Monday, June 04, 2007

In Order Not To Lose, A Change In Iraq Strategy

Not leaving Iraq to the terrorists is, I believe, essential. But the fighting tactics the U.S. is using in that country may have to be changed, to remove our troops from direct involvement in the civil war between Sunnis and Shiites, and get them out of Baghdad to less exposed positions.

A New York Times story today by David S. Cloud and Damien Cave, reports that U.S. commanders do not feel the "surge" of troops President Bush ordered into Iraq earlier in the year, involving direct pacification of Baghdad and new training of Iraqi troops, is working. There has been an internal military assessment to that effect, and the writers have confirmed it with interviews with some of the commanders.

U.S. casualties have gone up to some of the highest levels of the war, while the Iraqis simply have not stepped up to take their share of the burden. Sectarian violence has only been stemmed to any degree in less than one-third of Baghdad, and recent attacks, kidnappings of American troops and improvised bombings, strongly indicate that substantial portions of the Iraqi forces we have trained are disloyal, taking sides and participating in actions against us. The kidnapping of five Britons in Baghdad last week was in all likelihood an inside job, and there have unfortunately been many of the like.

In an article Sunday in the New York Times Week In Review, by Edward Wong, it is argued that both Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis have, in the words of the headline, such "a thirst for final, crushing victory," such a desire to see the bodies of their respective ethnic enemies dragged through the streets, that they are both in a pose of waiting for a U.S. withdrawal so they can have it out with one another.

Perhaps, it is now necessary to give them that chance. Were U.S. troops withdrawn from Baghdad, out into the deserts of Anbar, and the mountains of Kurdistan, we could simply let the Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites fight it out among themselves until one or the other had won solid control. Only then would the country be ready for pacification.

This course has its dire perils. There is no assurance that other Arab states and Iran might not take sides in the ensuing cataclysm, or that extremists now gaining in Lebanon, Gaza, and other places might not enhance their positions.

Also, it will be hard on the American people and the rest of the world to stand idly by while genocide is committed, as it probably would be.

Still, it seems, for the moment, that the course we are following is at a dead end, and it is unfair to ask our troops to continue to sacrifice their lives for a people, the Iraqis, who really deserve nothing from us and have a long, bloody history of tyranny and disgraceful conduct toward each other. If the Bush Administration made any mistake in invading the country, it may have been to underestimate its depravity.

While it might be tempting in such an extremity to withdraw altogether, I do not believe that, for our own long range safety, we can afford to do so.

In the L.A. Times Opinion section Sunday, there was another of these articles by a well-meaning liberal, in this case Ian Buruma, arguing that the threat has been overstated by the Bush Administration and other "neocons."

"The reality," Buruma states, "is that there are no Islamic armies about to march into Europe, and neither Ahmadinejad or Osama bin Laden, nasty rhetoric notwithstanding, has a fraction of Hitler's power."

But what he ignores is that Ahmadinejad is working furiously to develop an atomic bomb, and that Osama is trying to get one. This would give them more power than Hitler ever had, and there would be tremendous danger they might use it against an American city. Even a spread of suicide bombings and other vile tactics could prove immensely disruptive in more civilized parts of the world.

Already, we see in the Middle East, going back decades, the slow development of wilder and wilder fanaticism, to the point where a few hundred terrorists can stand off a national army, as in Lebanon in the last week or where woman who do not wear scarves are threatened with murder in the streets of Gaza. A barbaric religious fundamentalism is gaining sway, and it is much wider spread than James Jones had down in Guyana when he murdered his flock.

A definitive American withdrawal from Iraq would have the effect of loosing these hellish forces for further exploits. I don't believe we can let that happen. But that does not mean we need to play the fanatics' game and leave our troops exposed in Baghdad. For the moment, they should redeploy, I do not like to use the word retreat, to such redoubts as the Kurdish areas, where we can count on the loyalty of the populace.

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