Saturday, March 11, 2006

Gary Hart on Iraq

Donald Rumsfeld did not have a plan for what to do after the fall of Baghdad. If there's civil war in Iraq, let's hope he's learned something in the last three years and that he's better at planning, though it seems to me that Bush should have fired him a long time ago. Here's an article by Gary Hart in The Boston Globe:
Recently one of Islamic Shi'ites' most revered sites, the golden mosque in Baghdad, was destroyed by sectarian enemies. By this act and the reprisals that followed, Iraq moved a substantial step closer to civil war. Though a remote, but real, possibility, an Iraqi civil war could cost the United States its army.

...If sectarian violence escalates further, US troops must be withdrawn from patrol and confined to their barracks and garrisons. Mass transport must be mustered for rapid withdrawal of those troops from volatile cities in the explosive central region of Iraq. Intensive diplomatic efforts must be focused on preventing an Iraqi civil war from spreading to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Such a potential could make the greater Middle East a tinder box for years, if not decades, to come.

(snip)

In greatest danger are the units in the Sunni central region cities. They are in real jeopardy if tens of thousands of angry Sunni and Shi'ite citizens, supported by their sectarian militias, surround and then overrun those units before they can be withdrawn.

I don't know if Hart is overstating the potential problem or not. There is a style of argumentation that says you need to enlarge on the potential dangers to get people to pay attention. On the other hand, I recall a few days in March 2003 when our supply lines were in danger and a serious effort had to be made to restore the situation. Then there was a second time in March/April2004 when our forces were being used to the max in Fallujah at the same time that Sadr was making trouble in the south and our supply lines were again threatened. In neither case were the Iraqis fully committed to taking on the American military in large numbers.

Maybe it's more important than ever for Bush to ask Rumsfeld to step down and to find someone who knows what they're doing. However, it sounds like Bush is going to give yet another series of speeches to improve his image and to give the nation a better impression of how things are going in Iraq. As his credibility continues to sink, Bush needs to understand that action produces far more confidence than a mere replay of words.

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