"Saddam and Terrorism" report now online
Questions Petraeus cannot answer
Stuck in the Iraq Loop;
There is a paradox in the current situation in Iraq. We are told that the surge has worked brilliantly and violence is way down. And yet the plan to reduce troop levels—which was at the heart of the original surge strategy—must be postponed or all hell will once again break loose. Making sense of this paradox is critical. Because in certain crucial ways things are not improving in Iraq, and unless they start improving soon, the United States faces the awful prospect of an unending peacekeeping operation—with continuing if limited casualties—for years to come.
In a brilliant and much-circulated essay written in August 2007, "Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt," David Kilcullen, a veteran Australian officer who advised Gen. David Petraeus during the early days of the surge, wrote, "Our dilemma in Iraq is, and always has been, finding a way to create a sustainable security architecture that does not require 'Coalition-in-the-loop,' thereby allowing Iraq to stabilize and the Coalition to disengage in favorable circumstances." We have achieved some security in Iraq, though even this should not be overstated. (Violence is still at 2005 levels, which were pretty gruesome.) But we have not built a sustainable security architecture.
How does one create a self-sustaining process that leads to stability? Do we need more troops? Longer rotations? Kilcullen points in a different direction: "Taking the Coalition out of the loop and into 'overwatch' requires balancing competing armed interest groups at the national and local level." In other words, we need to help forge a political bargain by which Iraq's various groups agree to live together and not dominate one another. "These [groups] are currently not in balance," Kilcullen wrote, "due in part to the sectarian biases of certain players and institutions of the new Iraqi state, which promotes a belief by Sunnis that they will be the permanent victims of the new Iraq. This belief creates space for terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda in Iraq, and these groups in turn drive a cycle of violence that keeps Iraq unstable and prevents us from disengaging."
Quotable: 'There is more to life than this war,' Army captain says
What anti-war movement?
Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom)
Stance: McCain has been among the most vocal supporters of the initial invasion of Iraq and last year's troop surge. His stance on these issues has largely defined his presidential run.
Statement: "Only an obdurate refusal to face unpleasant facts -- in this case, that a tyrant who survives only by the constant use of violence is not going to be coerced into good behavior by nonviolent means -- could allow one to believe that we have rushed to war... Our armed forces will fight for peace in Iraq -- a peace built on more secure foundations than are found today in the Middle East. Even more important, they will fight for the two human conditions of even greater value than peace: liberty and justice. Some of our soldiers will perish in this just cause. May God bless them and may humanity honor their sacrifice."