President Bush has ordered a "surge" in U.S. forces in Iraq that would add some 21,000 troops to the more than 130,000 already on the ground.
This new troop push would occur in mid-January.
I don't like to disagree with the president, who has kept this country secure in the years following 9/11, but the accepted wisdom on the American effort in Iraq is that, at best, it is not going well.
At worst, Iraq has become a disaster.
For the record: Two years ago I wrote that the United States had set the bar too high in expecting a full blown democracy in post-Saddam Iraq. I supported ending the occupation of Iraq within 18 months to two years.
"The idea that the U.S. can create a democracy in Iraq in the near future is simply a dream," I wrote then. Today, this is generally accepted wisdom.
The problem is not simply one of nation building. America has taken responsibility for a nation torn by ethnic and religious factions, notably divisions between Arabs and Kurds and between Sunnis and Shiites.
I gained insight into the situation in Iraq during a recent visit to London, where I chatted with respected businessman Nadhmi Auchi, president of Britain's Anglo-Arab Organisation.
The Iraqi-born Auchi had no love for Saddam Hussein, whose regime murdered his brother. But he told me that Bush's solution to the problems in Iraq has been no solution at all.
The current Iraqi government is dominated by Shiites who themselves are closely aligned with Shiite Iran. Auchi stresses not all Iraqi Shia's are aligned with Iran, but the governing group most certainly is.
Some have suggested "federalizing" Iraq — dividing the country into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions, with a diluted central government — and the Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton said the idea was a "possible consequence of continued instability."
But Auchi suggests that a de facto partition of Iraq would likely leave the Iran-backed Shiites in control of the oil-rich southern region centering around Basra. No good for American interests, or for that matter, Arab states in the Gulf region and the Middle East area.
The partition idea will create a conflict between Sunnis, Christian and Shiites that are not with Iran, on one side, and the leaders of the new federation backed by the Iranians, on the other side. This conflict, Auchi adds, would result in a long war between the Iraqis and the Iranians.
Clearly, there is no easy solution to the quagmire of Iraq.
One thing appears certain, however: A surge in troop levels is not the answer.
Instead, the United States should seek to create a multinational force or United Nations force that could replace American troops during a phased withdrawal, followed by the creation of a strong and secular military in Iraq, one with close ties to the United States and NATO. This has proven to be a successful model in Muslim Turkey, and would allow the United States to escape the Iraq quagmire, put Iraq on "the path to democracy" and concentrate on a potentially much greater threat: a militant Iran.
Indeed, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in November called for more Iraqi control over security. And the Baker-Hamilton Commission noted: "Sustained increases in U.S. troops would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq, which is the absence of national reconciliation."
The Bush administration needs to ask itself this fundamental question: Would the consequences of an American withdrawal from Iraq, say, within one year, be any different from the consequences if the United States withdrew in 10 years?
If the answer is no — as I believe it to be — then Bush needs to seriously reconsider current policy, which means to increase the American presence in Iraq rather than reduce it.
And to that I vote "no."
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