Thursday, June 30, 2005

Marc Schulman posted today posted MoveOn.org's " Talking Points" for writing letters to the editor to papers across the country advocating a time-table pull-out of troops from Iraq in the wake of Bush's speech. The key one is here because it gives away the game:

"We need a real exit plan with a real timeline providing real accountability for our leaders. We need to turn control of the training of Iraqi forces and the rebuilding of Iraq to the international community. And we must renounce permanent military bases in Iraq because that angers the Iraqi people."

First, there are a number of good reasons for some kind of potential troop reduction. Resting and rebuilding overstretched and overstressed units. Movement to another deployment to carry on the war in a different theater in the GWOT. Shifting roles for U.S. military personnel within Iraq vis-a-vis Iraqi forces as Iraqi units increase their operational comptency. These would all be examples of reasons to alter troop levels. It's a safe bet that none of these reasons are foremost in the minds of those who wrote MoveOn.org's talking points.

I won't bother with critiquing the self-evidently asinine "We need to turn control of the training of Iraqi forces and the rebuilding of Iraq to the international community." That's a throw-away line to reassure the nervous within MoveOn.org's email list that there's another form international 911 than the United States military to help the Iraqis. There isn't an " international community" with the military resources to undertake such a task, even if they had the will.

Telegraphing our " exit strategy" with a public timetable is not designed to " hold our leaders accountable"but to enable the insurgency's strategic planning. It is designed to demoralize the Iraqi government soldiers and policemen who will then begin looking ahead to the day the U.S. pulls out and encourage their collaboration with insurgency. It is designed to create an inflexible and artificial constraint on the ability of American commanders and the Iraqi government to respond to the insurgency.

Strategically and tactically it represents some supremely wrongheaded advice from people who have a political vested interest in seeing bad things happen and who will take no responsibility for events once their advice is followed. If you pull troops out you can just pull them out, a " timetable" doesn't add value, it increases problems that make actually pulling out troops more difficult and costly.

I wager MoveOn.org's leadership worries a great deal more about a stabilized and democratizing Iraq with a few American military bases in 2008 than an Iraq sliding in to chaos and civil war.
Sorry, but the idea of a phased withdrawal is now being discussed by proponents of nation-building as the "least bad" of all the poor choices we now confront as a result of the administration's bungling of the post-invasion.

See Daniel Byman, with Georgetown's Security Studies Program and Brookings:

Five Bad Options for Iraq

He had made a deliberate case in 2003 for "staying the course" in Iraq, based the strategic importance of a stable, democratic Iraq
Hi Tokyo Tom,

Thank you much for these links, let me take a look at them before commenting later today.
Good post, but the part about renouncing bases in Iraq because it angers the Iraqi people should get a line, too. How would they know that? Have they been polling the Iraqi people?
Great post, as always.

There isn't an " international community" with the military resources to undertake such a task, even if they had the will.

I assume 'the task' is the pacification of Iraq.

France has the ability. Conventional and unconvnetioanl French intervention in the Ivory Coast, Rwanda, &c, show a steady adherence to means when they help the goals of Paris.

The task in Iraq isn't a 'Leviathan' job, it's SysAdmin. France does SysAdmin effectively.

-Dan tdaxp
Tokyo Tom

Those were great links ! I also agree with you on the bungling.

What must be avoided though is the withdrawal political dynamic that plagued Vietnamization - the very thing the MoveOn crowd would like to see. Withdrawal should be a fluid and not a rigid concept centered around where troops can be spared and not when we are on a calendar.

hi Crescendo,

It is possible to poll in Iraq, though I'd look twice at the reliability and validity of any kind of poll undertaken in current circumstances. Zogby, I believe, has polled in Iraq.

I'm sure MoveOn.org doesn't give a hoot in Hell about what the Iraqis want - if 60 % of Iraqis asked for US troops to stay MoveOn would still be calling for a pull-out. They're about getting the Left-wing of the Democratic party into office and nothing else.

Hi Dan

liked your Firefox post. Very useful. And timely.

France has *some* ability - basically a carrier group as a launch point and bases throughout Francophone Africa.

The Ivory Coast and Rwanda however calls their recent nation-building record into question. The French did help the Chadians drive out the Libyans years back

The French could be a tremendous asset to the Core in terms of Sys Admin in the African Gap but I'm not going to hold my breath

I agree that the prospects for meaningful French assistance are unlikely.

French help does not have to come from air craft carriers -- that part of the French navy is likely to remain near useless.

In the build-up to the Rwandan genocide, the French shipped large amounts of machettes and small arms to their local Hutu allies, which eased Hutu fears that machetes would not reach those who needed them in time for their planned very high-temp operation.

I'll send the link to this page to PKA, he can provide a reference...

Given the current ethnic civl war in Iraq, it would be trivial to enlist friendlies like the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Kurdish Democratic Party, etc, for an unconventional settlement of the war...

-Dan tdaxp
Backing up tdaxp,
In the excellent Rwandan-made movie "Sometimes in April" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0400063/officialsites) the leader of the Hutu Power movement is showing the main character, Augustin, the weapon supply. Augustin is shown guns and grenades from various countries. The Hutu Power leader then proudly shows machetes from "Our good friends the French."
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