Response from James Lewis

Dear David Yerushalmi and Col. Tom Snodgrass,

Thanks so much for your articulate (and passionate) response to my questions. I agree with many of your points.

For clarification, I mentioned the long national history of Mesopotamia not to say that there has been genuine continuity of nationhood before the 20th century, but as a shorthand for the ideal of national existence. Many of today's Iraqis are widely reported to take pride in their national identity, and to reject a historical regression to a tribal past. Arab nationalism has been a very powerful trend, and it is today's Iraqis I was referring to. I do believe that many Iraqis would like to see an Iraq that is whole and modern, and genuinely representative of its people. But they will revert to tribalism and the Shi'a-Sunni divide if that is the only way they can find personal safety. Prof. Frederick Kagan is right in that respect to argue that protecting Iraqi citizens, especially in Baghdad, must be the first priority.

Here are the crucial military questions today, it seems to me.

First, can Baghdad be stabilized with the rumored addition of US forces, along with the Iraqi Army? (30,000 to 50,000 more US forces).

Second, are changed rules of engagement necessary, and what should they be? If you could decide, what rules of engagement would you require in Iraq?

Third, some have argued for repositioning US troops to control the borders with Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Can the United States simultaneously control Baghdad and reallocate troops to cutting off enemy resupply from neighboring countries? Are retaliatory actions needed to cut of Iranian sources of resupply?

Thanks again for your thoughtful responses.

James Lewis
Dear David Yerushalmi and Col. Tom Snodgrass,

Thanks so much for your articulate (and passionate) response to my questions. I agree with many of your points.

For clarification, I mentioned the long national history of Mesopotamia not to say that there has been genuine continuity of nationhood before the 20th century, but as a shorthand for the ideal of national existence. Many of today's Iraqis are widely reported to take pride in their national identity, and to reject a historical regression to a tribal past. Arab nationalism has been a very powerful trend, and it is today's Iraqis I was referring to. I do believe that many Iraqis would like to see an Iraq that is whole and modern, and genuinely representative of its people. But they will revert to tribalism and the Shi'a-Sunni divide if that is the only way they can find personal safety. Prof. Frederick Kagan is right in that respect to argue that protecting Iraqi citizens, especially in Baghdad, must be the first priority.

Here are the crucial military questions today, it seems to me.

First, can Baghdad be stabilized with the rumored addition of US forces, along with the Iraqi Army? (30,000 to 50,000 more US forces).

Second, are changed rules of engagement necessary, and what should they be? If you could decide, what rules of engagement would you require in Iraq?

Third, some have argued for repositioning US troops to control the borders with Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Can the United States simultaneously control Baghdad and reallocate troops to cutting off enemy resupply from neighboring countries? Are retaliatory actions needed to cut of Iranian sources of resupply?

Thanks again for your thoughtful responses.

James Lewis