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Nov 15, 2006

Are you in or are you out?

The New York Times is running a piece (Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say) which basically makes the point that Democratic plans to put pressure on the Iraqi government by starting a phased withdrawl won't work since Maliki doesn't have any ace up his sleeve in terms of exercising control. If our troops leave, they don't have anything to put in place short of Shiite militias who might engage in wholesale ethnic cleansing. The alternative presented is something like:

Before considering troop reductions, General Batiste said, the United States needs to take an array of steps, including fresh efforts to alleviate unemployment in Iraq, secure its long and porous borders, enlist more cooperation from tribal sheiks, step up the effort to train Iraq’s security forces, engage Iraq’s neighbors and weaken, or if necessary, crush the militias.

Indeed, General Batiste has recently written that pending the training of an effective Iraqi force, it may be necessary to deploy tens of thousands of additional “coalition troops.” General Batiste said he hoped that Arab and other foreign nations could be encouraged to send troops.

Well that's a fair and reasonable sounding argument, I think. But you've got the following issues. Unemployment can't be helped because useful, job creating investment is almost zeron because the security situation is so dire, going to work is dangerous; securing the border is almost impossible anyway because of the size, and if all the army was over there they wouldn't be fighting the insurgants; we have no sway with tribal sheiks and are unlikely to start developing much now; Iraq's security forces are almost hopelessly sectarian, tied to militias and unwilling to fight outside their home area; and many Shiite ilitias are so tied to the government, there's no chance they'll be dismantled The prime minister's body guards are militia members, for God's sake.

The real insight he has is that to make the situation better, we'd need maybe tens of thousands of mroe troops. The fact is that our military manpower on the ground is inadequate and we can't really train enough Iraqis to do better as long as the situation is so insecure and tons of recruits are being blown up all the time. Arabs sending troops would be great in our mind, but something the Iraqis fear and which may not help at all if they become partisan and get dragged into the war.

But I agree that if we want to have a chance of breaking somewhat even on this invasion, we need to send in more troops. A lot more troops. Troops we don't have. And which others are unlikely to provide, and who we won't (and shouldn't) draft to get either. We certainly aren't winning, and if we pull out now, who knows how bad it will get. Of course, if we send in more guys or pull in neighbors, who knows how bad it will get. It's just a messy situation.

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