More troops will only make Iraq's agony worse, says Max Hastings
Daily Mail-Wednesday 10 Jan.-2007
TONIGHT, President George W Bush will address the American people about Iraq. He will tell them of his intention to dispatch at least another 20,000 U.S. troops to join the struggle.
We can expect much talk about 'finishing the job' and about 'the American people's resolve to fulfil this vital commitment to the 'war on terror'. We shall hear the words 'duty' and 'responsibility'. And God will surely get a mention. Tomorrow, Bush's monkey will take up the refrain from the organ-grinder. Tony Blair will make a statement declaring his support for the President's 'new' Iraq policy.
What else can Britain's Prime Minister say, when we are up to our necks beside the Americans?
But what nobody in Downing Street will admit, though almost everyone outside will do so, is that the chances of success for the new presidential initiative are smaller than those of staging the London Olympics on budget.
The U.S. Army's cleverest soldier expressed a few key truths about Iraq in a document christened FM3-24, the American armed forces new manual on counter-insurgency:
'The more force used, the less effective it is...The best weapon for counter -insurgency is not to shoot...tactical success guarantees nothing,' and 'Most of the important decisions are not made by Generals.'
By a notable irony, one of the principle authors of FM3-24, is General David Petraeus -the man Bush has just appointed to go in and save Iraq.
No American soldier knows better than Petraeus that the Bush plan is unlikely to work. A slightly-built, intense character of great charm, he commanded the 101st Airborne division in the 2003 invasion, then spent two years trying to create a new Iraq security force.
I asked a mutual friend why Petraeus has accepted Bush's poisoned chalice.
The general is being asked to achieve by military means what most soldiers believe requires political and diplomatic action, of a kind the President rejects.
The friend answered: 'Dave has a tremendous sense of duty. he feels he must try and make this work, even if it means he leaves on the last helicopter evacuating Americans from the Baghdad Green Zone after it fails.
So this dance with death will go on - death for some Americans, a few British soldiers, and a vast number of Iraqis
(17,310-have perished in the last six months)
The purpose of the new troop 'surge' is, of course, to stabilise the country, to halt the murderous activities of Shia and Sunni death squads, and to give the Baghdad government a chance to take control of its nation's destiny.
Yet the U.S.Army is already struggling to maintain 140,000 troops in Iraq, with recruitment sagging and units exhausted by repeated deployments.
The commitment of an additional 20,000 men will intensify these strains. Yet even if Bush sends 30,000 , they will not suffice. A further 200,000 would not be too many, to promote security in a huge country where rival factions are armed to the teeth.
Iraqi insurgents watch CNN as keenly as Americans. They know that Bush's policy is geared to avoiding overt U.S. defeat until he leaves the White House in two years. Tonight's promised reinforcements cannot stay too long because the U.S. Army is so overstretched.
Thus , Iraqis of all persuasions expect the Americans to soon start drifting away. And they are preparing to fight each other for power and territory when this happens.
Bush's 'new' policy might have a tiny chance of success if Iraqis believed America would stick around for, say, 20 years.
As it is , they know that the America electorate's patience will be exhausted within as many months.
I talk often to soldiers on both sides of the Atlantic. I scarcely know one who believes that military action alone can save the situation. If indeed anything can.
The Shia insurgents are being sponsored and armed by Iran, to formidable effect, while Sunnis are getting help from Syria.
ONLY BY STRIKING SOME DEVIL'S BARGAIN WITH THOSE NATIONS ODIOUS THOUGH THEIR REGIMES MAY BE, IS THERE ANY HOPE OF PROGRESS IN IRAQ.
Yet Bush refuses to traffic with the devil, as he sees it. Tonight, he is likely to reprise his stubborn opposition to diplomacy.
U.S. troop reinforcements are designed to buy time, to enable Iraqi security forces to do more for themselves. This is fanciful. Only a small majority no local army and police are loyal to the Baghdad regime- most look instead to their tribes and factions. An extra few thousand Americans for an extra few months will not change that.
In the same fashion, while Bush is likely tonight to announce another cheque for Iraq - a figure of a billion dollars for jobs is being suggested -this is not remotely enough cash to convince local people that their occupiers can make things work.
A major cause of the alienation among ordinary Iraqis is that basic services and law and order are worse today than under Saddam Hussein.
[Well this same analogy could be used in England with the highest crime rate ever and certainly as to the law many thousands of repeat offenders walk free and the law-abiding citizen lives in terror with the expectation that murders rapists and others are if taken to jail are back on the streets before the paperwork is dry. We have NO-GO areas in the country where it is off limits to those not of the particular sect. And to think that Blair has the effrontery to acclaim his new so-called democracy in Iraq while over the last ten years he has done his best to destroy OURS. We could go on but space and time will not permit at present.]
Most informed Westerners, in and out of uniform, despair of sustaining a [so-called] democratic central government in Baghdad.
The only reason some resist immediate withdrawal by coalition forces is horror about what will follow-all-out civil war and ethnic cleansing.
[Well this is an apt description of what is happening in Iraq today in January 2007 and has been so for some time in the past.]
Yet this seems as likely to happen if we stay five years, and Bush sends another 50,000 troops, as if we leave tomorrow.
What the President will say tonight reflects his obdurate commitment to neo-conservative principles, his desperate anxiety to sustain a facade of progress in Iraq until his term is up.
We should sympathise with General Petreaeus, the very best kind of American soldier, who is being assigned to
-and knows it.
Bush and Blair are testing a discredited process to destruction. The preoccupation of President and Prime Minister alike, with their 'legacies' appears tawdry, alongside the thousands of lives their policies have cost and continue to cost.
Three years ago when the insurgency started, it seemed extravagant to talk of a 'quagmire', to raise the spectre of
TODAY, for those of us who vividly remember Vietnam in the last years of the war, as the Nixon administration writhed and twisted to avoid inevitable defeat, the echoes are irresistible.
The most important consequence of Bush's speech is likely to be surge not only of troop strength, but Democratic opposition in Congress.
The opposition party now controls both houses. unlike our own legislature, where the Labour Party stands MUTE and the TORIES have little to say about IRAQ. American politicians and the American people are increasingly vociferous.
They do not believe that the 'Bush plan', if it can be dignified as such, is going to work. More and more Americans want their troops home. Faith in the President's judgement is running out, even among previously loyal supporters.
If, as we should expect, in six month's time Iraq looks as bad as it does to day, popular and Congressional demands to start withdrawal may become irresistible.
By autumn, we are likely to recall Bush's speech tonight as the beginning of a long, horribly mess final act in the Western occupation of Iraq.
We , the [almost silent] British, will trail helpless in the American's wake as they begin to leave, as we did when they invaded.
[The President's choice of General Petraeus is an acknowledgment that he expects the withdrawal to be not as straight forward as the invasion back in 2003 and needs a special type of man to control events at such a dangerous and perilous venture which all the world will be watching. It is the events of withdrawal that capture the imagination and that is what history will record for better or worse.]
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