Friday, May 04, 2007

Is This an Iraq Victory Strategy that Ds Can Embrace?

Tuesday's Gray Lady included one of the most provocative short opinion pieces on Iraq that has come across the SWNIDish desk in recent memory. Authored by Marine Reserve officer Owen West, it observed that the cost in lives and treasure of the withdrawal from Iraq contemplated by the Congressional Ds is inevitably far larger than the cost of persisting. But it also reckons with the political reality that a majority of Americans are now just as bored with the war as Denny Crane is.

What West proposes is that the Iraqi government must act immediately to double the size of its armed forces, so that the "surge" can become an Iraqi surge. We quote:

So how can we reconcile this military reality with the desire by the majority of Americans to reduce troop levels in Iraq? The current surge may provide an excellent opportunity, if we acknowledge two things: Iraq is now a law enforcement war and Iraqi security forces are best suited to fight it.

The surge must be accompanied by a commensurate surge in Iraqi troops. To date, the Iraqis have simply been shifting soldiers from other areas into Baghdad. But these are stop-gap soldiers — as are our own — when what we seek is permanence. The Iraqi government must double the size of its army, to 300,000 combat troops from 150,000 today. The American surge will give them the breathing room to do so, and a deadline by which it must be done.

The idea is that, starting this fall, the Iraqi units would bulk up so the American units could begin to break up, moving to an advisory model in which the number of American soldiers embedded with Iraqi units triples while the overall United States force declines. Today many American patrols operate independently. In a year’s time, ideally, no American patrol would leave its base without a fully integrated Iraqi presence.

Oddly, the Congressional resolutions calling for withdrawal would allow for this continued American advisory presence, somehow not including these troops as “combat forces.” So even those members of Congress who voted for the resolutions could support bulking up the number of Americans assigned to Iraqi units without appearing as hypocrites.

We are intrigued. We urge the politicos to take up this question and start debating it.

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