At the end of November, the Bush administration
issued a 35-page document titled, "National
Strategy for Victory in Iraq." The new white paper does not represent
a change of strategy: it says at the outset, "The following document articulates
the broad strategy the president set forth in 2003…." But it does offer
an authoritative statement of the administration's position and is thus worth
Like most official documents, it spreads a small amount of substance over a
large number of pages. But if we want to analyze it from a military perspective,
the key is to be found on page 18, under the subhead, "The Security Track
in Detail." There, it says, "The security track is based on six
core assumptions (emphasis in original)." Why is this key? Because
if core assumptions are wrong, everything that follows from them is likely to
be wrong, too.
Let's take a look at each:
"First, the terrorists, Saddamists, and rejectionists do not have the
manpower or firepower to achieve a military victory over the Coalition and Iraqi
Security Forces. They can win only if we surrender."
This reduces "military victory" to childish simplicity, effectively
defining it as winning a game of King of the Hill. That is not how guerilla
war works. Nor does it end in anyone's formal surrender. In order to achieve
eventual military victory, all the guerillas have to do is continue the fight,
which means finding ways to hit us without exposing themselves to annihilation.
So far, they have proven rather good at doing that.
"Second, our own political will is steadfast and will allow America
to keep troops in Iraq – to fight terrorists while training and mentoring Iraqi
forces – until the mission is done, increasing or decreasing troop levels only
as conditions warrant."
Here, the reality gap could not be more evident. America's political will to
support an apparently endless war in Iraq is in free-fall, both on Capitol Hill
and among the public.
"Third, progress on the political front will improve the intelligence
picture by helping distinguish those who can be won over to support the new Iraqi
state from the terrorists and insurgents who must either be killed or captured,
detained, and prosecuted."
This fails on at least three counts. First, "progress
on the political front" so far amounts to creating a Kurdish-Shi'ite government
bitterly hostile to Iraq's Sunnis, which is hardly likely to lead Sunnis to
provide U.S. forces with better intelligence. Second, our own intelligence operation
remains marginal at best in grasping the complexities of Iraqi society. And
third, such intelligence is only useful if we use it to try to split the Ba'athist
insurgents from the jihadis, while the white paper suggests we will continue
to lump them together as enemies we must fight.
"Fourth, the training, equipping, and mentoring of Iraqi Security Forces
will produce an army and police force capable of independently providing security
and maintaining public order in Iraq."
What the administration calls the Iraqi army and police force
is largely Kurdish and Shi'ite militiamen who are taking government paychecks
and wearing government uniforms. Their loyalty is not to the Iraqi government
we have established but to the leaders of their militias, and their purpose
is not to uphold a state but to wage a civil war against Iraqi Sunnis, in revenge
for what the Sunnis did to them under Saddam. Most of the Iraqi state security
apparatus is a fiction, because it is not under the actual control of the state.
"Fifth, regional meddling and infiltrations can be contained and/or
The information I am getting suggests that Iranian meddling
and infiltration in Iraq is massive and growing, and is also encouraged and
facilitated by many of the Shi'ite elements in the Iraqi government. The Persian
camel has not just his nose but his hump already in the tent. Many of my sources
suggest that a lot of the insurgency we attribute to Sunnis is actually Iranian-supported
if not Iranian-controlled.
"Sixth, while we can help, assist, and train, Iraqis will ultimately
be the ones to eliminate their security threats over the long term."
Not only does this ignore the fact that most of those security
threats are made up of Iraqis, it misses the all-important fact that whatever
we "help, assist, and train" automatically loses its legitimacy because
of our involvement. Indeed, nowhere does the white paper come to grips with
this central problem, namely that as an invader and occupier, we cannot confer
legitimacy on anything. On the contrary, we have the reverse Midas touch; when
it comes to legitimacy, that all-important factor in Fourth Generation war,
anything we touch turns to crap.
There is an old military saying that "assume" makes
an ass of you and me. In this case, the Bush administration has explicitly based
its "security track" in Iraq on six assumptions, not one of which
is self-evident. If we accept those assumptions, what would that make us?