I really find the memo disturbing, especially this bullet from the “What We Can Do to Help Maliki” section: “Continue to target Al Qaeda and insurgent strongholds in Baghdad to demonstrate the Shia do not need the [Mahdi Army] to protect their families — and that we are a reliable partner.”
Targeting al Qaeda is the principal reason why we are in Iraq. It is not something we should be doing because it would be helpful to Maliki, or to convince the Iraqi Shia to rethink their allegiances, or to prove that we are a worthy “partner” for purposes of something that is our main job regardless of whether there are any other partners.
One of the things I hear a lot when I defend the President against people who are even more unhappy than I am about our approach is the suspicion (fast becoming a conviction) that the administration does not intend to rout al Qaeda in Iraq but, rather, to prop up the Iraqi government and delegate to it the task of contending with al Qaeda.
I always respond that I believe the President has been clear on the need to defeat al Qaeda in Iraq (he repeatedly quotes bin Laden’s contention that Iraq is the central front in the war), and that it is inconceivable to me that this President would ever pull us out of Iraq before that job is done — regardless of the various other difficulties that make Iraq such a challenge.
Obviously, it is important to leave behind a stable regime that can prevent a resurgence of al Qaeda in the future; but the al Qaeda that is there now — to say nothing of its state sponsors — is our responsibility. That is an issue of American national security — not just the fate of Iraq — and it is the main reason it makes for our guys to be fighting over there.
Passages like the one above from the memo make it much harder to advance this argument. I can only hope what Hadley meant was that since we are going to fight al Qaeda anyway, doing so will have the residual consequences of helping Maliki, weakening Sadr, showing we’re faithful, etc.
But I’m worried.