The Los Angeles Times breaks the news that the Pentagon’s favored plan for a “way forward” in Iraq has nothing to do with the diplomacy and redeployment proposed by the Baker Hamilton report.
Their answer: more troops.
And a new enemy: Moqtada al Sadr and his militias.
The exact number of troops is still unclear. 40,000 gets floated, though it’s unclear if the Armed forces even have that much troop capacity to give. The Times also reports that there will be an increase in the overall size of the Army.
It’s garish that the proponents of this strategy have no plan for victory. Just a gut feeling that this is worth a shot. Their gambling vocabulary says it all:
“I think it is worth trying,” one defense official said.”But you can’t have the rhetoric without the resources. This is a double down.”
“No one should go into this thinking if we double the size of the military, the result will be victory,” said another. “You are buying the opportunity to enter a lottery.”
According to Andrew Krepinevich, counterinsurgency expert quoted in the piece, this isn’t the beginning of the end. It’s the end of the beginning:”We are going to be in Iraq for a long, long time. It is going to be decades before Iraq can be left to its own devices without descending into a civil war.”
So we’re doubling down so we can continue to bleed treasure at the rate of $8 billion a month, to say nothing of the now ritual sacrifice of 100 Americans, for the forseeable future.
Plus: Now we’re going to be taking the fighting to a Sadr’s Shia armies, trying to break the back, not of Al Qaeda in Iraq, but of the one movement, the one idea that tens of thousands of Iraqis have shown themselves willing to organize and die for.
“We have to deal somehow with the militias, and Sadr in particular; he is rapidly becoming the armed power in Iraq,” a Pentagon adviser told the paper.”Our conventional forces, not advisors, will have to team with the Iraqi army and neutralize the Mahdi army and the other militias. If we don’t do that, everything else we are talking about is hot air.”
Forget “mission creep.” This is mission lurch. Are we really going to stay in Iraq until we”neutralize” — i.e. blow to pieces or imprison in Abu Ghraib — every Iraqi who isn’t keen on our notion of a unified, multi-sectarian, pro American, pro Western, anti-Islamist Iraq? Newsflash: that’s just about everybody who hasn’t already fled to Jordan.
I’m not the only one who finds this approach insane:
James Dobbins, a former U.S. diplomat and advisor to the Iraq Study Group, said …”The American troop presence is wildly unpopular in Iraq. Any effort to double our bet will lead to ever more catastrophic results.”
My hope, such as it is, is that this is a strategic leak of “Plan Crazy,” designed as a counterweight to the let’s-get-out impulses of Baker Hamilton, such that Bush can decide to stay the course, now as a matter of centrism. Oy.