Why? That is what I have been asking myself all week. Why are we going to escalate the war in Iraq?
Twenty thousand more troops in Iraq won't secure Iraq, and probably not even Baghdad. The numbers are so simple, I can't believe that politicians are even willing to risk their careers for a security mission that can't be accomplished. When I served in Kosovo, we protected a Serbian church for six months. We had 40,000 troops to protect 200,000 Serbs that needed our protection. That is a ratio of 1 soldier for every 5 civilians. In Iraq, escalating the war from 130,000 troops to 150,000 troops will do little to secure a country of 26 million.
The idea that going to door to door in Baghdad will make a difference is even more ridiculous. Not only was a Stryker Brigade extended in Baghdad several months to unsuccessfully secure the city, but we have gone door to door in other cities such as Fallujah, only to return later because we couldn't seize and hold terrain. Securing Iraq would require 500,000 troops for 7 to 10 years. So why are we going to send more troops to Iraq for a mission that can't be accomplished without diplomacy?
Last fall, the USS Eisenhower was sent to the Gulf, and this week it was reported that the USS John C. Stennis battle group is also to be deployed to the region. Add to that that last week Admiral Fallon was nominated to replace Gen Abizaid as the head of Central Command, which has the war fighting responsibility for the Middle East. Traditionally it's commanded by the Army and Marine Corps, which would make sense considering the extensive ground combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. So why take the Pacific Commander and insert him into commanding two ground operations, while building up our naval presence in the region?
During the past two months, since Republicans lost control of Congress because of Iraq, the Bush Administration has at times made some mind boggling decisions unless you assume the obvious -- that they are preparing to target Iran.
With the American military drastically over-extended in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are no viable ground options for Iran. The current operational plans for striking nuclear facilities in Iran will almost certainly be naval and Air Force operations. With Admiral Fallon being an aviator, it is an operation he is well suited to plan, prepare, and execute. His nomination is nothing less than a signal to the American public that the Bush Administration is preparing to launch strikes at Iran.
If the United States strikes Iran, the Iranians will continue this fight, but maybe not the way the public is expecting. Their best assets are their two large militias that they control outside of Iraq. The first is Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Any attack on Iraq will certainly lead to regional conflict with the Israelis. The second is the Mahdi Army inside of Iraq. They are loyal to the anti-American cleric Muqtada Al Sadr, who will also almost surely again rise up to fight American forces inside of Iraq.
In April of 2004, Mr. Sadr's forces revolted against American forces and precipitated a month of bloody combat.
There are just enough US Forces in Iraq to keep just enough security to prevent a larger scale civil war. There aren't troops in the country for any additional offensive or defensive operations; just enough to hold our current battle space. During our confrontation with Sadr's forces in 2004, a pumped up 1st Armored Division with 20,000 troops was extended an additional four months in order to deal with the Mahdi Army.
Does 20,000 troops sound familiar?
It's not enough to secure Iraq, but it may be just enough to deal with the Mahdi Army if we deicide to strike Iran.
Politically, it all ads up. Short of the politically risky move of cutting off funding for all military operations, there is nothing the Democratic Congress can do to control these troop deployments. This allows this administration to demonstrate to the public that the White House -- and not the new Democratic Congress -- is in fact "really in charge."
Yet, there is still one sliver of hope. Congress can assert itself by strongly supporting a bill that Senator Ted Kennedy will introduce today, that will require new authorization from Congress before the President can escalate the war and prepare for a strike against Iran. It's likely that the bill will be vetoed by the President, so this bill will need widespread support. There are very few second chances in life, but the Kennedy bill will give one to those who voted to give the President a blank check in 2002. This is their last chance to reclaim their oversight power, do right by the Troops, and represent the will of the people.
Will they do so? Call your Senator and Congressman and ask them. The Capitol Switchboard is 202-224-3121.