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Obama's "New Plan"

...for failure.

12:00 AM, Sep 13, 2007 • By FREDERICK W. KAGAN
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The weird thing about Obama's plan is that the section following "All Combat Troops Redeployed by 2009" is headed "Residual Force to Remain." This "residual force" would "protect American diplomatic and military personnel in Iraq, and continue striking at al Qaeda in Iraq. If Iraq makes political progress and their security forces are not sectarian, we would also continue training the Iraqi Security Forces. In the event of an outbreak of genocide, we would reserve the right to intervene, with the international community, if that intervention was needed to provide civilians with a safe-haven." The CNAS report was clear and explicit about this point. It argued that something like 60,000 American soldiers, including three combat brigades, would be required to achieve these goals (Jim Miller explained subsequently that the 60,000 troops was not intended as a firm number, but that the range would probably be between 40,000 and 80,000). It described in considerable detail what those forces would do and what kind of troops would be required. Even so, the AEI evaluation of the CNAS plan concluded that 60,000 or even 80,000 troops could not possibly perform all the missions the CNAS authors wanted to give them. But at least there was thought and logic in the CNAS proposal.

Obama's proposal, on the other hand, can charitably be called disingenuous. How are the American people expected to parse "All Combat Troops Redeployed by 2009" but "Residual Force to Remain"? Sounds like American forces won't be in combat and won't be in danger, right? The CNAS team was straightforward and honest about this. They recognized that American troops would continue to fight and continue to be in danger, and they argued that American interests in Iraq were sufficiently important to continue to accept that price. The whole stated purpose of the CNAS exercise, in fact, was to find a way to head-off an irresponsible precipitous withdrawal that the authors feared would result if President Bush continued to fight for his current strategy. They appear to have been wrong in that assumption, but the aim of their effort was to find a way to ensure that American national security interests in Iraq would be protected. It is less clear that that is the aim of the Obama proposal, and it is far less clear from the proposal itself just exactly what the American people and the American military would be in for were it adopted.

It is too much to expect Senators to develop concrete and detailed war plans on their own--with very few exceptions they have neither the staffs nor the expertise to do so. That is one of the reasons why the United States has traditionally left the developing of war plans to its generals. But when a senator puts out his "own" plan that is virtually identical to one that has already been carefully evaluated and shown to have been unworkable, it seems only right that the American people should be aware of the fact.

Frederick W. Kagan is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.