Well, I admit I didn’t watch the speech, but going through the transcript, I will say he is more specific about his goals and explicit in defining how the armed forces will carry out a plan. He knows he doesn’t have a blank check from Congress anymore, no doubt.
Thing is, all the criticism about Donald Rumsfeld’s leadership on defense from the Democrats was replaced by criticism of the natural shift away from a Rumsfeldian policy, which baffles me (ok, not really). The main criticism of Rumsfeld (by the armed forces) was that he went in too light and tried to fight on the cheap. The quick dispatch with which the U.S. defeated the Iraqi army is a testament to the success of this strategy, but the current impasse is a testament to the ineptitude of the US army and bureaucracy to “nation-build”. Whether 20,000 more troops will help secure Baghdad depends primarily on the political will of al-Maliki, a fact which concerns me.
Historically, there are some major lessons to be learned here. Defeating enemies often means killing many enemy civilians. Sixty years removed from WWII, we may comfortably wring our hands with guilt over the atrocities in Munich , Hiroshima & Nagasaki. In the American South people bitterly recall Sherman’s march. In both cases victory was ultimately decisive. By trying to win a war in a moral fashion, via a “clean” decapitation of leadership without subduing the populace, the Sunnis are still ready to fight and are willing to bomb Shia mosques etc. without fear of reprisal. Any reprisals by the Americans will result in headlines about the death of innocent civilians etc.
The battle between Shia and Sunni muslims will continue until one group is subdued. This may mean giving Maliki (and Sadr) the green light to wreak havoc on the Sunnis. Would this make Maliki a moral equivalent to Saddam?
I did see most of it, and there were a couple of things I think were missing (or brushed over) that I wish would have been there:
1) Rules of engagement: the number one compaint on the ground has always been that their hands have been tied…then again…I guess that it’s best for him not to say, “hey, now we’re going to be able to shoot these SOBs in the head, woo-hoo!!”
2) There will be screams of “atrocities.” I think it’s not enough to say it’s going to get bloody. I think you have to preempt the cries of mothers and “children” getting killed.
To sum both of these I would have liked to have heard something like this (not that it would ever happen):
“Listen, folks, it’s going to get messy. We’ve been trying to get this thing done cleanly, and it just ain’t workin’. Thousands of innocent civilians lives have been lost because we’ve been so afraid to accidentally take civilians lives. The truth is…this is war, and war is ugly, and when Al Jazeera and other media outlets start crying about civilian lives it’s going to get tough. Fallujah taught us this, and we’ve learned our lesson. This time when we ramp up, it’s to take out the bad guys, and keep the bad guys out.
“And another thing, when we leave, it’s STILL going to be messy, but we will have given the Iraqi government every last opportunity to take ownership of their own security. And you, Maliki…step the hell up!”
Or something like that. It remains to be seen whether it’ll do any good this time, but I’m eternally grateful he did not just swallow the ISG thing whole and hide behind Papa Baker.
The truth is, the Democrats have dug themselves a whole with the whole Rumsfeld thing. “He’s just not listening to the troops on the ground” Well, here you go, this is what the troops on the ground have been saying, and it’s not “Let’s get the hell out!” It’s, “give us what we need to win!”
As far as Shia and Sunni…I love the line about taking out terrorists regardless of their background. We’ll see how that works. I do believe that Sadr is the key to this whole thing. If he continues to be embraced, it’s bad news for Iraq.