October 30, 2003

The Perils of Iraqification I've

The Perils of Iraqification

I've been getting a bit worried that, given mounting casualties and attacks in Iraq, some in the Bush Administration are tempted to "Iraqify" the security effort--perhaps with the goal of getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible.

A version of this view has Bush wanting to avoid any post-March '04 U.S. fatalities as the election approaches. The problem with this, of course, is that the forces may be too hastily trained.

And if they are not yet ready for prime time they will likely be out-fought by Baathist resistance, Saddam Fedayeen, assorted jihadis and criminal elements.

But I'm not buying all the 'cut and run' speculation at this stage. Jim Hoagland, who has excellent Washington sources, writes today that:

"Bush was adamant that he will see through the challenge in Iraq. In private he is even more insistent, I am told, about not declaring a false victory and running out, as some prominent Democrats predict he will do. Bush aides say that is neither in his nature nor in his political interest."

Perhaps needless to say, but if this White House does cynically change course and leave Iraq--before having made a protracted and serious effort to leave a viable democratic polity behind--George Bush will have at least one fewer vote than he got in '00 courtesy of a B.D. defection.

And doubtless many others feel the same.

Anyway, as I said, I don't think that is going to happen. I really trust Bush is wedded to making a serious go of the Iraq effort.

But I'm worried he might go about it the wrong way going forward, partly because of the manner by which the renewed emphasis on Iraqification appears linked to potential troop reductions (or at least not troop increases).

Don't get me wrong. I think we should Iraqify--partly, per the plan, so as to free up more of our troops tied up with force protection duties, border monitoring, routine security. These troops are then free to concentrate on going after the bad guys.

But even with Iraqification freeing up more of our G.I.s to hunt down the resistance and terrorists--I still fear it will prove too little, too late.

So what to do? I'm with the McCain-Bill Kristol crowd at this stage.

McCain: “We need more troops,” said McCain. “We need more special forces. We need more marines. We need more intelligence capabilities.”

By the way, I suspect Bush too has some concerns about whether we have enough forces on the ground. Otherwise why would he be "constantly" asking Rummy about it (see bottom of linked post)?

Maybe it's time for key opinion leaders in the Beltway (McCain, Hagel, Kristol, Donnelly etc) to ramp up the pressure and make the argument more loudly and forcefully. The stakes certainly warrant it.

The Mix of Forces

As Donnelly points out in his piece, counter-insurgency campaigns are manpower intensive. Another reason to assure appropriate force levels in the theater.

In this vein, as mentioned above, McCain is wise to call for more troops, more marines, more special forces, more intelligence-gathering capability.

But what about constabulatory forces?

Once an area has been secured--are we really going to feel good about passing off the security maintenance duties solely to a hastily trained Iraqi police force?

Yes, they will have more cultural sensitivity and, of course, facility with the locals. But will they be able to keep a secured area secure?

This is where having sophisticated constabulatory forces available comes into play. This is where, just maybe, once we've secured key areas, countries like Germany could make a real contribution.

Not only by helping to train professional Iraqi military police cadres--but also, perhaps under a NATO umbrella--by having a presence on the ground to monitor the security maintenance implementation better.

Yeah, I know this sounds like an Afghanistan redux. And the Germans might balk. As far as I know, Schroder has merely offered to train Iraqi security forces and never specified whether he'd even do the training (let along joint patrols and the like) in Iraq proper.

Worth noting too, of course, that large swaths of Afghanistan are increasingly becoming unsafe again as the Taliban, neo-Talibs and al-Qaeda remnants regroup. Which argues for having more manpower there too. Clearly, we can't do all this alone.

The Larger Picture

Forget all the debates about multilateralism versus unilateralism. The charges of stubborn unilateralism lobbed at the Bushies were always of the nature of a straw man erected by opponents of the administration.

After 9/11, we are all multilateralists. We might have implemented diplomatic efforts at gaining multilateral cooperation better--but Bush, as much as his critics like to claim, never told the world to go f**k off. There was too much diplomatic effort exerted at the U.N., for one, that renders such claims of brutish unilateralism highly disingenuous.

He and his advisors realize that the challenges are too massive, even for the behemoth-like hyperpuissance, to be handled alone.

Financial detective work to track terrorist finances, intelligence sharing on terror groups and rogue states, troop deployment requirements--we require assistance on all these fronts.

As Chuck Hagel puts it in folksy Nebraska terms, "we need friends." But let's structure that cooperation and friendship intelligently. So a suggestion.

It's increasingly clear that the NATO community will be facing threats emanating from the "next door" region of the Middle East going forward. Might it not make sense to develop multinational constabulatory NATO brigades that are ready and able to both train third country military police and assist such cadres, on the ground, with stabilization duties in "peace-making" environments?

Above and beyond the Nato Response Force that was recently formed?

Posted by Gregory at October 30, 2003 11:39 AM
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