Friday, November 18, 2005
Why John Murtha is Right!
by Larry Johnson
Fri Nov 18th, 2005 at 11:02:11 AM EDT
John Murtha's courageous call for American troops to leave Iraq is the right policy at the right time. The Bush chickenhawks already are impugning Murtha's patriotism, but when you have a purple heart and a silver star compared to a President with a spotty attendance record with the National Guard and a Vice President with five deferments, that dog don't hunt.
The situation in Iraq is clear. The United States does not have enough troops on the ground to contain and destroy the insurgency. The Iraqi insurgency consists of at least 26 different groups and draws upon as many as 250,000 supporters. These groups represent a spectrum of beliefs ranging from secular nationalists to hard core jihadists. The only thing they agree on is that they hate the invader; which is us.
To defeat the insurgency we will need at least 400,000 troops on the ground. At the present time, the United States does not have sufficient troop strength to ramp up to that level. Our choice is simple--either we come up with the additional forces and commit ourselves to an effort that will stretch on for at least five years with 400,000 plus soldiers and marines in theatre or we withdraw.
How do we get 400,000 troops on the ground? That will require a draft or a commitment by NATO forces and other countries to provide forces. Even if we start a draft tomorrow, we will not be able to field combat capable divisions for at least two years. Basic training requires 10 weeks. Advance infantry training adds an additional six months. Once the troops are trained they need to train as units. The unit training, starting with companies and working up to division level exercises, will require at least 18 months (and that is an optomistic scenario).
In the interim we would need to call upon NATO forces to deploy to Iraq and conduct a coordinated counter insurgency effort. This effort, over the next two years, will likely produce at least 10,000 fatalities and 80,000 wounded. Are we willing as a country to pay that price? I don't think so.
Meanwhile, our efforts on the ground are succeeding in killing and capturing a large number of suspected insurgents. But our kill capture effort is producing a blowback--Iraqis who are incarcerated and the surviving relatives of those killed respond to our effort by joining the insurgents. Instead of reducing the insurgency our efforts are providing a catalyst that recruits new insurgents faster than we can kill them.
There also is no doubt that our efforts are providing a recruiting poster for jihadists. Last year, for example, the number of terrorist attacks that resulted in people being killed and wounded was the highest number ever recorded since the CIA started keeping statistics in 1968. The Al Qaeda groups have reduced the planning time required for mass casualty attacks. Prior to 9-11, Al Qaeda carried out such attacks every 18 months. Now, they are able to mount operations in only three or four months. The trend line is going in the wrong direction
I see no political will on the part of the American public to accept a draft and to accept 90,000 casualties during the next four years. The elections in December will not produce a political outcome that will persuade the various insurgents to lay down their weapons and focus their energies on political debate in a legislature and in newspapers.
Our best alternative is to withdraw from Iraq and establish covert relations with the secular insurgents. Over the long run our interest as a nation is to prevent the religious jihadists from consolidating their control over Iraq and forging a closer relationship with Iran. The question is not, will there be a civil war? A civil war is already underway. Rather, the proper question is what can we do as a nation to protect our longterm interests?
We have two key long term strategic interests. First, we want to promote a secular society. The current Iraqi constiturion enshrines the Quran as the law of the land and encourages sectarian strife. Second, we must enlist the support of Russia, China, Europe, and the Muslim nations in rooting out and destroying the jihadists. Most of that effort can be handled with intelligence and law enforcement work rather than military operations. The Beatles had it right--we can get by with some help from our friends.
Given these facts, John Murtha is right. We must withdraw, sooner rather than later, from Iraq. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in a quagmire reminiscent of Vietnam. Only this time, the jihadists who are carrying out urban combat operations will be equipped and trained through their experience to carry out future attacks against our interests around the world. John Murtha and Chuck Hagel are patriots who understand this dilemma. We have lit a fuze on the next generation of jihadist terrorism. We must douse the fuse with water, and put it out sooner rather than later.