January 9, 2007 | National Review Online

Symposium: Surge Scoring

Clifford D. May
There are really only three options:

1) Stay the course. At this point, just about everyone believes the course we have followed for the past year has not worked. The Rumsfeld/Abizaid strategy was not an incoherent strategy (training Iraqis to “stand up so Americans could stand down”) but against opponents adept at inciting sectarian strife it failed to get the job done, failed to establish metrics of success more convincing than the televised metrics of failure. 

2) Accept defeat. Call it “redeployment,” do it quick (Murtha’s way) or do it slow (a la Baker/Hamilton). It still would mean the U.S. had met its match on the mean streets of Baghdad. And it would mean that those dispatching the suicide bombers, the most ruthless and barbaric elements in Iraq (and in Iran and Syria) would emerge victorious. To them would go the spoils. 

Nor would it be America’s last defeat. How many suicide-bombers would be required in the markets of Kabul before the chaos and carnage drove us out of Afghanistan as well? And then how long before Pakistan recognized who was the strong horse and who was the weak horse and switched its allegiance back where it used to be? How long before Jordan, Bangladesh and other countries sought accommodation with Tehran (a regime that knows how to project power in the 21st century) and distanced themselves from the United States (which will have demonstrated that it does not)? Bye-bye Lebanon.

3) Try a new strategy. We said early on that, in Iraq, failure was not an option. We never said that the first strategy had to be the right strategy or that the generals in charge in the beginning had to be in charge at the end.

My reservations: Are 20,000 troops enough to get the job done? Can Iraqis shoulder the considerable burdens this plan requires of them? Can Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stand and deliver? I’m hopeful, but that’s not as good as confident.

 — Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.

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