Most important, we should work with Maliki on a plan to secure Baghdad, the linchpin of Iraq, and be willing to face the fact that he probably doesn’t have the forces to do it on his own. The training of the Iraqi army has been a success story, but the police—so important in any counter-insurgency—are a disaster. They routinely torture and murder, and, at the moment, are part of the problem. If Maliki, in these conditions, says he needs, say, another 20,000 U.S. troops to finally secure Baghdad, Bush shouldn’t hesitate.
If it’s possible to secure Baghdad without more troops, great. But whatever we’re doing now hasn’t been working, since insurgents have reportedly been pushing into Baghdad with increasing brazenness. Whenever the issue of troop levels comes up, the administration says Bush is giving Gen. Casey whatever he asks for to get the job done. I believe that, but maybe it’s time for Bush to re-define the job somewhat. What if he said to Casey, “George, I’ve talked to Maliki and we agree that it is absolutely imperative to secure Baghdad. What do you need to get it done in a month?” Maybe Casey would say, “No problem, I’ll get right on it,” or “Forget it, it’s impossible,” or “I think I can do it with X-more forces.” If that’s the answer, Bush should bite the bullet and deploy more troops despite the howls it will produce.
The broader point in our editorial is that whatever more can be done in Iraq should be done now. This is the moment. There may be others, but, then again, there may not. This is not an opportunity to be wasted.