In the Arena

Report from the Last Surge

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The violence in Tal Afar is all the more depressing because that city was the site of the most recent, pre-Baghdad experiment in counter-insurgency tactics. The estimable scholar-warrior Col H.R. McMaster led the effort, and Bush praised it at the time…and it fell apart as soon as the Americans left.

The point is, as I’ve said before: Counter-insurgency tactics are a wonderful idea that require lots of troops (which we don’t have), lots of time (which we don’t have) and a coherent, cooperative local government (which we don’t have).

What we have in Iraq is an exhausted Army, a phony timetable (progress by this summer) and a failed state.

The worst part of the current Bush policy is that our departure from Iraq is going to be a dangerous, delicate operation that needs to be planned in a far more precise, sophisticated way that anything this Administration has attempted so far. It will have to be accompanied by some really creative diplomacy, and also creative thought about the sort of residual force we want to maintain in the region (and in Iraq). Given the remarkable incompetence–and, of course, the utter policy blindness-of this administration, it is likely that task will fall to the next administration…which will then be blamed, by Rush Limbaugh and Co, for “losing” Iraq. We live in vomitous times.