Frederick Kagan: His plan for victory in Iraq praised by the Weekly Standard





Last Monday Bush was, at last, briefed on an actual plan for victory in Iraq, one that is likely to be implemented. Retired General Jack Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the Army, gave him a thumbnail sketch of it during a meeting of five outside experts at the White House. The president's reaction, according to a senior adviser, was "very positive." Authored by Keane and military expert Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, the plan (which can be read at aei.org/publication25292) is well thought-out and detailed, but fundamentally quite simple. It is based on the idea--all but indisputable at this point--that no political solution is possible in Iraq until security is established, starting in Baghdad. The reverse--a bid to forge reconciliation between majority Shia and minority Sunni--is a nonstarter in a political environment drenched in the blood of sectarian killings.

Why would the Keane-Kagan plan succeed where earlier efforts failed? It envisions a temporary addition of 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. The initial mission would be to secure and hold the mixed Baghdad neighborhoods of Shia and Sunni residents where most of the violence occurs. Earlier efforts had cleared many of those sections of the city without holding them. After which, the mass killings resumed. Once neighborhoods are cleared, American and Iraqi troops in this plan would remain behind, living day-to-day among the population. Local government leaders would receive protection and rewards if they stepped in to provide basic services. Safe from retaliation by terrorists, residents would begin to cooperate with the Iraqi government. The securing of Baghdad would be followed by a full-scale drive to pacify the Sunni-majority Anbar province.

The truth is that not all of Iraq needs to be addressed by an increased American presence. Most of southern Iraq and all of the Kurdish north are close to being free of sectarian violence. It's Baghdad that has become the "center of gravity" for the insurgency, according to Keane. And it could be brought under control by the end of 2007.
The Keane-Kagan plan is not revolutionary. Rather, it is an application of a counterinsurgency approach that has proved to be effective elsewhere, notably in Vietnam. There, Gen. Creighton Abrams cleared out the Viet Cong so successfully that the South Vietnamese government took control of the country. Only when Congress cut off funds to South Vietnam in 1974 were the North Vietnamese able to win.

Before Bush announces his "new way forward" in Iraq in early January, he wants to be assured of two things. The first is that his plan can succeed. Initial evaluations of the Keane-Kagan plan at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the government have been positive. Alone among proposals for Iraq, the new Keane-Kagan strategy has a chance to succeed. Bush's second concern is to avert an explosion of opposition on Capitol Hill. Because this plan offers a credible prospect of winning in Iraq, moderate Democrats and queasy Republicans, the White House thinks, will be inclined to stand back and let Bush give it a shot.

The sooner Bush orders the plan into action, the better chances are that next Christmas he'll be telling White House guests that winning

in Iraq is not just a goal. It could actually be happening.



comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to our mailing list