Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Was Murtha Wrong?

Rep. John Murtha's proposal was the political center of gravity last week and over the weekend. The end result was too much grandstanding and not any solutions. Yes, Rep Schmidt we understand that “cowards cut and run”, but it also takes moral bravery to tackle the tough issue of Iraq.

Fred Kaplan at Slate has actually read Murtha’s proposal and has an excellent roundup. He concludes:

So, the pertinent question becomes: What is the best way for redeploying? In other words, by what timetable (whether one is explicitly announced or not), after what political and military actions? How many U.S. troops should be left behind, and what should they be doing? Where should the others be redeployed, and under what circumstances will they move back into Iraq? Do we have any realistic strategic goals left in this war (one big problem in this whole fiasco is that the Bush administration never had any from the outset), and how do we accomplish them?

There's a very serious debate to be conducted in this country—not only about the future of our involvement with Iraq, but also about the use of force, the response to threats, the war on terror, the shape of the Middle East. John Murtha's proposal leaves open a lot of questions, but—seen for what it really says, not for how it's been portrayed—it's a start.

Kaplan also points to a study by the Center for American Progress that I am currently reading, and Bobby over at Bobby’s World has a good post on the issue.

So was Murtha wrong? Yes and no. The administration has argued against setting dates and timelines, but today, Iraqi leaders publicly called for a pullout timetable. Are they cutting and running?

And I have never understood why we haven’t set dates for certain milestones. We should set a date for when we are going to get power production back to pre-war levels. Deadlines drive results. As it stands, Iraq is too open ended without any way for the American public to measure progress.

I also see some truth to the idea that the very presence of American troops in Iraq is driving much of the violence. At some point, we become a burden to Iraqi peace and stability. If we truly are acting as regional terrorist “flypaper”, then it’s the Iraqis who are bearing much of that burden.

But, what bothers me the most about this “debate” is that Congress appears not to be living up to its end of the bargain. From the WAPO:

The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.

So basically they voted to send me to war based on “faulty intelligence” that they couldn’t be bothered to read. And now they are deciding the collective fates of millions of Iraqis and thousand of soldiers without any real debate or discussion of the issue.

Here’s what I’d like to see from our law-makers:
  • Hearings about the impact of US withdrawal. Seek testimony from both inside and outside the government. Invite regional political leadership from countries such as Jordan to participate.
  • A “Course of Action Comparision” discussing our options in Iraq.
  • Demands of a timeline for certain milestones such as power production.

  • Do you think there is any chance at all of this happening?

    But, I think Murtha was on to something with his ideas about a quick reaction force in the area. There are many ways in which we can support Iraq with a reduced footprint on the ground.

    Here’s how:
  • Airpower. Either carrier-based or out of Kuwiat or Qatar can assist Iraqi security forces where needed.
  • Intelligence. Most intel systems don’t produce much of a signature. Predators and other collection systems can be launched from Kuwait or other locations, performs their missions, and return home without the awareness of the average Iraqi. Analysis and production can be done at remote locations and then shared to the Iraqis.
  • Advisors and training. US forces can continue to build the Iraqi Army through the presence of low-profile advisors. Some of the training could be shifted to Kuwait or Qatar.
  • A regional quick reaction force (QRF) that can quickly be sent to trouble spots at the request of the Iraqi government. The QRF could consist of other things besides raw combat power. Intelligence, medical, and logistics support could be part of the package.

  • So what should we do? I have never been an advocate of cutting and running in Iraq. We’ve sacrificed too much to just leave. Plus, we owe the Iraqis and the greater Middle East a shot at stability. To some, failure is a foregone conclusion. I disagree, but I’d like to see more serious discussion from our political leadership as to how we succeed.

    What’s troubling about Iraq is where I think we’re going to end up without a major shift in policy. We’ll have an Iraqi government whose continued viability is in question. Iraq will still be plagued by sectarian violence with Saddam’s brutality replaced by Zarqawi’s fanaticism. We’ll have a continued large scale military presence in the Middle East. Our troops will continue to be targets for Khobar Towers style attacks while also fueling the animosity that drives extremist recruiting. The Iraq intervention will not have solved the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, another roadblock to regional stability. In other words, its looks like we’re going to finish almost exactly where we started.


    At November 22, 2005, Blogger Mycroft said...

    I'd be alarmed if we weren't setting dates internally, but I'm pretty sure we are -- it's too much a part of planning not to.

    I think the reasons we don't make those deadlines public are both political and operational. I mean, there's the operational concern of not letting the bad guys know when we're going to do what, which is quite important.

    But I think the political concern is that the press will jump on any missed deadline, but will blithely ignore if they can, or quickly forget if they can't, any deadline we make. This makes public deadlines a self-inflicted propaganda wound.

    At November 22, 2005, Blogger Mr Bob said...

    I agree with mycroft, dates are being set (soft dates) behind the scenes and not going outside certain circles.

    BTW, I'll be supporting the upcoming PACOM exercise from Denver, (IT support.)

    small world!

    At November 22, 2005, Blogger Doug said...

    The trouble with your reasoning mycroft is that there was no difficulty setting deadlines for elections or a constitution. Fear of missing deadlines didn't stop them there, why should it limit it now?

    Maybe we were too far down the information chain, but my Bn didn't know when we were going to leave Iraq until a week before we were supposed to go (when our replacements arrived unannounced) and we had a day's notice when we left theater.

    But the real bottom line is, who is in charge in Iraq? If it is the Iraqis, then we need to start packing because they want a date set for us to leave (and they see nothing wrong with insurgents/terrorists targeting US troops). If we are in charge, than the election was a farce and we are an occupying force.

    Of course the view from the ground is different and I'm not there so this is just my opinion.

    At November 25, 2005, Blogger J. said...

    I've never understood the argument "we've sacrificed too much to leave" - what if this isn't a winnable situation? What if we've passed the opportunity to come out of this conflict whole? Does it make sense to continue pouring resources and manpower into a case we can't (or don't want to) win?

    I keep reading how there are some good Iraqi soldiers there, but more of how the Iraqi units aren't that good. We're not going to make them clones of the US forces in a year, and if we spend 10 years there to try to make them good, we're looking at many many more casualties. What's exactly worth those lives? Is the region going to be more stable now that Iraq's a "democracy?" Is their culture really even capable of adopting US democratic principles?

    We got rid of Saddam, they have a govt and a constitution, it's time to go. Take Murtha's advice and declare victory.

    At November 28, 2005, Blogger J. said...

    By the way, when are you going to update your progress metrics on Iraq? Be interesting to see how your view is on progress.

    At November 28, 2005, Blogger Kris Alexander said...


    I'll be updating the metrics after the DEC elections. I'll see how that goes and then post. Thanks for the interest.



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