The signs - with the final fifth brigade of surge troops arriving in Iraq soon and that a Combat Aviation Brigade which means all the footsloggers are already there - are not good for the one and only plan Bush has left.
A further six US soldiers died today in Iraq, bringing the total reported for this one day to eleven. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, has warned that American casualties will increase from their already record highs. Iraqis are still dying wholesale even if the Iraqi government doesn't want to release official casualty figures. The leading Sunni politician says sectarian killings are rising again and that Maliki is marginalizing his own Sunni ministers. The abortive search for a war czar continues without success - and the most likely reason for needing such a czar in the first place is that Robert Gates isn't turning out to be a Bush yes-man, blindly loyal to his boss's last gasp surge. A surge that has so much political capital invested in it that even official reports that might have cast doubt on it before the fact were repressed until it was well underway.
So it's hardly surprising that even previously loyal Republican political hacks are feeling the heat. Fred Kagan, one of the surge's originators, has even felt the need to come up with a paltry strawman argument today in the NY Times.
there is no Plan B because there cannot be one. The idea that there can be a single alternative strategy, developed now, just at the beginning of the surge, is antithetical to the dynamic nature of war. At this early stage, there are only possible general responses to various contingencies, which will become more focused as operations move forward.Kagan is being deliberately dense or unutterably stupid - it isn't "A" Plan B that critics would like to see, it's "ANY" Plan B. You know - contingency planning. It's what the military does best - they even have a contingency plan for invading Canada - but according to Kagan those who call for contingency planning of any kind are showing they don't "understand about military operations". On the evidence, it's Kagan who doesn't understand - and he invented the surge. That's troubling in itself.
But Francis Fukuyama, the excommunicated Godfather of the neocons, understands. In an L.A. Times op-ed on a day when the paper's editorial page admitted it was wrong to back the surge in the first place, Fukuyama writes that Gen. Petreaus isn't going to be able to offer "a clear, plausible date by which the Iraqi army and police will be able to stand on their own without massive U.S. support" anytime soon or even in the middle distance. He continues:
We could stick it out, and I suspect that we could avoid losing in Iraq for another five, 10 or 15 years, as long as we're willing to maintain high troop levels, continue to spend large amounts of money and suffer more casualties. But even the most conservative Republican candidates are unlikely to campaign on a platform of staying in Iraq indefinitely when the primary season starts next winter and the war enters its sixth year.Unfortunately, Bush isn't listening to Fukuyama or even Gates, instead he's following the intellectually corrupt Worm-Tongue, Kagan. He won't even allow the Pentagon to do serious forward planning for withdrawal. Fukuyama says it isn't a question of when or if U.S. troops come home, but how. Left to Bush and his sycophants, the how will be as much of a deadly, incompetent mess as the occupation itself has been.
This means that we will have to engage in a very different debate from the one we have been having up to now, a debate not about surging and not about withdrawing with our goals accomplished but about how to draw down our forces in a way that minimizes the costs that will inevitably accompany our loss of control.
This is a difficult situation, but it is necessary. The questions we need to address include: How do we reconfigure our forces to provide advice, training and support, rather than engaging in combat? How we can withdraw safely without a serious Iraqi army to cover our retreat? How will we dismantle enormous bases like Camp Liberty or Camp Victory and protect the diminishing numbers of U.S. troops in the country? Do we trust the Iraqi military and police sufficiently to turn over our equipment to them? How do we protect the lives of those who collaborated with us? The images of South Vietnamese allies hanging to the skid pads of U.S. helicopters departing Saigon should be burned into our memories.
And what if the weak Iraqi government we leave behind falls or other political crises occur when we have fewer U.S. troops to respond? Can we work with proxies, resources or arms supplies to shape outcomes?
As we draw down, the civil war is likely to intensify, and the focus of our efforts will have to shift to containing it within Iraq's borders. Preventing intervention by outside forces will become an even more urgent priority.