The Blog

Kaplan, McCain and Iraq

4:42 PM, Sep 6, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The Atlantic Monthly's Robert Kaplan has a target=_blank>piece (sub req'd), "Hostage to Fortune," worth reading in today's Wall Street Journal. He makes one point that Republicans hardly ever talk about nowadays:

[I]magine how Saddam might have dominated the Arab masses - with rising oil prices, the $50-billion ongoing Oil for Food coverup, a leading-nowhere regimen of no-fly zones, and European and Chinese intrigues to restore his legitimacy in return for energy concessions. Saddam as the new Nasser is a plausible alternative history in Iraq.

Kaplan also notes that inadequate troop levels in Iraq have damaged our effort to stabilize the country. Others have made the same point going back to post-invasion 2003. For example, in a target=_blank>speech on November 5, 2003, Sen. McCain, who strongly opposes current Democratic cut and run plans, stated:

The United States will fail in Iraq if our adversaries believe they can outlast us. If our troop deployment schedules are more important than our staying power, we embolden our enemies and make it harder for our friends to take risks on our behalf. When the United States announces a schedule for training and deploying Iraqi security officers, then announces the acceleration of that schedule, then accelerates it again, it sends a signal of desperation, not certitude…. When we do this as our forces are coming under increasing attack, we suggest to friends and allies alike that our ultimate goal in Iraq is leaving as soon as possible - not meeting our strategic objective of building a free and democratic country in the heart of the Arab world.

There can be little political or economic progress in Iraq until the United States creates a stable and secure environment there. Prematurely placing the burden of security on Iraqis is not the answer. Hastily trained Iraqi security forces cannot be expected to accomplish what U.S. forces have not yet succeeded in doing: defeating the Baathists and international terrorists inside Iraq. It is irresponsible to suggest that it is up to Iraqis to win this war.

To win in Iraq, we should increase the number of forces in-country, including Marines and Special Forces, to conduct offensive operations. I believe we must deploy at least another full division, giving us the necessary manpower to conduct a focused counterinsurgency campaign across the Sunni Triangle that seals off enemy operating areas, conducts search and destroy missions, and holds territory.

Security is the precondition for everything else we want to accomplish in Iraq. We will not get good intelligence until we provide a level of public safety and a commitment to stay that encourages Iraqis to cast their lot with us, rather than wait to see whether we or the Baathists prevail. Local Iraqis need to have enough confidence in our strength and staying power to collaborate with us. Absent improved security, acts of sabotage will hold back economic progress. Without better security, political progress will be difficult because the Iraqi people will not trust an Iraqi political authority that cannot protect them. By all means increase the number of Iraqis involved in security…. But given the time it will take to train and deploy sufficient numbers of Iraqi forces and the competence required to root out a hardened foe, for the foreseeable future, Iraqi forces aren't a substitute for adequate levels of American troops.

The result? See target=_blank>here, here, here, and target=_blank>here.