Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ahead of the Curve?

Military commanders in Iraq are planning to re-assign American combat troops to serve as advisors and trainers to the Iraqi Army. It's a step toward what many see as the "kinder, gentler" Iraq policy: train them to restrain the forces of civil war so we can get the hell out. The plans aren't a new administration policy; commanders on the ground are trying to come up with something that works. That's what commanders are supposed to do.

The new policy takeks US troops out of direct combat but leaves them in that same environment. Only now they must depend on the skill and fortitude of Iraqi soldiers. Most GI's would be reluctant, I think, to put their lives at risk with the Iraqi sArmy. I would not wanted to have served with the South Vietnamese Army which a) actually existed and b) could fight creditably at times. The Iraqi Army seems only minimally capable at this point.

But GI's, being GI's, will take those risks. Time will tell if it works.

Which brings me to THE big question about America in Iraq: Time. Every scenario I hear about Iraq involves more time, at least 18 months and up to a decade. The only short time period I've heard lately is the six months General Abizaid says is the critical window for stabilzing Iraq.
Time and effort is the conversation America needs to have. How much are we going to put into Iraq and, most important, why. BushCheney denied us that opportunity before launching this war--his pro-war propaganda and fearmongering shut that door before we had a chance to look through it. Once the troops were in the field, most Americans just kept quiet.

But now after more than 23,000 American casualties, Americans are finallyasking "Why?" In response they get ever changing rationales and never attained promises. If BushCheney had come to America and promised a $500 billion war with tens of thousands of American and hundreds of thousand Iraqi casualties, he would never have convince Congress to abdicate its war making authority to him.

Now that America seems to be awake and asking questions, it is time to ask: How long? At what cost? To what end? And this time, America, don't just accept sound bites and nice platitudes. Make him explain.

In the meantime, American GI's will be out with the Iraqi Army trying to build a national institution where nationhood is still optional.


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