Monday, November 20, 2006

Pentagon's Iraq Options Study Tries To Polish The Proverbial Turd

These are the type of recommendations that could be expected from earnest military advisors who are asked to present palatable options for an untenable situation to political leaders who are unaccustomed to (and unwilling to psychologically accept) the taste of defeat.

The Pentagon's closely guarded review of how to improve the situation in Iraq has outlined three basic options: Send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, according to senior defense officials.

Insiders have dubbed the options "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home." The group conducting the review is likely to recommend a combination of a small, short-term increase in U.S. troops and a long-term commitment to stepped-up training and advising of Iraqi forces, the officials said.

The military's study, commissioned by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, comes at a time when escalating violence is causing Iraq policy to be reconsidered by both the White House and the congressionally chartered, bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Pace's effort will feed into the White House review, but military officials have made it clear they are operating independently. ...

"Go Big," the first option, originally contemplated a large increase in U.S. troops in Iraq to try to break the cycle of sectarian and insurgent violence. A classic counterinsurgency campaign, though, would require several hundred thousand additional U.S. and Iraqi soldiers as well as heavily armed Iraqi police. That option has been all but rejected by the study group, which concluded that there are not enough troops in the U.S. military and not enough effective Iraqi forces, said sources who have been informally briefed on the review.

The sources insisted on anonymity because no one at the Pentagon has been permitted to discuss the review with outsiders. The review group is led by three high-profile colonels -- H.R. McMaster and Peter Mansoor of the Army, and Thomas C. Greenwood of the Marine Corps. None of them would comment for this article. ...

"Go Home," the third option, calls for a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops. It was rejected by the Pentagon group as likely to push Iraq directly into a full-blown and bloody civil war.

The group has devised a hybrid plan that combines part of the first option with the second one -- "Go Long" -- and calls for cutting the U.S. combat presence in favor of a long-term expansion of the training and advisory efforts. Under this mixture of options, which is gaining favor inside the military, the U.S. presence in Iraq, currently about 140,000 troops, would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period, the officials said.

Any plan to temporarily raise troop levels will not lead to "victory." No competent authority can make a plausible case that the additional forces could accomplish in a short time frame what the occupation has been unable to do so far--the disarming of militias, defeating the Sunni insurgency, etc.

The suggested "surge" in force level is purely for public relations purposes. Most importantly to convince the American public that the coalition is somehow still within grasp of something that can be portrayed as "victory."

Surging at this point would be militarily ineffectual -- and a transparent ruse -- easily understood as such by the Iraqis.

The "go long" option does not appear to be conducive to the bolstering of sectarian reconciliation. Or probably even to the goal of compelling the Iraqi political leaders to focus their minds on an effort to create what we desire to be a country not hostile to U.S. interests in the region.


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