"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Iraq At The Moment

Bush lauds progress of Iraqi security forces, which seems to be mostly hokum, suggests a token troop reduction. Meanwhile Sy Hersh says bombing will increase; others suspect the El Salvador option.

Out of sheer nerdly compulsion, I'm poking through the National Strategy For Victory In Iraq Report, a very corporate, bullet-pointed, repetative piece of communication that's less a plan and more a summary of everything we already know.

This isn't a strategy document; it's an extended tautology. Victory through the winning.

To the extent that there are any tangible specifics, it reads like wishful thinking. From the executive summary, the three tracks to victory:

  • The Political Track involves working to forge a broadly supported national compact for democratic
    governance by helping the Iraqi government:
    • Isolate enemy elements from those who can be won over to the political process by countering false propaganda and demonstrating to all Iraqis that they have a stake in a democratic Iraq;
    • Engage those outside the political process and invite in those willing to turn away from violence through ever-expanding avenues of participation; and
    • Build stable, pluralistic, and effective national institutions that can protect the interests of all Iraqis, and facilitate Iraq’s full integration into the international community.
  • The Security Track involves carrying out a campaign to defeat the terrorists and neutralize the
    insurgency, developing Iraqi security forces, and helping the Iraqi government:
    • Clear areas of enemy control by remaining on the offensive, killing and capturing enemy fighters and denying them safe-haven;
    • Hold areas freed from enemy influence by ensuring that they remain under the control of the Iraqi government with an adequate Iraqi security force presence; and
    • Build Iraqi Security Forces and the capacity of local institutions to deliver services, advance the rule of law, and nurture civil society.
  • The Economic Track involves setting the foundation for a sound and self-sustaining economy by
    helping the Iraqi government:
    • Restore Iraq’s infrastructure to meet increasing demand and the needs of a growing economy;
    • Reform Iraq’s economy, which in the past has been shaped by war, dictatorship, and sanctions, so that it can be self-sustaining in the future; and
    • Build the capacity of Iraqi institutions to maintain infrastructure, rejoin the international economic community, and improve the general welfare of all Iraqis.

Three tracks with three bullet points each -- this is as meaty as it gets. I don't doubt that acheving all these things would signify great success in Iraq. But unfortunately it isn't going to happen.

While the political process can be slogged out, there's no way I can see creating even the appearance of success on the security and economic tracks. This strategy will fail because the political track alone isn't going to do squat. It's one thing to have an election on a date, to have some guys who are your "government." It's another thing to have them actually able to govern (e.g. some degree of security) over a society worth living in (e.g. one with electricity).

The reality is that Clear/Hold operations can never be successful against a Guerrilla opponent. The reality is that protecting critical economic infrastructure from motivated attacks by native people is impossible without imposing a complete police state. Steps 1 and 2 of the security track and step 1 of the economic track are unachievable unless some sort of cease-fire can be reached with insurgents. Since (as the document points out) there is no entity with which to negotiate, this will not happen.

And so it seems the war will grind on. Maybe more bombing; maybe more local paramilitaries; but basically the same war. Something's gotta give.