Monday, July 30, 2007

A War We Just Might Win

In a NYT op-ed, Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack write:
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
They also list a number of remaining problems and hurdles, most importantly the political in-fighting that holds up central reform. Other problems exist as well, including the lack of full U.S. coverage throughout Iraq, allowing Al-Qaeda-Iraq and others enough cracks and crevices to hide in as they continue terrorizing the population.

So the thought occurs to me: Is now the time to go back to NATO and/or the U.N. to ask for more troops? Coalition soldiers and marines are still being targeted and killed, but would this number go up or down if more nations were to commit their forces to helping stabilize Iraq?

Realistically I don't think this can happen. I don't think the Bush administration has enough mojo to convince anyone to put their troops in harm's way. But if it were possible, wouldn't this be a very, very positive thing for Iraq? Consider...

1) The surge is having positive effects, but can only last so long. It's unknown (to me anyway) what will happen when the surge ends. If we could convince other nations to commit new forces, they could replace the U.S. units rotating out from areas like Anbar where the intense fighting has died down but we still need a military presence while stability takes root.

2) Having new nations take an interest in Iraq would help dispel the notion that the U.S. is only interested in empire building.

3) This would be a major boost for morale in Iraq and throughout the region. I believe it would encourage Iraqis who want peace and stability. I also think we'd see even more interaction with local leaders, as described in the op-ed above and elsewhere.

4) This would be a major blow for insurgent morale. They've been taking heavy losses, with little or no immediate gain. Having learned that the surge wasn't going to end, and might even be increased, would I believe convince more than a few local Al-Qaeda and Sadr operatives to give up.

Like I said, I think this is a pipe dream. But I find it so enticing.

Update: Drezner blogs on a Newsweek International article by Gideon Rose, which argues the world is actually doing pretty well in spite of the negative sentiment. Relevant to the above post, Rose wrote:
At this point, having squandered most of his capital and having defined himself so starkly through his initial policies, there is little Bush can do to change anyone's mind about anything. His successor, however, will get a fresh start. And if the next administration can avoid Bush's mistakes, it should find keeping the world on track much easier than most currently expect.
I wonder if he thinks more NATO troops in Iraq would be possible once Bush leaves office.