SURGE-WHY IT WILL NOT WORK

I have written before that the troops in Iraq are sitting ducks, essentially targets to random sects or groups-however, I think it is important to clarify some misconceptions in the blogosphere about the military situation in Iraq.  Consider my credentials (not overwhelming): student of history, student of military history and someone who did some weekend stints.  The old ratio of 10:1 of soldiers/insurgents is applicable to guerilla warfare.  You have two sides attempting to win the agrarian population (see Vietnam and Afghanistan).  Note, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is a huge mistake, the opposite must be done.  The urban/dessert warfare in Iraq is usually not studied as we lack real examples. One method that does work in all warfare is scorched earth: Guatemala, Syria, the Romans, and yes Saddam.  As an aside: do critics of Saddam's Kurd campaign fail to realize that his strategy had been standard throughout history- he was no more a war criminal than a practicioner of military science- the difference being that today's armaments are deadlier than before.  When Saddam reacted nonplussed on Kurds civilian casualties it make me think about our president's response when informed that his pet project would result in thousands of dead civilians.  War crimes have very exacting definitions, and according to Juan Cole, the intentional infliction of civilian casualty is a war crime, but isn't that always the result of war?  I digress.  Iraq's situation is remarkable in the number of warring sects, it is indeed a civil war.  An effective strategy would be a policing action more than a military option.  Basically, there isn't an acceptable military strategy (scorched earth is unacceptable)  that exists to control the situation.  There is no winning the hearts and minds in clan/religious warfare- everybody knows where they are situated.  The fanatics will not be converted and the people in the middle only care for survival. It is sad, but the situation needs to be played out. The role of the US military then is a police force.  And police only work with central authorities.  That barely exists now in Iraq, and such central autority will change. Essentially we have become pawns.  It is tempting to say that we can just outlast the turmoil which will last ten to fifteen years.  But the dirty little secret is that whatever sides prevail, and my gut tells me it will be the Sunnis, at the end of the day, the borrowed police force will be asked to leave.  Now, the Cheney's strategy makes sense short term if you are willing to side with a more extreme version of Islam.  We probably can tip the advantage to Shiites- but they themselves are divided- and in the middle term-such strategy would lead to more violence. And at the end, from the American point of view, the result would be the same. If the side we chose was to prevail, they will not feel obligated to owe us anything and would not.  So- there is only one answer: fast gradual exit while granting immigration status to the refugees.

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Vilsack calls for Iowa, other states to pass resolutions condemning an escalation in Iraq

This morning I had the privilege of going to the Statehouse and witnessing the final condition of the state address by outgoing Governor Tom Vilsack.  The speech lasted only about 40 minutes but will be remembered for a long time because of Vilsack's candor in calling on the Legislature to draft and pass a resolution condemning an escalation of the situation in Iraq:

"As governor and as the commander in chief, I have an obligation to speak out and to urge the president and congress not to put more Iowans and Americans in harm's way in Iraq.

But I have another obligation. One that extends beyond my role as governor and commander in chief. It is as an Iowan and as an American. And I use that obligation to ask you, the members of the General Assembly, to speak out as well. I ask you to use your collective voice to pass a resolution urging our president and our congress not to make this tragic mistake for those who will unnecessarily die. This may not be part of the agenda, this may not be part of what you plan to do, but I ask you today and throughout this General Assembly to look down deep inside your heart and ask yourself if you're doing all you can do to make sure we do not make a big mistake even bigger."

You can read the full text of the Governor's remarks here.  For more on the resolutions, see this part of his campaign site.

While clearly it was a piece of his positioning for his presidential campaign, it also an even bigger step as a Governor and representative of all Iowans in asking the legislature to take this monumental step.  The Register's Tom Beaumont asked Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal if the resolution might come up in the Senate, but Gronstal was hesitant to reply.  However, he did say that many Democrats would likely be open to the discussion and the debate.  Truth be told, it may not be a wise move in terms of business in the House, but it is definitely something I would like to see happen.  And soon.

However, Vilsack's speech shouldn't just be remembered for his stance on escalation in Iraq, but also for his calls for universal preschool in Iowa (living up to a call that David Yepsen made for Vilsack to challenge us to do better) and calling for universal health care coverage in Iowa.

