While they wrangle over the terms of their surrender legislation, the Democrat leadership has sent the worst of messages to the world. Speaker Pelosi struck the first wedge into what should be a united American foreign policy on Iraq by introducing a defense bill, which would effectively move the position of Commander in Chief to the U.S. Congress. Along with timetables for withdrawal from Iraq, the Pelosi bill, on page 72, mandates a 15 day waiting period before an American unit can be moved into the Iraq war theater. This incredibly obstructive provision would have profound negative effects on our forces’ abilities to fight. For example, should US hostages be taken and a Delta Force team moved from outside the theater to attempt a rescue, Pelosi’s provision would require a fifteen-day waiting period and a report to Congress before the rescue could be attempted. Should a Zarqawi level target be located and U.S. fighter aircraft be deployed from outside Iraq, the same fifteen days would elapse before a strike could be executed. The very nature of the “notice and wait” requirement illustrates how unfamiliar Democrats are with the war against terrorists. This is a new era involving rapid movement of specialized personnel and equipment across theater boundaries. “Notice and wait for two weeks” reflects an ultimate misunderstanding of U.S. military operations.
Democrats, in defending the Pelosi requirement, state that their concern is readiness of our military forces and that the President’s certification of ”full mission capability” and Congress’ fifteen day review of said certification is simply assertion of normal congressional oversight responsibilities. This position should be rejected for several reasons. First, such micro management can never work in a congress, which takes weeks to tee up a hearing. Second, readiness levels are a complicated thing, often unreflective of real military capability. For example, if an infantry company does not have its flu shots, it will be rated as “unready.” In the world of speaker Pelosi, this may justify non-deployment, but to a soldier engaged in combat and awaiting reinforcements, the message that the speaker is worried that the re-enforcements will catch the flu and will have to “stay home from school” until they get their shots is hardly inspiring. All this reflects the wisdom of the Constitution’s reserving Commander in Chief responsibilities for the single leader elected by the entire nation. Even the Washington Post noted the obvious intrusion of the Pelosi bill on the President’s powers.
Senate leader Reid quickly followed Speaker Pelosi with his own mis-guided “missile,” in announcing that the U.S. had “lost” the war in Iraq. Just as Speaker Pelosi had surprised the Israelis by becoming their ambassador to Syria without portfolio, Senator Reid’s comments must have been a surprise to some. Consider, for example what effect they might have on an Al-Qaeda leader in Anbar Province. As he sits in his safe house outside Fallujah, the bad news has been coming in. His assassinations of Sunni Tribal leaders have turned the region against him. Sunnis are joining the Iraqi Army in Anbar Province in unprecedented numbers. The Sunni led national police force is working with the Shiite led Army and the U.S. Marine Corps to push back against Al-Qaeda. The terrorist leader is interrupted from his “bad news” briefings by ecstatic aides. “Senator Reid has surrendered,” they shriek. “He says the U.S. has lost the war.” The Al-Qaeda leader asks the aides if they are joking, and, assured they are not, turns to the task of redoubling his efforts. This statement can only have the effect of encouraging the enemy in Iraq.
Beyond its damaging effect, Senator Reid’s statement also reflects total misunderstanding of the situation in Iraq. Occupations of foreign nations have always been difficult. They wear on two parties: the occupier and the occupied. The bunch of books that have been written on the U.S. operation in Iraq, all critical, have one thing in common: a long laundry lists of U.S. “mistakes”
Is the implication that a “smooth road” to occupation existed? In reality, such a smooth road is never attainable given circumstances like Iraq. For those who recommended that Saddam Hussein’s army be kept intact a brief chuckle should be reserved. This army contained 11,000 (yes, eleven thousand) Sunni generals. An Army thus comprised and charged with stabilizing and defending a predominately Shiite nation would only have created a mess. For those who recommended that the U.S. force be vastly increased early in the occupation, two points come to mind. First, where were you when Commander in Chief Bill Clinton reduced his Army to ten divisions (from fourteen divisions in 1992)? Second, how does an increased American force mesh with a goal of liberal senators to “put an Iraqi face” on the security apparatus?
Today we are in the second phase of the American blueprint for expanding freedom. A government, elected by its people, has been stood up. It is clumsy as most new governments are, but it is generally representative of the political will of the Iraqi people. The U.S. military is now in the process of standing up an Iraqi military capable of protecting the government. The Iraqi Army consists of 129 battalions. It is critical that the force be battle-hardened in an expeditious fashion. Military forces gain competence most rapidly through military operations. Each Iraqi battalion that has not undertaken extensive operations should be deployed for three to four months in a contentious zone of the Iraq battle space. They should be assigned a mission which will allow the command to exercise logistics and its chain of command and to demonstrate its combat effectiveness. These operations will impart to the Iraqi forces the quality most important to a successful turnover of security…military reliability. The Iraqi government and the U.S. military should ensure that trainers and support forces are available for the newly deployed battalions.
Once reliability is established in the Iraqi military, they will be capable of rotating into the battlefield throughout Iraq, displacing U.S. combat forces, which can be returned to the United States or further assigned to Central Command. U.S. success in Iraq will ultimately be measured like a cancer operation. If a dictator more lethal to U.S. interests than Saddam Hussein assumes power over the next decade, the mission will be considered a failure. If the new nation retains a modicum of freedom and a benign relationship with the U.S., the operation will amount to an unprecedented success in the most difficult region of the new era.