Monday, January 01, 2007

Different Takes on the Surge.

Michael Barone eloquently reviews the debate over increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, and the different schools of thought emerging within the corridors of Washington. He contrasts the sharply differing views of Senators Lieberman and Obama when it comes to the next steps America should take. In doing so, Barone ponders the essence of America's character during during times of conflict:

I think [Senator Lieberman's] approach is more in line with the American character. There are writers in Europe who argue that the threat of terrorism is just a nuisance. Sure, you get a 9/11 or a London 7/7 attack every so often and a bunch of people die; but your civilization goes on, and the Islamofascists aren't really going to take it over. We put up with a lot of deaths in traffic accidents and we can put up with a lot of deaths in terrorist attacks. So the argument goes. I think what it misses is that the terrorists may be able to get their hands on weapons that could inflict vastly more destruction than we saw on 9/11 or 7/7. And that any attempts at appeasing them–like the multicultural policies Britain and some European countries have been following–tend to take away our freedoms. Figuring out how to fight back and prevail is not easy and there will be errors along the way (as there have been in all our wars, and in great abundance). But it's better than sitting back and seeing what is the worst they can do to you.

Meanwhile, Bob Novak surmises that a surge will be unpalatable to most in the Senate. His article links to an op-ed by retired General Jack Keane that reiterates a short term surge will accomplish absolutely nothing, and ultimately lead to failure.

General Keane was a key contributor to the American Enterprise Institute's report Choosing Victory, a Plan for Success in Iraq. I commented on that report here. Obviously, General Keane supports deploying additional troops in Iraq; his piece simply states that a three to six month surge of forces is too short to actually accomplish any objectives there.

Meanwhile, Wretchard at the exceptionally astute Belmont Club speculates that the administration is strongly considering adopting the AEI plan. A great comment snipped from Belmont's post:

I feel the plan is not detailed enough when destructing (sic?) reconstruction: the "build" part of "clear, hold, and build." There needs to be a dramatic decentralization of funding, a renewed commitment to the CERP program; full staffing of provincial reconstruction teams; and the USAID and State Dept need to become expeditionary and fully staffed virtually overnight -- there's no reason why USAID personnel shouldn't be asked to work at the company level. My thoughts here are not enough. I'm not a reconstruction expert. But several Marine officer friends have noted this problem. Robert Kaplan did so as well in an Atlantic piece not long ago. Basically, the rest of the elements of national power are not present on the battlefield in the ways that they should be [emph added].

These comments echo many I have made repeatedly in pasts posts on this blog, and they formed a central recommendation in my Master's monograph a few years back. A Goldwater-Nichols type restructuring is definitely required over at the State Department if they are going to be effective in dealing with the emerging foreign policy challenges the United States must tackle in the 21st century. And certainly, the rest of the agencies and elements of the United States government need to ante up resources and efforts if the US is going to accomplish its stated objectives in Iraq.

These are just a few of the many diverse ruminations over the surge, but they are definitely worth your time. If anyone comments or links to this post, how about including other schools of thought for the next step for this country's Iraq policy? Look for stuff that sharply contrasts the AEI report, but is still far from being an "Australian Peel" conducted at the strategic level.

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