With President Bush about to reveal a "new" strategy in Iraq, the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute has placed its own plan on the table.
It is eye-popping in its breadth, not to mention its potential cost in blood and treasure. The highlights are these:
- Seven brigades of new forces, or up to around 25,000 soldiers, will "surge" into dangerous neighborhoodsprimarily in Baghdadto clean them up.
- The military plan will be connected to other components on the diplomatic, political, and economic fronts.
- The extended mission will extend through 2007. As an AEI resident scholar said, "We should be prepared for a bloody year."
Frederick Kagan, the AEI scholar, told reporters at a briefing that "we are going to be very uncomfortable with a force less" than the aforementioned level.
Kagan, who sounded like a five-star general issuing a battle plan, didn't seem to recognize that his comfort level was not matched by that of much of the country.
This plan, Kagan went on, could not be successful in the short term without all the components moving forward. The huge and eventual cost of this dazzling scheme escaped me.
Retired Gen. Jack Keane, the former vice chair of the Army, sounded a bit more reasonable than Kagan. But he made clear the United States would lose if "there was a hopeless wringing of hands."
Forgive me for interrupting, gentlemen, but this has a familiar ring to it, a ring that has been repeated for four years. And the American voters, in opinion polls and with their ballots in November, have made it clear they are tired of these reassurances of ultimate victory.
The Bush administration, largely through the errant predictions and dissembling of leaders like Dick Cheney, has dulled our minds with faulty expectations. The cheerleaders of the Bush team have made the periodic claims that we are on the verge of winning. It never happens.
If anything close to the AEI plan is announced by Bush, it will take a masterful selling job in Congress. Most Democrats and a growing number of Republicans are opposed to the military surge, as are some in the highest ranks of the military.
Hawks like William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, champions of the war from the start, challenge critics to support an alternative. He embraces the AEI scheme.
Give Mr. Maliki about 90 days to demonstrate he can put down the brunt of the sectarian war. Call it an ultimatum if you like. After that period, commence a redeployment and withdrawal of our troops.
The United States has eliminated the brutal and hated tyrant. It is finally time for the Iraqis to accept the responsibility for their country's future.