Friday, January 19, 2007

THE NEW WAY FORWARD - IRAQ 2007

THE NEW WAY FORWARD – IRAQ 2007

Wow, what an end to 2006, watching Saddam get executed was somewhat surreal as it was expected but in the Middle East nothing is guaranteed and not be outdone 2007 has truly started with a bang both in political terms and on the ground.

President Bush finally announced his new approach on 10 January 2007 after receiving reports from the Department of State, Department of Defense and the independent, bi-partisan Iraq Study Group. Since the only report that was made public was the Iraq Study Group report there is no way to truly know what internal advice the President was receiving but it’s pretty obvious he’s gotten several reports with several different strategies over the past 2 months or so.

I really wanted to wait to comment on the Presidents plan until other voices had had their say so I delayed this piece for several days while the details come out and different people began to stake out their positions but now that Hillary Clinton has spoken it’s time to start writing.

First let me congratulate the President for once again not taking the easy and obvious road. I mean think about it, the Iraq Study Group co-chaired by James Baker who was the Secretary of State for the Presidents father during the first Gulf War who everybody respected for his efforts to avoid the first war right? It was a unanimous report and totally bi-partisan which means it would have been difficult for anybody in Congress to reject it but President Bush has long been willing to do the right thing vice take the easy political road and the reality is that the Iraq Study Group report was almost worthless.

I was stunned by the document and quickly realized that it became unanimous only because it would accomplish nothing. It reminded me of the Kyoto protocols that allow countries to feel like they’ve done something meaningful but at the end of the day the World is no better off. The idea of increasing training is reasonable and is well underway but the part that truly got me was the idea of talking with Syria and Iran. When asked about it James Baker replied, you might get some movement out of Syria but I don’t think anything will come from Iran. So we need to talk to Iran knowing nothing good can come from it just so we can say we tried talking to Iran? It sounds like Kyoto logic we’ll impose restrictions on countries that for the most part do their best to minimize emissions by using the best technology known to man but exempt the world’s worst polluters in China and India.

The only conversations that should be held with Iran and Syria are to let them know the consequences of supporting terrorists in any way shape or form and that the consequences are real and possible and will have a direct impact on their governments and their peoples. (who must be convinced that their governments need to be changed) Consequences like: we will cut off your incoming and outgoing money transfers which go through American and European banks. We will cut off all luxury items going into your countries. Large ISP providers will cut off Internet Services to these countries forcing them to rely on smaller providers which will further isolate them from the world’s stage. We will blockade your ports and restrict oil exports.

They must be suspended from world bodies such as the UN and finally Arab countries must take direct punitive action against these supporters of evil with trade and travel sanctions. Now obviously America can’t do all of this on it’s own and many of these suggestions would never be considered because you can’t get the UN to suspend the worlds worst despots for any reason, you can’t get Arab countries to punish other Arab countries for any reason other than a direct attack on a brother country and the EU would never consider anything concrete.

On the military side President Bush turned once again to the Afghanistan model for success. If the capitol city is in good shape, with minimal violence, crime and poverty then the journalists will lose interest. Approximately 90% of all the Western media reporters in Iraq never leave the International Zone (formerly called the Green Zone) in Baghdad or the Airport Zone in Basra which means they rely on locals to gather the news for them and then pass it along as if it’s fact. The pictures and the bombings are real don’t get me wrong, what I do question is the stories that continuously claim only innocent lives are being taken by the US Military when they conduct a raid or respond to an attack. Sometimes people embellish to please their masters and I’m sure their masters (the Western main stream media) are demanding stories that show the US Military in the worst possible light and minimize or ignore the numerous successes.

Based on the numbers of troops that will take part in the surge I would have to say I disagree with the “save Baghdad” plan and instead would withdrawal all US combat forces less support elements, Special Forces elements and those troop required to provide logistical and training support to the Iraqi forces from Baghdad and would redeploy them to the Iran and Syrian boarders. I would order the US military to control those boarders and interdict all non legal movement between the two countries and Iraq leaving the Iraqi Army to clean house in Baghdad and every other major city in the country.

Now the problem with my plan is that we assume that the Iraqi Army is like the US Army, it’s told where and who to fight and off it goes to win the battle. Unfortunately the Iraqi Army is not a secular army that doesn’t owe its loyalty to the current government and many units of the Iraqi Army would not fight certain militias based on their religion and eventually may end up only participating in and expanding the civil war that is currently raging between Shia’s and Sunni’s. Should that happen the unity government would collapse and a real civil war would begin only ending with the slaughter of all Shia’s, interventions by Iran, possibly Turkey depending on what the Kurds did and maybe even some Gulf states on the side of their fellow Shites.

It is for that reason that American troops will be imbedded with Iraq Army Brigades, not to ensure there are enough troops but to ensure the troops committed to the fight actually fight all the enemies of Iraq and not just a select few. This is not the South Vietnamese Army sitting around not fighting these are tough troops who when given the right mix of equipment and support will fight hard and take the objective their given. If the US Military and the Administration were ready to take a big time hit, they would have surged about 50,000 troops and been able to secure Baghdad and the borders but since that isn’t going to happen……

At the end of the day I believe for many reasons that the President has got the right mix and right plan in place to pacify Baghdad, whether or not this will bring about a long enough peace to allow the unity government to actually get to work restoring infrastructure and utilities and providing enough security so their citizens can go out for a meal, to the market or for a walk without getting shot or blow up is questionable but it is absolutely necessary to attempt. To leave the unity government in such a fragile state as is it is now would be tantamount to what the US did to South Vietnam when it left them high and dry. The fallout in Vietnam and Cambodia that followed has obviously been forgotten. Perhaps it’s time to rent “The Killing Fields” again and remember what happens when America abandons its friends.

I must admit that for the first time I believe that the White House is sending a very clear message to Iran to stop meddling and to Iraq to stop dithering and that this very patient President is growing restless. I predict that if they haven’t gotten Baghdad under control by Labor Day you will see the US Military moving out of the major cities and slowly coming home leaving only support, training and force protection troops behind.

As a final note on this piece I must point out how disheartened I am with Congress over their criticism of this plan before it’s even gotten started. I’ve listened to opportunistic members of the House and Senate snipe at the President and like me as a writer present their own plans knowing that those plans will never lead to a single death nor face the historians who will have the opportunity to write in hindsight and with clarity of how things turned out. If the President is right they get to claim that the price was to high, if the President is wrong they get to shove it in his face and tell the voters if only the President had followed their plan it all would have worked out.

I truly hope this plan is the one that breaks the back of the insurgency and almost as important gets it off the nightly news so that the main stream media don’t get to drive the politicians into positions that we can’t recover from.

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