In the Tunnel

In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 18, Kenneth Pollack, a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said that he was, “heartened to hear Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld acknowledge that success in Iraq would likely require over a decade.” Mr. Pollack went on later in his testimony to say, “We simply do not have the troops on hand — American, allied, or fully-capable Iraqi — to handle the number and extent of the tasks at hand.”

In broad strokes, Mr. Pollack’s 12-page testimony puts forward common sense and very blunt tactics and strategies for defeating the insurgency in Iraq. He is critical of the administration and the military for continuing to employ methods that have never worked against insurgent movements, such as search and destroy missions of the type we conducted in Falluja. He had less of a problem with the battling itself, and more of an issue with the aftermath of the assault on Falluja, when our forces, for all intents and purposes, left, allowing the insurgents to reestablish their control of the area. We made the same mistakes in Southeast Asia at one time, and the results were the same.

Kenneth Pollack feels that the military and civilian structures that we have operating in Iraq are fully capable of prevailing if our government ensures they have all the personnel and supplies they need, and, most importantly, if they follow a strategy quite different from the one now being employed. He believes concentrating coalition forces and fully trained Iraqi security forces in areas we have tight control of, and spreading that control slowly outwards, is how we win. This would mean initially abandoning a large swath of the country to the insurgency while we bring the most essential areas under permanent control.

When considered in detail, his proposal makes sense. Mr. Pollack is not the sort to run out ill-thought ideas rooted in the ideological and averse to the practical. When Mr. Pollack praised Donald Rumsfeld for his admission of the amount of time that would be necessary to achieve success in Iraq, it was not an offhand compliment. Rather, it was the result of the heartening thought that reality does occasionally work its way into the upper echelons of power in this country’s government.

What we are looking at, according to not just Kenneth Pollack but many others, is at least a ten-year commitment at increased troop levels in order to bring about victory in Iraq, combined with a fundamental shift in the way we are waging the war. As with all endeavors that entail a massive reversal of policy, initially it would appear we have taken a step back before we begin to go forward again. If this is the only way we can win in Iraq, and it appears that it is, we don’t stand a chance.

The people of this country will not accept a deployment of our armed forces for such a prolonged length of time. In addition, our military, as currently configured, cannot supply the personnel necessary to maintain current troop levels in Iraq (or train Iraqis fast enough to narrow that gap), much less the increased presence that is necessary for establishing permanent security. Getting the forces we need to Iraq in this fashion would require a draft, yet another circumstance the public would not tolerate.

As far as an increasing majority in this nation is concerned, the war in Iraq is not worth fighting. Convincing the American people that more troops and another decade of casualties is a price worth paying for a stable Iraq is impossible.

What will happen in Iraq is a gradual drawdown of American forces beginning next year, more than likely preceded by a complete pullout of British and other coalition personnel. This drawdown will be combined with increased funding and supply of indigenous security forces loyal to the government in Baghdad, followed by a descent into even more devastating sectarian violence. A ten-year timetable to stability still applies in this circumstance, but thank goodness, we won’t be doing the fighting anymore.