James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, July 04, 2005

Can the Iraqis Hack It?

Pat Buchanan, for all his faults on domestic and trade issues, remains the most astute foreign policy analyst in the mainstream media, probably because of his own experience working for presidents. On Bush's speech to the 82nd Airborne last week,
he writes:

Closely rereading the president's Tuesday address at Ft. Bragg calls to mind speeches I wrote, 35 years ago, for Richard M. Nixon.

While Bush continues to insist Iraq is the central front in the war on terror and will never be abandoned "on my watch," U.S. war policy is emerging as a 21st-century version of "Vietnamization."

For the president just wagered the ultimate success or failure of this mission on the ability of Iraqis themselves. "As the Iraqis stand up," said Bush, "we will stand down."
Bush appears to have begun to understand that for many Iraqis, the cause of this war – why they fight – is that we are there. They do not have to love Saddam to want Americans gone. And as President Bush has now told the Iraqis that we do not mean to stay, U.S. generals are back-channeling the Sunni insurgents to assure them we intend to leave – and that their real enemy is Zarqawi, al-Qaida and the foreign fighters, who intend to remain and start a civil war.

Not so very long ago, the neoconservatives were cawing, "On to Damascus!" and braying about Iraq becoming a U.S. strategic base camp flanking Iran and Syria. But, repeatedly at Ft. Bragg, Bush signaled that when our mission is complete, America will come home. "I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible," he told the 82nd Airborne. "So do I."
But if 135,000 U.S. troops are adequate only to cope with the insurgency, but insufficient to crush it, where are the forces needed for victory to come from? Our European, Latin and Asian allies are all bailing out.

Bush's answer: The new troops will come from Iraq itself.

Thus, whether we win or lose this war is going to come down to the question it came down to for Nixon – as he pungently put it in the early 1970s – "Can the Vietnamese hack it?"

Can the Iraqis hack it? Can Iraqis build up their political institutions and military and security forces not only to take over from the Americans, but to win a war the Americans were unable to win?
What persuades me we are headed for a crisis is that, within the president's speech, lies a contradiction. He calls the war in Iraq "vital to the future security of our country" – i.e., defeat would be life-threatening for America.

But if victory is vital to this country, how can President Bush ever entrust the outcome of this war to Iraqis?

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