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Re: The Surge


Rich, what was most encouraging to me in the President’s new plan for Iraq was his recognition of the second of these two critical mistakes:

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.

Those restrictions are the result of our commanders’ attempt to find a middle way between two facts that are in conflict: (1) the Iraqi government must establish central authority in Iraq, and (2) the only one capable of establishing central authority in Iraq now is the United States–if anyone is.  The president went on to explain:

In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods — and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

What this really means is that the president got Maliki to agree that the internal sectarian political dynamics of his own cabinet will not be allowed to constrain security operations.  This seems to me the only way to thread the needle of transition to an Iraqi government that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.  It will require Maliki to impose political (indeed, constitutional) discipline on his own government–in the sense of forcing his ministers (and their ministries) to be loyal first and foremost to the central government rather than their own communities.  If Maliki can accomplish this, he will go down as a seminal leader in Iraq’s history — and our prospects for ultimate success will start to look a whole lot better. 


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