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June-July 2007 Message from Dan
Greetings Readers, Friends, and Other Visitors:
It’s May as I write this and the subject of Iraq is
much in the air. Of course, the subject of Iraq has been much
in the air for years now, but it seems to be coming close
to reaching some critical mass or tipping point. And everyone
in political life or among the Trinities (NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR,
PBS, etc.) agree that September is the swivel point . . .
that something will have to happen by September:
U.S. withdrawal beginning, the Iraqis pulling up their socks
at long last and meeting some legislative and security benchmarks,
some political reconciliation in Iraq or dramatic signs of
military progress . . . . something. September, we
are told by anyone with access to a microphone, will be the
turning point toward . . . something else.
Unless you are reading this years or decades from now, I
don’t have to tell you of Iraq-related developments
in winter-spring of 2006-2007: the Democrats’ landslide
victory in the mid-term elections and their interpretation
of that as a mandate to end the war, the winter-spring “surge”
of troops into Baghdad (and now into the provinces where insurgents
fled from Baghdad), Speaker of the House Pelosi’s leadership
in recent efforts to insert withdrawal timelines into bills
to fund the war, President Bush’s veto of those timelines,
the Democrats’ continuing attempt to shut off the purse
strings for the war unless a withdrawal date and “benchmarks”
for the Iraqi government date are set, Bush’s willingness
to negotiate benchmarks but not withdrawal dates . . . .
All old news to you.
As is, I’m sure, the deadlock we have in public opinion
on how and when to end the war. While a strong majority of
Americans have shifted in the last three years from supporting
the war to demanding an end to it, it’s possible that
the reasons for their dissatisfaction are much more varied
and complex than Speaker Pelosi or Harry Reid or most media
pundits have suggested. I would suggest that a majority of
Americans still support the global war on terrorism but have
lost patience with failed strategies in Iraq, with the constant
excuses for those failures, with the constant loss of American
lives there, and with the Iraqi government and Iraqis themselves.
There are those, very vocal these days, who insist that Bush
and Cheney (and their neocon facilitators) are Hitleresque
in their lying and conniving and distorting intelligence data
to Congress, an evil conspiracy committed to deceiving the
American people and the world in order to get the U.S. to
invade Iraq for their own private purposes which were . .
. well, the motives aren’t made clear beyond citing
an insane need to trade blood for oil and to enrich Halliburton.
These Moveon.org folks aren’t going to listen to any
reasonable debate and will be incensed by this essay or by
any other commentary that does not demonize the Bush administration
and anyone who served in it. They want to find and hang war
criminals in our own government, not discuss the future in
any specific way. To avoid inciting them, they’re excused
from this discussion.
Then there are the Dead Enders – the dwindling group
of supporters of a failed policy in Iraq, the “support
the troops at any price” folks who would keep the troops
there until “victory” and stay the course even
though there has been no clear definition of victory or of
a sane course on which to stay for several years now. They
don’t accept the majority opinion that on a scale of
10 to 0 with 10 being total success and 0 being a total pooch-screw,
the Iraq War is at 2 and dropping. This group on the opposite
end of the seesaw from Moveon.org can’t understand that
a nation can win a war on tactics and lose it on strategy.
Or that a nation can fight a war for decent reasons and still
lose its soul in the process. This group is not lost to logic
because they want victory, but because they refuse to acknowledge
the blunders that the U.S. has made in Iraq or to enter into
dialogue with their fellow citizens on just what could and
should constitute “victory.” To spare their feelings,
these folks are also excused from this discussion.
In this June-July Message I will cite some facts and questions
related to the current war and then suggest several Modest
Proposals for alternative ways for the U.S. to get out of
Iraq. All I can guarantee (other than some, perhaps most,
people will be angered by the essay) is that you won’t
hear any of these proposals on the campaign trail. Nor will
you ever hear them coming out of the White House. In truth,
you won’t hear them anywhere but here.
The IED War:
(Note: the data behind the questions and answers listed below
are drawn from Thomas E. Ricks’s FIASCO: The American
Military Adventure in Iraq and from other sources.)
Question: In the early days of the IED
War against American troops in Iraq, the weapon of choice
for insurgents was roadside bombs. About one-third of American
troops killed in 2003 (the first year of what is now seen
as the U.S. occupation there) and two-thirds wounded severely
enough to be evacuated from Iraq were victims of these so-called
“improvised explosive devices.” During the summer
of 2003, almost all of these IEDs were hardwired (attached
by lines used to detonate them.) What was the U.S. military’s
primary counter-tactic to these IED attacks?
Answer: See the wire, follow it back, and
kill the person waiting at the other end.
By the winter of 2003-2004, about half of the IED bombs were
remotely controlled, triggered by car alarm transmitters,
toy car controllers, cell phones, and the like. In addition,
the levels of explosive had risen to include 155 mm artillery
shells as well as mortar rounds and large amounts of TNT or
plastic explosive. In the Sunni Triangle, the IEDs of choice
were radio-controlled toy car mechanisms with their electronic
innards wrapped with C-4 explosive and detonated with a blasting
cap. What did Lt. Col. Steve Russell, headquartered in Tikrit,
devise – and advise those who came after him to use
– to avoid these radio-controlled bombs?
Answer: Mount one of the toy-car controllers
on the dashboard of your Humvee and tape down the levers,
detonating any such IED about a hundred meters in front of
Question: The insurgents would carefully
choose spots for IED placement, such as traffic circles and
intersections, and plant the bombs in the middle of the night.
How did U.S. troops adopt a low-tech way to counter this practice?
Answer: Learn the kind of IED locations
the insurgents preferred, leave behind a sniper team, and
kill any Iraqi who went out into that intersection or traffic
circle on foot in the middle of the night.
Question: During what some military historians
are calling Second Fallujah – i.e. the second battle
between Marines and insurgents in the evacuated city of Fallujah
that resulted in the heaviest urban fighting in the war to
date -- why did Marines use Polish snipers from the Coalition?
Answer: Rules of engagement for snipers
in all branches of the U.S. military, including the Marines
at Fallujah, required that a sniper’s target be carrying
a weapon and show some hostile intent. Polish snipers’
rules of engagement allowed them to shoot any Iraqi man seen
carrying a cell phone in that city almost emptied of civilians.
Question: Insurgents by late 2003 began
leaving artillery shells and other remote-detonated explosives
in the hollowed-out carcasses of dead dogs, dead donkeys,
and other such carcasses that are common sights along the
sides of Iraqi streets and highways. These dead animals smelled
so bad and were so common that they were very difficult for
American IED spotting teams to approach and investigate. How
could they be countered?
