To surge or not to surge: that is the question. Actually, it doesn’t look to be much of a question anymore. According to press reports, the commanding officer in Iraq, General George W. Casey Jr., has now endorsed the proposal. With the formerly skeptical Casey on board, the escalation is probably a done deal. Soon somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 more American troops will start heading into the Iraqi nightmare, though God knows where the military will find them in our already overstressed armed services.
Has there ever been a more predictable train wreck? For one thing, this is a plan — if we are to give it the dignity of calling it a plan — dreamed up, not by military planners, but by politicians. And let’s face it — the batting average of these particular political armchair warriors has been far from reassuring.
So as to be completely fair, I would like to be able to address the specifics of the proposal, rather than just running it down in general. But that, of course, won’t be possible, since its advocates have offered no specifics. They want more troops sent into harm’s way — that much is clear. Beyond that they’ve given us next to nothing.
Incredibly, there doesn’t even appear be consensus as to what mission these new troops should have. Some want them used to “take care of” the militia of radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr. That should prove interesting, given that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has recently refused to play ball even with efforts to politically isolate al-Sadr, believing that doing so would damage Shiite unity. So I’m sure a full-fledged military attack against al-Sadr will go over really well with the Shiite majority.
Others argue that the new troops should be deployed in mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods where, hopefully, they will help to reduce ethnic bloodshed — a noble goal, but again more a vague hope than a carefully crafted proposal. What will the rules of engagement be? Who will the troops shoot at when fighting breaks out between ethnic groups? What’s the exit strategy?
Nobody knows the answer to these questions, of course, because nobody has worked out the details of the mission. Remember, this escalation isn’t something our military planned out and then sought civilian approval for. This is the brainchild of neoconservative politicians that is being forced onto the military.
It is political desperation masquerading as strategy. And as such it’s a recipe for disaster — one more time.