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All Eyes on Iraq

January 10, 2007

In less than 24 hours the President will reveal his new war strategy. There’s been some major adjustments in personnel in preparation; I have the feeling that an equal change in overall strategy may be in the works. This is Bush’s last chance, his Hail Mary moment as the clock runs out.

It’s beyond obvious that pretty much everyone in the world wants the war to come to an end ASAP. It’s not obvious how that could come about though. The forces unleashed since 9/11 are to great to simply ignore by picking up our things and going home. As Wretchard noted recently “It is a condition of history, from which there is no escape.”

Defiantly, it seems there will be a “surge” of some sort- but for what purpose? How many troops- 9,000? 50,000? For how long? What about the Rules of Engagement? Will the theater widen up to include Iran and Syria, or focus just on Baghdad? Soon we will know.

Bush has expressed the desire to win, and that’s great. That’s what a leader needs to do.but can he really muster all the resources needed for victory? It seems impossible. Even someone such as myself is skeptical of the claim that more troops will solve much. The issue seems to be how they are used. And one use of a surge is to cover a retreat:

Whatever the proposed surge of 50,000 men accomplishes on the battlefield, the enemy superiority in information warfare will ensure that only one message will emerge. Rather than increasing the confidence of the Iraqis, the proposed kinetic surge, if unaccompanied by information operations for example, will hardly present the picture of a fearful force; only the image of a draggled, desperate force in its death throes.

Part of the problem, one that is openly acknowledged by the Baker report, is that the “sources of disorder” are partly in Syria and Iran, beyond the reach of any deployment to Iraq. The “surge” John Keegan describes can do nothing to address these sources; and is part of its ultimate pointlessness. But more fundamentally, surging the troops represents a continued reliance on the one American weapon that works while neglecting to acquire the capabilities whose lack has handicapped American efforts so far. It means using one dimension of national power — kinetic warfare — while refusing to develop the other sources: political, informational and economic warfare — that are needed for victory in the war against terror. The one essential surge that matters is a surge in the will to win….

Wars are won in the mind; and the mind of Washington as described by John Keegan appears to want a cover operation for withdrawal. It is not a “surge” so much as the arrival of the Rear Guard. It may be unfair to characterize it as the Andrew Sullivan strategy with a band flourish and colored spotlights added for Exit Stage Left and I wish it weren’t so, but that’s what it looks like.

Just “more of the same” I suppose from The Belmont Club. I hope he’s wrong. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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