Answer: Blow up every carcass from a distance.
Question: By the Battle of Second Fallujah,
how had the dead-dog strategy been further adapted by the
Answer: The Iraqi and foreign insurgents,
who had flocked to Fallujah by the thousands, began booby-trapping
the corpses of their own dead and even their wounded left
Question: How did the Marines respond to
this new tactic?
Answer: They “killed fallen Iraqis
twice,” and in some cases – but not most –
delayed in giving medical aid to wounded insurgents.
Question: As the insurgents watched U.S.
troops become more sophisticated in dealing with IEDs, they
and their civilian supporters observed that the convoys and
troops would stop about two hundred meters short of the bomb.
They then began planting more obvious bombs about two hundred
meters in front of the actual IED killing zone to blow up
the U.S. vehicles and troopers where they stopped. What could
U.S. forces do after many such successful attacks?
Answer: Drive like hell. Get on the sidewalk
and keep going. Drive over any civilians who get in the way.
Question: The insurgent IED bomber cells
became much more sophisticated by 2004. Each cell often contained
six to eight people, one of whose job it was to video-record
the IED attack for propaganda, training, and recruiting purposes.
Other IED team members might include the financier who paid
for the operation, the emplacer, who would plant a bomb by
pretending to fix a flat tire or by lowering it through a
hole cut in the floor of the car, the triggerman who detonated
the device, and one or two spotters. How did the military
deal with this ratcheting up in insurgent IED teams’
Answer: They attempted to improve intelligence,
but as that failed, they up-armored soft-skinned Humvees and
every other vehicle they took into harm’s way so that
they had a better chance of surviving the explosion.
By winter of 2003, the suicide bomber in a moving vehicle
became a popular IED delivery method. How did U.S. troops
counter this measure?
Answer: The insurgents tended to use cheap,
old cars for their suicide car bombings. U.S. troops began
to look for old jalopies that sat low on their springs because
of the heavy weight of munitions. Another sign was fresh tires
on such an old car. “This is a one-way trip, driver
wants no flats,” explained a 2004 briefing.
Question: By the winter of 2004-2005, insurgents
began concealing IEDs among overhanging branches and leaves
in the lush areas around Baghdad or hanging them from light
poles. The purpose of this was to move the bomb blast above
armored doors to direct the blast through windows while killing
and maiming the U.S. soldiers manning weapons atop armored
vehicles. How did American forces respond to this tactic?
Answer: By using more sophisticated jamming
devices, by using heavily armored vehicles and IED dispersal
teams to scout the roads and disarm or explode the bombs,
and by “buttoning up” and accelerating when coming
to areas with lots of overhanging branches and posts.
Question: Between 2005 and 2007, U.S. military
sources alleged that Iranian commando forces that were part
of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard allied with President Ahmadinejad
were importing into Iraq – and training the insurgents
there in the use of – sophisticated remote-control detonating
devices (which could defeat both the Warlock Red and Warlock
Green electronic jamming devices currently in use by Coalition
forces) as well as introducing advanced plasma and “heavy
slug” kinetic roadside explosives.
new type of IED was often buried within the roadbed or set
alongside the road and consists of a “shaped charge”
and a cone of copper creating a hollow space in front of and
along the axis of the charge.
When this explosive is detonated, the copper transforms into
a forceful jetstream of molten metal known as “plasma.”
This plasma jet contacts a surface at a velocity of 8,000
meters per second and cuts through unprotected steel armor
like the proverbial hot knife through butter. These more advanced
plasma IEDs are credited with destroying a growing number
of American armored vehicles, including M1 Abrams tanks, Bradley
armored vehicles, Stryker APCs, and up-armored Humvees, even
though these vehicles had recently been protected by various
types of add-on armor.
If the plasma jet does not strike a target within a few meters,
it solidifies into a high-velocity kinetic slug which is less
effective against heavy armor but which is still devastating
against softer targets. Both the plasma jet aspect of the
Iranian weapon and the kinetic slug are effective at igniting
ammunition stores within the tank or vehicle, causing secondary
explosions and killing the crews in a fireball that not only
burns the American troops to death but asphyxiates them by
consuming all oxygen within the armored vehicle.
(It should be noted that as late as May of 2007, left-wing
blogs, editorials, and newspaper columnists in Europe, the
UK, and in the United States denied either the existence of
these weapons in Iraq or, if they existed, any definitive
proof that Iran was behind their import and use there. When
the U.S. Army presented Iranian manufacturing numbers and
other evidence, including interrogation notes of Iranian commandos
apprehended in Iraq who admitted to training Iraqi insurgents
on the use of copper-plasma IEDs, critics suggested that this
was more U.S. disinformation in preparation for a Bush Administration
attack on Iran.)
Assuming the copper plasma-kinetic slug IEDs are a real threat,
what can Coalition forces in Iraq do to counter them?
Answer: There’s no known countermeasure
for such plasma armor-piercing weapons. As for the new anti-jamming
detonators introduced by Iran, the U.S. military is currently
undergoing field tests on the new Joint Improvised Explosive
Device Neutralizer (JIN), which uses controlled directed energy
to jam sophisticated remote-controlled activators, as well
as the Scorpion II Demonstration System, a transportable high-powered
microwave system capable of disabling a wide variety of IED
triggering devices. (It should be noted that insurgents have
already shifted to using infrared laser command links in areas
where American electronic jammers have been effective.)
As a response for what the U.S. military claims is a growing
problem of Iranian special forces arming and training both
Shiite and (surprisingly) Sunni insurgent forces in Iraq,
many members of Congress, primarily Democrats, have called
for negotiations with the Iranians.
Modest Proposal # 1
Let’s call a spade a spade. No
more mealy-mouthed euphemisms such as “redeployment”
or “deploying over the horizon” .
. . the fastest way out of Iraq for the United
States is to set a surrender date, haul down the
U.S. flag (or the few U.S. flags that are allowed
to fly within American bases there out of sight
of Iraqis so as to spare their feelings), and
to get out.
Only in this particular surrender and
defeat, the U.S. will have to avoid the rationalizations
and psychological evasions we employed after Vietnam.
