Stephen Biddle, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council of Foreign Relations, argues that the military reality of Iraq does not provide a basis for a “middle ground” between the current surge and full withdrawal of U.S. forces. This is so because it is hard “to find a mission for. . .60,000 to 80,000 soldiers that makes any sense militarily.” Accordingly, in Biddle’s view, “the substantive case for [the] surge or [for] outright withdrawal is stronger than for any policy between.”
I disagree. With 60,000 to 80,000 troops we could probably sustain our successful efforts against al Qaeda in Anbar province, help protect the Kurdish areas, and provide some insurance against all-out genocide. We could also avoid sustaining the out-and-out defeat that full withdrawal would represent, and all that such a defeat would entail.
However, as I argued yesterday, a middle ground approach is no more politically sustainable than our present policy. As Biddle explains, such approaches would leave us with continuing casualties and less chance than we have now of obtaining stability.
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