Monday, July 09, 2007

Post Surge

Howard LaFranchi has an in-depth article in the Christian Science Monitor on what happens after the surge. Full disclosure: he turned to me as one of the analysts.

We've reached the fork in the road whereby most of the definitions for success in Iraq require a renewed and much more massive commitment of forces and attention or where the United States can begin to draw down its participation in the enterprise, but where the status quo is now untenable. (Jeff Stacey's piece in the current issue of TNI is titled "Re-Occupy Iraq?" for a reason--because, as he puts it, there is no Plan B.) The question is, how much is now driven by events on the ground in Iraq and how much has domestic U.S. politics taken over? (I'd also call attention to Bob Novak's column who wondered aloud whether the policy is now to stay on autopilot until the armed forces can no longer stay the course in Iraq and then concluded:

"As the first in a succession of Republican senators to be critical of Bush's Iraq policy, [Chuck] Hagel feared the worst when he returned home to conservative Nebraska for Fourth of July parades. Instead, he was pleasantly surprised by cheers and calls for the troops to be brought home."

You say: Instead, it becomes, "We're there to fight Al Qaeda."

Is there any greater irony?
Howard LaFranchi: "With little fanfare, at least so far, the stage is being set for a post-"surge" Iraq strategy that reduces US ambitions for the Iraq project, even while keeping some US forces there for years to come."

We said the same thing about Vietnam after 1969, when we declared that we would draw down our troop levels but still keep a 50,000 man residual force in the country. Once we had drawn down our forces, though, we simply pulled all of them out.

I do not see how the current situation in Iraq can end any differently. A residual force in Iraq will be more vulnerable to attack and keeping it there will require a supply line that will also be vulnerable to attack. We will continue to fight al-Qaida, just not in Iraq.
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