Enough Gas to Get Where?
The Belgravia Dispatch has a long and worthwhile discussion on whether the Surge being undertaken has any long-term prospect of success. It argues the arithmetic plainly shows the Surge is nowhere large enough to achieve its stated goals. But however that may be, its real defect lies in advocating a reinforcement without an apparent strategy. "For the past many months, my position on the surge was that it would only make sense in the context of a coherent overarching plan, to include diplomatic engagement with Syria and Iran (the latter likely to fail, the former more likely to bear fruit) and absent that, I continue to have exceedingly low expectations for this surge, especially as it's basically under-manned--we don't have enough troops to go about it per best counter-insurgency doctrine."
Fair enough. But it begs the question of what the "coherent overarching plan" should be. The two obvious strategic alternatives are "engagement with Syria and Iran" and the other would be to meaningfully defeat or force back both Syria and Iran in order to create an Iraq that is more or less conducive to American interests. Although the words have been abused, the terms "redeployment" and "withdrawal" are fundamentally different concepts. In the context of the two strategic alternatives, any movement of forces either serves the purposes of basically conceding the game to Syria and Iran or maneuvering to beat them. Belgravia is right when it argues that moving men in a strategic vacuum makes no sense. But what that strategy should be is really the starting point from which all else follows. The US can neither abandon nor be fatally weakened in the Middle East. Its strategic importance, not only with regards oil, but as the locus of future, and possibly nuclear war, really means that in a fundamental sense there is no exit. If America must stay in the region, it must stay the winner or at least, not the loser.
The problem with all of the marvelous schemes to withdraw to enclaves and engage in diplomacy is that they have nothing obvious to recommend them except their status as alternatives to perceived failure. They are sophisticated versions of the argument that "nobody can do worse than President Bush". But the objective of any chosen alternative should be to address the root causes of failure, lack of capability or strategic defects of the predecessor. History illustrates that Allied tactics in 1944 were superior to those in 1940 not simply because they were different but because they were better. Better capability, better doctrine, better logistics. If we don't have enough men to do it as "per best counter-insurgency doctrine" -- and we will never have enough men to do it under that calculus -- then perhaps we haven't got the right doctrine. If sheer persistence has anything to recommend it, it would be that experience provides a far better impetus for learning than simply withdrawing and hoping things will work out next time. And we must find the right doctrine because the problem of the networked insurgency will come up again and again and again. But the benefit of experience is lost when people are determined to throw it away. The Administration out of pigheadedness perhaps; and mayhap the Democrats out of the conviction that it is unnecessary. There is no withdrawal from the Middle East. Remain the loser or stay the winner.