Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bush's Speech -- First Thoughts

President Bush's speech last night promised 21,500 more troops for the struggle in Iraq. It appears to me that he plans to obtain these troops by extending the tours of soldiers already in country, and speeding-up projected deployments already in the pipeline in order to smash the rebellion in Baghdad. Replacements for troops whose tours were ending would become reinforcements. Going on what was said last night, President Bush’s plans have much in common with Frederick W. Kagan’s AEI Institute plan: Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, linked here, and which has been discussed extensively in, among other places, the Belmont Club blog.

The version I saw was dated 17 December 2006, and has since been updated somewhat. With that proviso in mind, the AEI scheme I read involves increasing the number of US brigades operating in Baghdad from five to ten, and the President’s announced plan tracks this. The President also said that a total of 18 Iraqi Army and police brigades would be put in Baghdad. Presently, the Iraqis have four Army brigades (from 6th Division), in the city.

The AEI proposal, though, was essentially a discussion of where troops might be found; and the importance of finding them – and not a detailed operational plan governing their employment. The Belmont Club’s discussion of the AEI proposal is worth reading after a look at the President’s speech.

The AEI plan was pretty skimpy on what, exactly, is supposed to happen at the sharp end: that is, how the platoons and companies involved will clear the Bad Guys from Baghdad. Will the US troops have free use of their artillery, helicopter gunships and their air support ? Do the police have arrest lists, or any idea where the rebels may be hiding ? What's being done to get this information ? Will we be aggressively going hunting for these people and their arms stashes, or are we just providing passively patrolling targets for the rebels to bomb and snipe at ?

How about the command arrangements ? The President says the Iraqis are going to appoint a military commander for Baghdad, “and two deputy commanders.” Maybe one for each side of the river…or maybe an Iraqi and an American deputy ? It will be interesting to see if American troops wind up under an Iraqi commander, even in theory. I’d be more impressed if an American commander was running the show in Baghdad – that would tell me the Iraqis meant for a serious housecleaning to take place – and that they were putting foreigners in charge of it so they could blame them for excesses later. The Iraqi politicos, after all, have to live in Iraq.

Will the commander have plenary military and civil power ? Will an American General be there to jog his elbow ? Will the Iraqis arrange for the TV media to be kept away from things they do not need to see ? Are the Iraqis going to quit their silly “catch and release” programs for rebels – putting the villains our troops catch right back on the streets ? Will the troops at last deal with the Sadr City militias ? Hopefully and surely, whatever the White House and Pentagon have cooked-up involves a detailed operational plan. More on that later.

But for me, the most interesting part of the speech, by far, was this passage:

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity - and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

(emphasis in underline supplied).
No equivocation here. Iran and Syria are in the war. The President says the US will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria, and “seek out and destroy” the networks providing advanced weaponry to our enemies. Those networks are in Iran and Syria. Is the President talking about destroying them there ? Maybe the Iraqis will be given the means to “seek out and destroy" them there. Wouldn’t that be interesting ?

Meanwhile, "neutral" neighbors and war supplies. This all sounds real familiar: maybe a nostalgia trip down the “Ho Chi Minh Trail.”

As if it wasn’t clear enough that Mad Jad Ahmadinejad and the Persians are in the crosshairs, there’s the next paragraph:

We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing - and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.
Patriot is a long range, high altitude air defense system, primarily useful against high-flying aircraft, cruise missiles, or, as many will remember from Gulf War I – Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles, such as Scuds. The Iraqi rebels don’t seem to have an air force or Scuds, but some of the neighbors -- guess which ones – do. Also, carrier battle groups do not give us any capability against the rebels that cannot be more efficiently handled from bases in Iraq or Kuwait – but they would be useful for closing, say, Iranian ports.

Finally, the reference to Turkey is interesting. The President might be talking there about Iraq and Turkey’s common border in Kurdistan. But Turkey also has a border with Iran – and with Syria. President Bush dropped the Turkey reference in right after mention of the Patriot. Is Turkey being offered some Patriot batteries ?
The Washington Post reports this morning that last night, apparently following the speech, US troops raided the Iranian consulate in Irbil, Iraq (Kurdistan), detained at least five staff members and hauled off computers and documents. A consulate is normally considered sovereign territory, and diplomats may normally, not be detained. Legally speaking, anyway. Evidently, the President is not fooling around.
Pressure is clearly being ratcheted-up on Iran. Now lets watch Syria. . .and Lebanon. Things will probably get boiling there, soon enough.

What a speech. You’d never know the President was isolated, hamstrung by a defeatist Congress and press that are absolutely salivating at the prospect of an American defeat. Here’s hoping the plan works, because barring a miracle, it’s the last shot.


louielouie said...

as for raiding the iranian consulate.........
where ever a US soldier, marine, or airmen is standing is sovereign US territory.
no other nation has any right, or rights.
i.e., when i was in korea people would ask me how it was there, my reply was OK except for all the foreigners.
the reply would be louie, in korea you are the foreigner.
no i'm not.
does this attitude make me an ugly american.
no, just an american.
but if you wish to think me ugly, it's ok with me.
i'll just settle for jacksonian.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Never been to Korea, although my sister is from those parts. Kimchi is sure good though, although plenty of folks disagree with me.

If you've got the M-4, there ain't no way I'm calling you uglly.

louielouie said...

i'm assuming you're referring to the current issued rifle.
that's the only M4 i know of.
in my day it was the M16. and i didn't have one.
my career consisted of "make sure the positive cable is connected to the positive terminal and the negative cable is connected to the negative terminal before throwing the switch".
i alwasy thought that switch part should have come first.
you will not hear me claiming to have said, "broadsword calling danny boy".
i was i guess working with korea gas corporation at a time when they were converting their electrical generation equipment from using bunker oil to natural gas and i guess i was supposed to be helping them.
i guess.
i can't figure out why they built all those electrical generation facilities so close to the DMZ. i guess because all the consumers live in seoul??
any way, i have learned more about korean culture reading your posts about the dear leader than i did from 6-8 months there.
as far as kimchi goes, i agree with all those folks.