Another $245 Billion, To Arm Al-Sadr?
As Mary noted earlier, portions of the intelligence community’s updated National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq have been released, indicating an increasingly perilous situation in which the United States has little control. The reports goes on to conclude that the Iraqi government cannot achieve sustained political reconciliation nor can we leave in the next 18 months without the situation getting worse. In light of this, what exactly should be our military strategy?
General Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that Baghdad could be secured with far fewer troops than the president is sending, an assertion that John McCain strongly disagrees with. Casey also said that some of our goals can still be achieved in Iraq, and that we can still turn over significant parts of the country to the Iraqis. I think the real disagreement here rests with the definition of the endgame. Casey’s endgame has been to secure Baghdad enough to turn it over to Iraqi security forces so that we can get the hell out. McCain’s endgame calls for America to defeat the sectarian militias on both sides so that the Iraqi security forces take control of a pacified city. Simply put, we don’t have enough men to do what McCain wants, and there no longer is any political support to do so even if we did have enough troops.
As Tom Lasseter reports in an outstanding McClatchy/Knight-Ridder piece today from Baghdad, Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army has infiltrated both the police and Iraqi Army to a degree that every time we arm a new Iraqi battalion to take over from us, we in effect are arming and equipping the Mahdi Army to wait us out and then exterminate Sunnis when we eventually leave. And it is clear from the piece that our soldiers know this and know the surge won’t work. These problems were baked in the cake from the earliest days of the occupation when Rummy didn’t send enough troops, didn’t secure the borders, didn’t secure the weapons stocks, and when Bremer decommissioned the Iraqi Army and Baath Party. There aren’t enough American troops to undue that damage now, yet McCain still argues as if American can find another 100,000 troops and has the political will to reverse Bush’s mistakes at the cost of our military. We don’t, and Bush lying to the country about the true size of the surge only makes it worse.
Aside from the lack of soldiers, the damage to our military, and the ongoing Bush lies, do we really have another $245 billion over the next two budget years to fund this misadventure, given the other problems we face?