Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Solution in Iraq? Barnes and the 101st...

With all due respect to the BlogFather (Sykes), I've always taken whatever Fred Barnes says with a grain of salt.

So when Freddy, a reliable Big Government 'conservative' booms a plan to make Iraq less dangerous than Milwaukee's north side, one reads it...

...the plan (which can be read at aei.org/publication25292) is well thought-out and detailed, but fundamentally quite simple. It is based on the idea--all but indisputable at this point--that no political solution is possible in Iraq until security is established, starting in Baghdad. The reverse--a bid to forge reconciliation between majority Shia and minority Sunni--is a nonstarter in a political environment drenched in the blood of sectarian killings.

So far, so good.

Why would the Keane-Kagan plan succeed where earlier efforts failed? It envisions a temporary addition of 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. The initial mission would be to secure and hold the mixed Baghdad neighborhoods of Shia and Sunni residents where most of the violence occurs. Earlier efforts had cleared many of those sections of the city without holding them. After which, the mass killings resumed. Once neighborhoods are cleared, American and Iraqi troops in this plan would remain behind, living day-to-day among the population.

Remain behind? Hmmmmm.....

Safe from retaliation by terrorists, residents would begin to cooperate with the Iraqi government. The securing of Baghdad would be followed by a full-scale drive to pacify the Sunni-majority Anbar province.


So the plan is to squash the Sunnis in Baghdad, and squash the.....who????....in Anbar?

...Baghdad that has become the "center of gravity" for the insurgency, according to Keane. And it could be brought under control by the end of 2007.

Maybe by the end of 2007.

The Keane-Kagan plan is not revolutionary. Rather, it is an application of a counterinsurgency approach that has proved to be effective elsewhere, notably in Vietnam. There, Gen. Creighton Abrams cleared out the Viet Cong so successfully that the South Vietnamese government took control of the country. Only when Congress cut off funds to South Vietnam in 1974 were the North Vietnamese able to win.

Well, there's little question that we screwed the South Vietnamese. Of course, we screwed them earlier, by arranging for the death of Diem. But hey...

However, Barnes backtracks:

...Alone among proposals for Iraq, the new Keane-Kagan strategy has a chance to succeed.

By now it should be clear that the US' interest is in eliminating AlQuaeda terrorists. If Barnes is telling us that "pacifying" Anbar and Baghdad will achieve that objective, I sure didn't see it in his article.

Here's an informed opinion from a member of the 101st who served in Iraq:

The battle really is only in the Baghdad-Anbar axis. Kurdistan remains pacified and booming economically. In the four years since the occupation began, the Coalition has lost less than 180 troops in the Shia-dominated provinces. The US certainly has the troops available, with 34 combat brigades just in the National Guard, but only active duty troops or those Guardsmen already mobilized can be sent in the short-term. The skeptical generals are right, in my opinion, to think that more troops will not help if the reinforcements postpone the required political settlement among the Iraqi parties. The US main concern has to be fighting the al-Qaeda affiliates and their allies, most of whom have settled in Anbar. The sectarian strife, on the other hand, must be settled by the elected government. Remember, sectarian attacks until mid-2006 had been almost entirely large Sunni bombs used to attack Shia crowds. After the bombing of the Samarra mosque, though, the Shia militias began counterattacking Sunnis in the mixed neighborhoods, using assassination. We have not yet seen large Shia car bombs or suicide bomb used to attack Sunni gatherings. As for the Sunni insurgency, the US fights this defensively, since the insurgents are clearly not strong enough to re-impose Baathist rule even in their home provinces.

The red-highlight area means that Freddy Barnes' solution is half-right/half-wrong...and it doesn't get better for Freddy:

More troops will increase the US casualty rate, as 20% of all of our deaths are related to accidents. More troops means more accidents, and more targets for the enemy. More troops, though, will buy the Baghdad government some time, and will weaken al-Qaeda and the insurgents as we wipe out cells. This will only matter if al-Maliki takes the supremely difficult decision to turn his new Army against the Shia militias, and deal with the inevitable Sadrist response. Whether we cut-and-run, or stand-and-fight, more bloodshed is inevitable.

We understand that death happens in wars. That's not nice, and we don't dismiss it lightly. But again, note that this soldier's opinion is that getting rid of AlQuaeda is the primary task--THAT is in the interests of the US.

We don't do religious wars real well.

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