Here is my answer to Kenneth Pollack, Michael O'Hanlon, and the latest
tragic evasion and spin currently circulating in high Democratic
This morning's story in the Washington Post is accurate and conforms to
what I am hearing privately. Many Democrats are again missing the first
principle of the matter and treating Iraq in political and tactical
The latest view from Democrats is to adopt their politics and tactics
around the proposition that the Iraq escalation is working but the Iraq
leaders are not.
Confronted with an obsessed and intransigent president, Republicans in
Congress who are endlessly submissive to presidential power and
disastrous policies, and a Democratic national security establishment
that is incoherent and careerist, the most likely outcome in September is this:
The President will win full support for the full escalation without any
effective limitation in what would be the third disastrous Democratic
failure in the new Congress, the first being their surrender on Iraq
before the May recess, the second being their surrender on the
constitution before the August recess.
This need not be. However, at this time, it is most probable outcome,
unless something changes. Lets first understand, this was never a surge, that was a
propaganda term. It was an escalation currently on course to continue
for at least a year and a half, and very possibly longer, if Congress
Let's get this straight; any success in Anbar is not because of the
surge, it is because of deals made with Sunni insurgents who shortly
before the deals, were killing Americans, and who are now receiving
American aid. This would have happened with or without the surge.
Second, in my view, history will show these deals as a catastrophic
mistake. Setting aside the moral and strategic issue of giving money and
(directly or indirectly) weapons to those who were recently killing
Americans, the end game of these deals depends on the end game of Iraqi
If one believes, as I do, that the government of Iraqi (no matter who is
prime minister) is unable to ever reach a reconciliation that includes
Sunnis and Shi'ites, the aid America is now
giving to Sunni insurgents will ultimately be used to kill Shi'ites in
escalated sectarian war,
and possibly Americans.
This growing Democratic spin is incoherent. One cannot argue that the
Iraqi political system is failing but the surge is succeeding. If the
Iraqi political system continues to fail, the surge, or more accurately
the escalation, must also fail because, in effect, the status quo ante
is that America is today arming all sides in the sectarian war of Iraq.
If one believes the Iraqi government will not achieve reconciliation,
the end game of the status quo is this: we will be asked to continue
escalated American military force forever, with the argument that if we
do not, there will be genocide when we leave.
If one believes the Iraqi government will not achieve reconciliation, by
arming all sides of the sectarian war simultaneously, we will be told
that we must stay forever militarily, because the more we arm all sides,
the greater the genocide when we leave.
In purely military terms, under the escalation there have been short
term gains in some areas, short term setbacks in other areas, a shifting
of Al Qaeda attacks from some areas to other areas.
In purely political terms, the escalation has had the exact opposite of
its marketed intent: Iraqi reconciliation has moved backwards, as
parties view our simultaneous aid to all warring factions as reason to
avoid, not achieve, reconciliation.
Don't be surprised if there is a phony Iraqi government initiative
designed to win the vote in September. Don't be surprised if all Sunni
and Shi'ite sectarians warriors make soundings of reconciliation so they
can continue to receive American aid, and don't be surprised if Maliki is
replaced through a coup or no-confidence vote, in time for our vote, in
In short, they all take our money (and in fact our weapons) as they
position to kill each other when we leave, and, in the meantime, take
our aid and wait us out.
In truth, a growing faction close to President Bush privately favors a
new "Iraqi strongman" to establish some form of authoritarian rule.
Even the ubiquitous Mr. O'Hanlon raised this possibility in one of his
many media interviews recently, though to be fair to him, since he
hedges his bets more than a Wall Street hedge
fund, it was hard to tell whether favors it, would tolerate it, opposes
it, or is merely keeping his options open for future opeds and media
The big winner of the entire policy has been the government of Iran. The
latest entrant into this quagmire is our supposed friend Saudi Arabia,
criticized by American officials for their support for insurgents, then
rewarded by those same officials with massive new arms sales. This is
The problem with the Iraq war is the Iraq war.
The reason some of us opposed it from the beginning, unlike the
fossilized Democratic national security establishment that has been
incoherent or supportive at various times; unlike the radical
discredited neoconservative national security establishment, and unlike
the inept mainstream Republican national security establishment that
often opposed the policy privately but supported it in practice, is
Centuries of history prove the tendency, very deep in Iraqi society, to
not only break apart, but to fight wars within itself, sectarian faction
against sectarian faction.
This was known long before the war began, ignored by an ignorant
President with the arrogance to believe that an aggressive preemptive
war followed by a corrupt Roman- like occupation could prove history and
demographics wrong. It was known by a fossilized, careerist, and
incoherent Democratic national security establishment with too many who
want to be Secretary of State, and too few who combine clarity with
This was known yesterday; it is known today; it will be known tomorrow
and the great issue is how many Americans must die before our policy
matches the history, culture, politics and realities of the country we
invaded so casually and are trapped in so catastrophically.
