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June 25, 2003

The Gambler

The administration's reaction to the post war unrest in Iraq has been something along the lines of "Give us time. Reconstruction and pacification take a while. It won't happen overnight." Even though I'm placed pretty firmly in the "enough troops to win the war, not enough troops to keep the peace" school of thought, I've been willing to accept that argument, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

But, given the continuing attacks on troops and recently repaired portions of infrastructure in Iraq, as well as the renewed activity from Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, is it too much to ask the administration for a date by when it would expect the pacification/reconstruction process to be essentially over with in each country?

Is it 6 months from now? A year? Two years? Five? Come 2008, are we still going to be seeing headlines like "US Soldier Dead in Iraq Grenade Attack?" Is an assessment from the Pentagon or the White House on how long our men and women are going to be in harm's way in those two countries too much to ask for?

The American people may deserve an answer, but it's politically inexpedient to give one, as Paul Bremer demonstrated in the first story linked above. Why answer the question when not answering it is politically less costly than the alternative?

My own take is that the administration hopes/expects that the pacification process will be essentially over with in Iraq by the end of next summer, but fears that it will not be. News stories of American boys dying in a country where the population was expected to welcome us with open arms and cries of joy aren't going to play well with the public in October of 2004. Steps could be taken in an attempt to prevent that outcome, but most entail a short-term political cost, one the administration does not appear willing to pay.

A calm Iraq trumps a restive Afghanistan politically, especially if American forces aren't taking casualties. While it would be nice to see stability in both countries, it's politically important only in Iraq, barring a major Taliban offensive.

Since the majority of Iraqis did welcome coalition forces with open arms, the question of pacification is one of time divided by number of soldiers. How many troops will it take, be they American, British or Iraqi to guard critical infrastructure, police the country, guard the borders, track down the remaining Saddam loyalists and do it all in time to affect the 2004 elections?

Of course, this is a bit if a sticky wicket for the administration as well, as not only are American forces are globally stretched right now, any new deployment of troops to Iraq is an admission that the administration's pre-war assessment of force requirements in post-war Iraq was flawed.

An unwillingness to admit to error is a particular feature of politicians, one the Bush administration possesses in spades. The result is this gamble; that despite a less than optimum number of forces in Iraq, the pacification of that country will be somehow completed by next year's political conventions.

I'd like for it to pay off, but I don't think I'll take that bet.

Posted by Bigwig at June 25, 2003 11:05 AM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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Comments

Glad to see someone else is standing up and stating the obvious. The truth is when the war was stated "over", it wasn't even close

Posted by: Scarecrow at June 25, 2003 01:12 PM

I think that W was WAY premature in is grandiose annoucement on the aircraft carrier that the war was over. It's only over for those brave souls who lost their lives there. Now it has degraded into fighting a guerilla war where it is very difficult to figure out who the bad guys are. I expect that politically it will become increasingly difficult to keep the troops there as the "police" force while one or two get shot dead every week. If we are not already there, it becomes closer to a quagmire every week while no recognizable Iraqi government is in charge.

Posted by: MojoMark at June 25, 2003 03:19 PM

Let's just ask Sandra Day to answer the question.

We let her answer all the other important questions - why not this one?

Posted by: Omnibus Bill at June 26, 2003 11:48 AM

Well the 50 to 80% of the population tyrranized by Saddam are happy as drunks at a free liquor party.

The 10% who got the goodies and got to tyrranize the rest are not so happy. Add in that Syria and Iran at least are sending in freelancers to cause trouble and you have a problem.

Do we give up the majority to the fascists because they are killing our boys? What kind of morality is that? I forgot, it is Munich 1938 morality. It is old Europe morality. Peace for our time morality. Better that the Saddamites or their successors kill thousands a month than the Americans lose any. I mean what is a thousand Iraqis compared to 10 Americans? Are we not worth 10,000 times as much as they are? Racist? Why no. We can't be racists. We are liberals.

If there is genocide in Africa don't call on America. Let the French handle it. After all they are on the right side of morality. Let them protect the Africans as they have always done. The Belgians ought to have a hand in it as well. They have experience dealing with genocide.

It is as wrong for America to stop the tyrrany in Africa as it was to stop the tyrrany in Iraq. If logic is any guide.

Dictators rule.

Fehhhhhhhh.

And of course we have the quagmire. Because we have not installed the first governent of thugs who came a calling.

The first thing the Iraqis need before they get charge of a national government is experience with local self government. Experience takes time. People here act like experience inculcated from birth here can be learned in 15 minutes in Iraq. Due to the Iraqi's vast previous experience with self government.

You know I must have turned left and missed the planet I was aiming for. This one seems peopled with creatures without any connection to practical experience.

It took 5 years to fully hand back Germany to the Germans after WW2. This was a country with a lot of experience with self government and it took 5 years.

American soldiers were being killed for years after the end of WW2 by Japanese dead enders. Should we have put the Emperor and the military back in charge and gone home? This is not a new problem.

Doesn't any one study history any more?

Or is history a right wing thing?

Posted by: M. Simon at June 29, 2003 06:53 PM
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