September 11, 2006

What if they held "a decisive battle" and nobody came?

In the Washington Post:

Reinforce Baghdad
By William Kristol and Rich Lowry

There is no mystery as to what can make the crucial difference in the battle of Baghdad: American troops...

The bottom line is this: More U.S. troops in Iraq would improve our chances of winning a decisive battle at a decisive moment.

Who exactly would be so stupid as to emerge to fight "a decisive battle at a decisive moment" with the U.S. military, much less an augmented U.S. military? Especially in a multi-faction war of all against all?

The smart strategy if the U.S. was adding men to fight "a decisive battle" in Baghdad would be to temporarily move to another part of the country, such as the crucial oil regions. That's what happened in Fallujah in late 2004 -- the bigshots headed north and just left the local neighborhood hooligans to die at the hands of the Marines.

Better yet, let your rivals get whomped by the Americans in the decisive battle. Then, when they're dead and the Americans are tired, you filter back in and take over.

Of course, all your rivals will have the same thought, so only disorganized teenage hotheads are likely to take up the American challenge.

Indeed, the violence perpetrated by the Shiite militias is directly related to politics. It is part of a power play by the likes of Moqtada al-Sadr to marginalize moderate figures such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Sistani's recent statement of disgust with Iraqi politics suggests that Sadr's gambit may be working. Sending more American troops at this juncture would not be a simple-minded and clumsy substitution of military force for political finesse. It would be an attempt to influence Iraq's political situation in our favor.

As a way to win friends and influence people, spraying the neighborhood down with .50 caliber machinegun fire and dropping smart bombs on apartments builidngs is a surefire winner.

The administration's military strategy has long been based on getting the Iraqis to do the "holding" in the counterinsurgency strategy of "clear, hold and build." That would obviously be ideal. But the experience of the past three years is that the Iraqis aren't yet up to it, at least not in hotly contested areas such as Baghdad. The administration deserves credit for the strides it has made in training the Iraqi army. But for now we have to do much of the holding ourselves for it to be effective. That simply requires more manpower.

If American troops hand neighborhoods over to Iraqis, they are likely to soon deteriorate again -- in the same dynamic we have repeatedly seen of trouble spots being brought under control by American troops only to slide back again when the Americans leave.

Uh, yeah, that is what would eventually happen under your plan. Oh, wait, I forgot, we're going to first fight "a decisive battle" with somebody or other, so that won't be a problem. It will all, by definition, be decided.

It's time to watch "Red Dawn" again. Fast forward to the part where one of the rebels in the Rockies asks their leader Patrick Swayze how he can justify committing the same atrocities as the Communist invaders, like shooting prisoners.

"Because ... we ... live here!"

And that's the essential problem: the Iraqis live in Iraq. Absurd as it seems, they like the place. Sure, it's a godforsaken hole in the ground not fit for man or goat, but, to them, it's home.

And we've got our own home, wonderfully far away from Iraq, and we like our home too. Sooner or later, we're going to go home.

And then the Iraqis will continue shooting each other until the question of who owns the oil is resolved. But then, they'll start pumping it again, driving down the price on the world market.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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