Friday, July 27, 2007

Post-Surge Strategy: Time for Some Realism

Whatever the merits of the surge as a military strategy, it is clear enough that conditions in Iraq have deteriorated to the point that we need a new policy. Whether we have lost per se is something that I am not willing to say, simply because it is not over.

I am not of the opinion that it makes good politics or is strategically viable to simply de-fund the war and go home. I offer the following not very original five point plan that offers a realist alternative:

1. Support the creation of Sunni and Shiite states. There is a complete breakdown of civil authority and conditions that can only be described as civil war in the Shiite and Sunni “controlled” areas of Iraq. When citizens are told to arm themselves because the state can no longer protect them, the state is no longer a state. We should accept this and simply try to make the best of it. As Peter Galbraith and then Senator Biden have argued a decentralized solution is the only viable solution. At this point, a loose confederation may still be possible. Most likely we will not find great allies in either the Sunni or Shiite states or quasi-independent states that eventually emerge, but should look to the Kurds.

2. The situation in the Kurdish North is totally different. A viable state is in place which can become an important American, Israeli, and, if we put the time and resources into it, a Turkish ally as well. Our single biggest diplomatic priority should be stabilize the relationship between Turkey and the Kurdish “State” because when all of this is over, a pro-American Kurdish Republic is likely to be the only good thing we get out of Iraq. The Turks and Europeans will have access to an important oil supply and a deserving people will have the nation that they should have received at Versailles.

3. We have an interest in making sure that Al-Qaeda in Iraq is squashed, to that end we should do whatever is necessary using elite units and strategic alliances with their enemies. We can still expect casualties, perhaps blowback, but seems to me we have no choice, but to fight them. It is a pity that we created an Al-Qaeda in Iraq because it would be better to concentrate on killing the parent organization in Afghanistan, but we need to do both.

4. Get ready for the fallout. No matter what course we take assume that the other players in the region will react in ways that require us to make difficult decisions. Assume worst case scenarios and begin to plan for addressing them including the potential for war with Iran and regional war/proxy war between Sunni and Shiite countries. Plan for increased attacks on US assets throughout the Middle East and develop plans for hitting back hard.

5. Prepare for blowback in the US: secure the borders, enforce immigration law, and create a system of national identification. One of the things I like about living in Japan is that, comparatively speaking, it is hard to get in here illegally. Of course, it is not impossible to do so, but this country takes its borders seriously. It is time that the US does the same. The US has missed more 9-11s because Scotland Yard, lucky breaks, and less than competent attempts. It is safe to assume that another 9-11 will result when such fortuitous conditions fail to arise. Given that Border Security is an obvious gaping hole that someone will take advantage of sooner or later, the US should make a serious attempt to deal with this by increasing border security; implementing a full integration of Passport, Social Security, and State Identification leading to the creation of a national ID card with biometric security features; and through the legalization of desirable illegal aliens and the forced repatriation of the undesirable. It is a pity that the Bush Administration lacked sufficient credibility on immigration law enforcement to get a sufficient number of Republicans in the House to pass some version of the now dead immigration bill. This would have been an imperfect, but useful first step. A state with a porous border will sooner or later cease to exist.

My suggestions are neither modest or lacking in controversy, but simply put we need a realist strategy that minimizes our loses and maximizes returns. The details I mention above may not be what we do exactly, but at this stage some pessimistic practicality is what we need, not what George believes.