Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Candidate's Response

President Bush has just finished his latest address on Iraq, and Dick Durban has just delivered the Democrats' response. I know you're all dying for my take, and here it is:

President Bush's Speech

It should be no surprise that I approve of the bulk of what President Bush outlined. Pretty much as I suggested months ago, the U.S. is adopting a Baghdad-first strategy designed to take, clear, and most importantly hold Baghdad's neighborhoods, implementing the ink-spot approach that is one of the only proven counter-insurgency strategies.

My only quibble is the move to bring 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq to implement the plan; I think it will work but it's not necessary (internal redeployment of 20,000 troops already in Iraq would do the job as well, in my opinion), and is going to cause a real bare-knuckles political battle aimed more at the 2008 elections than fixing Iraq (Senate Democrats are already talking about bringing a non-binding resolution opposing the plan in order to get Republicans on record as supporting or opposing it). That naked political move drops my estimation of the Democrats a few notches; as low as my opinion of politicians already is, that's saying something.

Dick Durban's Response

Interestingly enough, the Democratic response did make a legitimate point: that Iraqis might take on more responsibility and fight harder to protect their own interests if they knew they could no longer count on an American bail-out. No less an authority on warfare than Sun-tzu wrote that a commander could drive his own army into hopeless situations or "fatal terrain" to make them fight harder, as they would be convinced that they could either fight or die.

But what I think the Democrats are overlooking is that the Iraqis already have more than enough incentive to fight for themselves. Iraq Body Count (a fairly credible source) puts the number of Iraqis killed in 2006 alone at roughly 24,000, close to double the 14,000 that died in 2005. With that type of death toll, it's unlikely Iraqis are relaxing while counting on American help to save them.

In fact, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has informed key political ally Moqtada al-Sadr that his militia will no longer receive political cover, and they can either disarm by choice or be disarmed by force.

Of course, all of this is just words. But for the first time in a while, people are saying the right ones.

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