More First Down Than Victory
The coming week will offer an opportunity to see if the November 7 elections will make a real difference. BushCheney's decision on the so called "new way forward" will tell us whether or not he recognizes the will of the electorate. If he is somehow constrained by an increasingly vocal opposition to increasing American force levels in Iraq, primarily Democratic but some Republicans as well, then we will have accomplished a primary goal, we will have stopped the logic of ever-increasing intervention.
It's by no means a permanent victory, but it will be a first (or second, if you count November 7). I am skeptical that BushCheney will listen to calls for de-escalation, preferring to shoot for an elusive "victory" in Iraq's hostile streets and villages but the fact that he is taking such great pains to give birth to something "new" tells me that he can no longer act without looking over his shoulder.
That should have been expected as the result of the electoral thumping but until the Congressional Democrats spoke so clearly yesterday, I was not confident of any real change. I'm still hesitant--I need to see troops coming out of Iraq to claim a change. In the meantime, if opposition to the war in Congress and on the streets keeps BushCheney from digging an even deeper hole in Iraq, that will be a very good start.
What is disappointing is that changing the nature of American involvement in Iraq and reducing our military presence there has been largely invisible in the corridors of power in Washington. All the discussion has been about escalation and new missions. I'm glad to see that the Democracts have put military de-escalation back on the table. Democratic leaders need to also push hard for realistic political solutions--solutions that address ALL parties' interests in Iraq--as the only real alternative to continued violence and instability. That's how Democrats will protect America's real interests.
Even if BushCheney "surges", it will be gradual, more flow than flood.
Bush is looking at three broad options involving one to five additional brigades, according to U.S. officials. The smallest increase would basically be limited to the brigade from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, comprising fewer than 4,000 troops, which has already departed for Kuwait. It would eventually be deployed in Baghdad.
The second option would involve deploying another Army brigade to Baghdad and two battalions of Marines to Anbar, the volatile province that has been a battlefield for the Sunni insurgency and foreign fighters associated with al-Qaeda. The Marines could not be deployed until February, U.S. officials said. The joint Army and Marine deployment would bring the increase to between 9,000 and 10,000 troops.
The third option would supplement the first and second with additional Army brigades, bringing the total to about 20,000, largely deployed in the Iraqi capital. But U.S. officials said this would take considerable time -- possibly three or four months, with a complete deployment as late as May -- because of the difficulty of assembling additional troops through accelerating planned deployments and remobilizing reserves, U.S. officials said.
Even if The Decider chooses the 20K option, don't expect anything dramatic. It will be a gradual increase, one that will allow Iraq's many factions to adjust to the new reality before settling down to a new level of operational violence. A slow army is can be raadily countered. Ask Ulysses Grant about Cold Harbor.