We will have to admit – the government will
have to admit, the military will have to admit,
and the American people will have to admit –
that a “Coalition of the Willing”
of insurgents in Iraq, made up of former Baathists,
former Fedayeen Saddam commandos, Iraqi criminals
and kidnappers and mercenaries in it for the money,
al Qaida Mesopotamia terrorists, and jihadists
from the region (including the thousands of suicide
bombers both Iraqi and foreigners), all backed
by Syria and Iran – beat us. They created
an insurgency that we could not quell. Their mercilessness
– slaughtering innocents by the tens of
thousands, beheading prisoners in front of video
cameras, sending an endless supply of suicide
bombers out to kill civilians, deliberately triggering
the most violent sort of sectarian civil war –
simply could not be matched by modern American
military tactics if the U.S. was to retain any
vestige of morality.
So we name a date to surrender, surrender
on that date, and have the current 150,000+ American
troops in Iraq out within a month after that surrender
Since the world will know any forced
withdrawal from Iraq will be a defeat and surrender
on our part – and Arab nations and Muslim
countries and Iran will trumpet it and celebrate
it everywhere around the globe via their satellite
news services and mosques -- we have to acknowledge
it to ourselves. No victory parades. In fact,
there should be an official Week of Mourning for
the Surrender in Iraq, during which all shops
and government offices will be closed, all sports
events and major public events cancelled. The
day of the surrender should be noted on American
calendars as Surrender in Iraq Day for all time
Some will say that the thousands of American
troops slain will have “died in vain.”
We will be honest enough not to dispute that claim.
A nation that wages an unwise war –or at
least wages it unwisely – and which fails
to gain its objectives and is forced to surrender
on the battlefied to a victorious enemy has
had its soldiers die (and be wounded and crippled)
Germany and Japan had to face that reality
in the 20th Century. After Surrender Day in Iraq,
the United States will have to accept that reality
in the 21st Century.
Private Military Contractors in Iraq and Fallujahs
I and II:
There are, as I write this in May of 2007, somewhere around
120,000 – 150,000 private military and security people
carrying (and using) weapons in Iraq. (Some sources suggest
that the number is closer to 200,000.) The United States government
alone employs up to 120,000 of these private (mercenary) contractors.
All the major media outlets hire such private security people
to protect their people. U.S. government officials and visiting
VIPs in the so-called Green Zone depend upon such private
military contractors for protection. Private corporations
involved in supply missions within Iraq or reconstruction
efforts in that country hire private soldiers and security
by the thousands for their convoys and to protect their top
“first battle of Fallujah” – one of the
greatest defeats in the history of the U.S. Marines –
began with the premeditated murder of some PMC’s (private
military contractors) by Iraqi insurgents and civilians.
The 82nd Airborne handed over responsibility for the western
Iraq city of Fallujah to the U.S. Marine Corps on 24 March,
2004. Under the control and protection of the 82nd, Fallujah
had been relatively quiet. According to the Marine commanders
coming into the city, it seemed quiet but the appearance
was an illusion.
“Fallujah looked good,” said Col John
Toolan, commander of the 1st Marines that took up their posts
in a base just outside of Fallujah. “It had a mayor,
a police chief, all the trimmings. But it had termites. You
always tread lightly, talking about the guys before you (the
82nd Airborne). But they weren’t out enough to do the
The Marines did frequent patrols. As Thomas E. Ricks writes
–“The Marines were looking to engage both the
people and the enemy – the first with friendship, the
second with guns.”
“You want the fuckers to have a safe haven?”
asked Col. Clarke Lethin, the chief of operations for the
1st Marine Division.
It may have been a rhetorical question for the Marines, but
not for the insurgents within Fallujah, who had enjoyed
a safe haven there and who had every intention of continuing
to do so. Insurgents in the city had prepared huge stockpiles
of weapons and explosives, established elaborate ambush points,
were setting up roadblocks and barricades of parked cars,
and warned local shops to close. The Marines continued their
patrols, unaware of the extent of the insurgents’ preparations.
On 31 March, 2004, two SUVs carrying four civilian contractors
from the security company Blackwater USA bypassed a Marine
checkpoint and drove into Fallujah. The reasons for the Blackwater
people going into the city along that route at that time are
not completely clear to this day – the best guess is
that the men were checking out the route that their supply
contractor Kellogg Brown & Root’s logistics convoy
would take the next day. Informed sources and a later investigation
suggest that the Blackwater people had been lured into the
city via that route by members of the Iraqi security forces
working for the insurgents.
What happened next is clear. The Blackwater SUVs ran into
an expertly prepared insurgent ambush that had been set up
more than 24 hours earlier. All of the nearby shops were closed
and roadblocks were in place to prevent the contractors from
escaping once the trap was sprung. The insurgents had stashed
cans of gasoline in a nearby alley.
The four American contractors were attacked near the center
of town, struck by fire from AK-47’s and RPGs, dragged
still alive from the cars, beaten, and dismembered.
Two of the dismembered torsos were dragged westward through
crowds of cheering Iraqis – the images were broadcast
around the Arab world via video – and hung from the
girders of a bridge over the Euphrates. The crowd then pulled
down the bodies and tossed them on a pile of burning tires
while larger crowds of Fallujah residents, including many
young boys, cheered and crowed.
Because the atrocities were televised, those high in the
councils of the Bush Administration were not sure how to react.
Above all, they wanted to avoid the impression that this was
another October, 1993, in Mogadishu, with Muslim mobs dragging
and burning American bodies and the U.S. military “redeploying”
– leaving – as a consequence. No one wanted another
“Black Hawk down” scenario.
In the end, the order came down to the Marine commanders
to “go in and clobber people.”
On 5 April, 2004, the Marines launched Operation Vigilant
Resolve. First to go into the city of Fallujah were teams
of special operators to capture “high-value targets”
if possible. Then came a full-scale assault carried out by
about 2,5000 Marines from three battalions backed up by tanks
and other armored vehicles. As fighting intensified in the
narrow streets of Fallujah, heavier rounds of air strikes
into the city as well as support by C-130 gunships and Cobra
helicopter gunships added firepower to the struggle.
The insurgents – totaling an estimated 1,200 fighters
-- were well dug in, well-armed and provisioned, and supported
by the civilians in Fallujah.
Maj. General James Mattis, in command of the 1st Marines,
asked for more troops. Washington turned down the request.
Mattis stripped out troops from other areas of the Southwestern
sector under Marine supervision – turning over control
of some areas to the Army – in order to concentrate
forces on Fallujah.
fighting ground on and spread to nearby cities such as Ramadi.
It was during this time that the violent Shiite cleric Moqtadr
al-Sadr incited his militas and followers to attack American
forces in the Sadr City part of Baghdad and in nearby southern
towns such as Kufa and Najaf.
