How to Win the War in Iraq

How to Win the War in Iraq
by David T. Pyne
16 November 2005

The main problem with the various plans to win the war is that they focus on bringing democracy to Iraq as an end in itself, which does nothing to further US national security interests in the region or further our prospects for victory.

There have been many articles published of late concerning what we must do to win the war in Iraq. Leading Republican presidential pretender Senator John McCain wrote such an article entitled, “Winning the War in Iraq,” on Veteran’s Day, and has proposed that we increase the number of our troops in Iraq by 10,000 troops to about 170,000. Yet McCain’s ‘plan’ to win the war fails to provide for any strategy of success or include any milestones which could be utilized as the basis for an exit strategy for US forces, as required by the Reagan-Weinburger-Powell doctrine.

An acquaintance of mine recently proposed a plan which would necessitate increasing the number of US troops to two to three times what we currently have in Iraq and a fifty-year occupation of that country, which I noted would cost trillions of dollars and probably cost the lives of tens of thousands more of our troops. Frankly, the United States Army has nearly been broken under the increasing strains of fighting the seemingly endless counterinsurgency war in Iraq, with the lowest readiness, recruitment, and procurement levels in decades. It is currently far too small to accommodate such a proposal. In the latest blow to the US Army, an inexcusable Rumsfeld Department of Defense cut to its budget totaling $11 billion will force it to downsize its combat strength even further, from 44 mini-brigade combat teams to 39 — the equivalent of a mere nine divisions under the pre-existing Army force structure.

Many experts have correctly pointed out that the US occupation itself is feeding the insurgency. Accordingly, one of the best ways to take the wind out of the insurgency would be to decrease our military “footprint” in Iraq. Specifically, we need to do a better job of differentiating our enemies from innocent bystanders in Iraq, as retired COL Douglas MacGregor wisely stated during a PBS interview several months ago.  When we arrest tens of thousands of Iraqis — of which we estimate 90% are not associated with the Iraqi national resistance groups — we turn a lot more Iraqis against us and increase the recruitment of the insurgency. Such actions violate the basic principles of Counterinsurgency Warfare 101, which has as one of its principal tenets winning the “hearts and minds” of the national populace.  Widespread reports of US military torture of suspected insurgents at Abu Ghraib and other US military prisons also have gone far to turn the people of Iraq and the Middle East against us, and have resulted in a surge of new recruits by the insurgency dedicated to killing Americans.

The main problem with the various plans to win the war is that they focus on bringing democracy to Iraq for its own sake and as an end in itself, which does nothing to further US national security interests in the region or further our prospects for victory. Experts agree that the passage of every artificial administration deadline on democracy has done nothing to stem the insurgency. In fact, given the fact that the fundamentalist Shiite-led government of Iraq passed their Islamist constitution over the opposition of over 80% of the disenfranchised Sunni population, its passage will likely worsen the present Iraqi civil war. These plans tend to focus almost exclusively on a military solution to the conflict, which is not how this war can be won.

Most importantly, the authors of these various plans seem to ignore the fact that our Iran-allied Islamist Shiite enemies have already seized control of the Iraqi government, and with the passage of the new Islamist constitution have officially succeeded in making Iraq an Islamic republic right under the noses of 158,000 occupying US soldiers. The leader of the Shiite resistance to US forces in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr, the second most popular figure in Iraq after Grand Ayatollah Sistani himself, recently announced that he plans to run a full slate of candidates in the December 2005 elections for a permanent Iraqi government. Al-Sadr’s bloc is expected to receive the largest bloc of votes in this election, putting him in a position to claim a top post in the next Iraqi government should he want one.  The Islamicisation of Iraq is likely to get worse following the December elections.

Any plan to win this war that doesn’t remove the current Islamist government of Iraq and replace it with a secular constitution that protects minority rights is a plan for both perpetual war and ultimate defeat. It is particularly important that the new Iraqi constitution protect the exercise of basic religious freedoms, which the current Bush administration-supported Islamist constitution most certainly does not. It would also help if our leaders publicly recognized that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the real enemy we are fighting in Iraq, not just a small number of Baathists and foreign fighters coming in from Syria. Iran is the country that is providing the most support for the Iraqi resistance, with an increasingly large amount of funding, weapons and fundamentalist fighters sent care of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps whose Quds (Jerusalem) Corps is tasked with exporting Islamist revolution abroad and killing as many Americans and Israelis as possible.

