The various news sources now inform us that President Bush is about to unveil a new plan for Iraq. It calls for an increase in troop levels in hopes of securing the country and allowing a withdrawal that would leave behind a stable country politically. Though I have sought to defend the overall goals of this war, with some serious reservations, I do not think such a "surge" will solve the problem. I do not believe that I base my view on prejudice or fear. I consider my own views to be something of a mixture of "realist" and "neo-conservative" ideas about America’s international political goals. (For example, I do think a democracy, of some sort, would have been preferrable in Iraq for the overall stability of the Middle East, though I have my doubts about it happening now.)
So why do I oppose this forthcoming "surge" proposal? For the same reason that conservative columnist George Will does. He writes: "Baghdad is what Wayne White—for 26 years with the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, now with the Middle East Institute—calls ‘a Shiite-Sunni Stalingrad’." Will adds, "Imagine a third nation’s army operating between—and against—both the German and the Russian forces in Stalingrad. That might be akin to the mission of troops sent in any surge."
General George Casey has also put the case plainly. He believes that as long as U. S. forces continue to bear the main burden of Iraq’s security, it will lengthen the time that the government of Iraq has to make the hard decisions it must face about its own reconciliation and how it will deal with sectarian violence.
Further, it is quite clear that our presence in Iraq inflames the passions of both sides in this internal conflict. More than 70% of our casualities are not inflicted by combat actions but by roadside bomds. How will an increase in troops change this pattern? The implications of all this are beyond anyone’s best guess. The Iraq which may result from the failed actions of the United States policy there may have negative repercussions for many, many years. But there is little or no chance that the military solution will now work in Iraq. The reason I am confident in my assessment is that many military leaders agree with it, if not most privately.
Bing West, a former Marine who now writes for The Atlantic Monthly, notes that the enemy in Iraq rarely engages sustained firefights with U. S. troops. Our units, he says after his tenth trip to Iraq recently, spend about 15-30% of their time training troops. He concludes, "If winning is not a direct goal for U. S. units, we don’t need so many troops in Iraq. If winning is a direct goal, we don’t have enough units in Iraq." The "surge" solution is a not a winning solution at all, but a prolonging of a bad situation that will not solve the real problems. Sadly, I hope Congress succeeds in stopping this direction unless a better case can be made for it that I haven’t seen or heard yet.