With major and simultaneous uprisings from both Sunni insurgents
and radical Shiite militias, the American commanders decided
to put the newly constituted Iraqi Army to the test by throwing
them into the Fallujah fight. As it turned out, the entire
620-man Iraqi 2nd Battalion, newly trained, uniformed, armed,
and outfitted, refused to join the battle. When the unit was
being convoyed out of Baghdad to Fallujah, a Shiite mob opened
fire on the convoy and the Iraqi soldiers refused to continue
on. U.S. military commanders rushed to arrange helicopter
transport of the Iraqi troops to Fallujah – they were
under pressure from Washington to show that our “allies”
the Iraqi forces were in the fight – but out of 695
Iraqi soldiers available, 106 deserted on the spot and 104
refused to go.
did not sign up to fight Iraqis,” one of the deserting
Iraqi soldiers explained.
Meanwhile, the fighting in Fallujah was fierce. By 9 April,
the first anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, 39 Marines had
died and hundreds had been wounded, but General Mattis believed
that he had the enemy on the ropes. The Marines had thrown
up an effective cordon around the city and supplies and ammunition
were running out for the remaining insurgents, who lacked
actual bunkers and were vulnerable to artillery, air strikes,
and door-to-door Marine attacks.
Then word came from the top for the Marines to stand down.
General Mattis was furious. “If you’re going to
take Vienna, take fucking Vienna!” he shouted at one
point, paraphrasing Napolean. But it was an election year
in the United States. Neither civilian nor military leaders
in Washington wanted the fight to get out of hand.
Marines stood by for two weeks, expecting to be sent back
into the city. But finally they received unofficial word that
the White House thought that more fighting – much less
more desertion by the new Iraqi soldiers – might “shatter
the coalition.” The Marines were told to stand down
even though the insurgents were still in charge of Fallujah
and the murderers of the U.S. contractors were not apprehended
as promised by the U.S. government and by the Marines themselves.
Baathists and al-Qaida in Iraq as well as Arab news media
everywhere trumpeted the first battle for Fallujah as a major
victory for the anti-American forces.
“Most of Fallujah is returning to normal,” said
President Bush on 28 April, 2004. The Marines on the ground
thought otherwise; not a single one of their objectives in
Fallujah had been achieved. The government and military then
announced that they had turned the restoration of law and
order in the city over to a newly created “Fallujah
Brigade,” a group cobbled together by the CIA and some
The Iraqi officer hastily chosen to lead the brigade turned
out to be a proud Republican Guard Saddamist who entered the
city wearing the green uniform and red beret he’d worn
as a major general fighting U.S. forces during the invasion.
The “Fallujah Brigade” itself turned out to be
made up largely of insurgents.
“We turned the city over to the Fallujah Brigade –
which was made up of people we’d been fighting against,”
said a disgusted Col. Toolan.
“My opinion, that was hiring the inmates to run the
asylum,” said Col. Lethin.
Like the “peace” that ended WWI, the ceasefire
in Fallujah was merely the beginning of a period of repositioning
and resupply before Round Two, which would explode in the
Battle of Second Fallujah in November of 2004.
Modest Proposal # 2
OUTSOURCE THE WAR
Turn the whole fight over to private
security contractors. Our side of it at least.
As noted above, there are currently between
120,000 to 150,000 private mercenary soldiers,
security personnel, and “PMC’s”,
private military contractors, in Iraq already,
as compared to about 150,000 U.S. Army and Marine
Continue the war by other means. Bring
home the Army and Marines, send in the PMCs.
There are dozens of private military
companies currently engaged in Iraq. Besides more
than two dozen American companies, there are many
from the UK (including “Gurkha Security
Guards” registered in Guernsey), more from
South Africa, some from Germany, the Omega Company
from Norway, Levdan from Israel, and even Diamond
Works from Canada. There are even operatives there
from the OMEGA SERVICES from Russia, made up from
former Russian commandos, special forces, and
It should be relatively simple to double
the number of PMC fighters in Iraq within only
a few months. Recruitment should not be a problem.
Some observers have argued in the past two years
that there is already an exodus to such private
military corporations from national military organizations,
most specifically from the UK Special Air Service,
the United States Army Special Forces, and the
Canadian Army’s Joint Task Force 2 –
some of the elite of the elite in international
(A recent U.S. GAO report has repudiated
this conventional wisdom about special forces
leaving for private work in large numbers, at
least in its review of U.S. special forces reinlistment
Nonetheless, entry level positions in
such private military companies tend to start
at around $100,000 a year and those working in
Iraq can expect US $1,000 a day or more, depending
upon their experience and expertise. Most are
deployed in Iraq for a year and a half, which
parses out to an income of more than half a million
dollars for an 18-month service period. The $100,000
minimum tends to be 2-3 times more than what an
average U.S. special forces soldier is paid.
The major advantages to the United States
in such a subcontracting of the Iraq War to private
sources are obvious:
- PMCs will not be bound by current American
military rules of engagement or – for
that matter – by the Geneva Convention.
- Redeployment, rebuilding, and upsizing of
the regular U.S. military could take place while
the PMCs carry on the fight in Iraq over the
next decade or more
- Greater use of Private Military Contractors
will finally “internationalize the Iraq
War” in a real rather than rhetorical
sense. Hundreds of European, Asian, North American,
Middle Eastern, South African, Russian, and
Israeli companies will be involved.
- PMCs can concentrate on killing insurgents
in ways and to degrees that the U. S. military
– with its muddled and multiple roles
of nation-building, reconstruction, and security
in Iraq now – never could.
- Instead of leaving billions of dollars worth
of U.S. Army Reserve and regular army equipment
– trucks, tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery,
weapons, munitions – behind for the Iraqi
Army to hand over to the insurgents or their
local militias when we leave (or to be used
for genocide of Sunnis by the Shiite government),
we can arrange a “lend lease” to
the PMCs designated to carry on the fight against
the insurgents and to provide security within
The privatization of the Iraq War could
be President Bush’s “Third Path,”
somewhere between the unthinkable course of surrender-withdrawal
and the equally unthinkable “stay the course.”
It could be the way he meets Democrats’
demands – setting a withdrawal date, avoiding
any more shedding of American military blood,
rebuilding and redeploying U.S. forces in the
ongoing war on terrorism – without abandoning
all of the United States’ strategic goals
in Iraq and the region.
Iran in the Ascendent:
From The New York Times, May 15, 2007 –
Inspectors Cite Big Gain by Iran
on Nuclear Fuel
By DAVID E. SANGER
Published: May 15, 2007
VIENNA, May 14 — Inspectors for the
International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded that Iran
appears to have solved most of its technological problems
and is now beginning to enrich uranium on a far larger scale
than before, according to the agency’s top officials.
