Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bolder Strategy is Needed to Secure Victory in Iraq

Yesterday's lead editorial at the Wall Street Journal argued that President Bush's new approach in Iraq needs to be bold if the proposed troop surge is to be successful:

President Bush is set to announce his new strategy for Iraq this week, and the early signs are that it will include both more American and Iraqi troops to improve security, especially in Baghdad. We think the American people will support the effort, as long as Mr. Bush treats this like the all-in proposition it deserves to be.

If the stakes in Iraq are as great as Mr. Bush says--and we believe they are--then he should commit whatever forces are needed to achieve success. The public's support for the Iraq campaign is waning, in major part because the casualties and expense have been producing no visible progress. Even with Democrats running Congress, Mr. Bush has a political window to pursue a more robust security strategy. The paradox is that the fastest way home from Iraq is a bolder commitment now....

The main objections to this new push in Iraq seem to be two: First, that military victory is no longer possible amid a "civil war" in Iraq; and second, that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government is sectarian and thus will not compromise enough to achieve the political ends that must accompany improved security.

We aren't generals, but on the first point there are many serious people who believe success is still achievable in Iraq. They include retired four-star General Jack Keane and military historian Fred Kagan, who recently worked with some of the military's brightest officers to suggest a plan to secure Baghdad under the auspices of the American Enterprise Institute. Among those officers is Colonel H.R. McMaster, the mastermind of the Tal Afar campaign. The President's two most important political allies on Iraq, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, also both believe more troops will make a difference.

As for Mr. Maliki, no one is suggesting that Iraqis be given a blank check. His political alliance with radical Shiite Moqtada al-Sadr is a problem and is one reason we advised the Administration against deposing Ibrahim al-Jaafari. But al-Sadr's influence has risen along with the sense that the Iraqi Army couldn't provide security and that the U.S. was headed out the door. One goal of any larger deployment would be precisely to bolster the forces of Shiite moderation against al-Sadr....

What is sure to radicalize the Shiites is an early U.S. departure. They would then have little choice but to call on Iran and Hezbollah and anyone else for the military aid to defeat the Sunni terrorists. The forces of Shiite democracy, led by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, would be swamped. Then there really could be a Shiite dictatorship in Iraq, along with ethnic cleansing on a scale unseen since the India-Pakistan diaspora.
The editors go easy on Prime Minister Maliki. Also in the Journal yesterday, Bing West and Eliot Cohen argued that the U.S. should give Maliki an ultimatim: end the sectarianism or the U.S. is out of there. West and Cohen argue that security in Iraq has become a law enforcement problem, and success there will come not from a U.S. troop surge, but by doubling the size of Iraq's army and providing more intensive American training and control of beefed up, nonsectarian Iraqi police forces.

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