Most of what I’ve read about the contemplated surge of American forces in Iraq talks about 25,000 to 30,000 additional troops. However, John Keegan, the distinguished British military historian, calls for an increase of 50,000, saying that a surge of this magnitude “can save Iraq.”
Keegan has in mind an attack that would “overwhelm the insurgents with a sudden concentration, both of numbers, armoured vehicles and firepower with the intention to inflict severe losses and heavy shock.” He contends that “the Mahdi Army in Sadr City should prove vulnerable to such tactics. . .” Keegan adds that after these attacks, the extra forces provide cover for our gradual exit from Iraq.
I favor neither the surge nor the exit. Keegan assumes that Iraq can be saved by winning a few decisive battles against the forces that are creating the instability. But it seems more likely that these forces would decline to engage us in true battle and instead would melt away for while, contenting themselves with acts of terror. Indeed, they seem already to be adopting this approach.
That’s why most surge advocates say that we need to remain engaged, and at post-surge troop levels, for an extended period (say 18 months) during which we would police the worst neighborhoods. But then objections regarding manpower and over-stretch come into play. More importantly, there’s little reason to believe that the various insurgent forces and militias can’t wait us out for even that sort of extended period.
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