Military historian John Keegan (who wrote the best history of the Iraq War to date) argues that the US needs to send 50,000 more troops to Baghdad to save Iraq:
The object of the surge deployment should be to overwhelm the insurgents with a sudden concentration, both of numbers, armoured vehicles and firepower with the intention to inflict severe losses and heavy shock. The Mahdi Army in Sadr City should prove vulnerable to such tactics, which would of course be supported by helicopters and fixed-wing aviation.
Hitherto most military activity by coalition forces has been reactive rather than unilateral. Typically, units have become involved in fire fights while on patrol or on convoy protection duties. During the surge, the additional troops would take the fight to the enemy with the intention of doing him harm, destabilising him and his leaders and damaging or destroying the bases from which he operates.
Ultimately, I think Keegan’s prescription is the right one. Our tactics in Iraq have been largely reactionary — while we do have troops actively hunting down the insurgency, we don’t have enough to disrupt them. While it will be difficult, an additional deployment of 40,000-50,000 troops whose sole mission is to hunt down and eliminate the heads of the sectarian militias would give Iraq the breathing room it needs to find a long-term solution. While some have argued that we need a political solution, the reality is that no such solution can exist with the current level of violence.
Iraq isn’t in a civil war — that assumes that the outside influences trying to manipulate events in Iraq have little to no importance. Iraq is the battleground for a proxy war with Syria and Iran trying to control events in the region. Ultimately, the only way we can achieve a lasting peace in Iraq is to disarm the militias and keep new supplies from entering Iraq from Iran and Syria. Which means that at the same time that we initiate the “surge” in Iraq we should begin efforts to put diplomatic and political pressure on Syria and Iran. If that means blockading those countries, assassinating their leaders, or bombing their military forces into the Stone Age, we should leave no option off the table.
We cannot afford the price of losing in Iraq, and those who argue that we already have are making an argument from cowardice. Our men and women in Iraq are fighting bravely — and we dare not dishonor the cause for which so many have given their lives by abandoning it out of fear.