Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

    U.S. Lacks long-term vision for success

    “Measurable but uneven” progress has been made in Iraq, says the first and most optimistic sentence of the August 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). The report continues to conclude that high levels of violence caused by both Iraqi sects and al-Qaeda continue, that the current government is ineffective and that improvement in these areas over the next six to 12 months is improbable and limited.

    The findings laid out in the NIE rely heavily on that six to 12 month timeline cited as the period for moderate increases in Iraq security on the one hand and increasing instability of the Iraqi government on the other.

    Projected improvements in Iraq’s security are only possible “to the extent that Coalition forces continue to conduct robust counterinsurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).” But troop levels are at nearly 170,000, a number by most accounts unsustainable past spring 2008. Coalition forces cannot indefinitely prop up the ISF as has been done since the troop surge began.

    The NIE reports that in order to retain these security advances made by the troop surge, the Iraqi government must begin to take control of its own security but also acknowledges that political divisions projected over the next six to 12 months will result in a further disintegration of the Iraqi government. The government itself has not matched the commitment of coalition forces to the Iraqi cause. Basic security needs are only met because of unsustainable troop involvement, creating a false sense of progress over the short term when in fact there is no viable long-term option.

    This shortsightedness and long-term incoherency suggests that not only is there no long-term plan for Iraq but that the current U.S. role actually precludes the formation of an independent Iraq.

    Of the “measurable” improvements, one, the successful use of Sunni insurgents to fight al-Qaeda, has severe limitations on its long-term application. The report calls the use of Sunni Arab groups the “best prospect for improved security” but admits that these groups will not cooperate with the Iraqi government. The report indicates that the elevated level of Sunni power could “undermine efforts to impose central authority” of the Shiite government. Such a move for short-term stability creates long-term fractures within Iraqi sects; the methods used to bandage the current precarious situation conflict with the ultimate goal of a stable and autonomous Iraq.

    The report does suggest dissatisfaction with the current strategies in Iraq, calling for “a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments,” but these elusive “factors” go undefined, as does the nature of this necessary “shift.” The same report that says that increased Iraqi government responsibility is necessary for any sustained progress condemns recent proposals that coalition forces change to a “primary combat support role for Iraqi forces.” Such a change, the report states, would only compromise recent security improvements: improvements which are due to the heavy and unsustainable support of Coalition forces and which are not likely to succeed long-term unless a change is made. Circles, anyone?

    The NIE report presents a troubling view of Iraq in which the involvement of Coalition forces provides only a quick fix for Iraqi issues that are incapable of being truly resolved by anyone other than the Iraqi government itself. As long as Coalition forces remain the only glue by which Iraq is being tenuously held together, no lasting progress can be made.
    The report makes clear the necessity for a plan that holds the Maliki government responsible over a sensible and efficient timeline for the ruling of its country, that relieves the burden on troops stressed and endangered by extensive deployments, and that presents a vision not only for the next six to 12 months, but for the long term future of Iraq. The plan revealed by the report, which at best provides only a short-term solution and at worst works against the broad goals of Iraq, is not acceptable.

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