Frederick Kagan: Only a big surge will work





... What's astonishing about the debate over Iraq is that the President -- or anyone else, for that matter, including the media -- is paying the slightest attention to the neoconservative strategists who got us into this mess in the first place. Having been egregiously wrong about every single Iraqi thing for five consecutive years, by all rights the neocons ought to be consigned to some dusty basement exhibit hall in the American Museum of Natural History, where, like so many triceratops, their reassembled bones would stand mutely by to send a chill of fear through touring schoolchildren. Indeed, the neocons are the dodos of Washington, simply too dumb to know when they are extinct.

Yet here is Tom Donnelly, an American Enterprise Institute neocon, a co-chairman of the Project for a New American Century, telling a reporter sagely that the surge is in. "I think the debate is really coming down to: Surge large. Surge small. Surge short. Surge longer. I think the smart money would say that the range of options is fairly narrow." (Donnelly, of course, forgot: Surge out.) His colleague, Frederick Kagan of AEI, the chief architect of the Surge Theory for Iraq, has made it clear that the only kind of surge that would work is a big, fat one.

Nearly pornographic in his fondling of the surge, Kagan, another of the neocon crew of armchair strategists and militarists, makes it clear that size does matter. "Of all the ‘surge' options out there, short ones are the most dangerous," he wrote in the Washington Post last week, adding lasciviously, "The size of the surge matters as much as the length. … The only ‘surge' option that makes sense is both long and large."

Ooh -- that is, indeed, a manly surge. For Kagan, a man-sized surge must involve at least 30,000 more troops funneled into the killing grounds of Baghdad and al-Anbar Province for at least 18 months.

President Bush, perhaps dizzy from the oedipal frenzy created by the emergence of Daddy's best friend James Baker and his Iraq Study Group, seems all too willing to prove his manhood by the size of the surge. According to a stunning front-page piece in the Times last Tuesday, Bush has all but dismissed the advice of his generals, including Centcom Commander John Abizaid, and George Casey, the top U.S. general in Iraq, because they are "more fixated on withdrawal than victory." At a recent Pentagon session, according to General James T. Conway, the commandant of the U.S. Marines, Bush told the assembled brass: "What I want to hear from you now is how we are going to win, not how we are going to leave." As a result, Abizaid and Casey are, it appears, getting the same hurry-up-and-retire treatment that swept away other generals who questioned the wisdom on Iraq transmitted from Planet Neocon....

Indeed, if President Bush opts to Kaganize the war, he will throw down the gauntlet to the Democrats. Unwilling until now to say that they would even consider blocking appropriations for the Iraq War, the Democrats would have little choice but to up the ante if Bush flouts the electoral mandate in such a full-frontal manner. By escalating the war in the face of near-universal opposition from the public, the military, and the political class, the president would force the Democrats to escalate their own -- until now fairly mild-mannered -- opposition to the war.

However, it's possible -- just possible -- that what the President is planning to announce will be something a bit more Machiavellian than the straightforwardly manly thrust Kagan wants. Perhaps, just perhaps, he will order an increase of something like 20,000 American troops, but put a tight time limit on this surge -- say, four months. Perhaps he will announce that he is giving Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki that much time to square the circle in Iraq: crack down on militias and death squads, purge the army and police, develop a plan to fight the Sunni insurgency, find a formula to deal with the Kurds and the explosive, oil-rich city of Kirkuk which they claim as their own, un-de-Baathify Iraq, and create a workable formula for sharing the fracturing country's oil wealth.

By surging those 20,000 troops into a hopeless military nowhere-land, Bush will say that he is giving Maliki room to accomplish all that -- knowing full well that none of it can, in fact, be accomplished by the weak, sectarian, Shiite-run regime inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. So, sometime in the late spring, the United States could begin to un-surge its troops and start the sort of orderly, phased withdrawal that Jim Baker and the Carl Levin Democrats have called for....


comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to our mailing list