Planning for the enemy's exit strategy from Iraq

Peter Brooks:

AMERICAN, or even future Iraqi, military prowess won't be enough to defeat Iraq's bloody insurgency. Victory in Iraq is going to come as much — or more — from political/economic progress in that battered nation as it will from military dominance.

Which means that — rather than engaging in mostly useless, politically-motivated caterwauling about a U.S. military "exit strategy" from Iraq — Washington's political class should be concentrating on developing a comprehensive political/economic/military strategy to compel the insurgents to plan their exit strategy.

As we all know from our still-painful experience in Vietnam, battlefield victories, while important, are often irrelevant in determining war's outcome. Political and economic conditions "on the ground" are also critical.

The next big political milestone in Iraq comes in just over two weeks — the national elections on Dec. 15. These should establish Iraq's first democratically-elected, four-year term government — another key step in advancing a complete strategy for success in Iraq.

Iraq's first "permanent" government will have greater credibility domestically and higher standing internationally, allowing it to (potentially) make more progress on key political, economic and security issues at home and abroad than any of its (post-Saddam) predecessors.

The most daunting political challenge facing the new government will be to find a way to strip the Sunnis out of the insurgency. Benching the Baathists would reduce insurgency numbers by three-quarters — and bring a significant increase in stability and security.

(Unfortunately, dealing with al Qaeda's Abu Musab al Zarqawi and his band of undeterable, indiscriminate killers demands a law-enforce- ment/military solution.)

...

Despite the naysayers, victory — and an honorable withdrawal of U.S. forces — are still well within our reach in Iraq. Let's not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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