A week ago today I sent you an email entitled "After Action Report", which encompassed the text of a report written by Gen. Barry McCaffery after a recent visit to Iraq.
This report was commented on by a retired, senior colleague of mine, for whose opinions I have much regard. I pass his comments on below.
Collegial warm regards,
Re the McCaffery post-visit report (vintage McCaffery!), my take is a bit different. I do not argue with most of his facts. Nor am I one of those reluctant to admit that the surge has had short-term military success---I never doubted that an occupying force can put sufficient and far superior force into play over a short term to convince all but the most foolish of the wisdom of lying low until they leave. That said, McCaffery looks at the situation with blinders imposed by a career of parochial military-centered thinking.
A few small points:
1. The violence is down dramatically because (a) we have put in superior force albeit a force we can not sustain and the other sides know it; (b) Sadr has ordered his thugs to lie low and save their powder for later; (c) the Sunnis have, for now, switched targets for their own purposes; (d) the Iranians, and Syrians it appears, have also decided to pull back and outwait the Americans for various reasons (including the fact that, already the dominant outside influence in Iraq, the Iranians lose nothing by waiting until the US bleeds itself to death or leaves); and (e) much of the blood-letting in Baghdad and other areas was bound to decrease as the respective Shia and Sunni ethnic-cleansings found fewer potential victims left. Question: How much longer can the US, faced with enormous and growing domestic needs at home and a military force in the beginning stages of self-destruction, keep pouring $3 billion a week into a mistake?!
2. McCaffery argues the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are the key factor in successful internal security, then goes on to explain why it will be years before it is properly trained, led, and equipped.(even with the improbable assumption that there will some day be an ISF with Shia, Sunni and Kurdish officers and troops working together for the good of a greater Iraq). Question: How much longer can the US afford to pour $3 billion [a week] into a mistake?!
4. McCaffery says the US must achieve, in 3 years (sic), a stable Iraqi government, a strong and responsive ISF, a functioning economy (is total corruption okay as long as it functions?), "some form of accountable, law-based government" (whatever that means), and a government with active diplomatic and security ties to its six neighboring states. This is but one example of why McCafferty doesn't get it...the majority of Americans, and the majority of serious policy advisers, at least Democratic, don't want to wait 3 years. Question: How much longer can the US continue to pour $3 billion [a week] into a mistake?
5. McCaffery's 2-b arguments re the devastating impavct on our own forces speak for themselves....is that not reason enough to get the hell out of Dodge?! Question: How much longer can the US afford to pour $3 billion a week into a mistake?
I could go on...McCaffery is rightly preoccupied by the damage Iraq is doing to our US military capabilities. As we seriously lower our admission standards (criminal records, drug use, moral waivers...etc), fail to recognize the damage that prolonged and repeat deployments are doing to our troops (28,000 removed for misconduct...rape, drugs, etc); begin to feel the impact of the enormous human toll (both US maimed and mentally scarred not to mention the Iraqis killed, maimed and displaced); and face a growing need to pay large amounts -- signing bonuses, reenlistment bonuses, etc (to a point where it is hard to distinguish where we are headed from a professional mercenary army...just paid less than the mercenaries of Blackwater), our ability to take on new "terrorist" threats much less more conventional threats such as China continues to diminish.
And not once does McCaffery show a sign of recognition of the very, very serious adverse effects the Iraqi misadventure is having on our own country morally and economically. Our infrastructure crumbles, millions of citizens including kids -- and Vets! - lack proper medical care, our educational system is failing, our income disparities are widening while families must work two+ jobs as middle income median income drops in relative terms, and our sorry crop of political leaders count on overseas events (most recently Bhutto's assassination) to defect public attention away from irresponsible demagoguery about illegal immigrants, gay marriage and stem cell research. One can't blame it all on Iraq but the latter sure is a central factor.
What's worse is that those making policy still show, after 5 years, such little understanding of what is really happening in Iraq, and in Iran, and in Pakistan. But that's another story, isn't it? (After all, they don't even understand what's happening in Harlem, and South Central LA, North St. Louis, and important parts of New Orleans).
How much longer can we afford to pour $3 billion [a week] into a mistake? McCaffery clearly isn't the person to ask.