Earlier this month President Bush announced 21,400 additional US troops will be sent to Iraq. These troops will join the currently 144,000 US troops already stationed in Iraq, as well as the 25,000 private security contractors, 7,000 British troops and other “coalition forces” occupying Iraq. President Bush has called for this spectacularly unpopular “troop escalation” as an attempt to suppress the insurgency in Iraq and provide security so that the slow and beguiled reconstruction can continue. What effect can we hope for this troop “surge” to have on the insurgency?
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 the levels of violence in Iraq have been, at best, consistent, and, more realistically, worsening. December 2006 was the 3rd deadliest of the 47 months since the US invasion for coalition forces, with 115 U.S. soldiers killed. What will the an additional 20,000 do that nearly 200,000 have been unable to do for nearly five years? After five years and billions of dollars the reconstruction effort has yet to restore the public infrastructure to prewar levels. A report conducted by the an interagency working group and leaked to the New York Times in November 2006 estimated the insurgency is funded predominantly by domestic means (largely oil smuggling and kidnapping) and is able to raise somewhere between 80 to 200 million dollars annually to fund their operations. Consider that the US spends over 100 billion dollars annually on its operation and the notion that increased spending on military operations is the answer to Iraq’s insurgency woes seems maliciously dishonest. Do we really expect an enemy that is already outspent by a factor of 500 to suddenly disappear when it is outspent by a factor of 550?
President Bush’s troop escalation should be opposed, not only because it needlessly puts tens of thousands for additional us troops in harms way, not only because it will cost billions of tax payer dollars at a time when health care and education in our nation are arguably in a state of crisis, but for the simple fact that it will not work. So long as there is a large and active US presence in Iraq, the insurgency, whether from sympathy or from fear, can expect tolerance and passive collaboration from the civilian population. It is this state of quasi-collaboration by the civilian population that allows the insurgency to remain undetectable until the moment it wishes to act, allowing the insurgency to continue indefinitely, whether it is outspent by a factor of 500 or by a factor of 1000.
Any plan to improve the situation in Iraq must begin with a swift withdrawal of US forces. With US troops gone there will be less sympathy for the insurgency. Civilians will be less likely to engage in the passive collaboration that has allowed the insurgency to succeed, and insurgents and militias will have a harder time recruiting without the agitating presence of US forces.
If we hope to see stability in Iraq there must also be a much more effective reconstruction effort. A reconstruction effort led by respected international organizations in cooperation with the Iraqi government would see greater effectiveness and fewer sabotage attempts than the US led reconstruction. Large scale reconstruction programs will also bring stability and increase the Iraqi quality of life both from the improvement in infrastructure as well as the large number of jobs such an effort would require. Regardless of the exact form post occupation Iraq will take, it is clear the path of military escalation is fatally flawed. If the newly elected Democrats are finding their seats in the capital comfortable, they might consider putting a stop to Bush’s troop escalation, or risk losing them in November ‘08.