Debate flares in U.S. over Iraq

The White House report on Iraq has sparked a heated debate between the Bush administration and Congress. The document states that while some progress has been made, the overall situation in Iraq remains extremely challenging.

The White House report on Iraq has been a non-starter from the outset. The supporters of the surge strategy see it as a sign of progress. The opponents read it as regretful regress.
 
“Most Republicans put protecting the president ahead of protecting our troops. These developments make it clear to me, to many of our colleagues and to foreign policy experts that it's well past time for a change of course in Iraq,” noted Senator Harry Reid, Senate majority leader.
 
The major objective of this document is to measure the Iraqi government’s ability to stand up so that the U.S. can stand down.
 
The surge was intended to buy Iraq some time, by American blood and treasure, to reach a national reconciliation.
 
Half a year ago, when President Bush unveiled his surge strategy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a solemn promise:
 
“In the next few months, you’re going to know whether or not this is working. At six months we’ll know,” she then stated.
 
U.S. commander on the ground General Petraeus led the way. He did stand and deliver a ‘breathing space’ with a security blanket from Baghdad to Anbar.
 
General Petraeus gave Iraqi leaders enough time to sink or swim.
 
CIA Director General Michael Hayden proved to be right last fall when he tried to give a reality check about Iraqi leadership:
 
“The inability of the Iraqi government to govern seems irreversible and I couldn’t point to any milestone where we can turn this thing around,” he said.
 
But, as the father of the modern “coin doctrine” used to say, politics are 80% of any counterinsurgency, and military only 20%. If you take the Pareto principle 20/80, the U.S. forces in Iraq, together with a private army of hired guns, consume 80% of the resources. That’s why diplomatic charm offence is not only cost-effective with a 20% overall price tag, but it also provides an 80% chance of success.
 
If al-Qaeda’s threat is not just lip-service and is really a ‘clear and present danger’, President Bush might consider ‘going for the jugular’.
 
That would mean redeploying the U.S. troops from Iraq to Pakistan, bringing home the National Guard and Reserve and outsourcing Iraq to the regional powerbrokers.
 
“There might be a catastrophe.  What is unlikely is that al-Qaeda will take over the country and would rule from Baghdad and would capture the state that the group has wanted for so long because the balance of forces is so much against al-Qaeda,” believes Daniel Benjamin from the Brookings Institute.
 
Until the Homeland Security Chief’s ‘gut feeling’ comes true, it would be wise to review the current strategy before the September situation report.
 
The sleeper cells are already in place in the UK and maybe creeping up in the USA.