Undermining All That Follows
Senator Reed’s “four-point plan” for resolving the Iraq conflict is reasonable — even if short on practical methodology — but he undermines his entire strategy with his statement of principle:
Now the president needs to take the next step and make it clear to the Iraqis that our military presence is not open-ended and we will begin redeploying our forces from Iraq as quickly as possible. …
If President Bush cannot secure these basic commitments from the Iraqis, then the logic of keeping over 144,000 American troops in Iraq is suspect.
This approach is doomed to failure for two reasons:
- It ensures that the insurgents and terrorists understand that they don’t actually have to defeat the combined military force of the United States and the young representative government of Iraq, but merely to make things sufficiently difficult that the United States will abandon the ally that it has created.
- It creates an environment in which the safest strategy for would-be power players in the new government is to hedge their bets. If the United States is threatening to retreat, then Iraqi government officials have to be prepared for the possibility that one of the factions — one of the “militias” — may soon be calling the shots.
I wouldn’t presume to offer military strategies, but as a matter of basic approach, it seems to me that the message we want to send to Iraq’s insurgents and government alike is that we are not going anywhere and may very well rewrite the rules to suite our own needs. The result of our losing patience has to be a stronger hand, not a weaker backbone.