Regarding Iraq, few commentators have approached the ongoing decline of our leadership and prospects of success with more intellectual integrity than Gregory Djerejian of the Belgravia Dispatch. Statements like this, for example, can’t be easy to write:
In good time, I will write my personal mea culpa in this tragic affair. I had greater faith in this Administration, and they have let us down time and again. But it’s too easy to say it would all have been OK but for the dumbies who effed up the show. People who supported the war, and there were many of us (on both sides of the aisle, lest we forget), had to keep in mind the abilities of those charged with prosecuting it, and the resources that would be brought to bear. We knew the Powell Doctrine had been shunted aside in favor of utopic transformationalist nostrums, and we knew that some who were listened to in the leading counsels of power had memorably declared the effort would be a cakewalk. We should have smelled the danger signals better, and we deserve the scorn of those who were against this effort from the get-go, at least those who honestly believed we were doing the wrong thing rather than just opposing anything the horrible Bushies would bring to the plate.
There isn’t anything for me to add.
The post goes on to argue that hope remains for a stable future in Iraq but it won’t come quickly. Djerejian estimates that for Iraq to have any chance at reaching a stable state foreign troops will need to remain at or near current levels at least through 2008. If you take his assumptions for granted the drain on American blood and treasure seems dire enough. On top of that the idea that America won’t have the boots to respond to any international crisis for the next three years, plus the time it takes to rebuild our Iraq-worn Army into a battle-ready machine again, does not encourage me.
But I wonder how much longer we could sustain our current fighting force, even at the current level which many judge insufficient to properly challenge an insurgency. We all know by now that Rumsfeld planned to draw troops down to 30,000 by the fall of 2003, so whatever they’ve don’e since then has basically amounted to winging it. Sure they’ve managed to wing it for three years now, and they’re building at least 14 enduring bases to house a certain fraction of our troops, but I think it’s just as likely as not that the Army simply won’t be able to sustain current troop levels for three more years without an immediate draft. Needless to say, from a political perspective a draft is about as likely in the current Congress as an impeachment vote.
Of course if Greg Djerejian is right and I’m right then all of the current sturm und drang over the Iraq issue amounts to dragging our feet towards a foregone conclusion. Hopefully one of us is wrong, but I won’t hold my breath.