Today Gen. Petraeus is testifying about progress in Iraq and the "success" of the surge.
Reading excerpts from a post from OVER TWO AND A HALF YEARS AND THOUSANDS OF LIVES AGO and see if we have made any "progress" yet:
A Strategy For Success
Amid the two extremes of "stay the course" and "pull out now" comes a third option - do what it takes to win in Iraq.
The September/October edition of Foreign Affairs contains an article by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. entitled "How to Win in Iraq."
The basic problem is that the United States and its coalition partners have never settled on a strategy for defeating the insurgency and achieving their broader objectives. On the political front, they have been working to create a democratic Iraq, but that is a goal, not a strategy. On the military front, they have sought to train Iraqi security forces and turn the war over to them. As President George W. Bush has stated, "Our strategy can be summed up this way: as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." But the president is describing a withdrawal plan rather than a strategy.
Without a clear strategy in Iraq, moreover, there is no good way to gauge progress. Senior political and military leaders have thus repeatedly made overly optimistic or even contradictory declarations. In May of 2004, for example, following the insurgent takeover of Fallujah, General Richard Myers, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, "I think we're on the brink of success here." Six months later, before last November's offensive to recapture the city, General John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said, "When we win this fight — and we will win — there will be nowhere left for the insurgents to hide." Following the recapture, Lieutenant General John Sattler, the Marine commander in Iraq, declared that the coalition had "broken the back of the insurgency." Yet in the subsequent months, the violence continued unabated. Nevertheless, seven months later Vice President Dick Cheney claimed that the insurgency was in its "last throes," even as Lieutenant General John Vines, commander of the multinational corps in Iraq, was conceding, "We don't see the insurgency expanding or contracting right now." Most Americans agree with this less optimistic assessment: according to the most recent polls, nearly two-thirds think the coalition is "bogged down."
The administration's critics, meanwhile, have offered as their alternative "strategy" an accelerated timetable for withdrawal. They see Iraq as another Vietnam and advocate a similar solution: pulling out U.S. troops and hoping for the best. The costs of such premature disengagement would likely be calamitous. The insurgency could morph into a bloody civil war, with the significant involvement of both Syria and Iran. Radical Islamists would see the U.S. departure as a victory, and the ensuing chaos would drive up oil prices.
Instead of a timetable for withdrawal, the United States needs a real strategy built around the principles of counterinsurgency warfare. To date, U.S. forces in Iraq have largely concentrated their efforts on hunting down and killing insurgents. The idea of such operations is to erode the enemy's strength by killing fighters more quickly than replacements can be recruited. Although it is too early to tell for sure whether this approach will ultimately bring success, its current record is not good: even when an attack manages to inflict serious insurgent casualties, there is little or no enduring improvement in security once U.S. forces withdraw from the area.
Instead, U.S. and Iraqi forces should adopt an "oil-spot strategy" in Iraq, which is essentially the opposite approach. Rather than focusing on killing insurgents, they should concentrate on providing security and opportunity to the Iraqi people, thereby denying insurgents the popular support they need. Since the U.S. and Iraqi armies cannot guarantee security to all of Iraq simultaneously, they should start by focusing on certain key areas and then, over time, broadening the effort — hence the image of an expanding oil spot. Such a strategy would have a good chance of success. But it would require a protracted commitment of U.S. resources, a willingness to risk more casualties in the short term, and an enduring U.S. presence in Iraq, albeit at far lower force levels than are engaged at present. If U.S. policymakers and the American public are unwilling to make such a commitment, they should be prepared to scale down their goals in Iraq significantly.
Simply put, we either win or fail. If failing costs more than winning then we should win. And "not losing" is failing.
Krepinevich is the author of The Army and Vietnam, and none of his ideas are new. Neither are the most effective battle drills, and for the same reasons - they have proven effective time and again.
In the same issue is an excellent article by F. Gregory Gause III on how democratization is not automatically in our best interests.
The United States is engaged in what President George W. Bush has called a "generational challenge" to instill democracy in the Arab world. The Bush administration and its defenders contend that this push for Arab democracy will not only spread American values but also improve U.S. security. As democracy grows in the Arab world, the thinking goes, the region will stop generating anti-American terrorism. Promoting democracy in the Middle East is therefore not merely consistent with U.S. security goals; it is necessary to achieve them.
