Double or Nothing
Chester links to two articles both of which suggest that the Bush administration is going to modestly increase the number of available men in Iraq in an attempt to do something, that "something" being somewhat vague. The first citation is from the Guardian which makes the argument very similar to an earlier piece in the Weekly Standard: that more troops will bring more success. The Weekly Standard makes the essential argument:
Consider these data: Between November 2004 and February 2005, according to the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, the number of coalition soldiers in Iraq rose by 18,000. In that time, the number of Iraqi civilians killed fell by two-thirds, and the number of American troops wounded fell by three-fourths. The soldiers were soon pulled out; by the summer of 2005, American and Iraqi casualties rose again. Later that year, the same thing happened again. Between September and November of 2005, another 23,000 soldiers were deployed in Iraq; once again, both Iraqi and American casualties fell. In the early months of 2006, the number of soldiers fell again, and casualties spiraled up. The picture is clear: More soldiers mean less violence, hence fewer casualties. The larger the manpower investment in the war, the smaller the war's cost, to Iraqis and Americans alike. Iraq is not an unwinnable war: Rather, as the data just cited show, it is a war we have chosen not to win. And the difference between success and failure is not 300,000 more soldiers, as some would have it. One-tenth that number would make a large difference, and has done so in the past. One-sixth would likely prove decisive.
Chester notes that only abut 20,000 additional men will be deployed, according to the Guardian, and raises the basic question of what they are expected to achieve in "the last big push" of which they are a part.
Perhaps the most worrisome part of the plan, at least in the Guardian's portrayal, is it's time-based essence. "One last big push" implies an end, or, in other words, a timetable. Otherwise, one last push before what?
The Guardian infers that the "what" is the US presidential election. "The "last push" strategy is also intended to give Mr Bush and the Republicans "political time and space" to recover from their election drubbing and prepare for the 2008 presidential campaign, the official said."
Without a doubt, part of the "what" is in fact driven by domestic politics. But perhaps the other part is baldly enriching uranium next door ...
But as anyone knows, reinforcing an attack is futile if the enemy can also reinforce the defense. And if the US is only able to add only one two or three extra brigades to the fight, everything critically depends on whether Iran can't match and then up the ante. In fact, if a timer is ticking on the deployment then sustainable deployment becomes irrelevant and it arguably makes more sense to employ "all hands on deck". A limited attack unable to reach the center of the enemy power is always bound to bring only limited relief. It makes more sense to go for the enemy jugular within a narrow band of time. Go for the knockout if you've given up on the decision.
It is possible that the constraint is the other way around. It is strategy which is constricting the means. If only limited objectives are on the table then only a limited reinforcement would be considered. A Big Push intended to win the fight or intimidate Iran would probably look a lot different from the force increase that is being described.
However the other factor which has not been explicitly considered is that a new war in Lebanon is widely expected. The Lebanon theater actually represents a second front against Iran because it must support its client, Hezbollah against the considerable pressure of the IDF. While a war is in progress in southern Lebanon Iran will actually be fighting on two fronts. Hence an increase of 20,000 men plus an outbreak in Lebanon may actually strain the Iranians. Moreover it introduces volatility into the strategic situation. If America is strategically liberated from being confined to limited objectives vis a vis Iran, then there is no reason that only 20 K can be added to the fight. The bottom line is that the modest increase described by the Guardian is unlikely to make a difference of itself. But any changes in the overall situation in the coming months could alter the picture entirely. We shall see.