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Lieberman Jolts Senate Debate On Iraq

Today during Congressional debate over the Iraq withdrawal proposal (there's little wiggle room to call it much else), Senator Joe Lieberman challenged his fellow Senators and passionately implored them to reconsider "congressional micromanagement of life-and-death decisions about how, where, and when our troops can fight." National Review's Kathryn Lopez provides the full text at the new NRO blog, The Tank. The key graphs - though still a lengthy excerpt - are below.

In sum, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t withdraw combat troops from Iraq and still fight Al Qaeda there. If you believe there is no hope of winning in Iraq, or that the costs of victory there are not worth it, then you should be for complete withdrawal as soon as possible.

There is another irony here as well.

For most of the past four years, under Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the United States did not try to establish basic security in Iraq. Rather than deploying enough troops necessary to protect the Iraqi people, the focus of our military has been on training and equipping Iraqi forces, protecting our own forces, and conducting targeted sweeps and raids—in other words, the very same missions proposed by the proponents of the legislation before us.

That strategy failed—and we know why it failed. It failed because we didn’t have enough troops to ensure security, which in turn created an opening for Al Qaeda and its allies to exploit. They stepped into this security vacuum and, through horrific violence, created a climate of fear and insecurity in which political and economic progress became impossible.

For years, many members of Congress recognized this. We talked about this. We called for more troops, and a new strategy, and—for that matter—a new secretary of defense.

And yet, now, just as President Bush has come around—just as he has recognized the mistakes his administration has made, and the need to focus on basic security in Iraq, and to install a new secretary of defense and a new commander in Iraq—now his critics in Congress have changed their minds and decided that the old, failed strategy wasn’t so bad after all.

What is going on here? What has changed so that the strategy that we criticized and rejected in 2006 suddenly makes sense in 2007?

The second element in the plan outlined by the Majority Leader on Monday is “the phased redeployment of our troops no later than October 1, 2007.”

Let us be absolutely clear what this means. This legislation would impose a binding deadline for U.S. troops to begin retreating from Iraq. This withdrawal would happen regardless of conditions on the ground, regardless of the recommendations of General Petraeus, in short regardless of reality on October 1, 2007.

As far as I can tell, none of the supporters of withdrawal have attempted to explain why October 1 is the magic date—what strategic or military significance this holds. Why not September 1? Or January 1? This is a date as arbitrary as it is inflexible—a deadline for defeat.

How do proponents of this deadline defend it? On Monday, Senator Reid gave several reasons. First, he said, a date for withdrawal puts “pressure on the Iraqis to make the desperately needed political compromises.”

But will it? According to the legislation now before us, the withdrawal will happen regardless of what the Iraqi government does.

How, then, if you are an Iraqi government official, does this give you any incentive to make the right choices?

When read in full, Senator Lieberman's spirited words echo in part the arguments made in my article published at National Review Online yesterday, This Is Counterterrorism, Senator.

Because Senator Lieberman read them? Hardly, and unlikely in any event. The arguments sound strikingly similar because, quite bluntly, "it ain't exactly Rocket Science."

Though, with what Senator Lieberman faces among his colleagues, one would think it was an advanced form of such science. His words in full are worth your time today.

9 Comments

It's with a tremendous exercise of self-restraint that I do not launch into a full-blown expletive-filled rant on the disgraceful behavior of Senator Lieberman. Instead, out of respect for the serious nature of this site, that I'll restrict my comments to the fallacy his statement that "You can't withdraw combat troops from Iraq and still fight Al Qaeda there."

In fact, the fight against Al Qaeda is primarily waged by joint Special Forces units, who will be remaining to conduct ongoing operations against individual terrorist targets. These joint Special Ops missions, as depicted in a recent Army Times piece last year, are one of the great success stories in the GWOT. The bulk of our Armed Forces deployed overseas are irrelevant to the success of such missions as the "Unblinking Eye" of TF145. You can Google those terms to get the back story.

In other words, we not only CAN have it both ways, but we've NEVER had all of our deployed troops engaged in the GWOT.

Jeff, precisely where do the SpecOps teams get their intel from?

Who is going to provide security for those people to the point that they feel comfortable providing it?

How Ramadi has turned the corner?

Jeff -- you are living in a fantasy world of Bill Clinton talking about "black clad ninjas" scaring bin Laden.

It's idiocy -- Spec Ops depends on the larger military presence. Withdraw and Spec Ops would look like ... Mogadishu.

The fight against Al Qaeda is being waged mostly by indigenous forces AIDED by regular Army or Marines.

This is true in Somalia today, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

All Dems want to do is turn over Iraq to Al Qaeda and Iran. Which will lead to the loss of Afghanistan and the knowledge of all indigenous forces who might have been willing to ally with us that we cannot be trusted. That indeed we can be driven out of anywhere, even the US itself, with enough casualties.

