The Washington Post has a long front-page analysis today, "Dissension Grows In Senior Ranks On War Strategy: U.S. May Be Winning Battles in Iraq, Losing the War, Some Officers Say." Its main themes closely parallel the arguments I have been making over and over again, most recently two weeks ago, that "The U.S. goal cannot be a free Iraq, but an Iraq that does not endanger America." Here is a key passage from the article:
Like many in the Special Forces, defense consultant Michael Vickers advocates radically trimming the U.S. presence in Iraq, making it much more like the one in Afghanistan, where there are 20,000 troops, and almost none in the capital, Kabul. The U.S. military has a small presence in the daily life of Afghans. Basically, it ignores them and focuses its attention on fighting pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda holdouts. Nor has it tried to disarm the militias that control much of the country.
In addition to trimming the U.S. troop presence, a young Army general said, the United States also should curtail its ambitions in Iraq. "That strategic objective, of a free, democratic, de-Baathified Iraq, is grandiose, and unattainable," he said. "It's just a matter of time before we revise downward . . . and abandon these ridiculous objectives." Instead, he predicted that if the Bush administration wins reelection, it simply will settle for a stable Iraq, probably run by former Iraqi generals. This is more or less, he said, what the Marines Corps did in Fallujah—which he described as a glimpse of future U.S. policy.
As though in reply to my column urging an Iraqi strongman last week, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz is quoted saying, "I don't think the answer is to find some old Republican Guard generals and have them impose yet another dictatorship in an Arab country." Now, I have the greatest respect for Paul Wolfowitz – he was my boss at the State Department's Policy Planning Staff in 1982-83 and I have from that time admired his many outstanding qualities – and I hope what he intends for Iraq is achievable. But I cannot help but find his goal overly ambitious. (May 9, 2004)