Iraq Facts, Strategies & Opinions

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Iraq, The World, War

Kevin Drum points me to a piece in Slate that discusses the opinions of General Petraeus and Stephen Biddle, a military analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations and an advisor to Petraeus.

First, some facts about the surge…

The surge will be over in April 2008, when the U.S. Army and Marines run out of deployable troops, and therefore at least a quarter of the 20 brigades now in Iraq will inevitably be withdrawn and not replaced. This is by now common knowledge. At the same time, nearly all politicians, including most Democrats, have come out against a total withdrawal and have recognized that we will have some military presence in Iraq for a long time to come.

Second, we know what the long term strategy is…

The idea is, at least in the short run, to set aside the quarrels of the Baghdad government—even the notion of a cohesive Iraqi nation—and, instead, to cut deals with local leaders, province by province, tribe by tribe.[...]

The notion is that one local area after another will become secure enough to allow for the delivery of essential services, economic development, and finally political compromise—until, gradually, the zones of “sustainable stability” coalesce into a national entity or perhaps a loosely knit, but not wildly violent, confederation.

And then…we have an opinion from Biddle, who I’ll remind again is in favor of Petraeus’ plan…

Biddle also said (again, expressing his personal view) that the strategy in Iraq would require the presence of roughly 100,000 American troops for 20 years—and that, even so, it would be a “long-shot gamble.”

Excuse me, what? We don’t have the time or the people to do that. And that’s a “long-shot gamble?” Again, that’s just an opinion from Biddle, but is it that far fetched? We keep over 60,000 personnel in Germany, a bunch in Korea, etc. And Bush and company have called Korea the model. But I’ll point out again that we didn’t have terrorists bombing the hell out of us in either of those countries. The model has changed, the world has changed and our policy has to catch up.

Also, let’s look at the facts. Our current troop levels still aren’t enough to really quell the violence in Iraq. Sure, military deaths are going down, but sectarian violence is still rampant. So when Biddle asserts that we’ll need to maintain current troop levels, his opinion is probably spot on.

What about 20 years? Well, we’ve been there 4 years now and the country’s political and physical infrastructures are still a mess, so being there 5 times as long to rebuild it isn’t that crazy if you think about it. Again, look how long we’ve been in Germany and Korea. Viewed through that historical prism, 20 years could actually be argued as a bit naive.

And so that’s our reality if we decide to stay. It’s a long haul and our military personnel will still get picked off day in and day out.

Is it worth the lives and the trillions we’ll spend in Iraq?

I’d appreciate your opinion.


This entry was posted on Friday, September 7th, 2007 and is filed under Iraq, The World, War. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Iraq Facts, Strategies & Opinions”

  1. Tom Says:

    Given the long odds for success and the probable impossibility of maintaining 100,000 troops for 20 years, I’d say no, it’s not worth it.

    What is the plan then? I’m not sure (but what did you expect from a liberal, we’re only supposed to shoot down ideas for Iraq, not propose better ones ;) )

  2. Emrys Says:

    The “worth it” part of this strategy is that we get to maintain military bases in Iraq so that we can better protect our strategic interests in the Persian Gulf. That is the payoff; whether this degree of military presence is “worth it”, I personally don’t believe so. But obviously the Bush administration, most neocons, and more than a few Republicans feel that this payoff is “worth it.”

  3. mw Says:

    “Is it worth the lives and the trillions we’ll spend in Iraq?” – jg

    No. – mw [always happy to help]

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