Sunday, January 07, 2007

Will there be a surge of U.S. troops in Iraq?

It is beginning to appear that a "surge" of some sort is the final option to be played out in Iraq before the U.S. begins to depart in earnest. It also appears that even most Republicans in Congress are reluctant to bet that a surge will work. Alas, the administration and Neconservatives (and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby) are unwilling to immediately admit defeat and withdraw from Iraq, so I suspect that they will remain steadfastly committed to at least trying some sort of "mini" surge to save face and at least be able to say that they tried.

The administration does need congressional support, so the question is what degree of compromise will gain majority support in a divided congress. A full surge of 20,000 or more is simply out of the question. A surge lasting more than six or maybe nine months is also out of the question. An open-ended "until we win" surge is also out of the question.

I suspect that there are enough moderates in even the new Democratic Congress who will be willing to support a surge of no more that 3,500 to 4,500 troops for no more than six months and a commitment to withdraw them after six to nine months "no matter what". Sure, we will have all sorts of paper commitments as to what the troops should attempt to do and what the Iraqis will theoretically commit to do, but the key concession that the administration will need to make to a Democratic Congress will be that the surge will reverse by "a date certain" even if the Iraqis fail to uphold their side of the deal. Such a deal with Congress will put the final nail in the coffin of the concept of an open-ended war Iraq.

Will the surge be successful? In short: No. And I doubt that there is anybody in Washington who seriously thinks that a short-term mini surge will accomplish much at all. I doubt that Senator McCain believes in a short-term mini surge.

Will the failure of a surge result in complete chaos in Iraq? In short: Probably in the short-term, but within a year or so the political landscape will shift around as the U.S. "puppet" politicians are shoved aside as the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds gradually coalesce around a loose federation that protects their individual sectarian interests while also protected the federated group from meddling by Syria and Iran. Iraq will not split into three separate countries, but it won't be a tight single country either. In fact, it will be a bit like the U.S. where the states retain significant control over their own affairs. Looser, but still federated since the survival of the three sects depends on cooperation against external meddling.

It is simply a fact that everybody will have no choice but to accept that a fair amount of short-term chaos will be needed to unwind the effects of meddling by the U.S. The U.S. created a political mess which the Iraqis themselves will have to undo in their own way at their own pace.

I strongly suspect that two years from now we will see a new Iraq that will begin to thrive as a truly independent nation. Whether the U.S. will depart on friendly enough terms to be a partner with the new Iraq remains to be seen.

By September, the surge will be completely behind us and the debate will be about how quickly the remaining U.S. troops can be "redeployed" and gradually withdrawn.

-- Jack Krupansky


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