More On Lugar And Iraq

J.D. Johannes, recently returned from a three-month embed in Iraq has a deconstruction of Lugar’s Iraq “plan”:

Lugar is saying, “Because we lack the will to win, let us make a decision not to win, and thus reassert our will.” This is particularly untimely now, when our military has accomplished one of the most stunning successes of this prolonged struggle.

Alexander Hamilton’s analysis on much the same question, which preceded Lugar’s caveat by more than two centuries, is worth noting as well. Describing the subordinate role of Congress to the executive in foreign policy, Hamilton wrote in Federalist 75:

“Accurate and comprehensive knowledge of foreign politics; a steady and systematic adherence to the same views; a nice and uniform sensibility to national character; decision, secrecy, and dispatch, are incompatible with the genius of a body so variable and so numerous.”

The Petraeus surge, authorized by the executive branch, was not “improvised.” Its fundamental planning dates from early in Donald Rumsfeld’s stint as secretary of Defense, where it was developed as a contingency plan should a “light footprint” approach fail. It deserves its day in the sun.

The “light footprint” approach had its rationales, but that approach failed. The “surge” approach is actually working so far, and many do exactly what it is supposed to do: give the Iraqis breathing room so that further political and economic initiatives can move forwards. The Anbar Awakening is probably the most significant shift in this war. By having Iraqis stand up to fight AQI, the terrorists are rapidly running out of hiding places. The “surge” won’t end the war on its own, but it will set the conditions by which the Iraqis can achieve the stability that the terrorists have denied them for the past few years.

The problem with Lugar’s “plan” is that there is no plan. He sets out four goals, then says we should take an action which will clearly set all four back. There is no alternative to fighting in Iraq because that’s where al-Qaeda has engaged us. The argument that there’s some other viable alternative falls flat because no one seems to know what that viable alternative is.

At the end of the day, one thing is certain: if we leave Iraq, we’ll be forced by events to return. If Iraq becomes a haven for terrorism, which is almost certainly will, it would be profoundly irresponsible not to do something about it. Air power can’t fight terrorists who hide in civilian population centers — fighting terrorism requires boots on the ground and networks of intelligence coming directly from the locals. That can’t happen if we’re isolating ourselves from the Iraqi population. You can’t develop intelligence from “mega bases” well outside the people you need to be developing contacts with.

Congress has a subordinate role in foreign policy precisely because the Founders wanted America to speak with one voice, as Hamilton made clear. With all due respect to Senator Lugar, he has no plan, and he can’t support his own goals with his own policy preferences. His plan is simply incoherent, and the fact that he cannot clearly tie in the goal of constraining al-Qaeda with the means of withdrawing from Iraq is easily explained — there’s no logical connection between the two.

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