about transforming Iraq into an American-style democracy or of imposing U.S. values. They understand that Iraqis dislike American occupation, and for that reason they want fewer American troops in Iraq, not more.

...I had a rare opportunity to hear a detailed explanation of U.S. military strategy this weekend when the Centcom chief, Gen. John Abizaid, gathered his top generals here for what he called a "commanders' huddle." They described a military approach that's different, at least in tone, from what the public perceives. For the commanders, Iraq isn't an endless tunnel. They are planning to reduce U.S. troop levels over the next year to a force that will focus on training and advising the Iraqi military. They don't want permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. Indeed, they believe such a high-visibility American presence will only make it harder to stabilize the country.

The commanders' thinking is conveyed by a set of "Principles for a Long War" for combating the main enemy, al Qaeda and affiliated movements. Among the precepts they discussed here: "use the indirect approach" by working with Iraqi and other partner forces; "avoid the dependency syndrome" by making the Iraqis take responsibility for their own security and governance; and "remove the perception of occupation" by reducing the size and visibility of American forces. The goal over the next decade is a smaller, leaner, more flexible U.S. force in the Middle East -- one that can help regional allies rather than trying to fight an open-ended American war that would be a recruiting banner for al Qaeda.

... There were 412 suicide bombings in Iraq from January through August, killing about 8,000 Iraqis, according to U.S. statistics. The number of suicide attacks in August was eight times higher than a year before.

To combat this insurgency, Casey has moved to joint U.S.-Iraqi operations, such as the recent offensive in Tall Afar in northwestern Iraq. As part of this Iraqification approach, Casey has embedded 10-man U.S. adviser teams with every Iraqi brigade. The advisers can mentor Iraqi troops but, perhaps more important, they can call in U.S. air support...

President Bush and other administration officials continue to speak about Iraqi democracy in glowing terms, but you don't hear similar language from the military. ... "I think we'd be foolish to try to build this into an American democracy," says one general. "It's going to take a very different form and character." The military commanders have concluded that because Iraqis have such strong cultural antibodies to the American presence, the World War II model of occupation isn't relevant. They've sharply lowered expectations for what America can accomplish.

...The generals devoutly want the American people to stay the course -- but the course they describe is more limited, and more realistic, than recent political debate might suggest.
We need to get Bush off the stage and have Abizaid address the nation. This is an alternative Iraqis might support, and it may be better than US directed partition or an unrestrained civil war. It is, of course, a disaster by the standards Bush set on his invasion.

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