Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Trojan Dromedary

David Ignatius nervously checks his watch, waiting on a train that left the station about 12 months ago, and assures the reader that it's coming round the bend:

Leaders on both sides endorse the broad strategy proposed in December by the Iraq Study Group: a gradual withdrawal that shifts the American mission to training, force protection, counterterrorism and border security.

I've already rebutted the notion (here and here) that a vastly reduced force could accomplish the broad and troop-intensive objectives of training, counterterrorism and border security as spelled out in the new, old plan (as well as the strategic flaws in pursuing each from an in-country position). Further, we shouldn't be "training" civil war combatants in the first place - so please, can we cross that one off the list permanently?

Jim Henley, to his credit, takes aim at the curious mission sticking out like a sore thumb in the middle of the other fingers of intervention:

But you’ve got to love the idea of “force protection” as a main mission. The US military could stay in Iraq for the purpose of trying to keep its members from being killed for being in Iraq. There’s a stirring cause. I know a much more effective “force protection” plan, which I call “get the hell out.”

This is what they’re down to: inertia. The “bipartisan” compromise the Ignatiuses of the world envision is that we stay in Iraq so that we can stay in Iraq. Because if we pulled out of Iraq, well, we wouldn’t be there any more.

By the way, that neat little "force protection" requirement would necessitate a relatively large troop presence even if we started paring down our list of missions for the residual force to carry out (and each such paring would further call into question the purpose of keeping troops there in the first place). For those reasons, and the reasons set forth in the prior posts linked above, the Suzanne Nossel/Charles Kupchan proposal calling for a residual force of 20,000 troops to "focus on containing al Qaeda's ability to carry out terror attacks and assisting with socio-economic reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in more peaceful parts of Iraq" is fatally flawed. [ed note: I prefer the Lawrence Korb plan from the same piece].

How could we accomplish those feats, and re-supply and protect the forces tasked with accomplishing those feats, with a mere 20,000 troops? Each such proposal is a camel's nose nuzzling under the edge of the tent. If you let the nose in, the body will follow.

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