In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods – and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.
Bush deserves the blame for letting operations get so constrained by politics in the first place. The key question on this is whether Maliki will follow through. So far he's seemed to be motivated by dependence on Sadr's votes, fear of Iran, and/or enjoying seeing anti-Sunni attacks. Apparently he and W had a "Come to Major-Religious-Figure-of-Your-Choice" meeting, backed up by threats to support a vote of no confidence in the parliament. Or maybe someone just showed Maliki a picture of Ngo Dinh Diem. In any case he's saying the right words so far.
To some degree the surge in troops is cover for the change in rules of engagement. Just changing the ROE would lead to a lot of hard questions about why the troops were constrained in the first place, now it's getting drowned out by troop movements.
This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. ... We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. (snip) deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies.
And not a moment too soon. Allowing the funding, arming, and reinforcing from there to go unhindered has given the enemy the strategic initiative. We've gotten back into whack-a-mole mode. Doing this seriously does mean more changes to ROE, and accepting that stopping this means the death of some unlucky shepherds and commercial smugglers.
The Patriot batteries fit with two scenarios:
1. Coming down hard on Iran to deal with the nuclear developments and general support of terrorism at once. Putting an admiral in charge of the region and sending another carrier battlegroup is evidence for that scenario. So the Patriots would be needed to protect Iraq, Saudi, Kuwait, and the other neighbors from being hit when the regime fires off all its missiles before the US destroys them.
2. Protecting Israel from Iranian missiles so the Israelis will worry less about Iranian nukes and not launch an attack of their own. This seems the likely option, given how constrained Bush is by political realities right now.
We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the Armed Forces we need for the 21st century.
I'm all for that, and have been for years. The Army really needs to get back to its 1991 size. Right now this surge is going to increase the strain on all the combat troops by extending tours (and I've been hoping to welcome home sappersgt sometime). That won't break the Army--in WWII units went to war and stayed overseas until peace came--but it's ridiculous to dump the load on so few people when we can afford more to help them.
Lots of people are going on about this being "the last chance." Wars don't have time limits. If one approach fails, you can keep trying another until the enemy folds. Victory goes to the one who maintains the will to keep fighting. Unfortunately there's a lot of people lacking the will to keep going. Bush has done a lousy job of persuading people to support the war--he's made some good arguments but they don't get seen by anyone excepts hawks like me, who go to whitehouse.gov to read the actual words instead of reading the newspaper headlines. There's too many people who don't want to win this war, either because they want a cost-free option, or favor a different strategy, or consider a distraction from domestic politics. But the price for giving up (the only way we can lose now) is huge.
If we pull out of Iraq:
- There's going to be massive suffering as an unambiguous civil war breaks out, followed by a good chunk of the country coming under Iranian control with the accompanying tyranny. Iran will have even more oil production to finance Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations with.
- Al Qaeda will establish bases in another piece and put out new recruiting pitches claiming credit for the victory. Eager jihadis will flock to them.
- The USA will have a 1970s-style loss of confidence. The military's morale will be destroyed by seeing all their sacrifices and accomplishments thrown away.
- Anyone who cooperated with the US in trying to build a better Iraq will have to flee the country or die. Added to the defunding of South Viet Nam in 1975 and the encouragement and abandonment of Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in 1992 this will cement the reputation of the US as totally untrustworthy. No one will take risks to help us, either in future wars or in providing intel on terrorists.
America is at war. We have to win or else dishonor ourselves.