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Analysis: Bush's last attempt in Iraq

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
By Claude Salhani
Washington (UPI) Dec 21, 2006
There is a nasty premonition circulating inside the Washington Beltway that President George W. Bush will attempt one final stab at the heart of the Iraqi conundrum as a last-ditch effort to regain the upper hand in the fight for Iraq.

But before he can set out for a second attempt to gentrify Iraq, the president plans to increase the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps, hoping to build a force powerful enough to create a military surge in Iraq. The president has indicated his desire to boost the number of troops on active duty and has indicated his plan enjoys the support of several top generals.

What is the logic behind such a move this late in the game? Why would the president choose to do this now when the talk around Washington lends itself more to discussing troops reduction in Iraq rather than escalating the conflict?

The answer is because the president would rather not take into consideration the Hamilton-Baker Iraq Study Group's report that suggested reducing the role of American combat troops.

The bipartisan report, which took nine months to produce, offers the Bush administration an "honorable exit" from Iraq and a face-saving opportunity to turn away from what has become a complex situation that is getting more complicated by the day.

In accepting the study group's findings, the president would have to seriously consider cutting back on U.S. troops in Iraq.

A premature withdrawal while Islamist insurgents, Sunni and Shiite militias and assorted gunmen are doing their best to keep Iraq engaged in sectarian conflict as the country slips precariously towards civil war would be seen as a defeat for the United States.

So Bush, now with about two years left in his second mandate, wants to go out with a bang. A big bang. And for that you need a bigger army and more Marines. You need more boots on the ground.

Bush's plan, it would seem, would be to "flood" Iraq with U.S. troops. There would be American fighting troops every which way you turn. The logic is that the superior numbers of American troops will have a better handle on the situation, all while stepping up the training program of Iraqi forces. By the time Bush leaves the Oval Office in 2008, he would be handing to his successor a much more subdued Iraq.

That at least is the theory; the beefing up of American troops in Iraq might seem like a good idea, but in practice it looks very different. Furthermore, the plan comes three years too late.

This is what should have happened at the outset of the U.S. military intervention in March 2003. An overwhelming military force at the beginning of the invasion would have made a big difference, then. Additional troops at that time would have guaranteed law and order. They could have prevented a breakdown of authority. There would have been no rioting, looting of museums, ministries, shops, homes and offices. Had the invading U.S. Army shown itself to be stern from the very first day, had there been ample numbers of troops to maintain law and order, it is quite possible that the chain of events would have unfolded in a very different manner.

But remember, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was opposed to sending more troops. But now, more than three years down the road, injecting several tens of thousands of U.S. troops into Iraq presents more of a disadvantage.

Committing tens of thousands of additional forces to Iraq may yield limited results but it also exposes so many more Americans to the inevitable daily violence that has become the norm in Iraq; the roadside bombs, attacks against American military positions that have been growing steadily month by month.

Consider this: committing several tens of thousands of American troops to Iraq who are more likely than not to engage in heavy combat operations, causing more damage and casualties among Iraqi civilians will only serve to further infuriate Iraqi, Arab and Muslim public opinion, and to build more hatred towards the United States. In short, it would be counter to everything the Baker-Hamilton report recommended.

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Related Links
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century

Outside View: Short-changing Iraq
Washington (UPI) Dec 18, 2006
President John F. Kennedy, speaking to the graduating class of the U.S. Naval Academy on June 7, 1961, stressed the importance for military professionals to understand the use of four elements of national power: diplomacy, information, military and economic, or DIME.

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