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Monday, November 13, 2006

Posted by Tanstaafl
An Alternate Plan for Iraq

Arnold Kling wrote a very good assessment of what seems to be going on in Iraq and what we might do about it.

I would like to amend policy recommendation #2 in my very long post about the Bush administration's national security policy to include Mr. Kling's plan:

I think that American troops should stay to protect the oil fields in Iraq. They should also seal the Kurdish region. On the other hand, I'd be happy to see our soldiers walk out of Baghdad, not with their tails between their legs but with their middle fingers in the air. From my observation post, which admittedly is nowhere near Iraq and has me shrouded in media fog, it appears that the Iraqis have botched their liberation. We gave them an opportunity to experience freedom and democracy, and they responded by shooting one another and blowing people up.

In my post I suggested that "I now believe it is time that we start pulling our troops out." However, my post's goals likely better achieved if we follow Mr. Kling's suggestion and pull our troops out of the cities.

1) Our troops would no longer be standing in between tribes that are bent on destroying each other. A friend of mine who's a PhD candidate in Political Science mentioned to me this weekend that a professor he knows who is an expert in civil wars has estimated that there are currently 5 separate conflicts occurring in Iraq. Only one of them involves violence against US forces.
2) We would be able to keep Iraq's oil out of Iran's hands. Having troops still in theater / in country should be enough to deter an overt invasion from Iran.
3) We could continue to prosecute the War on Terror aspect of the Iraq War. My post did mention the fly-paper strategy. A friend of mine criticized me for not giving enough weight to it. Well, Mr. Kling's plan would allow us to continue to take advantage of that by-product of the invasion. Large, well guarded bases in the desert would effectively serve as staging areas for targeted raids and attacks against Jihadists. We could continue to use Special Forces, precision guided munitions, and UAV's to take out Al Qaeda forces like we did with Zarqawi.

In direct contrast to Mr. Kling's plan, Harvard Law Professor William Stuntz argues in the Weekly Standard for "Doubling Down" and sending more troops to try to pacify Iraq. Prof Stuntz conjectures that more troops will deter the insurgency:
Why do insurgent gangs, who have vastly smaller resources and manpower than the American soldiers they fight, continue to try to kill those soldiers? The answer is, because they believe they only have to kill a few more, and the soldiers will leave. They need not inflict a military defeat (which would be impossible, given the strength of the American military)--all they need to do is survive until American voters decide to throw in the towel, which might happen at any moment.

While I have never met an Iraqi insurgent, I do not think that they will view additional troops with as much fear as Prof Stuntz predicts. First, many of these men see themselves as defending their homes against foreign invaders. People in that state feel they have noting to lose and will continue fighting to the death. Second, more US troops mean more targets for insurgents. Third, and most importantly, more troops patrolling Baghdad could easily feel oppressive and lend more popular support to the insurgents attacking our forces.

Fairly often, reporters, pundits, Democrats, and even recently President Bush compare Iraq to Vietnam. One factor of the two conflicts that defies comparison however is troop levels. In Vietnam, we allowed troop levels to continuously escalate until we had approximately 500,000 troops in country. In Iraq, the administration has resisted calls to do the same, primarily from the same people who yell the loudest about how US policy there is failing like it did in Vietnam. It is ironic that they would want to repeat that policy.


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