Friday, November 04, 2005

A Better Strategy For Iraq?

The Washington Post's ace op-ed man David Ignatius weighs in today on what is entitled "A Better Strategy For Iraq". No, he has not come to the obvious conclusion of an American withdrawal. He refers instead to a 1999 book called A Better War by Lewis Sorley, a former XO in Vietnam and later CIA official--chief of Policy and Plans Division, Intelligence Community Staff. Sorley's book on the Vietnam War has apparently become all the rage with the poor SOBs who have been tasked (or have taken it upon themselves) to try to snatch victory from the certain jaws of the consequences of our adventure in Iraq.

Ignatius focuses upon the strategy of "clear and hold" (pacification) as the better strategy to be learned from our later years in Vietnam. Ignatius fails to see that however well-intentioned "the other war" was in concept, it ultimately failed to convince the Vietnamese civilian population of the merits of voluntary cooperation with the American/South Vietnamese side. If anything, America faces a worse scenario vis-a-vis the population in Iraq. This is because the Vietnamese population by and large had no ideological iron in the fire. They mostly wished to be left alone. The Iraqi population regardless of particular sect operates from a religious viewpoint which, like it or not, views non-Muslims as intruders. We are not likely to ever convince many Iraqis to take up the fight for American interests in order to allow the U.S. to draw down combat forces as currently envisioned by the administration.

The U.S. will not be able to succeed in a "clear and hold" strategy in Iraq for another reason. Even more so than in Vietnam, there are insufficient U.S. forces in-country, military and CIA, to establish an effective CORDS type program with representation well below the provincial level down to the smallest towns and villages. The American people would not likely permit a return to the draft which would be necessary to accomplish this objective.

Ignatius has made a number of trips to Iraq during the war, but it appears he has spoken primarily to overly optimistic participants in the fight. He is an old Middle-East hand and must have heard from unbiased observers on any recent visits to the broader region. Ignatius seems to value his usefulness to the foreign policy establishment over his long-term reputation.

And no, contrary to my immediate impression, the adjoining op-ed in today's Post entitled "Out of a Bad Spy Novel" does not refer to Ignatius' literary oeuvre.


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