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Wretchard Down

January 17, 2007

Just to dispel the notion that all I read is overly-optimistic simps vis-a-vis Iraq: this comment from Wretchard’s last post before he apparrently went on some kind of extended drinking binge:

Thomas Ricks at the Washington Post says getting tough with militias may mean that US troops will soon be in combat with both Sunni insurgents and Sadr’s men.

may be right in thinking that, if the enemy and his supporters don’t
back off, the US may find itself returning to heavier levels of combat.
The conceptual problem with the Surge was always that it is ostensibly
designed to focus on security, but it has left the strategic sources of
insecurity off the target list. Antiwar politics has taken the victory
option off the table and the Surge undertaken under those conditions is
essentially an attack which has been ordered not to win, but just to
gain time and space.

But I disagree with Ricks’ emphasis on the
mere troop numbers. The essential question, is does the US intend to
win. In my view the President does not clearly intend to win and the
Democrats clearly intend to make sure America loses. That is the
context in which the Surge seems to be operating and the Iranians, in
sending their self-forging explosive projectiles, appear to know it. I
hope I’m wrong but that’s the way it looks.

I hope he’s wrong too. Hope is not a policy, but it’s what you usually have when there’s not much left.

Hitch is of course even harsher:

The critical thing about the much-bruited surge
is that it, too, belongs in the all-important realm of the symbolic. A
few thousand extra troops in Baghdad and in Anbar are of scant use in
themselves, unless they in some way represent a commitment to stick to
Iraq no matter what. And if the Iraq to which they stick is in fact
symbolized by Maliki’s surly confessional regime, then the United
States is not baby-sitting a civil war so much as deciding to take part
in it. The president conceded as much when he said that new patrols in
Baghdad would not be determined by sectarian calculations: Such an
assurance would not be necessary if the contingency itself—or the
symbolic perception of it—was not so strongly present in people’s
minds. In these conditions, it’s almost perfect that the Democrats have
been discussing a symbolic vote against the surge (you cannot beat
these people for moral courage), while our new secretary of defense
seems to believe that what the surge really symbolizes is a renewed
determination to hand over to the Iraqis and start drawing down—as near
to a flat contradiction in terms as you could wish.

It seems to me that what really needs to be done is to add even more troops; but that for whatever reason is a political impossibility at this time. Perhaps if things go well there will be more support for a continued presence. More likely is the possibility that a brief success will be trumpeted by both sides as a good time to begin leaving. I wonder how long it will be before we are forced to return, and under what horrible circumstances?

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