January 2, 2008
Election Fallout of the Surge PlanBy Christopher Alleva
Less than eleven months from now Americans will go to the voting booths to elect the next president. The "surge" provides a unique case study to judge each party's application and execution of policy. Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Ray Takeyh and Steven Simon of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) represent two distinct approaches to policy that roughly outline the planks of both parties, Kagan for the Republicans and Takeyh and Simon for the Democrats.
Frederick Kagan may not be a household name outside of serious national security circles, but as much as anybody he deserves credit for the success of the surge. He is undoubtedly one of the most influential conservative voices on military and national security matters. Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute think tank was instrumental in drafting and selling to the President and the Military high command the surge plan in Iraq that has exceeded everyone's expectations. Even Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid who declared the war lost in April conceded that the surge has helped in an interview he gave to Ray Suarez on Jim Lehrer's PBS Newshour.
Democrats spent the last year working feverishly to secure defeat without any care what consequences their surrender would bring. Winning majorities in both chambers, they proclaimed a mandate to force the President to initiate an immediate pullout. Seemingly, they were on their way; the day after the election the President announced the resignation of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. With the Liberal Media Party hammering home the surrender narrative and the release the Iraq Study Group Report the following month, it looked like it was all but over.
Meanwhile, Kagan and his colleagues at AEI were drafting a report, titled "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" Unlike the Iraq Study Group this report was a detailed plan that could be implemented almost immediately. The ISG report was full of platitudes and feel-good declarations completely detached from the realities on the ground. After I read it, I looked to see if Rodney "can't we all just get along" King was a member of the group. Appropriately, Kagan's plan confined itself to the unacceptable security situation in and around Baghdad where 80% of the problems are, among approximately 20% of the population.
Kagan outlined details of the surge plan in an Op-Ed he co-wrote with General Jack Keane that appeared in the Washington Post at the end of last year just prior to the President's announcement in January of the plan. Realism and practicality are the regular order for Kagan and Keane; introducing the plan they wrote:
They add that a precondition for success is to change the military mission from preparing for transition to Iraqi control, to bringing security to the Iraqi population. A surge aimed at accelerating the training of Iraqi forces will fail, because rising sectarian violence will destroy Iraq before the new forces can bring it under control. Remember how many times we heard reports of recruits getting blown up outside recruiting stations?
Kagan and Keane specified exactly how many troops would be needed for a successful surge and then they discussed in detail the duration of the operation arguing for a sustained presence saying that a short term surge would play into the enemy's hands. They added:
Breaking a problem into manageable parts. This is the key to any successful strategy. Problems are by their very nature complex and multi-dimensional. Successful strategists are able to breakdown problems into manageable and coherent parts and execute accordingly.
Providing even more specificity, Kagan and Keane detailed exactly how many brigades and battalions were needed and how they should be deployed in some 23 different Baghdad neighborhoods. Summing up the mission Kagan and Keane conclude that
One year out, we are seeing the tangible results of Kagan's surge strategy. Suffice it to say, this is going to cause the Democrats some heartburn. If the trend continues, this may inspire some uncomfortable questions and effective ads along the campaign trail.
In June of last year, just as the surge was reaching full strength, former Clinton hand Steven Simon and his Council on Foreign Relations ("CFR") cohort Ray Takeyh wrote the provocatively headlined article "We've Lost Here's How to Handle It." in the Washington Post Op-Ed section. These two thickly-credentialed men have written numerous scholarly papers and several books on Middle Eastern and Iranian politics between them. Apparently the Post editorial page has opened a branch at the CFR; it seems like half the writers come from there.
It is often said that education is a lot like chocolate. Its good, but too much of it makes you sick. In my view, this is true in Messrs. Simon's and Takeyh's case. Reading their piece I came away with distinct impression that these guys have had too much to think. Simon and Takeyh and the rest of their crew have been trying for months to set up a replay of the 1968 "Tet" offensive in Vietnam. CBS's Walter Cronkite and his media brethren lying that America was defeated, with President Johnson convening a panel of "wise men" to advise him to cut and run. Frederick Kagan and Bill Kristol have written about this in the Weekly Standard.
This course was hatched last January with the release of the Baker/Hamilton Report playing the role of the wise men, and the media taking care to secure defeat by airing a constant stream of reports with themes like Simon's and Takeyh's. A piece appearing in January from the liberal Seattle Post Intelligencer is indicative of this campaign.
Simon and Takeyh proclaimed that "the war in Iraq is lost." Then they helpfully offered a "how to lose guide." To support their premise, they cited highly debatable assertions about the adverse conditions on the ground and our alleged limitations militarily. Then they delivered the rather dubious argument that
This may be the perception in the Post newsroom and at the CFR, but this is a subjective interpretation of the election results at best. The election saw a 40% turnout, with the vote splitting roughly 21-19 for the Democrats. What do these results reflect vis-a-vis our continued presence in Iraq? Anything you want to think. 60% of the electorate stayed home; does this mean they're OK with the present policy? And what about the current 23% approval rate of Congress? Yes, sure this indicates a majority of Americans want to bug out.
The authors' "How to Lose Guide" is like policies that originally put us on the path to 9/11. To paraphrase former Congressman Henry Hyde, "it's a good thing these people weren't at Valley Forge." General Patton said in his speech to the 3rd Army in World War II, "American Love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time... the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans." He is still correct.
Attempting to refute the Bush Administration, Simon and Takeyh argue that the consequences of defeat will not be so dire, citing other civil wars in the region as proof. I guess they forgot tell that to the families of the more than 3.5 million Vietnamese and Cambodians killed after we left Indochina. These two foreign policy experts add "A well managed defeat would be more likely to boost U.S. credibility" citing liberal historian Robert Dallek who said this about Vietnam, "U.S. credibility was enhanced by ending the war."
This is patently false. U.S. credibility was severely damaged by our pullout from Vietnam. It emboldened the Iranian imams and mullahs, rogue operators like Qaddafi in Lybia, and communist insurgencies in Central Asia, Central America and Africa. It took Reagan his full two terms to restore American prestige and power.
Finally, Simon and Takeyh trot out the tired old prescriptions of the realpolitik gang in Washington, containment and stage-managing fake peace in the Middle East. And no realpolitik polemic would be complete without suggesting we go through the motions of moderating peace talks between Israel and Palestine. They suggest that this will somehow make Arab governments in the region align themselves with us, undercut Iran and hamper al Qaeda. This sounds a lot like what Clinton was engaging in, with shuttle diplomacy at the end of his term in a vain attempt to secure a legacy for himself, igniting another intifada the consequences of which we still live with today.
President Bush understands that conceding defeat will lead to disasters of unfathomable proportions. The geo-political repercussions have the potential to dwarf any crisis we have ever faced. The realpolitik proponents at the CFR fail to recognize what the President sees clearly, articulating it in his commencement speech to the graduates of West Point:
For the American people the choice could not be starker. We can chose the path to defeat and uncertainty of the Democrats, or we can stick it out pursuing President Bush's forward strategy of freedom and liberty in the Middle East, fundamentally changing a self-perpetuating pathology that led to the worst attack in the history of the nation. This is a very straight-forward choice for the voters: if you want to lose, vote for the Democrats; if you want to win vote for the Republicans.