One Military Officer's Aggressive New Plan for Iraq

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Retired and active duty military officers have watched with interest as the high profile Baker-Hamilton Commission, also known as the Iraq Study Group, trots around Washington meeting with politicians and top bureaucrats to help prepare their much anticipated report about what to do in Iraq. But more interesting to top military brass is who Baker-Hamilton is not spending much time with: military experts on insurgencies and warfare. Not unlike John McCain, the consensus of many of these both active and retired military officers, many of whom were sidelined by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is that there may very well need to be more U.S. troops in the short term, not fewer.

Despite, or perhaps because, of the perceived Baker-Hamilton oversight, one senior retired military officer who held a number of command positions and is still well-connected to active duty generals has drawn up his own Iraq plan — and that plan is finding support in defense circles.

The outlines of the informal plan are as follows:

1) The Jawbone: Convene a meeting with the most senior members of the U.S. and Iraqi governments to explain that the U.S. is prepared to commit greater forces and resources for a period of one year, ONLY if Iraqis commit to decisive action to quell the insurgency and the civil war (which includes immediately starting to disarm the militias). It will be made crystal clear to Baghdad that without the Iraqi commitment — which will be measured monthly to ensure adherence — U.S. forces would immediately begin their withdrawal. Gen. John Abizaid started to do just that during his meetings in Baghdad this week, speaking more directly to the Iraqi government and asking for a timeline.

2) The Strong Arm: In the short term, have the four military services, the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, prepare plans for a one-year surge in Iraq. Commit to destruction of the insurgent forces in Ramadi, Hit and the other Anbar strongholds... whatever it takes. Reinforce key cities like Baghdad and Basra. The best guess is that this will require 20,000 more U.S. troops on the ground. The U.S. military should rapidly increase the number of U.S. advisors for the Iraqi Security Forces — to some 15,000, up from about 7,000. It should also maintain the covert special operations forces to track, capture and kill high value insurgent targets.

3) The Swagger: President Bush should give a speech to the U.N. in which he calls on other nations to either support the new Iraq or stop providing support and weapons to insurgents and militias; declares that most fundamental goals in Iraq were achieved, but the hope of democracy in Iraq is in the balance and only the Iraqis can determine that outcome; reminds the U.N. that lack of support for the peaceful option — smart sanctions — was doomed to failure when they were undermined by many in the audience; implicitly threatens that if nations contribute to instability and violence in Iraq, they would be considered enemies of the U.S.; warns not to mistake U.S. withdrawal for defeat, stating that any nation that exports violence and terrorism from its borders will find an resolute foe in the U.S., and may have to suffer consequences; and asks for separate meetings with Iranian and Syrian leaders. And while making the above points forcefully, the President should also offer a significant carrot like increased diplomatic and economic contacts with countries like Syria.

4) Send In The Striped-Pants-and Money Set: In the short term, flood Iraq with seasoned U.S. diplomats in a new initiative to work with the Iraqi government and various factions to discover ways to ameliorate the dire conditions and heightened tension. The diplomats who refuse to go would be forced to leave government — three years into the war the State Department has managed to staff only 52% of its positions dealing with Iraq. Recruit and deploy economic managerial expertise from the U.S. government and private sector to find ways to employ Iraqis. In the short term, find ways to increase the availability of dependable power, clean water, fuel, etc. Give the tribal leaders cash incentives to protect Iraq's oil facilities and pipelines or suffer the consequences.

5) The PR Op: In the short term, overwhelm Iraq with an information campaign that declares that the U.S. will establish no permanent bases in Iraq, and will be out in a year. And make clear that the issue of sustained aid to Iraq will be dependent on their willingness to reconcile differences and quell the insurgency.