How does the US “win” in Iraq?

Kevin Drum at the excellent Washington Monthly says:

So: if you do believe we can win in Iraq, let’s hear what you mean by “win” and how you think we can do it, and let’s hear it in clear and compelling declarative sentences. “Stay the course” isn’t enough. What Bush is doing now obviously isn’t working, so what would you do that’s significantly different?

Conversely, if you don’t believe we can win in Iraq, and you’re only suggesting we stay there because you can’t stand the thought of “looking weak,” then your moral compass needs some serious adjustment.

He has really hit the nail on the head.

I haven’t actually heard a definitive explanation of what “winning” in Iraq is for months… and I don’t think I’ve *ever* heard a concrete and detailed “plan” of how to do it besides “the Iraqi people will have elections and write a constitution”. That’s nice talk… but as we have seen over the past 2 years, it’s not quite enough.

And of course.. we knew this before, but for some reason the US Administration chose not to listen to us, or it’s own State Department.

The State Department officials, who had been discussing the issues with top military officers at the Central Command, noted that the military was reluctant “to take on ‘policing’ roles” in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The three officials warned that “a failure to address short-term public security and humanitarian assistance concerns could result in serious human rights abuses which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally.


It’s as if no one was listening.

So again, I ask. If you don’t believe the US must set a timetable to withdraw ALL of it’s forces in Iraq within the next year, then what, pray-tell is your strategy.

2 replies on “How does the US “win” in Iraq?”

  1. These are just my own views reflecting of the last few weeks:

    (1) Winning should mean that (a) Iraqis agree to a permanent constitution or agree to keep the interim one, (b) Iraqi police and paramilitary forces and regular army troops grow sufficiently to bring the country under government control by following the five principles and four stages of classic counterinsurgency, (c) neighboring countries do not interfere in the country, and (d) Iraq does not become a base for insurgency against neighboring countries, provoking them to intervene. Absent any one of these four conditions and Iraq becomes a failed state.

    (2) Although the insurgent replacement rate remains steady, there are indications that Iraqis are taking over security now and that US forces will get the green light to begin to withdraw next year. But a timetable isn’t necessary to set in a formal sense. It is already obvious that we are on the way out and that the time remaining is at most a few years. That could be enough time for Iraqis to implement (1)(b), as long as the other three conditions hold. But I doubt we will stay any longer if things don’t go this well.

    (3) If Iraqis can agree on a constitution and elect a government in the next six months, then I would give them another six months to begin to show what they can do on the security front. A complete breakdown in constitutional negotiations is the only situation that could justify our getting out sooner. If things do not further improve by mid-2006, then I think we will (and should) get out on our own timetable. If things do improve in 2006, we should still begin to withdraw, but we should let the Iraqis decide at what speed.

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