A quickie from WaPo’s interview with him earlier today. Good to hear, but suddenly discovering that we need more manpower three and three-quarters years after the invasion calls to mind a different snatch of audio.
As for Iraq itself, to surge or not to surge? WaPo claims the Joint Chiefs are unanimously against the idea, which leaves them improbably aligned with the left and us aligned with the Kossacks’ favorite retired generals, Zinni and Batiste. The Pentagon now acknowledges that Sadr’s boys are the biggest threat facing the country, more so even than AQ, but the question is whether they’ll come out to play if we send another 30,000 troops to engage them.
At regular interagency meetings and in briefing President Bush last week, the Pentagon has warned that any short-term mission may only set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends. The service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq — including al-Qaeda’s foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias — without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.
The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.
The informal but well-armed Shiite militias, the Joint Chiefs have also warned, may simply melt back into society during a U.S. surge and wait until the troops are withdrawn — then reemerge and retake the streets of Baghdad and other cities.
Iraqi politicians are split too, predictably along sectarian lines. The Sunnis want a surge because it might neutralize Sadr; the Shiites oppose it because it might neutralize Sadr. Or retard Shiite military dominance in whatever form it eventually takes.
Hillary’s also against it, of course. She’s spent as much political capital as she can afford to supporting the war. If there’s a seat left in the lifeboats, she’ll lunge for it.
Exit question: Sully’s been pushing for more troops since forever. Is he onboard with a surge? Or is the prospect of having his plan put into action and failing too terrible to risk?
Update: Hitchens invites the left’s wrath by arguing that civil war isn’t America’s fault.
The Kurds had already withdrawn themselves from this divide-and-rule system by the time the coalition forces arrived, while Shiite grievances against the state were decades old and had been hugely intensified by Saddam’s cruelty. Nothing was going to stop their explosion, and if Saddam Hussein’s regime had been permitted to run its course and to devolve (if one can use such a mild expression) into the successorship of Udai and Qusai, the resulting detonation would have been even more vicious. And into the power vacuum would have stepped not only Saudi Arabia and Iran, each with its preferred confessional faction, but also Turkey, in pursuit of hegemony in Kurdistan. In other words, the alternative was never between a tranquil if despotic Iraq and a destabilizing foreign intervention, but it was, rather, a race to see which kind of intervention there would be.