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Realpolitik: There Is No Victory Strategy
While it seems on the surface self-evident that better trained Iraqi security forces should be able to do the job, the reality is that the military and the police are infested with Shiite militias, whose questionable loyalty has severely undermined their neutrality. Although historically Iraq was already divided along sectarian lines, the war has intensified that division and the greater loyalty of the security personale remains to the tribe or sect they belong to rather than to the nation. Photo courtesy AFP
While it seems on the surface self-evident that better trained Iraqi security forces should be able to do the job, the reality is that the military and the police are infested with Shiite militias, whose questionable loyalty has severely undermined their neutrality. Although historically Iraq was already divided along sectarian lines, the war has intensified that division and the greater loyalty of the security personale remains to the tribe or sect they belong to rather than to the nation. Photo courtesy AFP
by Alon Ben-Meir
New York NY (UPI) Dec 11, 2006
After nearly four years of successive disasters in Iraq, which unleashed a civil war and brought the country to its knees, not to speak of the monumental American losses, there are still those dreamers -- including the president -- who speak of victory. Knowing what we know about the grave situation in Iraq today, we can no longer engage in such recklessly wishful thinking.

As President George W. Bush reviews his options in the wake of the Iraq Study Group's report, he must clearly demonstrate the cause and effect of every aspect of any "victory strategy" he envisions before embarking on another perilous misadventure. Sadly, the reality in Iraq precludes a victory in any classic sense, and the only realistic solution lies in dividing Iraq into three self-ruled parts: A Kurdish part that actually already exists, a Shiite part, which is in the making, and a Sunni part which must be created.

But some influential voices, including those of Senator John McCain and Richard Perle, a prominent neo-conservative, advocate increasing American combat troops for a limited period to bring order to Baghdad and crush the insurgency. There is no greater fallacy than the notion that the insurgency can be crushed.

McCain, with his rich military experience, should know better. He should know that a determined insurgency cannot be overwhelmed, especially when it is deeply imbedded in supportive communities that provide both cover and unlimited resources. Moreover, the Sunni insurgents in Iraq operate extremely adeptly within this environment; they are patient, have enormous caches of munitions, select their targets carefully, and take their time to strike at will.

When faced with overwhelming power, they melt away into their respective communities, where they can wait for weeks, months, or even years to surface again and with only greater intensity, as the Taliban in Afghanistan have shown insurgencies can do when operating within their own country. Increasing American forces may initially show some signs of success in fighting the insurgency, but the success will not be enduring. Rather, it will prove to be nothing but a recipe for additional American casualties and the complete disintegration of Iraq.

In addition, increasing American trainers by many thousands more, an idea strongly advocated by the Iraq Study Group and embraced by the victory seekers, will not in itself work either. Accelerating the training of unified Iraqi forces so they can assume expanded security functions to reduce and eventually eliminate American involvement is necessary, but the focus must be shifted to the Sunnis.

While it seems on the surface self-evident that better trained Iraqi security forces should be able to do the job, the reality is that the military and the police are infested with Shiite militias, whose questionable loyalty has severely undermined their neutrality. Although historically Iraq was already divided along sectarian lines, the war has intensified that division and the greater loyalty of the security personale remains to the tribe or sect they belong to rather than to the nation.

Moreover, as long as the current government and future governments are led by Shiites, they will remain beholden to their militia, which they will rely on to strengthen their power base as well as safeguard Shiite interests before any other.

Nevertheless, in contrast to many conservative Republican politicians, who have spared no words in tearing apart the Study Group's report, I find it contains many good points that the White House should embrace, including the recommendation to withdraw American combat brigades in the beginning of 2008.

But to achieve anything that offers the United States any possibility of a face-saving way out while leaving behind conditions with the potential for stability, the administration must promote the Sunnis' self-rule over their three provinces while maintaining loose federal ties.

Unfortunately, the Study Group failed to address the absolute need of the Sunnis to govern themselves, as it is a prerequisite for achieving even a modicum of stability in Iraq. As long as the Sunnis fear for their lives, there will be no hope that the sectarian killing and insurgency will end.

To allay their fears, the Sunnis can build their own security forces with American or preferably European training to protect them now and in the future in a similar vein as the Kurdish Peshmerga. This can be facilitated now especially since the Iraqi government is nearing an agreement on the distribution of oil revenue, something that the Sunnis must secure to establish an economically viable entity of their own. To that end, the United States must insist that equitable distribution of oil revenue becomes a basic law of the land to be administered by a federal agency.

