No. 1: Stop sniping
The first plan should be to educate the public that mistakes and misleading intelligence are part of any war. Dunkirk, Kasserine Pass, the Rapido River crossing in WWII are all examples. Next, we must understand that if the WWII press had focused only on these and other mistakes, the American public would have decided that that war was not worth fighting either and would have insisted on withdrawal. We would be living in a tragically altered world if that had occurred. Lastly, the plan should be to allow our military to complete what it has begun without the constant sniping from our politicians and media, and that is to continue training the Iraqi army and to relinquish control as they indicate they are ready.
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Listen to the Iraqis
It is time for some common sense and bipartisanship in regard to the war in Iraq. Eighty percent of the Iraqi people and 60 percent of the people in the United States are ready for the majority of troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. A democracy will follow the will of the people and not ignore the citizens. However, to withdraw all of our troops immediately would not be wise. Thus we must develop a policy that will recognize the will of the people yet not leave an immediate void in Iraq.
We should withdraw 10,000 each month beginning in January. We should withdraw reserve and National Guard forces first. This would allow them to be of service here at home when they are needed. This phased withdrawal would get our forces down to 20,000 troops by December 2006. We should keep another 20,000 troops just outside of Iraq in case they are needed for any problems that might develop.
If we want to show the Iraqi people how democracy works, then we must do this by listening to a majority of their voices. To do anything less would be the height of hypocrisy in regard to the concept of democracy.
Violence equals failure
How the United States expects to extricate itself from Iraq when it cannot clearly define why the country was invaded in the first place is one of those good, old-fashioned unanswerable questions that is similar to the "Which came first? The chicken or the egg?" one.
This might be a good time to remember that the philosophy of Jesus Christ defeated the Roman Empire. The philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi defeated the British Empire. And the philosophy of Martin Luther King defeated the Empire of the South. All three of these philosophies were identical. Violence equals failure. Iraq is a clear signal that the American Empire is soon going to be toast, whatever course of action is taken to end it.
Setting a specific date for withdrawal will only send a clear message to the insurgents to bide their time and minimize their losses as we will eventually leave. Then the only opposition will be the Iraqi army and the police. When they say there are 230,000 Iraqis in uniform ready to take on the insurgents, bear in mind the dismal history of the Iraqi army.
The Iraqi army, which numbered about 540,000 in the 1991 Kuwaiti theater of operations, was defeated in 100 hours with more than 100,000 killed in action and 300,000 wounded. About 150,000 deserted. In contrast, the United States had 148 killed in action. The Iraqi Army lost 4,000 tanks, compared with the coalition's four tanks. The Iraqis lost 2,140 artillery pieces, compared with the coalition's one.
The performance of the Iraqi army against the Iranians was also dismal. The Iraqis won few battles and were successful only at bringing the war to a cease-fire when they used chemical weapons after an eight-year quagmire.
When we invaded Iraq, we were supposedly facing 23 divisions of 460,000. Iraq had spent about one-quarter of the national budget on its armed forces for 30 years. Results? The conventional war was over in three weeks.
We, as Americans, do not need to agree on the reasons we went there, but we need to agree on the reasons we stay. We have to weather out what we started until there is significant strength to leave that country to its own security forces. They are nowhere near that now. Let's finish what we started -- no retreat.
Do a proper job
I feel a sense of guilt just thinking of writing this. How can I be an armchair commander when U.S. troops and Iraqis are in harm's way each day? Then I hear of the passing of Eugene McCarthy, and I know our country needs that spirit of dissent.
I want it known that I have never been and never will be a supporter of this invasion of Iraq. But we owe it to ourselves, our troops and the people of Iraq to do a proper job.
Our force strength is insufficient to do the task before us, and a hasty withdrawal would throw the whole Middle East into chaos. This is not a decision that needs to be based on politics and the upcoming mid-term elections.
The goal in Iraq is to provide her people with a long-term stable government of their choosing. We start our withdrawal after that government is in place. Half measures are unacceptable.
