Monday, January 8, 2007

Simon Jenkins: "Not One Remotely Plausible Game Plan"

Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times:
This is the week, we are told, when George Bush will announce positively the last military assault on insurgency in Iraq before he finally loses patience and quits. The so-called surge will supposedly correct the mistake of last year’s Operation Together Forward. Without law and order in the capital the physical and political reconstruction of Iraq is impossible. But since that order cannot, after all, be assigned to Iraqi forces, the Americans must throw another 20,000-30,000 troops into the conflict instead.

I have not heard one remotely plausible game plan for the “Battle of the Surge”. Leaks have indicated that commanders on the ground are strongly opposed to giving the enemy yet more targets. Pentagon chiefs are equally opposed to the cost in men and money of a transient boost in control on the ground. American public opinion and Congress are overwhelmingly against the plan, which Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator, calls “Alice in Wonderland”.
The conflict in Iraq is beyond metaphor. It is the most dangerous, heart-breaking and hopeless that those who have witnessed recent wars can recall. Certainly the risks taken by soldiers on the ground and the terrifying existence endured by ordinary Iraqis are worse than in anything I have witnessed. Independent reporting is near impossible.
The idea that such a hellhole can be policed back to normality with an extra 20,000 US troops is absurd. Such a force (which means barely 7,000 on patrol at any one time) would simply disappear into the dust. The insurgency is anyway now entangled with the conflict between Shi’ite and Sunni, claiming hundreds of lives each week and fought by paramilitaries mostly armed by America in a shambles of unaudited theft and fraud.

The only way in which more foreign troops assert any control at present is by “denying the enemy ground” by laying waste to it. In Basra, Britain’s contribution to order has been to flatten the police station. In Anbar province, US counter-insurgency takes the form of wrecking whole settlements from the air, as in Falluja two years ago. According to a Times correspondent who reached Falluja last week, the city is back in the hands of Sunni militias who intend to rename the hospital after Saddam Hussein. What all Iraqis crave is a local policeman they can trust not to kill them. America and Britain have failed to give them even that assurance.
Jenkins, like Gwynne Dyer, like nearly everybody I've been reading lately, is saying this marks the beginning of the end for USA in Iraq.

His piece is called "One last push and that’s you finished in Iraq, Mr President" and he says things like
before he finally loses patience and quits
I don't get it. It just looks like more of the same to me. I don't see this as an endpoint, or even a turning point. Just a blip along the path.

But we shall see. I hope.