Captain Ed has an excellent roundup of Iraq-related news, including General Peter Pace speaking from the al-Anbar capital city of Ramadi and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warning the US about a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq.
First, General Pace is reporting that there’s been a “sea change” in Iraq since the beginning of the year. Remember, last fall the Marines had written off al-Anbar Province to the enemy — months of fighting there had failed to yield lasting progress. It wasn’t until the local tribes banded together to fight off al-Qaeda that the situation changed dramatically. This “Anbar Awakening” has made al-Anbar a much safer place than it has been in years.
Pace advocates adding more troops to secure the goals we’ve already achieved. Doing that would be nearly impossible politically and very difficult logistically, but in a sane world, it’s what we should be doing. The failures of the last few years have stemmed from too few boots on the ground leading to an inability to capitalize on our successes. We’d clear out a terrorist stronghold, but the Iraqi police and military couldn’t hold them and the terrorists would soon retake those areas. If we could reinforce places like al-Anbar with mixed US-Iraqi units, it would help ensure that al-Qaeda could not return. The US units would be predominantly responsible for training and backup, while the Iraqi units would be on the front lines. The Iraqis are getting better over time, but they’ve never fought an enemy like al-Qaeda, and they need the training and support of US and coalition troops until a seasoned corps of NCOs and combat soldiers is established.
In other news, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is warning the United States not to engage in a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq:
Although Ban expressed reluctance to jump into Washington’s fierce debate over Iraq, he emphasized that the rest of the world has a stake in the outcome of the conflict. He said that both the United States and the international community have a responsibility not to abandon the Iraqi people.
“It is not my place to inject myself into this discussion taking place between the American people and the administration and Congress,” Ban told a news conference when asked about the U.N. view on a pullout. “However, I would like to tell you that great caution should be taken for the sake of the Iraqi people.”
“Any abrupt withdrawal or decision may lead to a further deterioration of the situation in Iraq,” Ban said.
Indeed, the results of an American withdrawal would almost certainly be massive devastation to the Iraqi people. The argument that things in Iraq are as bad as they can be has never been a persuasive one — nor has the argument that Iraq would be better off without an American presence. The Iraqi government simply isn’t strong enough to hold things together, and if it collapses the result will be Iraq falling into warring factions. A partition of Iraq may not be so bad in theory, but the demographics don’t support it — they aren’t any clean ethnic or sectarian lines in Iraq. Baghdad is a mixed city, and would end up being a bloodbath as each faction tries to take control. The only people who would benefit from such an outcome are terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and hostile states like Iran. The United States would not be “ending” a war, they’d be expanding it into a regional crisis.
The willful blindness of American policymakers towards Iraq is appalling — the whole issue is being turned into nothing more than a political pissing match. We cannot abandon Iraq, and forcing the Senate to sit all night in a futile and childish attempt to force a surrender in Iraq is an act that is nothing less than reprehensible.
If we don’t have the will to win in Iraq, we cannot hope to have the will to win in the next inevitable conflict — and our enemies know this. The Secretary General’s warning is a prescient one, but the costs won’t just be felt in Iraq, they’ll be felt for years to come as bin Laden’s view of America being little more than a paper tiger is proven to have been correct all along.