Winning the Peace

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Well, this is truly repulsive (subsc.):

Although American commanders in Iraq have been buoyed by recent successes in insurgent-held towns such as Samarra and Tall Afar, administration and Pentagon officials say they will not try to retake cities such as Fallouja and Ramadi—where the insurgents' grip is strongest and U.S. military casualties could be the highest—until after Americans vote in what is likely to be an extremely close election.

"When this election's over, you'll see us move very vigorously," said one senior administration official involved in strategic planning, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Once you're past the election, it changes the political ramifications" of a large-scale offensive, the official said. "We're not on hold right now. We're just not as aggressive."

[…]

"The State Department can talk about people voting everywhere. But securing Iraq in time for the election can't happen without the U.S. military," the Defense official said.

During a recent trip to Washington, [Iraqi Prime Minister] Allawi expressed his interest in reclaiming insurgent-controlled cities in the Sunni Triangle in time for the January election, even in light of the potentially negative political impact in Iraq that a bloody military operation could have.

Yet officials say that the man who owes his job to President Bush—and might not have such a warm relationship with a President John F. Kerry—does not want to press his case too hard before the U.S. election.

NEXT: Enlightened? Compassionate? That Couldn't Have Been Us.

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  1. Julian,

    Well, whatever the motivation behind this decision, isn’t leaving more strategic decisions to the next Commander-In-Chief (whoever that may be) better? If Kerry were to win, and didn’t want to pursue a strategy which involved the military retaking of these places (which seems entirely possible), wouldn’t it be better not to go in to begin with?

  2. “Repulsive”? I do not think that word means what you think it means. Sounds like basic political sense and thinking long-term to me.

  3. Tim,

    I don’t think anyone military or civilian leader’s strategy should be to delay a decision until the next leader takes over. The military leaders in Iraq need to assess the effectiveness of the insurgents in using these towns as bases of operations, and if the risk of a direct assault on the towns is less than or greater than the risk of leaving the status quo, and act or delay on that assessement. US political ramifications of this decision shouldn’t be a factor.

    If the insurgents are using these towns as bases to successfully launch attacks against Iraqi and US targets, and the risk of the status quo is greater than the risk of a direct assault, then the correct strategy should be to stop the insurgents now, not wait to see if Bush wins the election to carry on.

    If the US commanders in Iraq or their Pentagon superiors are considering US political ramifications, then we really might not have learned anything in the last 35 years. I am not so naive as to think this is impossible.

    Scott

  4. The article makes more sense when read in its entirety.

  5. This makes little sense in light of the recent Samarrah assault. Was this a slip-up, was it pre-policy, or was the overwhelmingly positive result a turn off to a repeat? Some one should call up the anonymous sources and ask. Whenever I see such sources invoked, the vision of a reporter buying a tipsy intern a few more drinks so they can talk, comes to mind.

    Another explanation for taking some time to go into Fallujah and Ramadi, is that like the Samarrah assault, having significant Iraqi participation makes for more likely long term success. This was tried initially in Fallujah and it failed when the Iraqis weren’t up to the task. It worked well in Samarrah, especially with regard to securing the mosques. Given that many of the adequately trianed troops are staying in Samarrah to make sure things stay okey-dokey, maybe they are waiting for more troops to get through proper training. Not speaking authoritatively here, just giving another possibility.

    I’m not claiming that this isn’t true, it’s just that the sources are sketchy and it doesn’t jibe with certain realities. Clear those up and we can delve into it’s repulsiveness.

  6. “isn’t leaving more strategic decisions to the next Commander-In-Chief (whoever that may be) better?”

    My understanding is that the offensive is delayed until after the US electins (Nov 2nd) and BEFORE the Iraqi elections (scheduled for January 2005). So, it is not a case of leaving it to the next Commader-In-Chief.

  7. I have to agree with Mr. Sanchez; it’s repulsive because they are doing a reverse-October Surprise. Rather than putting off a beneficial move until right before the election (the traditional October Surprise scenario) they are putting off a potientially bad move until after the election, so that the public, when deciding their vote, will not have the information of the true consequences of the incubent president’s decisions.

  8. Is this LAT’s response to Bush’s comment during the debate that we cannot have a president that will fight the war based on politics?

  9. Mo,

    Or maybe the LAT is basing their reporting on thier politics?

  10. It seems to me that a story of military decisions (which seriously affect the lives of U.S. soldiers and their families) being based on political power struggles transcends political affiliations. Sure, it’s something that has happened throughout history, but only partisan loyalists are able to hit their morality switch with such ease as to think that because a reprehensible, cowardly act is committed regularly by both sides, that it somehow makes the act acceptable.

    It was disgusting when it was done by Kennedy and it’s equally disgusting now.

  11. Flyover,
    Sure, their biases may have led to the coverage, but I’m not going to ignore every bit of anti-Kerry info from Fox or NRO just because of the source.

  12. Repulsive… but hardly shocking.

  13. Funny, I always thought that war was supposed to be prosecuted at full tilt until you reached a definable objective. It’s absolutely disgusting that the commander-in-chief would pussyfoot around and increase the serious danger that our troops are in. I don’t think JK would necessarily be any better, but you have to admit this is a pretty vile way of waging war.

  14. Anon,

    Good point – I forgot about the inauguration lag.

  15. Sure it’s from the L.A.T. and an unnamed source, but it sounds true. If it is true, what other aspects of the War on Terror are just politics?

  16. “U.S. officials point out that there have been no direct orders to commanders to halt operations in the weeks before the November 2 U.S. election. Top administration officials in Washington are simply reluctant to sign off on a major offensive in Iraq at the height of the political season.

    Ah, the Charles Keating defense!

    If Iraqi democracy is important to our security, then anything that compromises the legitimacy of the newly elected government is bad news. If, “top administration officials are reluctant to sign off on a major offensive…” necessary to ensure the legitimacy of the newly elected Iraqi government, then their heads should roll.

    …If “top administration officials” are willfully ignoring their duty in order to buoy Bush’s campaign, then their behavior is more than just disgusting; the success of democracy in Iraq is more important to our national security than the reelection of President Bush.

  17. Mac Daddy Hoon,

    I agree that the political ramifications of military decisions should not be a factor in the making of the military decisions. What I was originally suggesting is that it might not be wise for the military to commit resources to a strategy which serves goals that are going to change in a month or two. That is to say, I wasn’t talking about the political ramifications of military desicions, but the military/strategic ramifications of political decisions. However, as anon pointed out, my comment was wrong because Bush will still be president up until the Iraqi elections regardless of who wins our election.

  18. Perhaps they’re anticipating the likely criticisms that a successful assault shortly before U.S. elections was made for political reasons.

    It’s bad, but not disgusting.

    I think it’s probably just an unintended consequence of such criticisms. They don’t end politically motivated military decisions. They cause differently politically motivated military decisions.

  19. Maybe the administration figures “If Bush isn’t re-elected, the soldiers have died in vain.”

    Those poor guys.

  20. “If war is part of policy, policy will determine its character. As policy becomes more ambitious and vigorous, so will war, and this may reach the point where war attains its absolute form.” — von Klauswitz

  21. Well, looks like the LAT is full of shit once again, as Iraqi forces along with US Marines just went into Ramadi.
    Repulsive, indeed.

    http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/10/12/iraq.main/index.html

  22. staid beat me to it. Indeed, once again a thinly sourced piece by a major news organization shockingly fails to predict the administration’s actual decisions. Thank God they didn’t ask the administration for a response. That might have killed the opportunity to write the story! but of course we all know that Karl Rove actually called in this operation himself when he saw the article,…right?

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