Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Stratfor says we have lost the Iraq War

This came from a friend who can read the Andrew Sullivan site w/o ill effect:

"STRATFOR ON THE WAR: Like many other smart analysts, the pro-war Stratfor military experts have concluded that the war to control the Iraq insurgency or to erect democratic institutions in Iraq has been lost (subscription required). I think it's time to start truly absorbing this possibility. Why lost? Because we blew the opportunity to control the terrain with insufficient troops and terrible intelligence; because all the institutions required to build democracy in Iraq have already been infiltrated by insurgents; because at key moments - they mention the fall of 2003 or spring of 2004 - we simply failed to crush the insurgency when we might have had a chance of success. Short version: we had a brief window of opportunity to turn our armed intervention into democratic liberation and we blew it. Money quote:

The issue facing the Bush administration is simple. It can continue to fight the war as it has, hoping that a miracle will bring successes in 2005 that didn't happen in 2004. Alternatively, it can accept the reality that the guerrilla force is now self-sustaining and sufficiently large not to flicker out and face the fact that a U.S. conventional force of less than 150,000 is not likely to suppress the guerrillas. More to the point, it can recognize these facts: 1. The United States cannot re-engineer Iraq because the guerrillas will infiltrate every institution it creates. 2. That the United States by itself lacks the intelligence capabilities to fight an effective counterinsurgency. 3. That exposing U.S. forces to security responsibilities in this environment generates casualties without bringing the United States closer to the goal. 4. That the strain on the U.S. force is undermining its ability to react to opportunities and threats in the rest of the region. And that, therefore, this phase of the Iraq campaign must be halted as soon as possible.

They recommend withdrawing U.S. forces to the periphery of Iraq and letting the inevitable civil war take place in the center.

DARKNESS BEFORE DAWN? The war has not been a complete loss, Stratfor argues, because it has engineered a slight shift in the behavior of neighboring regimes, and has allowed us to have a new base in the Middle East. The conclusion:

Certainly, it would have been nice for the United States if it had been able to dominate Iraq thoroughly. Somewhere between "the U.S. blew it" and "there was never a chance" that possibility is gone. It would have been nice if the United States had never tried to control the situation, because now the United States is going to have to accept a defeat, which will destabilize the region psychologically for a while. But what is is, and the facts speak for themselves. We are not Walter Cronkite, and we are not saying that the war is lost. The war is with the jihadists around the world; Iraq was just one campaign, and the occupation of the Sunnis was just one phase of that campaign. That phase has been lost. The administration has allowed that phase to become the war as a whole in the public mind. That was a very bad move, but the administration is just going to have to bite the bullet and do the hard, painful and embarrassing work of cutting losses and getting on with the war. If Bush has trouble doing this, he should conjure up Lyndon Johnson's ghost, wandering restlessly in the White House, and imagine how Johnson would have been remembered if he had told Robert McNamara to get lost in 1966."

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