Victory in Iraq: Mission Impossible

Dan Murphy

“I think we’ll be greeted as liberators.” – Dick Cheney

“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and its allies have prevailed.”- George W. Bush

“I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” – Cheney

These quotes are laughable, but what isn’t laughable is our quagmire in Iraq. The current situation of death, carnage and anarchy certainly does not resemble the reality that Bush Administration official live in. But now it’s time to ask some hard questions. This week, the Senate passed a measure asking the White House for regular progress reports on Iraq. This is a step in the right direction.

The one question that nobody dares go near is: Can the United States win this war? Many on the right argue that by deposing Saddam Hussein, we’ve already won. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The United States is losing the battle to secure Iraq, a nation of more than 26 million people. To achieve full security, Bush policy makers are asking a military of about 160,000 troops to protect borders, police neighborhoods and provide the stability that is needed for a democratic government to thrive. Whatever government that takes over in Iraq will have no legitimacy if suicide bombers continue to terrorize Iraqis.It is clear that we do not have the necessary manpower and resources to stabilize Iraq. We never did. The Bush Administration committed a major blunder by trying to win this war on the cheap. When Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki proposed that we would need at least 300,000 troops, the Bush Administration retired him. Now we’re faced with undermanned and overextended forces who fight for their lives everyday.

The insurgents in Iraq are fighting along classic guerilla war tactics. Their mission is to create enough disruption in everyday life to throw the population into a state of fear. Roadside bombs, suicide bombings and civilian murders accomplish this. The task of the U.S. military is much tougher. To bring Iraq under control and to create an environment where a legitimate government can prosper, coalition forces have to prevent these acts of terrorism from occurring. We just don’t have enough troops to accomplish this goal.

If the U.S. can’t provide security for Iraq, then why can’t the Iraqis do it themselves? The Iraqi Army and security forces are growing slowly. The estimated number of Iraqi security forces is about 120,000 according to the BBC, but that number changes pretty consistently. For the foreseeable future, Iraqis will struggle to bring order to their nation. 2006 will be a pivotal year for Iraq. Reports indicate that Britain will withdraw 5,000 of their 8,000 troops and the U.S. will begin their exit plan. President Bush’s political coalition is crumbling with moderate Republicans beginning to break away from the party on domestic and foreign affairs because of the deteriorating situation in Iraq. With the midterm elections approaching, the pressure to withdraw troops will be immense.

So what are the options? As it stands now, the current troops levels will not be able to rescue Iraq from chaos. The Bush Administration’s arrogance has turned away our European allies, who could have provided troops for the rebuilding process. But lets get serious; a few thousand French and German soldiers aren’t really going to win us this war. To win this war, we need a few hundred thousand troops – and unless a draft is instituted – our all-volunteer army just doesn’t have such forces available.

Every day, young Americans are dying in Iraq. They’re fighting a war that cannot be won. Our government did lot of good by toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein and ending his reign of terror. Nonetheless, it is clear that the United States bit off more than it could chew by attempting to rebuild a country as large and complex as Iraq. Let’s cut our losses and bring our troops home.