The findings may change the calculus of
diplomacy in Europe and in Washington, which has aimed to
force a suspension of Iran’s enrichment activities
in large part to prevent it from learning how to produce
a short-notice inspection of Iran’s main nuclear facility
at Natanz on Sunday, conducted in advance of a report to
the United Nations Security Council due early next week,
the inspectors found that Iranian engineers were already
using roughly 1,300 centrifuges and were producing fuel
suitable for nuclear reactors, according to diplomats and
nuclear experts here. Until recently, the Iranians were
having difficulty keeping the delicate centrifuges spinning
at the tremendous speeds necessary to make nuclear fuel,
and often were running them empty, or not at all.
Now, those roadblocks appear to have been
surmounted. “We believe they pretty much have the
knowledge about how to enrich,” said Mohamed ElBaradei,
the director general of the energy agency, who clashed with
the Bush administration four years ago when he declared
that there was no evidence that Iraq had resumed its nuclear
program. “From now on, it is simply a question of
perfecting that knowledge. People will not like to hear
it, but that’s a fact.”
It is unclear whether Iran can sustain
its recent progress. Major setbacks are common in uranium
enrichment, and experts say it is entirely possible that
miscalculation, equipment failures or sabotage could prevent
the Iranian government from reaching its goal of producing
fuel on what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasts is “an
The material produced so far would have
to undergo further enrichment before it could be transformed
into bomb-grade material, and to accomplish that Iran would
probably have to evict the I.A.E.A. inspectors, as North
Korea did four years ago.
Even then it is unclear whether the Iranians
would have the technology to produce a weapon small enough
to fit atop their missiles, a significant engineering challenge.
Iran says its nuclear program is intended
to produce energy, not weapons.
While the United Nations Security Council
has passed a resolution demanding that Iran suspend all
of its nuclear activities, and twice imposed sanctions for
its refusal to do so, some European nations, and particularly
Russia, have questioned whether the demand for suspension
still makes sense.
The logic of demanding suspension was that
it would delay the day that Iran gained the knowledge to
produce its own nuclear fuel, what the Israelis used to
refer to as “the point of no return.” Those
favoring unconditional engagement with Iran have argued
that the current strategy was creating a stalemate that
the Iranians are exploiting, allowing them to make technological
leaps while the Security Council steps up sanctions.
The Bush administration, in contrast, has argued that it
will never negotiate while the Iranians speed ever closer
to nuclear-weapons capacity, saying there has to be a standstill
as long as talks proceed. In a telephone interview, R. Nicholas
Burns, the undersecretary of state for policy, who is carrying
out the Iran strategy, said that while he had not heard
about the I.A.E.A.’s newest findings they would not
affect American policy.
“We’re proceeding under
the assumption that there is still time for diplomacy to
work,” he said, though he added that if the Iranians
did not agree to suspend production by the time the leaders
of the largest industrial nations meet next month, “we
will move ahead toward a third set of sanctions.”
Dr. ElBaradei has always been skeptical
of that strategy, telling European foreign ministers that
he doubted the Iranians would fully suspend their nuclear
activities, and that a face-saving way must be found to
resolve the impasse.
“Quite clearly suspension
is a requirement by the Security Council, and I would hope
the Iranians would listen to the world community,”
he said. “But from a proliferation perspective, the
fact of the matter is that one of the purposes of suspension
— keeping them from getting the knowledge —
has been overtaken by events. The focus now should be to
stop them from going to industrial scale production, to
allow us to do a full-court-press inspection and to be sure
they remain inside the treaty.”
The report to the Security Council next
week is expected to say that since February 2006, when the
Iranians stopped complying with an agreement on broad inspections
around the country by the agency, the I.A.E.A.’s understanding
of “the scope and content” of Iran’s nuclear
activities has deteriorated.
Inspectors are concerned that Iran has
declined to answer a series of questions, posed more than
a year ago, about information Iran probably received from
Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear engineer. Of particular
interest is a document that shows how to make uranium into
spheres, a shape suitable for use in a weapon.
The inspection conducted on Sunday took
place on two hours’ notice, a period so short that
it appears unlikely that the Iranians could have turned
on their centrifuges to impress the inspectors. According
to diplomats familiar with the inspectors’ report,
in addition to 1,300 working centrifuges, 300 more were
being tested and appeared ready to be fed raw nuclear fuel
as soon as late this week, the diplomats said. Another 300
were reported to be under construction.
The I.A.E.A. reported more than a week ago that approximately
1,300 centrifuges were in place, but nuclear experts here
said that what struck them now was that all the centrifuges
appeared to be enriching uranium and running smoothly.
“They are at the stage where they
are doing one cascade a week,” said one diplomat familiar
with the analysis of Iran’s activities, who spoke
on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the
information. A cascade has 164 centrifuges, and experts
say that at this pace, Iran could have 3,000 centrifuges
operating by June — enough, if the uranium were enriched
further, to make one bomb’s worth of nuclear material
every year. Tehran may, the diplomat said, be able to build
an additional 5,000 centrifuges by the end of the year,
for a total of 8,000.
The inspectors have tested the output and
concluded that Iran is producing reactor-grade uranium,
enriched to a little less than 5 percent purity. But that
still worries American officials and I.A.E.A. experts. If
Iran stores the uranium and later runs it through centrifuges
for four or five more months, it can raise the enrichment
to 90 percent, the level needed for a nuclear weapon.
Some Bush administration officials and
some nuclear experts here at the I.A.E.A. and elsewhere
suspect that the Iranians may not be driving for a weapon
but the ability to have sufficient stockpiles of low-enriched
uranium that they could produce a bomb within months of
evicting inspectors, as North Korea did in 2003. That capacity
alone could serve as a nuclear deterrent.
One senior European diplomat, who declined
to speak for attribution, said that Washington would now
have to confront the question of whether it wants to keep
Iran from producing any nuclear material, or whether it
wants to keep it from gaining the ability to build a weapon
on short notice.
Continued stalemate, the diplomat said,
allows Iran to move toward that ability.
But hawks in the administration say that
the only position President Bush can take now, without appearing
to back down, is to stick to the administration’s
past argument that “not one centrifuge spins”
in Iran. They argue for escalating sanctions and the threat
that, if diplomacy fails, the United States could destroy
the nuclear facilities.
But even inside the administration, many
officials, particularly in the State Department and the
Pentagon, argue that military action would create greater
chaos in the Middle East and Iranian retribution against
American forces in Iraq, and possibly elsewhere.
