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Iraq: Bush's Plan for Victory is really a Plan for Politics

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Thanks to John for the kind introduction and for the opportunity to add to the discourse on these issues. Thanks also to the AMERICAblog community for allowing me to be part of something special and valuable.

As John said, I'm a former Intelligence Officer with the Department of Defense, and I hope my entries on AMERICAblog will bring some insight into national security, intelligence, and foreign policy issues. A necessary disclaimer: None of my observations or analyses will be based on classified or non-public information, nor will they represent current or former positions of the U.S. government (which will be pretty clear, I imagine!).

So without further ado, let's talk Iraq.

Despite incessant rhetoric about the "Plan for Victory," and indefensible claims of improvement from his administration, Bush is quietly pursuing a "Plan for Politics" in Iraq by slowly but surely moving troops out of populated areas and into so-called superbases. These few huge bases, virtual mini-cities with tens of thousands of troops, are in isolated areas, meaning the troops have little ability (or responsibility) to affect daily life in Iraq.

This strategy clearly shows that the Administration has given up on true counter-insurgency tactics, which necessitate working with and among the people, and instead defaulted to focusing on preventing full-scale civil war and total governmental collapse. From the superbases, troops can deploy to stop major conflict, perform targeted strikes, and make large shows of force when necessary, but cannot regularly engage the population.

The mainstream media is not very good at explaining military strategy, and the shift to superbases was mostly covered as evidence that the U.S. isn't leaving anytime soon. While that is true, the shift is also a tacit admission from the Pentagon, if not Bush himself, that our objective has devolved from establishing a functional civil society to preventing large-scale sectarian battles in the streets. There are plenty of possible reasons for this -- the most likely, I think, being that the Pentagon realizes our nation-building efforts have failed and further needless casualties should be avoided, something the "shrill" among us have been saying for a while -- but the result will be more anarchy. Imagine, for example, if every police department in America decided they would only leave the station if there was a full-on gang war in the streets. Originally, American troops in Iraq were like the police, but now they’re more similar to our domestic National Guard units: primarily for emergency use. Nobody, however, is replacing the law enforcement mission.

This means that while civil society breaks down (crippled infrastructure, no electricity, oil production below pre-war levels, etc.), the overarching U.S. strategy is to avoid the kind of big eruptions that get media attention . . . in other words, trying to create an Iraq that American voters will ignore.

The shift may or may not be good strategy, but it would be nice if the Commander in Chief owned up to such a significant change so it could be recognized and evaluated. Assuming, of course, that he's even aware of it.

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