What we need is a new strategy …

What we need is a new strategy … 

In following the political debate
over the Iraq debacle, it helps to take a step back from time to time
and to re-focus on Iraq from a strategic vantage point. Our President
isn't able to do that, and for the most part neither is the media nor
the Congress. As Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has repeatedly pointed out, the
President's surge is not a new strategy but a new tactic. All the goings-on
in Congress over which resolution best expresses disapproval of the
surge miss the larger picture. Even congressional defunding of the
surge is tinkering at the tactical level.

So go read the written testimony of Lt. Gen. William E. Odom (Ret.) given last week to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (the .pdf if here).
It is, as you would expect, a sobering read. But rather than a
thundering denunciation of the President and his Administration, it is
a quiet–though blistering–indictment of our political and military
establishment that makes most of the debate about the war and how to
move forward from here seem like self-serving, short-sighted exercises
in chest-thumping by one side and throat-clearing by the other:

Several critics of the administration show an appreciation
of the requirement to regain our allies and others' support, but they
do not recognize that withdrawal of US forces from Iraq is the sine qua
non for achieving their cooperation. It will be forthcoming once that
withdrawal begins and looks irreversible. They will then realize that
they can no longer sit on the sidelines. The aftermath will be worse
for them than for the United States, and they know that without US
participation and leadership, they alone cannot restore regional
stability. Until we understand this critical point, we cannot design a
strategy that can achieve what we can legitimately call a victory.

Any new strategy that does realistically promise to achieve
regional stability at a cost we can prudently bear, and does not regain
the confidence and support of our allies, is doomed to failure. To
date, I have seen no awareness that any political leader in this
country has gone beyond tactical proposals to offer a different
strategic approach to limiting the damage in a war that is turning out
to be the greatest strategic disaster in our history.

When the political debate over Iraq is viewed at the strategic
level, it becomes much clearer. Silly diversions are revealed for what
they are, like the demands from the President and Vice President that
opponents of the surge present their own tactical plans for “success”
or the defense secretary's claim that the debate itself emboldens the
“enemy.” (Gates has candidly said that four wars are currently underway
in Iraq, so which enemy is emboldened? All of them?)

The Democrats in Congress want to “send a message” with a resolution
opposing the surge. That's fine, as far as it goes. But as Odom's
testimony makes clear (go read the whole thing),
the President has committed strategic errors of monumental proportions.
Getting bogged down in a debate with the President over tactics, lets
him off the hook for the most egregious of his sins, which are
strategic, and makes it more difficult to chart a way out of this
strategic disaster.   [Via Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall]

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