Wednesday, November 30, 2005

POTUS Speech Open Thread on Intel Dump

I've started an open thread at Intel Dump on the President's speech.

Here is what I had to say:

I just finished listening to the president’s speech. I think it was one of the better speeches of his administration. He did a good job of explaining some of what is happening in Iraq.

The first third of the speech was standard administration boilerplate. It’s the standard Iraq “chicken or the egg argument”. Was Iraq more of a thread before or after the invasion? Either way, we’re there, and we have to figure out a way to win. The middle part of the speech was the real meat of what he had to say, and he told me some things that I did not know about what the Iraqi security forces have accomplished. And that’s a problem. I’m a fairly well informed person. I should know these things. If the Iraqi security forces are doing as well as the president says, the administration better figure out a way to start showing that progress in order to instill confidence in both the Iraqi and American people. Why are there no embeds in Iraqi military units? We ought to be publicly pressuring media outlets like Al Jezzera to start showing what is happening. What the president had to say has an interesting juxtaposition to James Fallow’s story in this month’s Atlantic.

The final third of the speech was more boilerplate, but I did like what the president had to say about embracing the debate about Iraq. I also agree that the debate over Iraq is disconcerting for those in uniform. When I was deployed, there were protests in Austin, my home town. It made me angry, and I’m fairly left-leaning for a military guy.

My main fault with the president (hope I’m not violating the UCMJ here) is why did it take so long to start making these speeches? Why did it take so long for them to publish a public “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq”? Maybe the political bruising that they’ve taken in the last few weeks has convinced the administration to finally engage with American people over this issue.

I’ve downloaded the Iraq Strategy and will post on it after I’ve read it. That I just typed that sentence speaks volumes about the age that we live in and the freedom’s we enjoy.

What are your thoughts on the speech? Personally, I’m wondering how long it will take before somebody accuses me of “drinking the kool-aid”. And Phil Carter is actually engaged in training the Iraqi Army so I'm hoping that he'll be able to post about this as well.

Feel free to join the fray.

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.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    Iraq Open Thread on Inteldump

    I've started an open thread on Inteldump looking for new ideas on what we should be doing in Iraq. The goal is an intellectual knife fight where only the strongest ideas survive. Click here to join the fray.