As noted, only indigenous forces can identify Al Qaeda targets, and they will only work with forces that are large enough to protect them and can demonstrate that they won't be hung out to dry against Al Qaeda.

A more deliberate attempt to get the US nuked by waving the white flag in Iraq could not be imagined.

I'll respond to your questions tomorrow, but here's something you both may find interesting in the meantime:

"Building the capacity of the Iraqi Army and specifically ISOF to prosecute the counter-insurgency [COIN] has been the primary focus of the 10th and 5th Special Forces Groups [SFG], while building the same capacity in the Afghan Security Forces has been the focus of the 3rd and 7th SFGs. Elements of 1st, 19th and 20th Groups have supported significantly over the past four years as well. While the Army’s Special Forces have been the numerically dominant battlefield presence, we have continuously employed Naval Special Warfare Forces and Command and control elements in both Iraq, Afghanistan and in providing personal security [PSD] for key leaders in Iraq and previously [in] Afghanistan. SEAL platoons and task units continue to conduct DA, SR, PSD, Sniper and FID missions as part of the CJSOTFs.

We are ably supported in our ground mission by elements of AFSOC with AC-130 U/H gunships, MC-130 Talons and MH-53M helicopters providing the agile lift-and-fire support for the ground forces. Elements of the 160th SOAR round out our aviation and fire support with their full complement of assets and capability. This air-and-fire package is commanded and operated by our joint special operations aviation component, which plans, commands and controls operations throughout the AOR from multiple locations."

Source: http://www.special-operations-technology.com/article.cfm?DocID=1356

Michael Yon in Baghdad

Surreal pictures of an abandoned Christian Church, in pristine shape, and untouched, new computers, books, and all, in the middle of a neighborhood devasted by war and crime, and mostly abandoned.

"On these empty streets it becomes clear that the war that began in March 2003 has been lost to rampant crime, civil war and the sundry insurgencies that have shorn the Iraqi fabric. But while our fire brigades pour up from Kuwait into Iraq, and while our allies pull out one by one, we are reinvading Iraq with not a second wave but a “surge” of brigade after brigade barreling up IED-laced highways."

Steve - Here are your questions to me. My answers are inline:

"Jeff, precisely where do the SpecOps teams get their intel from?"

- The only public info that I've seen on this says that the intel is generated through the interrogation of captured prisoners and the evaluation of documents and computer forensics. Since teams involved in these operations include CIA and FBI agents, all the analysis can be done on-site, so that they can rapidly move from target to target.

"Who is going to provide security for those people to the point that they feel comfortable providing it?"
- Army Rangers provide security, along with support by conventional forces. However, it's important to note that it's not ALL conventional forces, and that they play a supporting role only.

How Ramadi has turned the corner?

- You're referring to the success of the Surge in Ramadi? That's a feather in the cap of Petraeus and conventional forces - both U.S. and Iraqi, but I think it can be done by Iraqi forces alone once they've been trained to do it.

To reiterate my point, Lieberman is wrong when he says you cannot withdraw combat troops and still fight AQ, for the reasons I've spelled out above.

While agreeing with Lieberman's perspective, I must also note that Senator Biden's point of view, while favoring withdrawal, does not want to do so precipitously, and also sees partitioning as a possible solution.

The U.S. cannot withdraw without a certainty of stability in Iraq. The question remains how to achieve that stability, when, at least by my view, it is hard to characterize what we see there as anything but a civil war. It is hard to imagine the result of a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq at this point. While al Qaeda's influence has spread, al Qaeda has made Iraq a focal point (as we have) for the War on Terror.

Partitioning of Iraq may well be the end result of all of this. I realize that this conclusion is debatable and maybe controversial.

The 'limited' war for 'hearts and minds'
By Diana West

Someday, when the war in Iraq has become a historical episode, we will tally up the lessons learned -- if, that is, we ever learn any. Here are two worth mastering because failing to do so probably means we will no longer exist.

1. Nation-building in a war zone is nuts. Nation-building in an Islamic war zone is suicide.
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According to WorldPublicOpinion.org, more than half of those polled in Indonesia, and three-quarters of those polled in Egypt, Morocco and Pakistan believe in the strict application of Sharia, or Islamic law. Nearly two-thirds of all respondents expressed their desire to see the Islamic world united in a caliphate.

Which brings me to
Lesson 2.

With numbers like these, portraying jihadist war goals (Sharia, caliphate) as belonging to a "tiny band of extremists" is nuts. Persisting in this PC fantasy as part of the narrative and strategy of the "war on terror" is suicidal.

The tooth-to-tail ratio for SOF activities is fairly substantial. Not as big as the "big army" ratio, but still substantial. Having been responsible for providing some of that intel support - including forensics - I can tell you with certainty that such activities come with a very large footprint.

It is also important to note one of the major roles SOF played in AFG: spotting for PGMs. So now you don't just have clerks and jerks backing up the "ninjas" but an air wing or two (or a carrier and all the related support ships).