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news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Friday, November 11, 2005

We must get Iraq right:
   McCain calls for a winning strategy in Iraq

Senator McCain delivered the keynote address at a "Winning the War in Iraq" luncheon sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute on November 10.

Here is some extended extracts of that address. All highlights are mine.

The world has witnessed ...

Iraqis of all stripes exercising those very democratic habits that critics predicted could never take root in a country with little democratic tradition. They voted in January for an interim government. They put Saddam on trial and dictators throughout the world on notice. They produced a landmark constitution that, while not perfect, nevertheless enshrines critical rights that go far beyond the standards elsewhere in the region. On October 15, they braved explicit death threats from Zarqawi and his ilk in order to determine their future democratically. Try as they might, the terrorists and the insurgents in Iraq got no veto. Instead, an Arab country adopted a democratic constitution by a free vote for the first time in history

The Middle East will be forever changed by the choices we have made, and by those we continue to make over the next months. We must get Iraq right.

The Stakes

There is an understandable desire, two and a half years after our invasion, to seek a quick and easy end to our intervention in Iraq. But should America follow these calls, we would face consequences of the most serious nature.

When America toppled Saddam, we incurred a moral duty not to abandon the people there to terrorists and killers. If we withdraw prematurely, risking all-out civil war, we will have done precisely that. I can hardly imagine that any U.S. senator or any American leader would want our nation to suffer that moral stain.

Instability in Iraq would invite further Syrian and Iranian interference, bolstering the influence of two terror-sponsoring states firmly opposed to American policy. Iraq’s neighbors – from Saudi Arabia to Israel to Turkey – would feel their own security eroding, and might be induced to act.

Withdrawing before there is a stable and legitimate Iraqi authority would turn Iraq into a failed state, in the heart of the Middle East. We have seen a failed state emerge after U.S. disengagement once before, and it cost us terribly. In pre-9/11 Afghanistan, terrorists found sanctuary to train and plan attacks with impunity. We know that there are today in Iraq terrorists who are planning attacks against Americans. We cannot make this fatal mistake twice.

Some argue that it our very presence in Iraq that has created the insurgency, and that if we end the occupation, we end the insurgency. But in fact by ending military operations, we are likely to empower the insurgency. Zarqawi and others fight not just against foreign forces but also against the Shia, whom they believe to be infidels, and against all elements of the government. Sunni insurgents attack Kurds, Turcomans, Christians and other Iraqis, not simply to end the American occupation but to recapture lost Sunni power. As AEI’s Fredrick Kagan has written, these Sunni are not yet persuaded that violence is counterproductive; on the contrary, they believe the insurgency might lead to an improvement in their political situation. There is no reason to think that an American drawdown would extinguish these motivations to fight.

Senator Kerry’s call for the withdrawal of 20,000 American troops by year’s end represents, I believe, a major step on the road to disaster. Drawdowns must be based on conditions in-country, not arbitrary deadlines rooted in our domestic politics.

The President and his advisors understand that, and I praise their resolve. They know that the consequences of failure are unacceptable and that the benefits of success in Iraq remain profound. And yet at the same time there is an undeniable sense that things are slipping

Adopt a military counterinsurgency strategy.

For most of the occupation, our military strategy was built around trying to secure the entirety of Iraq at the same time. With our current force structure and the power vacuum that persists in many areas, that is not possible today.

Instead, we need to clear and stay.

Rather than focusing on killing and capturing insurgents, we should emphasize protecting the local population, creating secure areas where insurgents find it difficult to operate. Our forces would begin by clearing areas, with heavy force if necessary, to establish a zone as free of insurgents as possible. The security forces can then cordon off the zone, establish constant patrols, by American and Iraqi military and police, to protect the population from insurgents and common crime, and arrest remaining insurgents as they are found.

In this newly secure environment, many of the things critical to winning in Iraq can take place – things that are not happening today. Massive reconstruction can go forward without fear of attack and sabotage. Political meetings and campaigning can take place in the open. Civil society can emerge. Intelligence improves, as it becomes increasingly safe for the population to provide tips to the security forces, knowing that they can do so without being threatened.

As these elements positively reinforce each other, the security forces then expand the territory under their control. We’ve done this successfully in Falluja. Coalition and Iraqi forces cleared the area of insurgents, held the city, and today Iraqi police and soldier patrol the streets, with support from two American battalions. And when the Iraqi forces are at a level sufficient to take over the patrolling responsibilities on their own, American troops can hand over the duties. Falluja today is not perfect, but our aim is not perfection – it is an improvement over the insecurity that plagues Iraq today.

To enhance our chances of success with this strategy, and enable our forces to hold as much territory as possible, we need more troops. For this reason, I believe that current ideas to effect a partial drawdown during 2006 are exactly wrong. While the U.S. and its partners are training Iraqi security forces at a furious pace, these Iraqis should supplement, not substitute for, the coalition forces on the ground. Instead of drawing down, we should be ramping up, with more civil-military soldiers, translators, and counterinsurgency operations teams. Our decisions about troop levels should be tied to the success or failure of our mission in Iraq, not to the number of Iraqi troops trained and equipped. And while we seek higher troop levels for Iraq, we should at last face facts and increase the standing size of the U.S. Army. It takes time to build a larger army, but had we done so even after our invasion of Iraq, our military would have more soldiers available for deployment now.

Foreign jihadists, Baathist revanchists and Sunni discontents do not necessarily share tactics or goals. Recent Sunni participation in the constitutional process – and especially the decision by Sunni parties to contest parliamentary elections – present opportunities to split Sunnis from those whose only goal is death, destruction and chaos.

Build loyalty in the armed forces.

The lesson of Afghanistan is instructive. There, the United States insisted – over initial objections from the Afghan Ministry of Defense – that each new military unit be carefully calibrated to include Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and others.

Pressure Syria.

For too long, Syria has refused to crack down on Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists operating from its territory. President Assad said last month that his government distinguishes between those insurgents who attack Iraqis and the killers who attack American and British troops, which “is something different.” This is the same mindset that has led Syria to defy the United Nations over the assassination of Rafik Hariri, give sanctuary to Palestinian terrorist organizations, and attempt to maintain some hold on Lebanon.

Let me conclude by stating the obvious: America, Iraq and the world are better off with Saddam Hussein in prison rather than in power. Does anyone believe the stirrings of freedom in the region would exist if Saddam still ruled with an iron fist? Does anyone believe the region would be better off if Saddam were in power, using oil revenue to purchase political support? Does anyone believe meaningful sanctions would remain or that there would been any serious checks on Saddam’s ambitions? The costs of this war have been high, especially for the over 2000 Americans, and their families, who have paid the ultimate price. But liberating Iraq was in our strategic and moral interests, and we must honor their sacrifice by seeing this mission through to victory.


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