This was originally titled "Between Iraq and a hard place" until Google told me there were about 69,800 web pages using the same title. There's only one other page using the above. For now.
Everyone has their own take on what to do about Iraq. The national consensus, based on the November 7th election, seems to be, "We're screwed. Do something."
Here are the main options floating around, with some of the devils in their details:
- Increase U.S. troop levels to that necessary to achieve victory.
And how many troops do we need? 250,000, 500,000? According to the CENTCOM commander, we can't even sustain an additional 20,000. Even if the higher numbers were possible, how would we use the additional firepower? Level Sadr City, shoot everyone in Fallujah? Senator McCain, the primary proponent of this approach, needs to change his brand of tabacky.
- Embed additional U.S. advisers in Iraqi military units so we can show them how it's supposed to be done. (CENTCOM's best advice.)
Let's see, we've been at it for over three years and the situation on the ground is worse than when we rolled into Baghdad, growing steadily worse, day by day, month by month, year by year. What is it we're going to show Iraqi soldiers? How to screw things up the U.S. Army way?
- Really, really concentrate on training the Iraqi Army and police and as they stand up, we stand down. (Multiple authors on this one.)
We've supposedly been doing exactly this for the last three years, according to repeated claims by the Administration and its generals. CENTCOM testified before congress last week that the number of Iraqi units able to "stand up" after three years of DOD training equals exactly zero.
In three years, we can turn a raw U.S. recruit into a lethal Special Forces war fighter. Have our trainers been taking an extended lunch break all this time? I doubt it. The real problems probably revolve around things like the Iraqi Army's primary troop carriers are Nissan pickups, they're getting paid squat, and it's tough to get new recruits when they keep getting blown up at the recruiting stations.
I seriously doubt the CENTCOM count of Iraqi troops is accurate in the first place. One of the common scams of ARVN generals during Vietnam was to collect the pay for twice the number of troops actually under their command and pocket the difference. Iraqi generals are at least as smart as the ARVN generals were.
The third devil in this particular morass of details is the degree to which both the Iraqi Army and police forces have been infiltrated by the various militias, insurgent groups, and terrorist groups. From the evidence on the ground, it's presumably a high percentage. Standing up seriously compromised units effectively puts military control of the country into the hands of the very people we are supposedly battling. How dumb is that?
- Place more pressure on the Iraqi government to disarm the militias, compromise their sectarian differences, and take control of the situation. (Also many authors.)
This is a real pipe dream. How can you pressure someone into doing something they can't do? If you had a gun to your head held by someone who demanded you immediately grow a third arm, how long would you last? This is the kind of non-solution propounded by people who think torturing farmers will get them a road map to the fabled Weapons of Mass Destruction.
- Through diplomacy, enlist the help of Syria and Iraq to pull our bacon out of the fire. (Advice of the Bush 41 Wise Men.)
I can't understand why proponents of this theory don't include North Korea and Indonesia in this mix. Or the planet Uranus, for that matter. They're equally likely to help, unless they all just happen to drop dead laughing first.
- Nuke Iran to take the pressure off Iraq.
This is widely held to be the Cheney Option, or close to it. Check out the Seymour Hersch article in the New Yorker. This might actually work if Bush/Cheney have the balls to also nuke everyone else in the neighborhood, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Pakistan. Do we have that many deliverable warheads left? Probably.
- Stay the course and/or "We'll succeed unless we quit." (authored by the usual suspects).
If you find yourself in a hole, dig faster! Unfortunately, this is probably what will happen. There are simply no grownups in either political party, or at least not enough to make a difference.