We also need an honest and open discourse with our government representatives. We do not need those in office to hide behind carefully selected and closed audiences unwilling to address questions from those whom they represent, to blast those who even mildly disagree with administration policy, or to provide convoluted rhetoric on whether our government transported detainees to or through Eastern European nations. Our leaders also need to admit when they are wrong and that a change in policy is needed. We need the truth to make informed and wise decisions.
A mental exercise
As I was reading the Q discussion, I looked at the issue from the back side. What exit strategy would the Iraq insurgents prefer? Here is what I imagined.
1. Stay the course. Great! We (the insurgents) have them (U.S.) where we want them, on our turf and outnumbered. Their presence helps us to recruit. They are unable to protect the traitors among our people. Ultimately, we will prevail.
2. Set a timetable. Excellent! We will set our own timetable. We will demand that President Bush and his lieutenants be turned over to a war crimes tribunal for possessing weapons of mass destruction and launching an unprovoked attack on a peaceful nation. If the criminals are not surrendered, we will launch retaliatory attacks against the United States. The U.S. troops in Iraq will then have to withdraw to protect the United States. We will prevail.
3. Add troops. More's the better! There are many other nations in the Middle East that will see an enlarged U.S. presence in Iraq as a direct threat. We will ask those nations to send troops to support our cause. We will thus strengthen the insurgency.
4. Leave now. Wonderful! We will fire at their retreating tails. We will claim sovereignty as the liberators of Iraq. Victory will be ours.
This exercise made we wonder whether any of the proposed exit strategies can offer us the victory for democracy that we desire. Perhaps we need a fifth strategy, but I have not yet imagined one.
Complicated and bloody
Inevitably, the U.S. strategy for exiting Iraq will blend aspects from both the "stay the course" and the "set a timetable" crowd. Politically, the administration feels that it must be the one to define victory. The Bush administration will more than likely use the cover of its military commanders to orchestrate a significant phased drawdown of forces in 2006, based more on political expediency heading into the 2006 congressional elections than on events on the ground.
Adding troops now is also not an option. First, Donald Rumsfeld didn't listen to Gen. Eric Shinseki prior to the invasion of Iraq when he testified to Congress that it would likely take twice as many troops to secure the peace as to win the ground war. Second, the Army cannot sustain this level of operational tempo without increasing its size by at least two divisions -- per retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey.
Exiting Iraq will be complicated at best, bloody at worst. There is no one simple solution. Congress abdicated its responsibility originally by not requiring a Declaration of War, which has led the country to the edge of exasperation when faced with how to gain consensus on Iraq and the war on terrorism. But as Lt. Gen. David Petraeus recently noted, "The truth is not found in any one school of thought and arguably it's found in discussion among them."
Let's hope our discussion leads our leaders to that right solution -- however victory is defined.
Where are the leaders?
The training of Iraqi troops and police has continued throughout the Allied occupation, but questions about their allegiance are being raised by the terrorist activities by uniformed officers and the so-called infiltration of units in the Basrah area by Shia militants.
This should not be a surprise. There has never been a popular government in Iraq. There are no national heroes -- with the possible exception of King Ghazi, who resisted the British occupation during the 1930s until he died in an auto "accident" in 1939. There is no one in the current national government who shows any leadership qualities. Our own news reporters find little enthusiasm for people like Ahmad Chalabi who were chosen by our leaders to take a prominent role.
The situation is similar to what faced the British when they planned to leave India in 1947. As British historian John Keay wrote: "The 20,000 troops who materialized to police the transfer proved at best ineffective. at most infected by the madness." The latter phrase is most alarming, because these Indian army troops were highly trained and seasoned by action during World War II, and they still lost their heads. How long are we willing to remain in Iraq to adequately prepare the troops and police for this kind of action, that will almost certainly require hostile action against their own people?
There is another possible outcome. According to news reports, one of the Iraqi generals has asked for heavy equipment, equal to what our troops are using. This would enable him to seize power as soon as we leave.
Edward H. Wiser