What we need in Iraq is not a New Diplomatic Offensive (capitals in the original) so much as energy and competence in fighting the fight. From the outset of the Iraq war much of our difficulty has stemmed not so much from failures to find the right strategy, as from an astounding and depressing inability to implement the strategic and operational choices we have nominally made.
This inability has come from things as personal as picking the wrong people for key positions, in the apparent belief that generals are interchangeable cogs in a counterinsurgency machine. It has come from an unwillingness or inability to grab the bureaucracy by the throat and make it act — which is why, three years after the insurgency began, we still send soldiers out to risk roadside bomb attacks in overweight Humvees when there are half a dozen commercially available armored vehicles designed to minimize the effects of such blasts. It is why — although the government has declared long before the ISG issued its report that training the Iraqis is Job One — we still embed fewer than a dozen American advisers in an Iraqi battalion when the right number is three to five times that many.
We have not come up to the brink of failure because we did not know how important it is to employ young Iraqi men or to keep detained insurgents out of circulation or to prevent militia penetration of the security forces by vetting the commanders of those forces. We have known these things — but we have not done these things.