Monday, January 22, 2007

Is Bush’s “Surge” a Plan or a Tactic?

Is Bush’s "Surge" a Plan or a Tactic?

Sending a few thousand more troops so that we can "clear" and "hold" areas, where militias happen to be, is a new tactic.

The problem is that the country is in a power struggle between the Sunni and Shiite, which even Bush now recognizes by asking the ruling government to bring Sunni into the governing of the country.

If the Shiite government is not made to show that it is willing to treat all Iraqi by the same rule of law then a major new plan needs to be brought forward because the new tactic won't solve the problem.

Democrat Joe Biden’s plan, which he got from talk show host Michael Savage "would maintain a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis breathing room in their own regions - as provided for in the Iraqi constitution." (Please read Biden's plan and David Broder's article below on these ideas.)


President Bush does not have a strategy for victory in Iraq. His strategy is to prevent defeat and to hand the problem off to his successor. As a result, more and more Americans want to bring our troops home immediately, even at the risk of trading a dictator for chaos and a civil war that could become a regional war. Both are bad alternatives.

There is a third way. Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and I have proposed a five-point plan to keep Iraq together, protect America's interests and bring our troops home.

Sectarian violence among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds is now the major impediment to stability and progress in Iraq. No number of troops can solve that problem. The only way to hold Iraq together and create the conditions for our armed forces to responsibly withdraw is to give Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds incentives to pursue their interests peacefully. That requires a sustainable political settlement, which is the primary objective of our plan.

The plan would maintain a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis breathing room in their own regions - as provided for in the Iraqi constitution. The central government would be responsible for common interests, like border security and the distribution of oil revenues. We would secure support from the Sunnis - who have no oil -- by guaranteeing them a proportionate share (about 20 percent) of oil revenues. We would increase economic aid, ask the oil-rich Arab Gulf states to fund it and tie all assistance to the protection of minority rights and the creation of a jobs program. We would convene a regional conference to enlist the support of Iraq's neighbors and create a Contact Group of the major powers to enforce their commitments. And we would ask our military to draw up plans to responsibly withdraw most U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2007 - enough time for the political settlement to take hold.

The course we're on has no end in sight. This plan can allow us to achieve the two objectives most American share: to leave Iraq without leaving chaos behind. I hope you will take the time to read the plan and endorse it by adding your email address to our list of supporters.

Thank you,

Joe Biden, U.S. Senator
(D-DE)Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee[,+Sunni,+and+Kurd&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1&ie=UTF-8]

Bush administration proud of its guts, but what's needed to win a war is brains

By David S. Broder

WASHINGTON - The third or fourth time I heard Vice President Dick Cheney tell Fox News' Chris Wallace on Sunday that Al-Qaida was gambling that the United States ``doesn't have the stomach'' to keep up the fight in Iraq, it crossed my mind that Cheney may be staring at the wrong part of the national anatomy.

The question, really, is not whether we have the stomach for the fight but the brains to figure out what to do in Iraq.

The vice president's effort to reduce it to a question of courage -- to suggest that those who want to expand the war are braver than those urging steps to limit it -- is a standard rhetorical trick. Whenever any Bush policy is questioned, someone from the administration almost automatically charges that its critics are soft on terror.

Iraq requires thought, not just gut instinct, because we are struggling with a situation we've never faced before. What does America really know about how to deal with a Shiite-Sunni civil war in a land devastated by years of dictatorship, damaged by invasion, infiltrated by terrorists and surrounded by countries with their own territorial ambitions? Not much, which is why it behooves us to move with caution.

The most serious thinking, inside and outside the administration, has concluded that it is fundamentally up to the government in Baghdad to curb the militias controlled by rival Sunni and Shiite clans. President Bush says the Iraqis can't do it alone, so he is sending more soldiers, 20,000 of them, to help Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his forces.

Trouble is, no one knows if those Iraqi forces will show up to fight, and if they do, whether they will target anyone other than their Sunni enemies.

The Iraq Study Group and a good many others urged Bush to demand action from Maliki before offering any further help. They said, let him show an effort to take control of the corrupt and sect-filled ministries, launch serious constitutional reform, divide up the oil revenues, start delivering services.

Bush instead bought Maliki's argument that none of that is possible until Baghdad is more secure, and securing Baghdad means sending more troops into its high-risk urban warfare.

Given the decision that Bush has made, is there anything Congress can do to protect U.S. interests and as many American lives as possible? Yes, there is. The lawmakers should hold Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates strictly to account for monitoring the action -- or inaction -- of the Maliki government.

There is a lot of talk on Capitol Hill about non-binding resolutions opposing the ``surge'' of troops, or some sort of measure to limit or cut off the funds for that deployment. No such action is likely to have any real impact on the president. The deployment has begun, and Bush is adamant about his authority as commander in chief to continue it.

What Congress can demand is regular, frequent -- even weekly -- updates from the Pentagon, relayed from the able Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander in Iraq, about what the Iraqis are doing. The State Department should be delivering similar reports from the embassy in Baghdad on the operations of Maliki's government. Members of Congress ought to be traveling to Iraq themselves, checking out the reports with the troops who are carrying the brunt of the fighting.

The administration may complain about this intense monitoring and call it micro-management. But after the blunders of the past three years, neither the president nor our allies in Baghdad have earned the right to operate with a free hand.

If Petraeus and his staff can provide specific measures of Iraqi military cooperation and progress, good. If the U.S. Embassy sees signs that the Maliki government is getting its act together, better yet. And if members of Congress can confirm these impressions on the ground in Baghdad, then take it to the bank.

If not, then Congress should call on the president to ``show some stomach'' and tell Maliki that the game is coming to an end.

Without a credible threat to walk away, there is every reason to believe that Maliki will attempt to use this expanded U.S. force as a shield for the Shiite effort to drive the Sunni minority out of their homes and far from any share of power.

That is not a goal worth one American life. And if it turns out that's what all this amounts to, then we will have no choice.

DAVID S. BRODER is a columnist for the Washington Post. []


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