August 7, 2006
On Thursday, top U.S. generals warned that the civil strife in Iraq is becoming so bad that civil war is a real possibility (see Washington Post). Gen. John Abizaid, who commands U.S. forces in Iraq, and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave similar appraisals of the deteriorating situation in testimony to the U.S. Armed Services Committee. In response, the U.S. 172nd Stryker Brigade has been redeployed from Mosul, which is relatively peaceful, to Baghdad, where the bloodbath gets worse every day. From a strategic point of view, such incremental shifts of military assets from one sector to another are unlikely to regain the initiative. Unfortunately, President Bush has been reluctant to call for major national sacrifice or devote sufficient resources to crush the insurgency, which is one of the few apt parallels between this war and Vietnam.
The possibility that the situation will get totally out of hand would put the United States in a very awkward position. There would no doubt be much gloating and recrimination from various partisan commentators, but the most pressing question is how to minimize our losses and still achieve partial success in Iraq. I have long emphasized that the United States must make it clear to the Iraqi government that ultimate success or failure in defeating the terrorist insurgents is up to them. If the Iraqi army cannot gain control of its own cities in the near future, the sectarian militias would thereby inherit the mantle of quasi-legitimate authority in much of the country. Unless President Bush is willing to spend what is left of his political capital to muster all our might at this point, the best course for us to take would be to accommodate a de facto partition of Iraq, pulling our forces out of the Sunni Triangle and letting the Shiites and Sunnis go at it. That prospect might be frightening enough to encourage flexibility on the part of the Sunni leaders, or it might not.
The complicating factor here is the war in southern Lebanon (or "Hezbolland," as I call it). Iran supports the Shiite militias in Iraq as well as Lebanon, and remains the primary enemy force in the region. The more we support Israel, the less we can count on Shiites in Iraq to cooperate in pursuing a pluralistic political settlement with the Sunnis.
Rhonda Winfield, mother of fallen Marine Lance Corporal Jason Redifer, has written a book on her experiences: When Johnny Doesn't Come Marching Home. It reminds us, once again, that the real battlefield in the war on Arab-Islamic terrorism is right here on the home front. Hat tip to Steve Kijak, who is also very busy with a local program to support our troops with donated goods: "From Our Hearts." The main coordinators of that effort are Benny and Dianne Rankin, owners of the T-Bone Tooters restaurant in Churchville.