Moreover, they have argued that Iran’s
enrichment facilities are still at an early enough stage
that a military strike would not set the country’s
program back very far. Such a strike, they argue, would
make sense only once large facilities had been built.
Modest Proposal # 3
GIVE THE KEYS OF IRAQ
TO THE IRANIANS AND JOIN THE INSURGENCY
Every non-biased observer can agree on
one point concerning the Iraq War – i.e.
Iran has been the big winner there to date.
The U.S. post-9-11 policy of preemptive
war, especially those aimed at regime change in
Muslim and Arab nations which support terrorism
or destabilize the Mideast, had an initial flurry
of positive (to the American interests) results
- General Musharraf, given a serious
ultimatum through Colin Powell and the United
States, agreed to cease overt support to the
Taliban and dangerous proliferation of Pakistani
nuclear technology and weapons’ designs.
Since then, Musharraf has learned to fear his
extremist Islamist enemies, within and outside
of Pakistan, more than the largely de-fanged
- Moammar Qaddafi unilaterally revealed
and surrendered Libya’s secret nuclear
weapons program in fear of following Saddam
in regime-change via U.S. armored divisions.
- Iran, horrified at the speed and
power of the U.S. air power and special forces
overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, actually
gave some cooperation at the time, both in terms
of anti-terrorist intelligence (even though
Iran is the largest state-sponsor of terrorism
in the world) and in cooperating in the nation
building that followed the expulsion of the
Taliban from Afghanistan. Since then, of course,
Iran has found renewed reason to support terrorism
and to help in the destabilization of Iraq.
has proclaimed its desire for a “Shiite
Crescent” that sweeps down across Iraq,
including the Shiite regions in the south of that
country, and up along the Mediterranean coast
through Lebanon and across the space that the
“Zionist entity” – Israel –
occupies now. Such a Shiite Crescent would be
the beginning of the new caliphate that President
Ahmadinejad has proclaimed as being on the verge
of coming into existence.
Iranian provocations recently have only
emboldened their adventurous spirit. The seizing
this spring of 15 British sailors was –
by any objective standards – a huge success
for Iran and its most militant Ahmadinejad and
Revolutionary Guard wing. The Iranians seized
the sailors illegally, paraded them in front of
cameras in violation of all Geneva Accord rules,
televised propaganda confessions and apologies
from the poorly trained Brits, and – against
all international law – threatened to try
them in courts where the sentence could be death.
of the British sailors folded like a cheap accordians.
After admitting her guilt, asking the Iranian
people for forgiveness, and saying on television
that the UK military should “get out of
Iraq,” Leading Seaman Faye Turney, said
on the day of the hostages’ release -- "Apologies
for our actions, but many thanks for having it
in your hearts to let us go free."
Before leaving, one of the 15, Lt. Felix
Carman, told Iranian television: "To the
Iranian people, I can understand why you were
insulted by our apparent intrusion into your waters.
I'd like to say that no harm was meant to Iranian
people or its territories whatsoever, and that
I hope that this experience will help to build
the relationship between our countries."
It will certainly change the
relationship between Iran and the West. (Or at
least confirm Iran’s perceptions of the
UK, the EU, and the West.) What it may “build”
is another question.
In his early attempts to line up support
for the British position in this flagrant violation
of international law, Prime Minister Tony Blair
turned to the United Nations Security Council
for help and leverage. Russia and China vetoed
any statement of support. He then turned to the
European Union which – because so many of
its constituent nations, especially France, have
such extensive economic ties with Iran –
would not even vote for a statement of support
in the crisis. The most they could muster was
a mild “statement of concern” that
put no opprobrium on the Iranians for their actions.
of the few voices not to pretend that the humiliation
of the UK and its captured sailors was some sort
of victory of “firm but quiet diplomacy”
by England was former US ambassador to the United
Nations John Bolton who said President Ahmadinejad
was the clear winner and had been strengthened
in his pursuit of nuclear weapons.
"President Ahmadinejad comes out
of this as a winner on two counts," he said.
"He won by seizing British hostages and he
won by unilaterally deciding to release them,
having found out the answer to the question I
think he was posing, which is - how strong a response
will Britain make to this act of taking captive
these 15 service members?
"The reaction was - not much at
all. I think Ahmadinejad is actually emboldened
in his pursuit of nuclear weapons, and I think
that means more trouble ahead for all of us."
then, Iran has seized Iranian-American scholar
Haleh Esfandiari and subjected her to interrogations,
threats, and imprisonment.
Esfandiari, who is head of the Middle
East program at the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars in Washington (and a leading
proponent of improved “dialogue” between
the West and Iran), had traveled to Iran in December
to visit her ailing mother. On December 30, prior
to her planned departure from Iran, armed and
masked men stopped her taxi and seized both her
Iranian and US passports. Since December, Iranian
authorities failed to replace her passport and
instead subjected her to repeated and protracted
May 8, officials at the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence
summoned Esfandiari for questioning, arrested
her without warrant or explanation, and transferred
her to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where
Human Rights Watch has documented cases of torture
and detainee abuse.
In a statement on May 10, the Wilson
Center said that during interrogations, Esfandiari
“was pressured to make a false confession
or to falsely implicate the Wilson Center in activities
in which it had no part.”
Many human rights groups interpret Esfandiari’s
treatment as part of a wider internal crackdown
on potential Iranian dissidents.
“President Ahmadinejad is desperately
trying to discredit his government’s many
critics as American pawns,” said Joe Stork,
deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“Haleh Esfandiari is a well-known advocate
of dialogue between Iranian and American scholars,
and the Iranian authorities are trying to coerce
her into making a false confession to incriminate
Iranian writers and activists.”
Entreaties by the Wilson Center and
by various human rights groups and European nations
have so far (as of late May, 2007) been ignored
by the Iranian groups holding her. Some analysts
suggest that Iraq is “sending a message”
to President Bush and the West that no mention
of women’s rights or curtailment of the
Iranian government’s prerogatives in all
areas will be allowed. The most militant Iranians
are saying that they can, in other words, do what
they want whenever they want and to whomever they
want and there’s nothing the West can do
Ahmadinejad has recently renewed his
threats to create chaos in the Gulf and near the
Straits of Hormuz – to “shut down
shipping of the world’s oil supplies”
– if Europe and the United States continue
to oppose Iran’s nuclear program or if the
UN were to impose stricter sanctions.
