Thursday, January 11, 2007

For the Surge

The process of creating a functioning, western-style democracy in Iraq was always going to be an extremely difficult task. Although some have made their judgments based on unreasonable timetable for progress, the progress has nevertheless been slower than the American political system is able to bear. Thus we are at a point where we have a few limited options in Iraq: continue with a policy that most believe has failed, withdraw (on some timetable to be determined), or try to do more.

There is no serious argument that withdrawal would make things better - either for the Iraqis or for the security of the United States and its allies. The only question is whether a 'surge' will improve things.

With regard to that critical question, another point of apparently universal agreement is that the success of this experiment will ultimately rest with the Iraqis. The President's political opponents have stated ad nauseam that the onus must be put on the Iraqis to defend themselves, their system, and their rights. Well, if the duly-elected government of Iraq requested a temporary increase in troops as an essential part of improving the work of their own forces and ensuring security, while also providing a commitment to assume full responsibility for their own defense, can we afford to refuse?

To me that's the critical point, and the Washington Post apparently agreed - because they put it right there in paragraph 29 of the story:

U.S. and Iraqi forces began a plan last summer to rid Baghdad of illegal militias and death squads that were fomenting sectarian violence, but the U.S.-designed effort faltered when Iraq failed to produce two-thirds of the troops Maliki had pledged. The difference now, U.S. officials say, is that Maliki put forward the plan himself and wants Iraq to take the lead, with a goal of assuming military command of the entire country in November. Iraq now has control over only three of its 18 provinces.

I suppose if you are certain that this effort will fail, and the situation is hopeless, then you can refuse. But is such an assumption reasonable, and is it one on which we can afford to make policy? I don't think so.

Captain Ed expounds on this topic at some length.

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