10 January 2005

Iraq v1.4

Iraq 1.0 (March 19, 2003 - April 14, 2003): The "Regime Change" phase. That was our successful invasion of Iraq. Oh, for those glory days.

Iraq 1.1 (April 15, 2003 - May 11, 2003): The "Garner" phase. Major combat is over. Garner wasn't there a month.

Iraq 1.2 (May 12, 2003 - June 28, 2004): The "Bremer" phase. Commence the insurgency. Saddam's sons killed, Saddam captured. We've got the Baathist bull by the horn and the jihadi tiger by the tail now. Muqtada al-Sadr goes on a rampage. Abu Ghraib.

Iraq 1.3 (June 29, 2004 - January 30, 2005): The "Negroponte" phase. More of the same, but more of it. And not in a good way. The insurgency's been effective in keeping 100,000-150,000 US troops deployed in Iraq. Call-ups, Stop-Loss, and rotations to support that are taking their toll. Wounded and fatalities are building up. The rate of wounded and killed is not high compared to history, but the intensity of the war may be similar to Vietnam.

So what's in store for Iraq 1.4?

Brent Scowcroft is predicting civil war:

"The Iraqi elections, rather than turning out to be a promising turning point, have the great potential for deepening the conflict," Scowcroft said. He said he expects increased divisions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims after the Jan. 30 elections, when experts believe the government will be dominated by the majority Shiites.

Scowcroft predicted "an incipient civil war" would grip Iraq and said the best hope for pulling the country from chaos would be to turn the U.S. operation over to NATO or the United Nations -- which, he said, would not be so hostilely viewed by Iraqis.
Larry Diamond, a former Bremer adviser, echoes Scowcroft's concern:
IRAQ is about to reach a point of no return. If, as President Bush insists, it goes ahead with elections for the new transitional government on Jan. 30, Iraq may score a huge moral and political victory for democracy over violence and terrorism. More likely, however, these elections will only increase political polarization and violence by entrenching the perceptions of Sunni Arab marginalization that are helping to drive the violence in the first place. This would not be the first instance when badly timed and ill-prepared elections set back the prospects for democracy, stability and ethnic accommodation. Think of Angola in 1992, Bosnia in 1996, Liberia in 1997.
Diamond's not calling for NATO or the UN to ride to the rescue, but he sees the need to postpone the elections scheduled for January 30, 2005.

The elections in Iraq denote the beginning of Iraq 1.4, for the better or worse. It's hard to imagine it's going to get better anytime soon, but turning Operation Iraqi Freedom over to NATO or the UN sounds hollow to me. The Sunni/jihadis are killing Iraqis, foreigners and destroying infrastructure NOT because they are hoping it will force us to turn Iraq over to NATO or the UN. They blew up the UN in Iraq back in August 2003. I'm also unconvinced that NATO or the UN would be less of an irritant to the Sunnis if they are irritated by the idea of living in a majority run Shiite state. That's a political problem that is fueling a military problem. I don't see that political problem getting better with time by postponing the elections.

I'm not saying we need to hold elections on January 30 just because we decided to write that date in the Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period:
The second phase shall begin after the formation of the Iraqi Transitional Government, which will take place after elections for the National Assembly have been held as stipulated in this Law, provided that, if possible, these elections are not delayed beyond 31 December 2004, and, in any event, beyond 31 January 2005. This second phase shall end upon the formation of an Iraqi government pursuant to a permanent constitution.
I'm asking, "What's the proposed silver bullet that's going to change the security situation for the better if we don't hold them on schedule?" In fact, not only will the security situation get worse, but negotiating new alternative election schemes could be a nightmare.
You can't compare the idea of district voting to the reality of a nationwide vote. In fact, other former Bremer aides say that districting was preferred as an idea but "the practical problems were overwhelming."
The bottomline is that the security situation isn't going to get better for a future election, and it's going to get worse after the planned one. Period. Elections in Iraq Are a Lose-Lose Proposition for us. We need to have them anyway. We also need to face facts that a worsening security situation in Iraq means we need a bigger force.

We've needed a bigger force for many years. But a bigger force is not needed to put more American boots on the ground in Iraq. To that extent, I think Scowcroft is correct. We are an irritant. We need a bigger force to relieve the pressure on the troops rotating into Iraq, both active and Guard/Reserve. Congress should have raised the force limits after 9/11 and Bush should have demanded it. We needed to be recruiting then so they would be available now. Retention remains high, but recruiting is down and the Guard is in trouble. Water under the bridge now, you say, but how long before we recognize our mistake and do it?

What we need is Luck. What we're getting is retired General Luck.
The Pentagon is sending a retired four-star Army general to Iraq next week to conduct an unusual "open-ended" review of the military's entire Iraq policy, including troop levels, training programs for Iraqi security forces and the strategy for fighting the insurgency, senior Defense Department officials said Thursday.

The extraordinary leeway given to the highly regarded officer, Gen. Gary E. Luck, a former head of American forces in South Korea and currently a senior adviser to the military's Joint Forces Command, underscores the deep concern by senior Pentagon officials and top American commanders over the direction that the operation in Iraq is taking, and its broad ramifications for the military, said some members of Congress and military analysts.
Gen. Luck's had a VERY distinguished career and is something of an icon for many: Commander of Joint Special Operations Command, first Commander of US Army Special Operations, Commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, Commander in Chief, United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/Commander, U.S. Forces, Korea. His son, LTC Gary (Skip) E. Luck, Jr., took command of the 3/15th Infantry Battalion in Iraq back in June 2003. It will be interesting to read Gen. Luck's recommendations when he reports back. We could use some Luck in Iraq.

Additional References:

Council on Foreign Relations timeline.

UPDATE: Hot Topic: How U.S. Might Disengage in Iraq: "But all over Washington, there is talk about new ways to define when the mission is accomplished - not to cut and run, but not to linger, either. Several administration officials acknowledge that Mr. Bush will face crucial decisions soon after Jan. 30, when it should become clearer whether the election has resulted in more stability or more insurgency."

[Note: The period between 1991 and 2003, consisting of cat-and-mouse inspections, sanctions, no-fly zones and surface-to-air combat, was Iraq's beta phase.]