Sunday, February 24, 2008

Winnable Wars

Krauthammer pointed out Friday that the Dems still cling to the hope of failure in Iraq.
Unless you're a Democrat. As Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) put it, "Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq." Their Senate leader, Harry Reid, declares the war already lost. Their presidential candidates (eight of them at the time) unanimously oppose the surge. Then the evidence begins trickling in.
He also quotes Anthony Cordesman:
"No one can spend some 10 days visiting the battlefields in Iraq without seeing major progress in every area. . . . If the U.S. provides sustained support to the Iraqi government -- in security, governance, and development -- there is now a very real chance that Iraq will emerge as a secure and stable state."

-- Anthony Cordesman,

"The Situation in Iraq: A Briefing From the Battlefield," Feb. 13, 2008

This from a man who was a severe critic of the postwar occupation of Iraq and who, as author Peter Wehner points out, is no wide-eyed optimist. In fact, in May 2006 Cordesman had written that "no one can argue that the prospects for stability in Iraq are good." Now, however, there is simply no denying the remarkable improvements in Iraq since the surge began a year ago.

Which leads nicely into Cordesman's own Op-Ed in the WaPo today.
No one can return from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, as I recently did, without believing that these are wars that can still be won. They are also clearly wars that can still be lost, but visits to the battlefield show that these conflicts are very different from the wars being described in American political campaigns and most of the debates outside the United States.
What the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan have in common is that it will take a major and consistent U.S. effort throughout the next administration at least to win either war. Any American political debate that ignores or denies the fact that these are long wars is dishonest and will ensure defeat. There are good reasons that the briefing slides in U.S. military and aid presentations for both battlefields don't end in 2008 or with some aid compact that expires in 2009. They go well beyond 2012 and often to 2020.
With all the whining from the Dems on the "failure" of the surge and that Bushitler will be handing them an unwinnable war when he leaves so that they will have to clean up his mess, it really makes you wonder what they will do if he hands them a war that is winnable. Obama still sounds like he wants to run away to show the Iraqis that the US won't support them forever, and Hillbilly has stated similar things, though I'm not sure she has such a simplistic view of the situation.

As Cordesman points out, the military sees this as something that will take some effort for some time. It should also be noted that that commitment will likely vary in resources over that period.
If the next president, Congress and the American people cannot face this reality, we will lose. Years of false promises about the speed with which we can create effective army, police and criminal justice capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot disguise the fact that mature, effective local forces and structures will not be available until 2012 and probably well beyond. This does not mean that U.S. and allied force levels cannot be cut over time, but a serious military and advisory presence will probably be needed for at least that long, and rushed reductions in forces or providing inadequate forces will lead to a collapse at the military level.
No doubt there is quite a lot of risk that it will still fail. Divisions on sectarian lines can still bring about disaster. Moqtada al-Sadr popped back up to renew his "truce" this week. Which is interesting in that he's been quiet for quite some time.
Anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army militia on Friday to extend a cease-fire for six months, a decision designed to bolster his stature and power but one that U.S. and Iraqi officials hope will also increase stability in Iraq.
No doubt he wishes to stay relevant, and more in the international world's view. Bolstering his stature is possible, but I doubt that stability in Iraq will aid him in gaining power. He's even getting into the Turkish involvement in the Kurdish areas of Iraq. Areas that I highly doubt he has much influence.
"We demand that the Turkish government withdraw its forces immediately from the Iraqi territory and rely on negotiations to solve this conflict," al-Sadr's influential political committee said in a statement issued by his office in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
Turkey has a legitimate reason for taking these actions. I'm not sure what Sadr thinks he gets out of making such statements. It probably helps him in the international opinion realm, but within Iraq, I doubt it gives him any aid with any of the non-Shia groups. And all the Kurds are very Sunni.

Cordesman's piece is quite balanced and fully worth the read.

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