McCain Follows Cordesman's Lead
At a campaign fundraiser last night, John McCain said that he is not positive that we can win in Iraq. This is contrary to his message of the last four years.
No one should be surprised at this apparent modification of his belief about our ultimate success in Iraq. As I noted in an earlier post today, McCain's Iraq advisor is the well-regarded Anthony Cordesman of the CSIS. Cordesman was the "third man" who accompanied the Brookings Institution Bobsey Twins Ken Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon on a recent Pentagon-arranged good news tour of the Green Zone in Baghdad, whereby Pollack and O'Hanlon lapped up everything the Pentagon fed them from "good news" Iraqis and Americans inside the zone.
After the Pentagon got the media to swallow every word that Pollack and O'Hanlon said about our allegedly improving fortunes in Iraq, Cordesman weighed in this week with a more sober and realistic assessment from the CSIS, in which he said:
1. A tenuous case for "strategic patience" can be made, but it is predicated solely on the willingness of the Iraqis to take the steps they have yet to take so far;
2. We would need another two "Friedman Units" (6-12 months) to allow the Iraqis to take these steps before changing course;
3. There have been security improvements in Baghdad due to additional US troops and partitioning parts of the city;
4. The biggest improvement since the surge is due to the willingness of Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province to turn against Al Qaeda and tie up the 15% of the insurgency that is Al Qaeda;
5. There is an emerging threat of Shiite-on-Shiite bloodshed taking over more of the country than what is already in place in the south.
Cordesman is arguing for another 6-12 months to allow the Iraqi government to meet milestones developed by the American team in Baghdad, and for our troop levels to be based on meeting those locally-developed milestones, not anything developed in Washington. He calls for the usual reconciliation measures, such as the Oil Law, re-Baathification, decentralized security responsibilities, and inclusion of the Sunnis in the security service. During this time, our military would continue trying to police and reduce the sectarian violence while gunning for Al Qaeda and avoiding the growing Shiite-on-Shiite violence in the South. If Iraq can meet these locally-developed benchmarks, it would then allow us to gradually step back our presence during the next president’s first term.
Cordesman has no confidence in Bush's national security team in Washington, and thinks that the team on the ground in Baghdad should be driving the car.
You can bet that his views will be part of the GOP pushback against any change in course next month.