Sunday, January 7, 2007

Wesley Clark on the Battle of the Surge

Wesley Clark is opposed to the Cheney-Bush "surge" (escalation) strategy being rolled out now.  In an op-ed for the IndependentBush's 'surge' will backfire 01/07/07,he writes that the Surge is "a combination of misunderstanding and desperation":

As for the US troops, yes, several additional brigades in Baghdad would enable more roadblocks, patrols, neighbourhood clearing operations and overnight presence. But how significant will this be? We've never had enough troops in Iraq - in Kosovo, we had 40,000 troops for a population of two million. For Iraq that ratio would call for at least 500,000 troops, so adding 20,000 seems too little, too late, even, for Baghdad. Further, in a "clear and hold" strategy, US troops have been shown to lack the language skills, cultural awareness and political legitimacy to ensure that areas can be "held", or even that they are fully "cleared". The key would be more Iraqi troops, but they aren't available in the numbers required for a city of more than five million with no reliable police - nor have the Iraqi troops been reliable enough for the gritty work of dealing with militias and sectarian loyalties. Achieving enhanced protection for the population is going to be problematic at best. Even then, militia fighters in Baghdad could redeploy to other areas and continue the fight there.

Clark believes that the new emphasis on American military action "undercuts the urgency for the political effort," i.e., negotiations and agreements among the contending Iraqi parties and sectarian groups.  What Clark does not stress, nor do most of the commentaries I have read on it so far, is that in the "surge" vision as retired Gen. Jack Keane laid it out at the AEI war conference on Friday assumes that the US change in mission will be to assume primary responsibility for counterinsurgency operations, essentially indefinitely.  We could say it "re-Americanizes" the war, although the counterinsurgency has only been "Iraqized" to the extent that Shi'a militias fighting for the government have been fighting Sunni insurgents.

More on Clark's views from Arianna Huffington 01/04/07.

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