In his column today, Charles Krauthammer hones in on one of the main problems of Bush's plan for
The Pentagon should be working on a sustainable Plan B whose major element would be not so much a drawdown of troops as a drawdown of risk to our troops. If we had zero American casualties a day, there would be as little need to withdraw from
Iraq as there is to withdraw from the Balkans.
We need to find a redeployment strategy that maintains as much latent American strength as possible, but with minimal exposure. We say to Maliki: Let us down, and we dismantle the Green Zone, leave Baghdad and let you fend for yourself; we keep the airport and certain strategic bases in the area; we redeploy most of our forces to Kurdistan; we maintain a significant presence in Anbar province, where we are having success in our one-front war against al-Qaeda and the Baathists. Then we watch. You can have your
Baghdad civil war without us. We will be around to pick up the pieces as best we can.
This strategy is tempting, and one that I've viewed as a reasonable last resort in the past. However, a NY Times article from last week about the Bush administration deliberations contained a quote that made me reconsider whether such a strategy would be a realistic or wise one:
One senior official involved in the discussions said that Mr. Bush's instinct toward the start of the review process — and that of others — was to consider a withdrawal from Baghdad, allow Iraqi-vs.-Iraqi fighting to settle itself, and dedicate United States forces to focus on pursuing Qaeda fighters. ''As you peel that back and look at it, it just doesn't war-game out for you,'' said the official. ''You're supposed to go flying through
Baghdad looking for Al Qaeda, and when you see ethnic cleansing going on look the other way?''
In reality, will
Furthermore, can you really de-link the Sunni-Shiite feud from the war on Al Qaeda in Anbar? A November Washington Post article quoted a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that said the main reason for Al Qaeda's growing popularity in Anbar was that the Sunni minority views the terrorist group as its only protection against the Shiite majority and perceived Iranian influence in Baghdad. Presumably, by sitting on the sidelines, these problems will only get worse, thus making the Sunnis in Anbar even more dependent on Al Qaeda.
Finally, the Krauthammer plan seems to rest on the belief that Maliki's problem is a lack of will, but he just may not have the ability to prevent Shiite militia infiltration of the security forces and other arms of the government, even if he wanted to.
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