The Real Iraq We Knew

Today's Washington Post has an editorial by 12 former U.S. Army captains, all of whom served in Iraq. They are not pleased with current policy.

... the U.S. military has been trying in vain to hold the country together. Even with "the surge," we simply do not have enough soldiers and marines to meet the professed goals of clearing areas from insurgent control, holding them securely and building sustainable institutions. Though temporary reinforcing operations in places like Fallujah, An Najaf, Tal Afar, and now Baghdad may brief well on PowerPoint presentations, in practice they just push insurgents to another spot on the map and often strengthen the insurgents' cause by harassing locals to a point of swayed allegiances. Millions of Iraqis correctly recognize these actions for what they are and vote with their feet -- moving within Iraq or leaving the country entirely. Still, our colonels and generals keep holding on to flawed concepts...

This is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reality we experienced. This is what we tried to communicate up the chain of command. This is either what did not get passed on to our civilian leadership or what our civilian leaders chose to ignore. While our generals pursue a strategy dependent on peace breaking out, the Iraqis prepare for their war -- and our servicemen and women, and their families, continue to suffer.

There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.

America, it has been five years. It's time to make a choice.

I'm pretty sure this sentiment is more widespread than the Pentagon is willing to admit. Of course, the nation's military policy is not decided by captains - nor should it be. Their proposed solution of "get out or impose a draft" isn't especially workable, either. Even if you could re-start the draft tomorrow, it would take a couple of years to train enough troops to make a difference. In World War II it was relatively simple to convert farm boys into infantry soldiers with a few months of training. That is not the case in today's high-tech military.

Where are we left? The same place we are now: all the options are bad. Choose your poison.

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