CDR Salamander is looking today at the four point plan for Iraq on Obama's web page. He is up in arms about the fact that one of those four points is a push to prosecute "war criminals," on the assumption that he means only the US military.
Insofar as that's correct, it's the only part of the plan that makes any sense at all. We already do exactly that. US servicemembers suspected of war crimes are investigated in several ways, and prosecuted when evidence suggests strong enough reason to believe a crime might have been committed.
Meanwhile, several of the major parties to reconciliation are heads of organizations that have been guilty of severe war crimes, off the scale of anything the Coalition has ever contemplated. Any reconciliation in Iraq will have to include a certain willingness by all sides to shake hands and agree to try to forgive what has passed, in the hope of a better future tomorrow.
This is the plan we already operate under. It's the one thing Obama is suggesting that makes something like sense. We have a civilization that is built upon holding our own to very high standards of honor. Iraq is trying to piece together a future out of war, and there is no potential of bringing its parties to a final peace if the leadership of every faction expects prosecution following any successful conclusion of the process.
The other parts of the plan are the problem.
Immediately begin to pull out troops engaged in combat operations at a pace of one or two brigades every month, to be completed by the end of next year.Such a pace would lead to the rapid destabilization of the entire country. A single US brigade, 2/1 Armor, stands in the territory of Iraq from the Iranian border to Baghdad's eastern edge, as far south as al Kut and as far north as Narhwan.
The same unit holds Salman Pak, once one of the worst parts of the insurgency, but now having a rebirth. This is a city that is coming out of chaos, with a new bridge connecting it across the Tigris, new courts open, the judges returned to the city, law instead of chaos.
But forget the fate of the Iraqis of Salman Pak, or al Kut. Let's just talk about the effect on American forces, and pretend we owe the Iraqis nothing.
Pull out just that one brigade, and the whole east of Baghdad is opened to however many rockets and mortars and EFPs Iranian smugglers want to provide. The remaining brigades, several in Baghdad, are exposed to increased heavy weapons' fire and armor piercing EFPs. While they wait for their month to leave, their losses will spike -- and for no reason, since they are no longer trying to achieve stability in Iraq. They're just waiting their turn to leave. You would be better to simply saddle everyone up and march them to the sea, all the brigades at once.
You also make wastes of the lives spent in the Surge; but I understand Obama intends to do that in any case.
There are battalions that can be withdrawn at less cost, one at a time, as their AO is stable. To pull a whole brigade, every month? It'll create huge holes in the security of Iraq. It's too fast, and too artificial.
Call for a new constitutional convention in Iraq, convened with the United Nations, which would not adjourn until Iraq's leaders reach a new accord on reconciliation.Throw out the compromises already made, and start from scratch? We'll skip the part where the United Nations is invoked, like a magic word, suggesting against absolutely all evidence that the UN's involvement might aid the process. Just consider the idea that the Iraqi constitution should be thrown out, as well as all the progress so far achieved -- as all those compromises are laws based on the constitution to be thrown out.
It's no wonder that Obama has been so little interested in examining any of the evidence of progress in Iraq since 2006 or 2007. None of those things affect his plans, which are to throw out any reconciliation or benchmark laws, and the whole constitution with it. The hard-won compromises and slowly built trust, the complex agreements and safeguards for parties distrustful because of years of tyranny? They are to be tossed aside.
This is the plan.
Use presidential leadership to surge our diplomacy with all the nations of the region on behalf of a new regional security compact.This will be the part where we negotiate with Iran, from a position of ever-increasing weakness. Every month they delay, one or two fewer brigades will be there to help us achieve our goals. No doubt this will work out well for American interests in the region -- confidence that talks would serve "American interests" being the non-precondition precondition that Obama now says he'd insist on for talks with Iran.
Take immediate steps to confront the humanitarian disaster in Iraq, and hold accountable any perpetrators of war crimes.We've talked about the second half of this before. But consider the first part.
It may -- I guess, surely will -- come as news to the Senator, but there are already people in Iraq taking immediate steps to confront the humanitarian issues. They're doing things like this. They were building water treatment plants through the spring, so this summer there will be water for the people of Mahmoudiyah; water pumps in the Tigris river valley; schools across Iraq; helping rebuild hospitals and medical centers, when they weren't providing medical care themselves; rebuilding towns; providing microgrants to small businesses; establishing agricultural unions to give farmers coop resources to capitalize the fertile Tigris and Euphrates river valleys; refurbishing factories that make tractors, like the one in Iskandariyah's industrial complex; and working to increase Iraqi government capacity to do these things for themselves in the future, from the local to the provincial level and from the provinces to the capital.
These are, by the way, the very people who are going to be rapidly stood down and withdrawn from Iraq. One or two brigades a month.
This plan would be better for America if we just dissolved MNF-I in January 2009 and marched every single servicemember out of the nation. At least then American soldiers and Marines wouldn't die for a certain failure in Iraq, which is what the rest of this plan guarantees.
Iraqi provincial elections are coming in October. The ISF has shown tremendous gains in capacity in Basra and Sadr City. American deaths in May were the lowest of the war. The ISF has taken over most of the fighting. Patience will make this work.
It is still possible to wreck it all by leaving too soon. It's possible to do that even without actually taking a sledgehammer to the progress Iraq has made. Can you imagine how Iraqis would feel if, after their long-awaited provincial elections finally come off in October 2008, in 2009 the new American administration forces their government to toss out the government they've just elected, and the constitution it was based on?