July 18, 2024

New Iraq Strategy

Marc Schulman recently posted a compelling analysis of the “new approach” in which he tenatively supports the change in strategy given that the Iraqi government does its part.

For the most part I agree with his position. One statement I don’t agree with completely is this one in reference to the psychological stress of war:

Clearly, the majority of Americans are now psychologically exhausted. The Iraqi insurgents, as did the Vietnamese Communists, have achieved that objective. It should be clear that all that stands in the way of an insurgent victory is that President Bush has not succumbed to the exhaustion felt by the American public.

Americans aren’t exhausted anymore than our military is. We have, however, had enough of staying on a course that leads nowhere. We grudgingly accepted the need to invade Iraq only to find that we’d been misled (as opposed to mistaken). We were told fighting was over when in fact it hadn’t even started yet. We believed the mistaken idea that we had enough combat strength to secure the country. Now we’re angry that the very expensive effort has achieved so little and rightfully so.

This new strategy is, finally, one that seems to make sense and Schulman articulates the reasons why very well. It’s admirable of Bush to take his position in the face of peer, political, media, and public opinion and I’m proud of him, for the first time in a long time, for doing so.

Questions remain. Will Maliki fulfill his obligations? Can he? Are 20,000 troops enough to secure a city of millions? The answers are far from certain and my instincts are telling me “No” rather clearly. It would be nice to be wrong.

Another interesting question was asked by Joerg in the responses to Marc’s post. It’s the one that, if America’s mental tiredness is real is one of the primary causes of it:

Why has it taken the president so long to shift course?

I think it is too late now. Besides, 20,000 additional troops won’t be enough.

Rather this strategy should be implemented ASAP in Afghanistan, which the US and European governments are neglecting.

I guess, both the US and the European governments will only take Afghanistan seriously when it is in as bad a mess as Iraq is in right now.

But why? Why are our governments soooo slow to realize reality and shift course?

That’s a damn good question. But it’s not too late from a capabilties standpoint. Iraq may still be winnable, so long as Schuman’s premise of psychological exhaustion is incorrect.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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