But this begs a fundamental question: Is it true that the more democratic a country becomes, the less likely it is to produce terrorists and terrorist groups? In other words, is the security rationale for promoting democracy in the Arab world based on a sound premise? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be no.
In the comments somebody called "American Citizen" wrote - TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO - the following:
J.D. writes "Simply put, we either win or fail. If failing costs more than winning then we should win. And "not losing" is failing."
What if winning costs more than failing?
What if we win (make America safer) by losing in Iraq?
The goal we should hold above all others is to make America safer. That was the putative goal of the initial invasion - to find WMDs. The retrospective justification for the invasion - Iraqi democracy - would hopefully make us safer.
There are three large effects of "staying the course":
1) In the struggle amongst various Iraqi factions for power, we put our thumb decisively on the Iraqi government side. This means creating law and order in some places where there wouldn't be otherwise.
2) Anti-American Iraqi forces continue to attack us. the positive effect is that perhaps that draws anti-Iraqi-government fire away from the Iraqu government, troops, and police. There is a large human cost to us, and any unfortunate civilians caught in the crossfire or near bomb blasts.
3) Anti-American foreigners will sneak into Iraq. Many will lose their jihadi spirit by becoming casualties or by getting it out of their system. Others will return to their native countries, or our country, and cause trouble.
The Iraqi constitution looks set to create a fractious theocracy, so is effect #1 all that important? Once we go, would it matter so much who is in charge, given that we can't seem stage-manage a Turkish or Indonesian-type result?
I think we should do what we can in the short-term, whether it's the suggestions put forth by Mr. Krepinevich, or the recent WaPo op-ed by Gen. Wesley Clark. If that doesn't work, or if we "stay the course" with no change in strategy or tactics, we will better off conducting a staged withdrawal and accepting the loss. After all, you don't reinforce failure, and we still need to find Osama bin Laden.
American Citizen asks "What if we win (make America safer) by losing in Iraq?"
Simple. Then we lose. And quickly. And we will be better off for it. If pulling out tomorrow helps America then we should have done it yesterday.
However, I don't think the list of reasons you have for "Staying the Course" is exhaustive. There are certainly other reasons we should stay and win besides Iraqi democracy or what is the best for the Iraqi people. I tend to view the world in views of what is best for America - period. What is best for the Iraqi people enters into my thinking only as to what impact it will have on the American people. I think "accepting the loss" should not be viewed from an "ego" standpoint, but from an honest assessment of what impact such a loss will have on our national security in both the long and short term. I think that Iraq has parallels with Vietnam (most especially when it comes to politicans ignoring sound military advice) but there is one clear difference: when we "declared victory and went home" in Vietnam our loss (for that is what it was) hurt us in the short term, but not in the long term. True, losing sucked, but we won the Cold War, our military might increased relative to the rest of the world thereafter, and the "trade" we lost in Vietnam was miniscule. Vietnam grows rice and exports shrimp. Oh well. Iraq is different. It is not only incredibly oil-rich, it is surrounded by unstable and hostile regimes vital to our national security. We don't run our economy on rice. We do on oil. And Vietnam doesn't and never did have the ability to attack us at home. Iran is working on nukes, and Pakistan has them. Iraq is much, much, much more important to our national security than Vietnam ever was. And the oil wealth in that region also translates into money, and into power. We don't want that power used against us. Even if we were self-sufficient in energy the region would be a vital national interest.
And I think I was clear that I view "staying the course" is not a recipe for winning, but merely for not losing "yet."
Just as there were an infinite number of possibilities in between the false choice of "invade or appease," there are many courses of action between "get out now" and "stay the course."
Clearly articulated goals should be provided to the American people, along with honest and competent analysis of the costs of victory v the costs of defeat. Any blind non-reasoning "victory is always better" thinking should be recognized for what it is - a lack of thinking. Any "we must immediately pull out because we will lose more if we don't" should likewise be put into the same category. Then we can rationally decide what the better course of action is based upon the costs and benefits of various options, from immediate pull-out to a "generational commitment" to "stay the course" and everything in between.
My take now? That we are not prepared to do what it takes to win in Iraq in terms of manpower. A draft would be needed, plus more money (higher taxes are already needed given the size of our debt today), plus lots else (the military alone can not win this war).
If we are not going to win then we need to get out. I think we need to get out because we are clearly not doing what it will take to win, just "not lose just yet."
GroundHog Day, all over again.
When should we get out? Two and a half years ago would have been a good time.