Solution For Iraq
Bush’s ill-conceived and poorly executed war in Iraq has become a quagmire. There’s no longer any denying it. And arguing over how we got there and why will not get us out of the mess either. It is equally clear that fighting that war the way we are fighting will not get us out any time soon either. So, what’s needed is a whole new plan, which I just happen to have here in my knapsack.
This is how to salvage Bush’s failed Iraq policy, as my old Marine Corps drill instructor used to say, “by the numbers.”
1) Alert Iraqi authorities they have until January 2006 to get their own troops ready to take over all operations inside Iraq’s borders.
2) Begin now preparing temporary bases, at roughly 100-mile intervals, along Iraq’s borders with Iran and Syria and Saudi Arabia. (The math: 2000-mile plus border would require roughly 25 bases. If we used just half the 160,000 US troops in such an operation that would be 40 soldiers to patrol each mile of the border. )
3) Come this January US and other coalition forces are moved to these border bases where their mission – their only mission -- would be to seal their 100-mile section of border.
4) Each border base would be equipped with drones, helicopters, sensors and whatever other gear needed to seal their section of border -- but no Iraqi troops. The reason for that should be clear. The Iraq military is heavily infiltrated with insurgents and insurgent sympathizers. The last thing we need is them pointing out the weak spots in our sealed borders strategy. Border bases would have to be manned, supplied and run entirely by coalition forces. (And of course Halliburton. There's no escaping Halliburton.)
5) The only US troops that would remain in Iraq’s interior would be a handful of U.S. military advisors serving with the Iraqi military and Special Forces teams collecting intelligence or involved in surgical operations.
6) The US would agree to continue providing close air support when requested by Iraqi troops -- but only with the clear understanding that, if civilians are injured or killed in an Iraqi-ordered air strike, Iraqi commanders on the ground take the rap – the whole rap, immediately and publicly. Otherwise our planes are a no-show the next time they dial 911.
This plan would fundamentally change the current dynamic. Right now the insurgency supported from the outside and from within, is eternally sustainable. This plan would shuffle the deck.
1) It would severly cut the supply of fresh jihadist recruits streaming into Iraq from neighboring countries.
2) It would force Iraqi troops to stop relying on US military backup when the going gets tough.
3) It would then just be a matter of the Iraqi military killing off insurgents trapped inside Iraq or convincing the rest to put down their arms and join the political process.
4) It would greatly reduce US casualties beginning immediately on January 2. (I would bet it would reduce US casualties by up to 90% simply because they would no longer be in urban settings where car and roadside bombs have proven so lethal.)
5) Finally, it would mark the beginning of the end of US occupation. No longer would ordinary Iraqis have to see westerners frisking Iraqis or invading the privacy of their homes and mosques. They would like that. But the message to the Iraqi people would also be as clear and unambiguous as it could be: we are leaving, and sooner rather than later. So, you guys better get your own act together.
Even if this plan were not entirely successful, how much worse could it be than what we have now? If nothing else it would serve cut the class size of what has become the Islamic terrorist world's equivalent of West Point. Our border-based troops would either kill or capture such terrorists-in-training before they even get to their first class. And, as the chances of making it into Iraq alive dim the number of those trying would dwindle.
Finally, sealing the borders with Iran and Syria would also disrupt a myriad un-wholesome and unhelpful cross-border activities by those two antagonistic, un-wholesome and unhelpful players.
Of course this plan could fail too. But if it does at least our troops would be just a few feet away from the exits. Besides if in the end a finite number of insurgents trapped within a sealed Iraq defeat US-trained and lavishly supplied Iraqi government forces, then they probably don’t deserve their own country anyway.
At that point Iraqis would enter a new phase of their troubled history -- the Yugoslavia-ization of Iraq. The Kurds would go their own whey (sorry, couldn't resist) and lay claim to the northern part of the country they already govern, and well. There would be a fight for Kurkuk and the oil fields around it, but if the Shiites could not defeat Sunni insurgents they wouldn’t have a prayer against the Kurds.
Then, what we now call the “Sunni Triangle,” would become Sunniland with Baghdad as its capital. The southern part of Iraq would become Shiiteland, and ultimately an Iranian ward. Ethnic cleansing would, of course, be rampant as Sunnis force Shiites out of their areas and visa versa and the Kurds throw everyone else out of Kurdland. It would be very, very messy – Serbian-style messy.
These new, roughly drawn, self-declared boarders separating these three antagonistic entities would remain unsettled for decades, especially in oil-rich areas. (“That’s ours!”.. “Is not.”… “Is too!”… “Is NOT!” bang, bang… etc, etc.)
For guidance and help the Kurds would look west, towards Europe. The Sunnis would look west too, but only as far west as Syria. The Shiites would look east to Iran. Hilarity would NOT ensue.
That’s “the other option” -- Plan B, facing Iraqis if they let Plan A slip from their grasp. And the sooner Iraqis are confronted with it the better.
So, move our troops to the Iraqi borders and keep them there until the Iraqis either defeat the insurgents or lose to them.
In either case, we’re outta there.