2007/02/14

A leftist speaks out for increasing U.S. forces in Iraq.

As I type this, G. W. Bush is laying out his positive case for us (the citizenry) to both allow and approve of his strategy in Iraq. This is largely a pile of bull.

That said, I will now lay out a positive case for increasing the number of forces in Iraq from the perspective of a realist (let's say, me) who also happens to be way to the left of the mainstream of the Democratic Party (I do not self-identify as a Democrat, although I sometimes side with them in political struggles: they are somewhere between the lesser of two evils and the better of two poor choices).

What is a troop increase? Not a mere 20,000. This is a paltry gesture. We ought, in a perfect world, to have better planned how to carry out the task our forces are now supposedly carrying out. Look: I don't approve of anything about how we got into this situation, but now that we are in it, we have to try to resolve the problems we've caused in the best manner possible. So, to protect the Iraqi people, we should raise the number of forces in Iraq by at least 150,000, while more rapidly pouring money into that country.

Here then is the central rationale: we owe the people of Iraq for screwing up their country so bad.

1. The security of the country is not going to be secured by the number of U.S. troops now present in-country.

2. The security of the country cannot now, and will not in the near future be achieved by Iraqi forces. This is the case for a variety of reasons: (i) there are not enough of them; (ii) there are poor control structures; (iii) they cannot be guaranteed not to themselves fall into "sectarian" or ethnic violence (corollary: they are not as well trained as one would wish); and so on.

3. The reconstruction of Iraq cannot effectively and rapidly proceed without improved security.

4. A pullout of troops, as envisioned by many well-meaning Americans, will if carried out in the near future cause a much worse humanitarian nightmare than even what we see now. Think Afghanistan.

5. The Iraqi people's lives are worth just as much as American lives. I'm sorry, America, but it's true. Their worth is equal to ours.

6. The fact that even more than the current 300,000+ Iraqis who have died so far will be put through the chaos and violence that would ensue, should motivate us against a draw-down of troop levels.

7. (Not to be flip but) We broke it: we bought it. That is, it is our responsibility to see this thing through. Not for America's interest, though it might serve that; not for Democracy--whatever; not to "protect" or "support" the troops, that is a completely inane rationale which entirely ignores the reality of the situation; it is in the Iraqis' interest, that is, it will be better this way overall. (Damn the cost.)

The military leaders who were originally supposed to plan the invasion were right: we ought to have put three to five hundred thousand pairs of boots on the ground. That didn't happen. A 14% increase in troop levels, even if they manage to eventually secure Baghdad, is just not going to do it.

Having said all this, let's not be foolish about the actual situation with our military. We probably just don't have the troops to do this. (Thus the 20,000: this is probably the minimum number they thought they could secure Baghdad with and near to the maximum number that they could get at all in the present tour/deployment configuration.) And the will of the American people is not such that they are readily willing to stomach a large-scale low-intensity guerilla war of indefinite duration. This is not a failing: no one should want that. There are also budgeting issues. After all, we don't need to be spending $600 billion/year on the military.

But if we're going to have will, we might as well have the will to face up to our responsibilities; and I shouldn't be repeating that point ad nauseum but I apparently am. So what's wrong with pointing out the ideal plan is what I've promoted above, even if what our options are probably don't include it? After all, given all other considerations, maybe the number of troops we're getting is the best we can hope for. I just wish the Commander in Chief weren't so awful.

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