Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Anthony Cordesman: Odd Man Out

Turns out there was a third on that little jaunt to Iraq that Ken Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon took that resulted in that now-infamous op-ed (which I posted about here).

Turns out that Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic Studies was on that trip as well, and he came back singing a less upbeat song.

From my perspective, the US now has only uncertain, high risk options in Iraq. It cannot dictate Iraq’s future, only influence it, and this presents serious problems at a time when the Iraqi political process has failed to move forward in reaching either a new consensus or some form of peaceful coexistence. It is Iraqis that will shape Iraq's ability or inability to rise above its current sectarian and ethnic conflicts, to redefine Iraq's politics and methods of governance, establish some level of stability and security, and move towards a path of economic recovery and development. So far, Iraq’s national government has failed to act at the rate necessary to move the country forward or give American military action political meaning.

He quoted a high-level U.S. official who described the situation in Iraq as “the current situation is like playing three dimensional chess in the dark while someone is shooting at you.”

Cordesman describes “positive trends in the fighting” and indications of future political progress. Any “successes” that have been touted by the war supporters would not have been realized by increased troop numbers alone. “[T]he original strategy President Bush announced in January would have failed if it had not been for the Sunni tribal awakening.” (That awakening was accompanied by a lot of free guns. And a lot of ammo.) He goes on to say that there is a “tenuous case for strategic patience” and that he believes that tying reductions in forces to political progress without timetables is the preferable “exit strategy” but he realizes that banking on strategic patience is a high-stakes game, and as is characteristic of high-stakes games…luck is a fickle factor.

(Note: Since he prepared his report and made this assessment, hundreds of thousands of residents of Baghdad have lost power and water in 120º heat, and five more Cabinet members have bolted from the Maliki government and the Cabinet can no longer reach a quorum to approve legislation to the Parliament.)

No comments: