Sunday, January 21, 2007

The new Iraq strategy

"[S]ome people, I just think have been partisan about this - and that, to me, is the worst reason of all."

- Senator Joe Lieberman, in the Wall Street Journal, when asked why some Senators are now prepared to vote against the President's Iraq policy

After almost four years of televised bombast, blood, and bombs from the Iraqi theater of operations the American people are understandably displeased with the progress of the war. The elections in November sent a clear signal to the Bush administration that a new Iraq strategy was needed. Since the election the President has responded with significant changes in policy and personnel.

His first act was the welcome, if belated, replacement of the Secretary of Defense. In my judgment, much of the blame for the existing situation in Iraq lies with the decisions of Secretary Rumsfeld and the President must bear responsibility for not removing him earlier.

Additional significant personnel changes include a new commander at Central Command, replacing General Abizaid, and the imminent departure of General Casey as commander of the forces in Iraq. To what extent that the military strategy for the last three years was imposed on them by Secretary Rumsfeld is unclear to me.

In any event this strategy, the beginnings of which were being implemented when I left Iraq in early 2004, has not been successful. This overall strategy was for the U.S. to pull back and allow the Iraqis to take charge of their own security and most importantly, force them to achieve the level of political unity required to defeat the insurgency. For a variety of reasons, this strategy didn't work.

In January 2004 I returned to Iraq from home leave and flew into Baghdad from Kuwait. At that time the Palace in the Green Zone had established transient billets in an elaborately decorated room next to the main dining room. By chance I ran into the CPA Governate Coordinator from Babil province, a female State Department employee with whom I worked in Hilla. She was also returning from leave. We spent the night in the Palace and attended a senior leadership meeting there in the Green Zone the next day.

In attendance was Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, as well as Jeremy Greenstock, his British Deputy, and the Governate Coordinators for all the eighteen provinces in Iraq. Also in attendance was General Sanchez, the Commander of all the MultiNational forces in Iraq, and his Division Commanders. Bremer and Sanchez had begun these monthly meetings in November 2003 in an effort to improve the coordination between the military and CPA.

Major General Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, and Major General Petraeus, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, were at the meeting. Both men, now Lieutenant Generals, will take over military command in Iraq, with Odierno serving as Petraeus' Deputy.

Ambassador Bremer has been roundly criticized for a number of his decisions in Iraq but this was my first opportunity to see him in action and he was very impressive. Sanchez attended the meeting but spoke very little since the main purpose of the meeting was to discuss political and not military strategy. I was a fly on the wall and listened, fascinated, as the room full of people used this opportunity to address their problems and concerns to Bremer.

Bremer listened to their comments and discussion for a hour and then, in a few short minutes, responded to each question and concern with clear, unequivocal guidance. I was amazed at how he was able to succinctly summarize the issues of the previous hour and spit back bullet point responses. A big point that was frequently brought up by the military commanders was the need to improve the economy so that the pool of young men could be occupied with employment and not be candidates for the insurgency. Bremer responded that economic development could not proceed until a secure environment had been created, and that creation of a secure environment was a military responsibility.

The change in strategy that the President announced last week was one from waiting on the Iraqis to one of creating a secure environment in Baghdad. This is a significant change in military strategy, the details of which are not relevant to my current argument. The President's political opposition has given the President little credit for his new strategy. For some of these individuals who are speaking out against the President, I agree with Sen. Lieberman's comment about their motivation.

The President does not believe that the American people voted for an immediate, or even rapid, withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. There are some who disagree with that statement. Fortunately, the President is in charge and not Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi. Fortunately, I have decided not to spend the next two years furious at Nancy and Harry, but it will be difficult.

The "New Yorker", my favorite liberal magazine, responded to the President's speech in typical New Yorker fashion this week with an article by Steve Coll that led off with the following sentence: "Watching George Bush's televised speech last week, when he revealed what he called 'the main elements' of his plan to rescue Iraq, was like watching a slightly nervous lieutenant colonel read PowerPoint slides." These gratuitous slights of the President, a running theme in the New Yorker since Bush began to run for office, imply that anyone who looks and sounds this goofy can't be saying anything serious.