The situation today is identical to the various interludes of delusion
throughout this war when progress was claimed to be right around the
tunnel. The statue of Saddam fell; Saddam was captured; the Iraqi
election was held; Zarkawi was killed. These were all short term events
that changed nothing, each met with crowing victory claims by the
President, by incoherence from the Democrati security establishment, and
by submission from the Congress. Each meant nothing in the end, except
rationales for the body count to rise while the carnage continued.
At every step, truth was falsified, false hopes were raised, and failure
continued. At every step propaganda was used to create heroes from Pat
Tilman to Jessica Lynch, legitimate heroes in real life, used as public
relations pawns with tissues of lies, deceptions and
At every step, every American commander
became the most brilliant, even when their private advice was ignored.
Every successive American commander had his hour of profound deification
where they were the smartest, the best, the greatest. General Franks,
General Abizaid, General Sanchez, General Casey
and now General Petraeus were all deified by the propaganda machine and
turned into public relations pawns for continued disastrous war.
Our current commander, General Petraeus, is a great military thinker
from a great military organization, the 101st Airborne, with a near
perfect record of failure in Iraq. His original efforts early in the war
led to ultimate sectarian conflict within his regional command. His next
mission for training Iraqis to "step up so we step down" was terribly
failed, obviously. He allowed American weapons to fall into the hands of
our enemies through mismanagement during his tenure.
Shortly before the 2004 presidential election, General Petraeus injected
himself into the campaign on behalf of the President through a
pre-election oped in the Washington Post that exactly three years ago
this September. He gave glowing reports about the Iraqi military, Iraqi
police and Iraqi leadership that look ridiculous now, three years later.
Petraeus is a good man and great military thinker with a record in Iraq
that was so failed and flawed that only in the George Bush era would
such a record be deified, and only with such incoherence from the
Democratic national security establishment and such insiderism and
laziness from the major media could such a deification of past failures
Now we learn: the "Petraeus report" will not be the "Petraeus report"
but will be the White House report. We learn he will not testify about
his report but before the White House rewrite of the report.
With the latest maneuvering the Administration will try to time his
pre-report testimony with, you guessed it, the anniversary of September
11, 2001. Is there no shame left in Washington?
Meanwhile, every hour this escalation goes forward, our military force
structures around the world are further destroyed. Troop rotation
schedules move from destructive to cruel. Unmet short and long term
needs for health care, disability and training escalate along with the
Recruitment lags and lower goals are met with lower standards that are
so severe that obese criminals are encouraged to sign up for combat.
Desperate commanders are forced to give aid to those recently killing
Americans, with total troop levels actually higher than the announced
surge through rotation abuses and greater reliance not only on Sunni
insurgents but on mercenary forces and subcontracted security personnel.
Meanwhile the new British Prime Minister will soon announce British
withdrawal, while the war in Afghanistan deteriorates and beneficiaries
of that war are warlords, poppy merchants, and Taliban and Al Qaeda who
are recruiting, and expanding within nations we call allies. Our
Afghanistan mission and the true battle against terrorism are eroded by
obsession with Iraq.
This is the situation the President, Republicans in Congress and some
Democrats are now
There is a better way, not easy, but possible with a greater chance of
The escalation should be ended, now, with a very careful and orderly
reduction of troops staring immediately and proceeding into next year.
Nothing precipitous, that is a straw man from a desperate
Administration. What is needed is a reversal from a war without end
and an endless escalation, to a careful and orderly de-escalation
proceeding in phases that would involve both some reduction and some
redeployment of American troops.
Whatever chances of reconciliation exist, would rise with this new
policy, because instead of providing aid to the different warring
factions they would know that there is a finite limit to how many
Americans we will sacrifice while they continue their sectarian wars.
Note: this change would allow even more
aggressive and intense American attacks on Al Qaeda in Iraq, would
strengthen our mission in Afghanistan, would allow escalated American
attacks against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and on the
border with Pakistan.
A redeployed American military would also allow far stronger
interdiction of arms coming into Iraq from Syria and Iran, while
dramatically lowering American casualties and raising the pressures on
Iraqis to reconcile with cease fires and broad agreements with each
other, if they choose.
Moving to a course of deescalation, now, and rejecting a course of
escalation, into 2008, is far wiser and far better for our security, our
troops and our true battle against terrorism than further continuing
this catastrophic policy of Presidential intransigence and Democratic
submission hidden by the latest generation of political spin.