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Iraq Study Group: We’re In Trouble

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Put a soon-to-be top ranking Dem is saying we need more troops. Interesting times indeed.

First, the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations

of U.S. forces in Iraq that will allow the United States to move forces out responsibly; prompt action by the Iraqi government to achieve milestones, particularly reconciliation; and new diplomatic actions in Iraq and in the region.

Former Secretary of State James Baker and co-chair with Hamilton, said later in the news conference: “We do not recommend a stay-the-course solution. In our opinion, that approach is no longer viable.”

The report suggests: “By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.”

“At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams and in training, equipping, advising, force protection and search and rescue.”

While not recommending a timetable for withdrawal, the report says “the United States must not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq.”

So that means pulling out without saying we’re pulling out.

Now onto that Dem who wants to put more troops in. I can certainly empathize given that was my view for quite a while. It was only until recently, after reading account after account of how badly things going and realizing that we’re not going to be able to get the troops we need, that I decided we should just get out of there.

Still, I respect Rep. Silvestre Reyes, although I think his call for 20-30,000 more troops is simply not enough to stabilize the country. Try 100,000…at the very least.

Here’s Reyes

“We’re not going to have stability in Iraq until we eliminate those militias, those private armies,� Reyes said. “We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq … We certainly can’t leave Iraq and run the risk that it becomes [like] Afghanistan� was before the 2001 invasion by the United States.

Reyes also stressed that there needed to be greater “political accountability� demanded of the Iraqi government. But on the core issue of the U.S. commitment, Reyes�a Vietnam War veteran who partially lost his hearing in that conflict�even compared his position to that of another Vietnam vet, Sen. John McCain, a staunch supporter of the Iraq war. Like Reyes, McCain also has called for an increase in U.S. troop strength. When asked how many additional troops he envisioned sending to Iraq, Reyes replied: “I would say 20,000 to 30,000�for the specific purpose of making sure those militias are dismantled, working in concert with the Iraqi military.�

And here’s where the two meet…and are Reyes ideas feasible?

One source familiar with aspects of the Baker-Hamilton panel’s deliberations said that the idea of an increase of U.S. troop strength of 20,000 to 30,000 had been pushed by some U.S. military commanders for some time. However, Democratic members of the commission were unwilling to go along with any proposal that would indicate an expansion of the U.S. mission in that country, according to the source, who asked not to be identified talking about sensitive matters.

Yet another member of the Baker-Hamilton advisory panel praised Reyes for proposing the idea of increasing troops, saying it showed that he “doesn’t just fall back on political reflex.� But, added Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who formerly served as a U.S. political advisor in Iraq, Reyes’s ideas were unlikely to bear fruit unless accompanied with a far more extensive strategy that included a “political and diplomatic� initiative to reorder and rebuild support for the Iraqi government. “You can’t sustain an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 troops for very long�maybe four to six months,� Diamond said. “Can you really secure progress on the ground in terms of knocking out death squads and militia activity in four to six months? It won’t make sense unless it’s combined with very intensive political and constitutional activity. Otherwise putting in more troops is like putting more fingers in the dike … I don’t think there is any magic bullet.�

There’s no magic bullet and there’s no magic strategy. The only thing we can do now is weigh whether or not we want to be bogged down in Iraq until they somehow figure out how to live in peace.

We could be waiting decades.