Thus, the only way we can truly win this war is to depose the current Islamofascist fundamentalist Shiite-led government in Baghdad, appoint secularists to power, provide Iraqis with a new freedom-guaranteeing constitution based on our own, ban the Islamist parties, hold new elections in which the secularists are elected to power, then declare victory and get out of Iraq proper while keeping troops in Kurdestan and Kuwait to guard against a future Islamist/Iranian takeover of the country. Lastly, we need to declare an end to these liberal Clintonian and neocon nation-building schemes like the Bush administration has attempted to implement in Iraq, as they are diametrically opposed to the American foreign policy and just war fighting tradition.

It is important for Bush’s conservative supporters to realize that there never was anything remotely conservative about invading Iraq and occupying it indefinitely in the first place. This revelation should come as a surprise to no one since Bush is not a conservative President — a fact which many conservatives had long suspected and which they finally came to realize following his disastrous Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination.  Pre-war Iraq was a country that posed no threat to the United States, had no weapons of mass destruction and had no record of support of Al Queda or any other terrorist group whose goal was to kill Americans. President Ronald Reagan would never have committed such an egregious error of judgment and wisely kept a tight rein on the few radical neoconservatives who occupied the lower ranks of his administration during his Presidency.

An alternative plan, which would serve to appease Iraq’s Shiite majority and end the ongoing Iraqi civil war, would be to divide Iraq into two states — one Sunni, consisting of the Kurdish north and the Arab center, and one Shiite, consisting of the southern half of the country.  Sunni support for such a partition of Iraq would be all but assured, as it would ensure the retention of oil producing centers in Iraqi Kurdestan and they would retain the majority in the new northern Iraqi state. The Kurds could likely be persuaded to come around to support it as well, particularly if we could provide them with a secular constitution to guarantee the election of secular government.

The downside to this plan to bifurcate Iraq is that southern Iraq would remain under the control of Iran’s Islamist proxies and would still be in a position to destabilize the nominally pro-Western Saudi, Egyptian and Jordanian governments, and support their replacement with Iranian-backed Islamist fundamentalists like themselves. Of course, the Bush administration’s plan to democratize the region would accomplish much the same result. This is evidenced by the recent democratic victories of Hamas in the Palestinian elections, where it was elected to serve as the governing majority in the Gaza strip, and the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which tripled its representation in the Egyptian parliament. Nevertheless, this plan to divide Iraq into two states would still be far better than what we are doing right now. At this point, by keeping Iraq united and allowing the Islamists to implement their Islamic revolution in Iraq, we are allowing the entire country rather than merely a part of it to fall into the hands of anti-American Islamist fanatics allied with our greatest terrorist enemy — the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Unless the administration restores a secular government to Iraq, sooner or later Americans will have to confront the unpleasant reality that our intervention in Iraq has transformed it into a haven and training ground for Islamist and Al Queda terrorists and accordingly a much more dangerous threat to the US than it was before we invaded. Prior to the war, Iraq was ruled by a secular dictator, whose brutality was focused primarily against Islamist Shiite extremists, and who spent the dozen years prior to our invasion trying to appease the US and avoid another war, which he knew could only end in disaster for him. In fact, according to the CIA’s Duelfer report released late last year, Saddam Hussein had been trying in vain for years to persuade the US government to allow Iraq to return to its Reagan-era role as a US proxy in our quarter century-long fight against Iranian Islamist terror.

With the ascension of the Islamist regime of Prime Minister Ibrahim al- Jaafari to power this past May, Iraq, which has since concluded a military alliance with Iran, has all but joined the Iranian terror side of the conflict. The present Iraqi government has thus, by default, become our enemy in the war against terror whether our leaders are willing to recognize that or not. The result of the administration’s connivance in allowing this Islamist Shiite takeover and their implementation of their Islamist revolution in Iraq appears to be shaping up into a strategic defeat of the first order in our ongoing war against Islamic terror and a major victory for America’s enemies — the Islamic Republic of Iran, Al Queda and Osama bin Laden.

David T. Pyne, Esq. is President of the Center for the National Security Interest, a national security think-tank based in Arlington, VA.