Iraq for the Iraqis
A consensus seems to be arising on both sides of the Iraq debate that the best way to bring peace to the country is to turn over responsibility for its security to the nation's nascent police and military forces. Implicit in that belief is that American forces by their very presence are now doing more harm than good. Taking a whack at this conventional wisdom is the neoconservative journal The Weekly Standard, which makes a convincing argument that what is really needed in Iraq is a good old-fashioned ass-whupping, American-style:
The situation is worse in 2004 because American officials and soldiers have become even more attached to the idea that Iraqi forces are the key to our salvation. Consider the symbolism of what we are doing. Do Sunni militants, ex-Baathists, and ordinary Iraqis think American soldiers, who come out now only in heavily armed convoys and rarely spend the night, look like troops that have the will to beat diehard Sunni fundamentalists? How does it look when the Americans hunker down in their heavily armored vehicles while the Iraqi security forces voyage out in easily obliterated pick-up trucks? The Iraqis are getting pummeled much worse than we are. For whom does this inspire confidence? For whom fear? And the worst is still to come.
The writer, Reuel Marc Gerecht, basically makes the same point that President Bush does--that it is American weakness, not strength, that encourages terrorism--but argues that we are showing weakness at the very moment when strength is most needed. He predicts a Bush victory, but in the absence of an opponent who is demanding more aggressive military action in Iraq, Gerecht fears the situation may continue to deteriorate.
Of course, we now have Paul Bremer saying that more troops were needed last year, when he was the U.S. administrator in charge of Iraq. The White House won't say whether Bremer asked for more troops at the time; Bremer has indicated that he did:
In an earlier speech Sept. 17 at DePauw University, Bremer said he frequently raised the issue of too few troops within the Bush administration and "should have been even more insistent" when his advice was rejected. "The single most important change the one thing that would have improved the situation would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout" the occupation, Bremer said, according to the Banner-Graphic in Greencastle, Ind.