Thursday, May 04, 2006

Article: The next 3 years in Iraq

From Josh, I found this article in the New Yorker about the Iraq War. The most poignant line:

As a strategy, this amounts to muddling through the rest of the Bush Presidency, without being forced to admit defeat, until January of 2009, when the war will become a new President’s problem.

I agree. As far as I can see, these are our current alternatives for dealing with Iraq...

1) The Powell Doctrine: Use massive, overwhelming force with a clear exit strategy. My brother, who recently returned from the outskirts of Fallujah, has told me that we need roughly three times as many troops in Iraq. This jibes pretty well with what General Shinseki and other brass said before the war. Instead, we invaded with our forces organized around the Rumsfeld Doctrine, and the country fell into chaos. This would require roughly 400,000 troops, up from the current troop strength of about 132,000. We would need to extend tours of duty from 9-12 months to about 2 years, and we would need to call up most of our reserves. It would also require an additional $200 billion per year to rebuild the infrastructure and train a new Iraq army. Once this is accomplished, we should be able to leave in about 2-4 years when Iraq would be relatively stable.

2) The Murtha Plan: This plan, embraced by many Democrats, calls for removing our troops from Iraq. The first step would be to redeploy most of our forces outside of hot zones, and switch to a quick reaction, "over the horizon" strategy. This is based on the premise that our armed forces create more violence then they prevent by acting as police within Iraq. The second step would be a structured pull out from Iraq to Kuwait. If there is a coup attempt, we re-invade, but otherwise we try and stay out of things as much as possible. The final step would be to bring our troops home. Murtha has estimated that the process would take about 2 years, but that we could start bringing home our troops in stages within months.

3) Stay the Course: The status quo. We slowly bleed to death in Iraq as public support bottoms out at home. This somehow theoretically leads to a safe, democratic Iraq. But it ignores all of the facts about what is actually going on. Eventually, another president will have to come in and deal with the problem. Yet the longer we wait, the more risky our choices become. No one will have the political will to re-invade Iraq in 2009. And the Murtha Plan will quickly devolve into a Nixon style "peace with honor" pull out, where friendly forces collapse as we leave.

My prediction, sadly, is number three.
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