It is quite possible, perhaps probable,
that Iran will begin manufacturing nuclear weapons
within the next 18 months. While most experts
think that it will be much longer before Iranian
nuclear weaponeers can miniaturize the bombs sufficiently
to fit atop that nation’s current stock
of long-range missiles, Iranian-subsidized terrorist
groups such as Hezbollah, not missiles, might
well be the delivery system of choice.
The non-partisan Council on Foreign
Relations lists some of the terrorist groups that
Iran currently sponsors and which they could use
to deliver nuclear weapons to Israeli or American
mostly backs Islamist groups, including the Lebanese
Shiite militants of Hezbollah (which Iran helped
found in the 1980s) and such Palestinian terrorist
groups as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
A few months after Hamas won the Palestinian Authority
(PA) elections, Iran pledged $50 million to the
near-bankrupt PA. The United States, among other
nations, has cut off aid to the PA because of
Hamas’ terrorist ties.
“Iran is suspected of encouraging
Hezbollah's July 2006 attack on Israel in order
to deflect international attention from its nuclear
weapons program. Iran was also reportedly involved
in a Hezbollah-linked January 2002 attempt to
smuggle a boatload of arms to the PA. Iran has
given support to the Kurdistan Workers’
Party, a Kurdish separatist movement in Turkey,
and to other militant groups in the Persian Gulf
region, Africa, and Central Asia. Some reports
also suggest that Iran’s interference in
Iraq has included funding, safe transit, and arms
to insurgent leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr and
So let us give the Iranians what they
want. Give them control of the Shiite south in
This would mean, of course, that the
current Iraqi government would be replaced in
Baghdad by an Iranian puppet government, almost
certainly headed by the Iraqi quisling Moqtadr
al-Sadr, and that the new Iran-controlled Shiite
government would immediately begin the organized
slaughter of the millions of Sunnis in Iraq. (And
also the arrest and murder of the Grand Ayatollah
Ali al-Sistani, a relatively moderate Shiite cleric
who has been a long-time opponent of al-Sadr and
who has resisted total Iranian hegemony in southern
Iraq. There is little doubt that an Iranian-backed
al-Sadr Iraqi government would promote and pursue
the slaughter of many of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s
followers unless al-Sistani’s successor
were to quickly subordinate that group’s
policies and independence to Iran’s interests
But it is the almost inevitable slaughter
of the Sunnis after Iranian hegemony is established
in the broken remnants of Iraq that would bring
in Iraq’s neighbors.
Surrounding Sunni nations such as Saudi
Arabia would not allow this slaughter to continue
and would send in arms, money, materiel, and fighters
to help their “Sunni brethern.”
This is where American forces might
join the insurgency.
When the Soviet Union threw itself into
the quagmire in Afghanistan in the early 1980’s,
American policy was to fund, arm, and support
the muhajadin fighters. The USSR’s mistake
was in “going in big and heavy and conventional”
with tanks, long supply lines, and hundreds of
thousands of troops, and in not finding a way
to be effective against insurgents using AK-47’s,
RPGs, land mines, and American-provided shoulder-launched
Stinger missiles. In the face of constantly rising
casualties and expenses, the Russians had to withdraw
in defeat. The Soviet military never fully recovered
Now the U.S. has gone in “big
and heavy and conventional” in Iraq, become
the occupiers rather than liberators, and are
following down the path of the Soviets.
Let us consider the logic of giving
the Iranians control of that fiction called the
“government of Iraq” and of American
advisors then joining the insurgency. This would
require leaving behind the few thousand special
forces troops and CIA specialists needed to keep
the Iranians in Iraq busy for the next decade
as they try to fight a growing counterinsurgency
supported by the United States and by rich Sunni
nations just across Iraq’s porous borders.
“COIN” is the U.S. military acronym for counterinsurgency
Despite many accusations to the contrary, the U.S. military
has adapted quickly to the changing tactical conditions in
Iraq. General Casey – one of the U.S. commanders so
blindsided in the early days of the insurgency – has,
on the advice of counterinsurgency advocates under his command,
helped establish the COIN Academy at the large U.S. military
base at Taji, just north of Baghdad. It is now a prerequisite
to commanding any U.S. military unit in Iraq that the officers
attend counterinsurgency training at the COIN Academy.
Also, despite all conventional wisdom to the contrary, it
is possible to win a war against indigenous insurgents.
In fact, most such insurgencies – from Ireland to Bosnia
to Greece through Sierre Leone and Somalia to Cambodia –
are defeated by the governments in power, frequently
with the help of a strong national neighbor or other regional
What complicates our position in Iraq – beyond the
fact that the original reasons for invading, centered
on the presence there of weapons of mass destruction, were
invalid – is the fact that U.S. forces there are caught
between a virulent insurgency and a low-level but vicious
sectarian civil war. There are various scenarios by which
U.S. and international forces still might prevail over the
predominantly Sunni insurgency, but how can the U.S. troops
avoid being pulled into the religious civil war already being
Ajami, the Lebanese-born Mideast scholar and Director of Middle
East Studies Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced
International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University,
recently returned from Iraq and the surrounding area, has
suggested a disturbing historical answer to how civil wars
are resolved . . .
One side wins.
Ajami (who, I will say up front, is much despised by many
leftist intellectuals, including Adam Shatz of The Nation)
points out that, historically, ethnic and sectarian civil
wars end when one side has prevailed by either conquering,
dispersing, or slaughtering its opponent. Or by weakening
it to the point that it can no longer carry on an effective
war or insurgency.
Ajami’s observation of current Iraq is that the Sunni
minority there, who have been in power, both under Saddam
and before, for more than 80 years, appears to be very close
to losing the internecine struggle, even without a major,
unlimited civil war. More than 4 million Iraqis have fled
their homes, most having fled Iraq, and the vast majority
of these refugees are Sunni.
Perhaps more pertinent, the bulk of these 4 million Sunni
refugees were the generals, officers, judges, lawyers, teachers,
professors, administrators, policemen, doctors, intellectuals,
writers, journalists, artists, and other professionals who
made up the backbone not only of Iraqi government and life,
but of the Sunni communities in Iraq.
Shiites make up more than 60% of the population in Iraq and
are having more children than the Sunnis, who comprised 15-20%
of the population before the current and ongoing
exodus of their upper and middle-classes. In most explosions
of sectarian violence, the ethnic group with the greater population
prevails. In the current case of Iraq, that larger population
now also controls the government in Baghdad and its army,
national police, and major security forces. The Shiites also
have greater numbers of armed militia.
