Tell the Truth About the Surge

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John Moore / Getty

U.S. Marines (L-R) Cpl. Scott David, LCpl. Dan Rice and Cpl. Brendan Bloom prepare to deploy for a military operation January 14, 2007, at Camp Ramadi in the Anbar province of Iraq.

Give Bush his 21,500 troops. We're going to need every one of them for an orderly partition of Iraq.

But first let's tell the truth about what a surge of 21,500 troops will not do. One, they will not hold Iraq together. After nearly four years of occupation, Iraqis have made up their minds they do not want to live together. The intention of the Shi'a is to establish an Islamic republic that either excludes or subjugates Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds. The Sunni Arabs, who make up about 20% of Iraq's population, know they've lost and their only option is to retreat into the desert and create their own country. The Kurds, for their part, already have their own country. It's just a matter of building a wall around it and grabbing Kirkuk's oil fields. The number of Iraqis who still believe Humpty Dumpty can be put back together couldn't fill a conference room at the American Enterprise Institute, one of the brains behind the surge.

Another thing an extra 21,500 American troops are not going to do is stop Iranian meddling. I have little doubt the Administration is telling the truth when it says that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp is arming and training Iraqis to kill Americans. The IRGC has been killing Americans for almost three decades. It has been operating freely in Iraq since the first Gulf War in 1990. And that's the problem — the IRGC is now so deeply woven into the Iraqi fabric that there's nothing we can do about it — short of invading Iran.

While we're at it, an additional 21,500 troops also cannot do anything about the other forces undermining Bush's Iraq, including Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, the Sunni insurgency in Anbar, and Syria. We'd need a surge of 500,000 troops to deal with them.

But this does not mean we cannot use the 21,500 troops. During the next two years, Iraq's breakup will occur with or without us. Baghdad will inexorably fall to the Shi'a. "They get the big bonanza," as one Sunni bitterly put it. Anbar, Ramadi, Fallujah and much of the upper Euphrates Valley are practically a solid Sunni green now. There are still mixed towns and provinces here and there, but it's just a matter of time before their minorities pick up and leave for the security of their own.

If we were to withdraw today, the breakup would occur a lot faster, maybe over a few months, but blood would flow in rivers. The chances Saudi Arabia and Iran would be pulled in is almost certain. Even more refugees would flow into Jordan and Syria, destabilizing them. To be sure, extra American troops will not completely stop the violence, but it will tamp it down to permit a more or less peaceful relocation.

What someone has to do now is tell Bush we won the war and lost the peace — Iraq is no longer a country, and no amount of American forces will make it one.

Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, is the author of See No Evil and, most recently, the novel Blow the House Down.