Neither Nancy, nor Harry, nor the New Yorker are offering any solutions to the former or revised strategy in Iraq. All they are offering are vitriol, and malice and spite. Some people in this country are allowing their hatred of George Bush to interfere with the national security interests of this country. I will leave you to determine who these people might be.


  1. I agree that Iraq is too important to be overly politicized. I think it would be easier for me if I could politicize it because then I would be anti-war along with the rest of the left. But instead I don't know what to think. I want Iraq to be a stable and free democracy like everyone else. If I thought more American troops and money would accomplish that I would agree with Bush about the 21,500 extra troops, even if it means more loss of American life. But no one has convinced me that the continued American presence there is more helpful than harmful.
    Stances on Iraq are likely to be a deciding factor in the next presidential elections. But so far none of the candidates (and I'm a Democrat so I mean those folk) have come up with an alternative I can support. And for that - the lack of options, the loss of funds, life and international goodwill - for that I do blame George W. Bush and I'm thankful for term limits.

  2. Anonymous10:19 AM

    Michael, thanks for your service. This is a good wrap up.

    I think politicians on both sides have made critical mistakes. The Republicans for thinking our technological advantages make it easy after Saddam's forces walked away and not planning for a full blown insurgency. It was well planned by our enemies. The first signal was Saddam releasing all criminals from the jails. He was creating chaos in Iraq before we arrived.

    But the Democrats have been guilty of pointing fingers for all the wrong reasons in my simple estimation. It is a power move from an old playbook of the Vietnam war. It is a sad perspective of political opportunist. There are a few true statesmen left, like Joe Lieberman who will not kneel down to party lines.

    If there was ever a time for our country to pull together, it is now. Unfortunately, the Media - again in my simple, personal estimation - takes the largest blame for this episode of American history. Since 2004, they have single handedly undercut the President and his administration at all levels. There is constructive criticisms during war that is welcome and required. But then there is outright ideological warfare based upon biased worldviews. The Media comes away from this war having lost the most trust of people - I think.

    There are multiple good reasons this country and in fact the Free World need victory in Iraq. There are multiple bad reasons for the biased Media reactions and "making news" almost willing defeat along party lines, when in fact we have not lost.

    We're winning slowly against a planned insurgency by Iran and Syria who do not want a free country between them. And aainst a well-planned attack by Baathist and Al Qaeda operatives. We're also fighting a game of Risk with Russia and China who are both funding Iran. And Russia is openly weaponizing them with some of their best technology. Both countries are opposing us in the UN.

    Europe has much more to lose than we do in reality. And they need to wake up. The leaders of France especially are guilty in contributing to the downfall of the West in the Middle East no matter how well they play the game of intellectual chess. The French cuddle up to Russia, Syria and Iran. They have the dirtiest hands in much of this from a Western perspective.

    But all the nations are guilty. America is not alone. And only our nation pulled away from Iraq and IRan. The rest of Europe, Russia, Asia has been in dirty ever since.

    The Democrats solution seems to be to join Europe, appease those who openly incite warfare, terrorist, and at this moment are trying to topple the legally elected government of Lebanon.

    This is called spiritual blindness or outright corruption for the sake of power. They pull on the heartstrings of normal Americans without truly explaining all the issues. They make America look guilty when in truth, the entire world is guilty, with dirty hands in the darkest of places, making dirty deals.

    Deals that keep millions oppressed in Iran and Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and so many other places. America, Australia, Canada, some European nations get it. That we can no longer go back to status quo, whereby free nations turn their backs on these Tyrants.

    Because the Tyrants act like the old Soviet Union. They control all the Media and they incite hatred and violence. This time they do it thru Islam.

    Michael(from Roggio site)

  3. Anonymous10:21 AM


    Edinburgh.... smiles, great place. Asked my wife to marry me in the Gardens below Walter Scott.


  4. Michael, you make some good points. However, Abe Lincoln and Gen grant had it worse than George Bush and Gen Casey, and they still won their war. Right will prevail.

  5. Lindsey, your comment "But no one has convinced me that the continued American presence there is more hurtful than harmful" is a good one. I will deal with that subject at length in a future post.