It is clear that the Middle East needs a successful Iraq in order to foster necessary societal and cultural changes. The war on terror now hinges on Iraq – a free and prosperous Middle East will no longer be a breeding ground for terrorism If we fail the people of Iraq, we fail the people of the Middle East as well, and we will also fail ourselves. We have allowed the seeds of extremism to grow in the Middle East for far too long.
However, in order to do this, we need more boots on the ground.
In last week’s Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria mades the persuasive and important argument that we need to change our strategy in Iraq. He argues that we need to be more pragmatic in our approach, we need more boots on the ground, and we need to use popular forces to our advantage to establish more legitimacy – including Ayatollah Sistani.
Indeed, Zakaria’s arguments are generally sound, although I believe that moving the June 30th deadline because of the violence in Iraq would send the wrong messages. However, he is right on many counts, and Paul Bremer and the CPA would do well to heed his advice.
Along similar lines, Robert Kagan and William Kristol write in The Weekly Standard on the necessity of additional troops in Iraq:
The shortage of troops in Iraq is the product of a string of bad calculations and a hefty dose of wishful thinking. Above all, it is the product of Rumsfeld’s fixation on high-tech military “transformation,” his hostility to manpower-intensive nation-building in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, and his refusal to increase the overall size of the military in the first place. The results are plain to see: We are trying to carry out Bush’s post-9/11 foreign policy with Clinton’s pre-9/11 military. It is a wonderful military, but it is too small for our responsibilities in the post-9/11 world. As a result, it will not be easy to find the additional brigades to send to Iraq. Troubling reductions in our deployments elsewhere will be required, and an already stressed military will be asked to do more still. Unfortunately, there is no choice.
We can do more with less in terms of military engagements – Afghanistan proved that. However, reconstruction can’t be done with smart weapons and high-tech aircraft. It requires boots on the ground and we do not have enough in Iraq. The Iraqi people need security to become more democratic – but we can’t provide enough at this time.
We can win in Iraq. We have the support of the Iraqi people to do so. However, that means changing our gameplan to match the circumstance on the ground. The situation in Iraq now requires this country to make sacrifices. The military can take the strain in the short term – reenlistment rates are fine. The short term sacrifice of more troops will be counteracted by no longer having to make hasty redeployments or lengthened tours of duty in the future.
If we can provide increased security it will reassure the Iraqi people, prevent further strife, and give us increased power and authority – by doing so we can secure the foundation of a lasting representative government that will be able to counteract the forces of terrorism and hatred in the region.