"And so my challenge to you and the challenge that change presents is simply this: Let Iowa, let our state be the first, let this General Assembly and this new administration be the first not just to promise universal access to healthcare but to deliver on that promise to every singled child and every single adult and every single citizen of this state. We can do this.  And for those who may be doubtful, for those who may wonder whether we can afford it, let me simply say I believe we cannot afford not to."

Vilsack noted that over 92% of Iowans already have healthcare coverage to some degree, so it is logistically feasible as well as the right decision.

Anyway, I thought it was a fantastic final speech from Vilsack that did challenge Iowans to do more and to even push aside some of the agenda to really put Iowa's families and citizens at the forefront of our thoughts.  While the speech was both itself a reflection of his work over these last 8 years, it also offered a vision into some of the things he would fight for and advocate as a presidential candidate and as president, were he to be elected.  Energy security and renewable fuels, ending the war in Iraq, paving the way for world class education, and helping all Americans achieve their dreams with their families and communities -- these would be his priorities.  This is not an endorsement of his candidacy by any means, but there is a certain reason why I respect the man and why he's on my hot list of presidential candidates.  Do not underestimate Governor Vilsack and his ability to lead.

David Yepsen offers some of his early commentary here on his blog.  I'm sure others will have more soon as well and I'll update this space throughout the day.

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Can Congress Stop the Escalation?

This is a good and important question.  If Bush really wants to escalate the war and will ignore anyone and everyone to do so, is it possible for Congress to stop him?  Joe Biden says no. He told the President 'no' last month, after the election, which gave Bush the greenlight.  But is it really true?

I'm no lawyer, but this isn't a legal question, really.  It's a question of politics and willpower.  Scarecrow, in two great posts, has pointed out that the surge into Iraq means pulling troops out of Afghanistan, and that there really is only one option for a President who simply won't respect the rule of law or Congressional authority.

Bush has made the choice very stark.  Congressional leaders can choose to help him lose the war in Iraq even more quickly and with more bloodshed while also losing the war in Afganistan and allowing the Taliban to fully recover, or they can stop him with the one real remedy that the founders put in place for institutional conflict of this sort.  It's not a choice any of us should welcome, and frankly, this problem is bipartisan.

But that's the choice.  Biden is wrong.  Bush can be stopped.  The public voted for a Congress that would stop him.  We know Bush is going to keep giving Congress the middle finger until the pressure rises to a boiling point.  The question is will the boiling point arrive within two years.

Update: Rep. Brad Miller has a take in the comments:

The premise of the War Powers Resolution is that the Constitution requires the "collective judgment" of the President and Congress to introduce armed forces "into hostilities," or to continue the "use of force in hostilities."

Dick Cheney now says that the War Powers Resolution of 1973 is an unconstitutional infringement on the authority of the President, but the Bush Administration sought the Iraq war resolution to authorize the use of military force in Iraq under the War Powers Resolution.

What our armed forces are now doing in Iraq has little to do with the authorization in the Iraq war resolution, of course.

When Congress acted under the War Powers Resolution to authorize military action in Lebanon in 1998, it only authorized American forces to remain for 18 months. In 1993, Congress acted under the War Powers Resolution to require that forces be withdrawn from Somalia by March 31, 1994.

Biden has recently said we may need to revisit the Iraq war resolution. Interesting idea.

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Surge Math

In all the talk of surging troops or escalation or what ever we are going to call this I have lost track of something.  The tooth to tail ratio in the U.S. Army is approximately 4 to 1.  That means for every combat soldier there are four support troops to get them in position and maintain them there.
So my question is, is the 20,000 troops all teeth?  That would mean coming up with around 100,000 soldiers.  Or is this 4,000 front line soldiers and around 16,000 support troops.  I'd really like to know how many soldiers we are actually talking about.  Anyone?

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McCain: "I was for the troop surge before I was against it"

Perhaps you saw the video that Senator John Edwards put up the night before he formally announced on TV that he was running for President. In it, he labeled the plan to "surge" or "escalate" US troops in Iraq the 'McCain Doctrine.' It was clever speechwriting, and it looks like Senator John McCain is starting to feel its sting.

This weekend on Bloomberg TV, apparently McCain is going to show us how curvaceous that Straight Talk has become.

Take it away, Bloomberg News:

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