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Thursday, December 14, 2006

"War is a continuation of politics by other means"

It appears the the Joint Chiefs of Staff haven't forgotten this admonition by Clausewitz. This is from today's Washington Post:
Pentagon chiefs think that there is no purely military solution for Iraq and that, without major progress on the political and economic fronts, the U.S. intervention is simply buying time, the sources said. They particularly want to see U.S. pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to offer amnesty to Sunni insurgents, approve constitutional amendments promised to the Sunni minority, pass laws to ensure equitable distribution of oil revenue, and modify the ban on members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party taking government positions.
Hopefully, this kind of talk will put to rest all the "double down" whispering that has been emanating from the media's talking heads these past few days.

The military has long known that Iraq could not be won as a purely military campaign. Analysts in the US have to stop talking about victory versus defeat and focus instead on the choice between stalemated war versus sustainable peace.

Under the Joint Chiefs plan, what will the military be doing in Iraq? While many thousands of troops would become newly embedded in Iraqi units to serve training purposes, the remaining US forces would stop fighting Iraq's civil war.
Meanwhile, the remaining seven to eight brigades of U.S. combat forces would focus on three core missions: striking al-Qaeda, strengthening security along Iraq's borders, and protecting major highways and other routes to ensure U.S. forces freedom of movement in Iraq.
I'm not confident that this is the pathway out of Iraq, but it does sound better than the status quo. Hopefully, by changing course, fewer American soldiers would be exposed to violent injury and death.

If sectarian violence escalates dramatically after the switch to this strategy, it will become even more politically difficult for hawks to argue that the US should increase its involvement. Though the Pentagon might not identify civil war now, their perspective might be better from a more remote perspective.

Likewise, it will be harder to frame American withdrawal from Iraq as "cut and run." After all, the civil war won't be widely viewed as America's fight.

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