Monday, December 18, 2006

The futility of the surge

Over at The Moderate Voice (always a valuable place to check out), Brij Khindaria has a nice rundown on why the much ballyhooed "surge" into Baghdad is a bogus hope at best.

Washington is giving serious thought to sending more than 20,000 troops to Baghdad mainly to militarily defeat the [60,000 man]Mahdi militia of the nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. This could be America’s greatest blunder so far and also cause the world to see it as an act of desperation.

Supporters of this option hope it would strengthen Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s hands by removing a main obstacle to political deals among Iraqis. That would help to stabilize the country within two years, allowing the US to depart gracefully.

These supporters should take a slow breath and think through the issues. There is a real risk that the US troops will be held to a draw like the Israelis were by Hizbullah. The political effects would be the opposite of the supporters’ hopes. [Emphasis mine - CK]

Brij gives an excellent, plain English rundown on why the "surge" is folly. You should read the whole post.

And as I pointed out in my comment:

I see no hope of eliminating the Mahdi army threat without eliminating their base of support in Sadr city and elsewhere.

And I see little hope of that.

The Mahdi army is estimated at about 60,000, and as mentioned enjoys the support of the local community.

We're considering a 20,000 to 30,000 man force to combat them? (Although I suppose that would be in addition to whatever combat troops we have already stationed in and araound Baghdad: Does anyone know that number?)

It ssems to me that any US military options that might accomplish the goal of eliminating the Mahdi army are either unpalatable or impossible.

The type of house to house fighting essentially eliminates US technical superiority, I agree that airstrikes into Sadr City are entirely unacceptable.

The only option that it seems to me would work would be a massive and truly overwhelming clear and hold operation which would also disarm the entire non-military population of Baghdad as well as clear the entire country of hidden weapons caches and secure its borders.

No military expert I, but I suspect that would take rather more than 20-30 thousand additional troops.

And since NO-ONE (with the possible exception of Bill Kristol) could conceivably countenance a mission requiring, what, half a million troops?

It'll never happen.

As I've written elswhere, the "surge" is pure politics. Devoid of any strategic or tactical value beyond extending Bush's chimeric hope for "victory".

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