Ajami and some other observers of the mess in Iraq do not
expect a Rwanda solution – i.e. genocide – unless
the Americans and various international groups in Iraq now
do pull out completely, but they do suggest that the general
Sunni population (as opposed to the hardcore Sunni and al-Qaida
insurgents) are reaching a point where they will have to choose
whether to attempt to prevail through arms and terrorism –
an unlikely scenario under any circumstances – or attempt
to gain more power through reconciliation with the existing
government, their political demands for parity backed up by
their armed militias (more or less as the IRA has come into
power sharing in Ireland.)
Should the sectarian civil war begin to ebb in violence
or should American forces manage to stay out of it as one
side prevails, fighting just the insurgency (consisting primarily
of al-Qaida in Iraq and the most militant Baathist fedayeen
fighters), quickly becomes a different proposition for the
Winning a counterinsurgency war in Iraq would have both
military and political requirements. As is usually the case,
the military requirements are more straightforward and easier
Those would include these classic counterinsurgency objectives
- gain control of the population. Actual support from the
population can come later, but to win in a counterinsurgency
war, the government must first isolate the insurgents from
the general population and provide security for that non-combatant
- use local troops to battle the insurgency whenever possible,
limiting foreign troops to the minimum number of advisors
- cut off funding and arming of the insurgents
- create a single, clear, and unified field command for
the counterinsurgency forces
- focus on small-scale, unconventional military operations
(in support of local troops) rather than large-scale conventional
- seal all borders
- assure that civil, not military, power is in charge of
counterinsurgency efforts and that civil and military authorities
- apply a minimum of force to do the job so as to keep civilian
- make force protection a major part of our continuing presence
in Iraq – even to the point of setting our bases in
Kurdistan and enlisting wider use of the peshmerga
fighters there as part of American-led special forces teams
– so that the American casualty rates drop to a level
that can be tolerated by the American public for the time
necessary to do the job
- be patient; insurgencies almost always collapse from
their own internal violence and confusion of strategic goals
if they are not supported by the majority of the local populations
General Casey said in late 2005 –“The average
counterinsurgency in the twentieth century has lasted nine
years. Fighting insurgencies is a long-term proposition, and
there’s no reason that we should believe that the insurgency
in Iraq will take any less time to deal with.”
But will American voters give our political leaders and
military that time needed to deal with the Iraqi insurgency?
If that question has to be answered now, the answer would
be a resounding – perhaps deafening – “NO.”
The first roar of that “NO” was heard in the 2006
elections. U.S. political and military blunders in Iraq (beginning
with the invasion itself in 2003, both in terms of its rationale
and execution), compounded by staggering ineptitude during
the so-called Phase IV post-invasion period, have made the
American public wary of any promises.
But one reality remains absolute, if not frequently enough
discussed in the ongoing dialogue about what to do next in
Iraq is not Vietnam.
As much as a few simplistic leading political leaders would
like our departure from Iraq to be as simple as it was from
Vietnam in 1975 – i.e. leave and let the locals suffer
the consequences of our folly – it is not that
simple. Even most of the leading Democratic candidates for
the presidency, opposed as they are to the war itself, are
responsible enough to acknowledge that simply packing up and
leaving is not a real alternative.
When we bugged out of Vietnam, there was zero probability
that the local insurgents (the Viet Cong) or their victorious
North Vietnamese Regular Army allies would pursue American
forces and interests around the world or back to the continental
United States to continue the battle. There is almost 100%
probability that victorious al-Qaida in Iraq and jihadists
who have been fighting there for four years now – as
well as their state sponsors (who are also the greatest state
sponsors of jihadist terrorism in the world) Iran and Syria
– will use the shattered, failed, and newly
Islamist state of Iraq as a safe haven and recruiting and
staging area for attacks on Americans and American interests
everywhere, not excluding the continental United States.
In this very real sense, it matters not at all to Americans’
interests that we were responsible for turning Iraq into a
failed state or that our bungling has made this jihadist
victory and increased threat possible. History will deal with
that. What has to matter to Americans’ interests is
that total destabilization of the Mideast brought about by
failure in Iraq not be allowed to occur, thus further
jeopardizing American and Western interests and lives. Nor
can we be allowed to make life worse for Iraqis, as will inevitably
be the case should we abandon them to more years and decades
of the current Hobbesian nightmare there.
political steps needed to meet our objectives in a protracted
counterinsurgency war in Iraq are much harder to achieve than
military objectives, but they are equally as clear –
- An American president has to be elected who can reunite
the country, acknowledge the mistakes and blunders of our
adventure in Iraq to this point, and who can forge a new
consensus of American policy and actions there that can
be supported by a majority of the American people and by
the majority of our traditional allies in Europe and the
- The current use of Iraq to promote short-term partisan,
political goals has to stop. This is deadly serious business
and members of both political parties have to begin behaving
– if not like statesmen -- then at least as grown-ups
who put America’s interests above their parties’
immediate interests and gains.
American people themselves have to start educating themselves
on Iraq and the larger war-on-terrorism issues. To do this,
they’ll have to get smarter fast. One way is to quit
getting one’s news from Leno and Letterman and Bill
Maher and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. There should
be a wide, serious, and sustained dialogue among Americans
on Iraq and visions of the post-Iraq world and this dialogue
must go beyond politics and polls. All informed opinion
should be welcomed. We are past the point where the constant
deluge of uninformed opinion can be tolerated.
- The U.S. military has learned much in Iraq. The troops
who have fought there have shown not just amazing courage
and incredible professionalism, but the ability to learn
quickly so as to survive. U.S. soldiers, Marines, and reservists
returning for their third, fourth, and fifth tours in Iraq
are much wiser than the troops who went their as “liberators”
in 2003 and who could not understand why people there were
trying to kill them, much less how to beat them. Now it’s
time for the American political establishment and the American
people to learn from Iraq. The first lesson is obvious –
humility. Humility in our strategic goals, humility in our
assessment of our place in the world, humility in our approach
to other nations in Europe, the Mideast, and elsewhere,
and humility in our national and personal understanding
of the limits of power.
having acknowledged the need for such humility and having
admitted to the political and military errors and hubris that
have led the United States to this mess in Iraq, the fact
remains that the U.S. and the West have to prevail there or
suffer the consequences of rising Islamist, jihadist, and
Iranian nuclear extremism that will threaten not only our
children and grandchildren but the very existence of our civilizations.
The starting point for the renewed dialogue between Americans
and between America and its former friends might begin by
general agreement on a statement taken from a document titled
“National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” released
by the White House in November, 2005 – “What happens
in Iraq will influence the fate of the Middle East for generations
to come, with a profound impact on our own national security.”
Modest Proposal # 4
It sounds crazy, but it
just might work.