The first priority ought to be to secure Baghdad, which U.S. policy has disastrously failed to do. To accomplish this, the United States should send an additional 50,000 troops at least, the bulk of them to Baghdad so that the city can be made safe for its inhabitants, but without drawing forces from elsewhere in the country. Once Baghdad is secure, U.S. and Iraqi forces could extend their operations into Sunni-controlled areas. This will take time. But a secure Baghdad would provide at least one pillar on which any eventual political settlement could be based.I want to keep my TNR bashing to minimum but I should point out that not only does this sound like it was cribbed from The Weekly Standard – it actually was. But lets deal with the substance instead of guilt by association. Do we actually have 50,000 extra troops to send to Iraq? Well the Pentagon says no:
Some claim that we don’t have 50,000 troops to send to Iraq. In fact, the troops are available. Sending additional forces to Iraq means lengthening troop rotations, as the United States has done in previous major conflicts. Sustaining such an increased deployment, however, will require a substantial increase in the overall size of the Army and Marines. This increase, which does not require a draft but does require money, is necessary regardless of what we do in Iraq. It is stunning that this administration has attempted to fight two wars and has envisioned other possible interventions with a force clearly inadequate.
The US army is being stretched, by its deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, into a "thin green line" in danger of breaking before the insurgents are defeated, claims a report commissioned by the Pentagon.So, at best we could surge forces for a little while. Ok fine. Kagan's whole point is that no political solution can arise until there is security so we should focus on that first. The problem is that - like the underpants gnomes - Kagan is pretty shady on what exactly the political solution is or how it will be reached.
Andrew Krepinevich, a former army officer who wrote the report, said that the army could not sustain the current pace of deployments - which was likely in the end to discourage recruitment.
The truth is that we have vast militias in Iraq that are politically invulnerable because the people who run them are in the Iraqi government. Those militias are fighting each other because each honestly thinks they can prevail at least within their sphere of influence. Kagan's plan only makes sense if you already believe that a positive resolution to the Iraq conflict is possible. If, like me, you disagree, Kagan's plan just looks like a way of getting a whole lot more American soldiers killed.
Update: Spencer Ackerman (formerly of TNR) responds to Kagan's lunacy in more depth.