Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Defeating Demons in Iraq

President Bush announced to send more troops to Iraq on January 10, in order to deal with violent uprisings there. This idea itself is nothing new, and I am not surprised to hear this decision. From the early stage of post Saddam occupation, opinion leaders like Robert Kagan and William Kristol, and Senator John McCain have been urging the President to dispatch additional army around Baghdad and critically dangerous areas in Iraq. In an article entitled “Why Iraq Needs More U.S. Troops” in the Washington Post on September 1, 2003, Robert Kagan argued that more US forces were necessary in order to secure environment for post Baathist reconstruction. He pointed out that it was necessary to mobilize reserve forces, but the current administration was reluctant to tale this option.

What makes more US forces necessary? For this question, it is essential to understand current situations in the whole Middle East and Iraq.

Barry Rubin, Director at the Global Research in International Affairs of the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, insists that the Middle East faces the most dramatic shift in alignments since the 1950s (“The New Mideast Alignment” in the Jerusalem Post, January 14). He says that the Middle East is divided into two groups: one is the HISH (Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, and Hamas) and the other is moderate Arab. Currently, Iraq has become a frontline of the clash between the HISH and moderate Arabs. More importantly, the Bush administration regards Iraq a central front in the Global War on Terror, and the victory as vital to the United States, the Middle East region, and US allies, according to “Highlights of the Iraq Strategy Review” by National Security Council in January 2007. Among the HISH powers, the White House regards Iran’s negative influence the most critical in Iraq.

For further analysis, I would like to focus on Iraq specifically. Right after the midterm election, the Iraq Study Group suggested that the United States withdraw from Iraq as early as possible, and explore some cooperation with Iran and Syria. In a joint essay “Bush Must Call for Reinforcements in Iraq” contributed to the Financial Times on November 13, William Kristol and Robert Kagan refuted this idea. They are ague this sort of face-saving way to lose is not helpful. As to engagement with Iran and Syria, they are skeptical. However, they agree with James Baker and Lee Hamilton who chair the Iraq Study Group that President Bush should seek bipartisan support for his policy. They point out that “The Republican loss was largely due to lack of confidence that Mr. Bush had a victory strategy for Iraq, not a belief that he was not exiting fast enough. If the president makes clear he has such a strategy, he will have the support to do what is necessary.”

As mentioned previously, “Highlights of the Iraq Strategy Review” analyzes current situation in Iraq. According to this report, the Coalition has achieved the following objectives.

–Saddam Hussein’s regime is no longer an organized threat to Iraq, its neighbors, or the United States.
–Iraq is governed by a freely elected government under a permanent constitution.
–Democratic institutions have been established and are enabling Iraqis to shape their own state.
–Per capita incomes have increased ($743 to $1593 according to the World Bank, although inflation also has risen) and Iraq has performed under its IMF agreement. (Global American Discourse mentioned this in a previous post, ”Reconstruction in Iraq: Making Progress Even from A Liberal Viewpoint.”)

However, US led forces face the following challenges.

–Al-Qaida terrorism and a vicious insurgency are now combined with sectarian violence.
–The national government is eager to take lead responsibility, but it is hampered by a lack of governmental capability and widening sectarian divisions.
–Power centers are devolving, with events outside the international zone becoming more relevant to national trends.

This report points out that situation around Baghdad has not improved, and Iraqi support for the Coalition has declined to rely on “self-help” by local communities. It is important to notice that key assumptions have changed in many ways (p.7). Primary challenge has become multiple sectarianism uprisings from Sunni-based riots. Dialogues with insurgents were supposed to help reduce violence before, but they have turned out to be ineffective to improve security now.

Growing threat of Iran poses further challenges. The Bush administration thought Iran shared common interests with the United States to pursue political stability in Iraq. Now, it was revealed that Iran assists Shiite insurgents to expand its influence there (“Vindicating Larry Franklin” in the New York Sun, January 16).

Under such critical conditions, Frederick Kagan, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, presents victory strategies against insurgents in his policy paper, “Choosing a Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq.” Having analyzed enemies, from Al Qaeda, Baathists, Sunni and Shiite vigilantes, and Iran, he suggests strategies for military operation, reconstruction, and armed forces expansion in Iraq. Prior to talking of his Iraq strategy, Frederick Kagan points out fundamental premise.

[T]he United States between 2001 and 2006 has committed only a small proportion of its total national strength to this struggle. There are more than 1 million soldiers in the active and reserve ground forces, and only 140,000 of them are in Iraq at the moment.

For the first step, he insists on concentrating more forces in Baghdad area. Clearing successfully, then, move on to Sunni and Shiite areas one by one. He insists that the United States and Iraqi government must show determination to suppress Sunni insurgents and to protect both Sunnis and Shiites. In his analysis, this will make the subsequent operations against Shiite militias politically easier (P.33 ~ 34).

Furthermore, Frederick Kagan articulates why the United States must be firmly involved in Iraq. He rules out commonly argued idea of train and transfer to the Iraqi Security Forces, because sectarian violence is growing faster than steady increase in the capability of the Iraqi Army. American presence is necessary to defeat these insurgents, and withdrawal from Iraq would lead to Iranian penetration to Shiite areas. He advocates that the United States can achieve initial goal of toppling Saddam Hussein, only through expanding commitments to Iraq (p.40 ~ 44).

Finally, I quote a commentary by Marc Ruel Gerecht, Resident Fellow at AEI.

For the Americans to give up now is a betrayal of those in Iraq who’ve bled far more than we have. (“Should We Surge?”, The New Republic Online, January 11)

People often confuse Iraq with Vietnam. But as Gerecht mentions, democracy is in progress in Iraq, and the United States is not helping corrupt dictators as it did in Vietnam. The media must never miss this point!