The Sunnis, who have lost power, must now be persuaded that ruling all of Iraq is no longer possible, and the only realistic alternative they can achieve is self-rule with equitable revenue sharing from the sale of oil. If they are persuaded, it may represent a partial victory for the Sunnis and lead to a somewhat dignified exit for the Americans.

Given these realities, those who advocate total victory over the insurgency by military means must be listed in the column of recklessly dangerous bordering on criminal. They are gambling with the lives of thousands of Americans and the future standing of America without offering a shred of evidence that their strategy for a so-called victory is anything but a hallucination.

Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

related report

US Doesn't Need The Draft
by Bernard Rostker
UPI Outside View Commentator Washington (UPI) Dec 11 - Should the United States bring back the military draft? That question was thrust onto front pages and TV news programs around the nation after Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., recently renewed his call for a return to the draft.

Charging that the war in Iraq is being fought disproportionately by the poor and minorities, Rangel said: "Why should a privileged body of people benefit from national security, benefit from economic gains with no risk? Another group takes all the risk and gets the least benefit."

Judging by the opposition voiced to the Rangel plan by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress -- including incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. -- the proposal to resume the draft is dead on arrival. On top of the congressional opposition, leaders in the military and the Bush administration also oppose a return to military conscription, which ended in 1973, because experience has shown that volunteers perform better and stay in the military far longer than draftees.

I've examined the issue of the draft closely as director of selective service in the Carter administration, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness in the Clinton administration, and in researching my new RAND Corp. book, "I Want You, The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Force."

All the evidence shows that the draft is not needed by the nation and not wanted by the majority of Americans.

Rangel's argument is reminiscent of the debate that surrounded the establishment of the All-Volunteer Force, or AVF, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. When last seriously debated, conservatives and liberals found themselves on both sides of the issue on both philosophical and pragmatic grounds.

In 1966, the late Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman declared the draft "inconsistent with a free society."

Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., then the Senate's leading expert on military personnel issues, saw it differently. He said the AVF was "to a large extent a political child of the draft card burning, campus riots, and violent protest demonstrations of the late 1960s and early 1970s."

Back then, many opponents of the AVF argued it would lead to military adventurism by politicians and generals unconcerned with draft protests. The same claim is heard today by some critics of the AVF, despite the fact that the war in Vietnam commenced under a draft and involved far more troops and caused far more casualties than the war in Iraq.

Those who argue in favor of conscription are correct that today few children of members of Congress are serving in the U.S. armed forces. It has not, however, been established how this might affect the actions of Congress.

The norm throughout American history has been voluntary military service. The problem with conscription has been, and still is best summed up in the title of the critical report on draft reform from the 1960's, "Who Serves, When Not All Serve."

Today, if America was to return to a draft it would use the lottery system that was put in place to correct the inequities of the previous system of conscription. But even under a lottery system sacrifice would not be equal or universal.

Giving everyone in the lottery pool an equal chance of being called can be considered equitable. But given the manpower needs of the armed forces and the large number of draft-age young men eligible to serve, most young men would not need to be drafted. As a result, the burden of military service would not fall equally on all young men -- it would be borne only by draftees and men and women who chose to volunteer.

While it has been suggested that the AVF is unfair in that it is made up of the poor and members of minority groups, the facts don't support this. Even in the early years of the AVF, when it was struggling to get started, the congressionally established Defense Manpower Commission examined and rejected this contention.

Each year the Defense Department publishes a report on the social representation of the armed forces. It has been true for years that the AVF represents the broad middle of American society.

Moreover, the AVF is an avenue for minority high school graduates to overcome the vestiges of discrimination that still exist in the private sector, but which have been largely eliminated in the armed forces. The military, more than any other institution in American society, is an "equal opportunity employer."

Since the advent of the AVF in the United States, nation after nation has worked to emulate the American military and move to an all-volunteer force. As world affairs and military technology have changed, fewer young people are needed to staff the military in countries around the world.

The quality of today's U.S. armed forces is unmatched in world history. Unlike the pervious mixed force of volunteer and conscripted soldiers, today's recruits are almost all high school graduates and have tested in the upper half of the "quality" range. Once recruited, the military retains so many that even the most optimistic early supporters of the AVF would be astonished at the size of the career force.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen summed it up best. "On countless occasions I've been asked by foreign leaders: 'How can our military be more like America's?' ... We have the finest military on Earth because we have the finest people on Earth, because we recruit and we retain the best that America has to offer."

Bernard Rostker is a senior fellow at the Rand Corp., a non-profit research organization

United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interest of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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