Running out of options

Here’s the upshot of two days of testimony on Capitol Hill by our top military commander and top diplomat in Iraq: We’re stuck.

The “surge,” due to begin winding down this fall, brought some measure of increased security, but not as much as one might expect from 30,000 additional troops. The Sunnis and Shiites are not closer to reconciliation; the central government remains quarrelsome and ineffective; and the Iraqi security forces are only marginally more capable.

The one positive development, an alliance between Sunni tribes and the U.S. military against al Qaeda, was not a part of the surge strategy and indeed came as something of a surprise.

And there are no good options. A rapid U.S. withdrawal, said Ambassador Ryan Crocker, one of our most experienced hands with Iraq, would mean “massive human suffering — well beyond what has already occurred …”

A phased departure with announced troop withdrawals, he said, would only encourage the warring factions to stockpile ammunition and get ready “for a big nasty street fight.”

Meanwhile, we are witnessing the de facto partition of Iraq, into a Shiite south, Sunnis in the center under U.S. protection and a thriving Kurdish north. The depth of that partition was demonstrated this week when the semiautonomous Kurds signed an exploration deal with Hunt Oil without reference to the central government in Baghdad — still without a national oil law despite a year of pressure by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, an increasingly aggressive Iran, with whom Army Gen. David Petraeus says we’re fighting a “proxy war” in Iraq, makes any withdrawal strategically unwise for the broader Gulf. The United States is building a large base and a string of outposts along the Iranian border to interdict weapons. The base, to be finished in November, is to be occupied for at least two years.

As Petraeus and Crocker laid it out, we have to keep going forward in Iraq because we can’t go back.

By next summer, Petraeus plans on reducing U.S. troop levels to 130,000, the level we had before the surge. In other words, we’re back where we started. We’re stuck.


  1. adamrussell

    The president of Iraq said we can go home any time we want to. The Iraqis dont want us there. The American people dont want us there. The world doesnt want us there. Only Bush.

  2. SEAL

    I say again – the only solution is to turn Iraq over to the United Nations. They could bring in enough peace keeping troops to litterally shut the civil war down by putting patrols on every street. Disband the current government and hold new elections. Under safe conditions that did not exist during the first election and what the people of Iraq have learned from the last 4 years of chaos, there would be a truly fair and representative election of officials to create a constitution, etc. that would be acceptable and responsible for the country. The UN would have to stay there until the Iraqis had a police force and justice system that could maintain security. Also, a military that could provide defense from its neighbors.

    This is the only way we could get out of this mess and save some measure of face. And it would save us a hell of a lot of money. We must lose our arrogance and let the Iraqis determine their own fate.

  3. Bluesman2007

    It’s clear this is NOT a military issue. It’s a political issue and one that we can NOT solve with the military. The Sunni-Shiite conflict has been going on for generations. What makes us think any military intervention is EVER going to resolve it? This is truly a fools errand that we’re on and one that is costing us dearly in American lives and treasure. It’s obvious Bush and his cabal don’t care about that.

    All they care about is securing oil rights and being able to dictate Iraqs economy. If the Iraqis put up with that, they’re nuts. And if we put up with it much longer, we’re no better. What’s happening here is shameful. But, that’s nothing new. We all know that.

  4. SEAL

    Barack Obama has stated that if he is elected president, he will have all “combat” troops out of Iraq in just a matter of a few months and bring together all the nations in the area plus many of those in Europe to work together to help Iraq rebuild. He proposes that some of Iraq’s wealthy neighbors would provide funds for Iraq. Will it work? Maybe, maybe not. But at least he has said what he will do.

    To my knowledge, no other democrat candidate has offerred any kind of a plan for Iraq. He is the only one who has taken a stance and declared what he would do. That elevates him above the others in my view. I want a president who tells me what he/she is going to do about things. Obama has also done the same thing with other issues like health care, etc. My opinion of him is getting better the more he speaks out.