The Wall Street Journal editorial page strikes again. Eliot Cohen says that it is time for "Plan B" in Iraq. But then he refuses to tell us what his favored "Plan B" is. Instead he calls for an "honest debate."
What good can possibly come from somebody who demands that somebody else come up with "Plan B"? Particularly since he begins by saying "It will be important in future years to settle whether the Iraq war was the right idea badly executed, an enterprise doomed to disappoint, or simply folly. There will be individuals to be held accountable... and institutions whose shortcomings require not only soul-searching but reform. That's for later"--in other words, "please don't make the people that I and my friends supported for so long come clean now"?
If he wants to play this hand, he needs to ante up--to set out his favored "Plan B":
Plan B - WSJ.com: By ELIOT A. COHEN: That the Iraq war is, if not a failure, failing, requires little demonstration. By all measure... things have been getting worse.... [T]he police... are penetrated by militias. Iranian influence spreads, and Iranian-designed and -manufactured improvised explosive devices inflict higher tolls on American troops. With an eye to the forthcoming American elections, the enemy is ratcheting up the violence, and successfully.
It will be important in future years to settle whether the Iraq war was the right idea badly executed, an enterprise doomed to disappoint, or simply folly. There will be individuals to be held accountable (not all of whom have been in the crosshairs of journalists and partisans), and institutions whose shortcomings require not only soul-searching but reform. That's for later. The question now is, what should we do?...
[W]hat are the alternatives?... [1. T]urning to Iran and Syria to, in effect, bail out the U.S.... [2.] Simple withdrawal.... [3.] Double your bets. Conversely, the U.S. could react by reasserting its strength in Iraq -- sending an additional 30,000 or 40,000 troops to secure Baghdad and its environs, and making a far more strenuous effort than it has thus far to take control.... [4.] The U.S. military, at its current strength or something less, could, conceivably, simply retreat to its forward operating bases, do its best to train a neutral and effective military and police force, and allow communal violence to take its course.... Back to counterinsurgency. One school has it that the U.S. should never have engaged directly in combat with Iraqi insurgents. Instead, it should have focused overwhelmingly on the training mission.... [5.] A junta of military modernizers... [6.] Break it up....
All of the options for Plan B are either wretched to contemplate or based on fantasy; the most plausible (the sixth option, a coup which we quietly endorse) would involve a substantial repast of crow that this administration will be deeply unwilling to eat....
An honest debate about Iraq policy will require of all who participate in it to acknowledge some unpleasant facts.... [T]he enemy (or rather, enemies, of us and of one another) exercises a vote.... American prestige has taken a hard knock; it will probably take a harder knock, and in ways that will not be restored without a considerable and successful use of American military power down the road. The tides of Sunni salafism and Iran's distinct combination of messianism and power politics have not crested.... Whether it be the Islamization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the subversion of conservative regimes by salafist movements, or the continuing radicalization of European Muslims, the Long War, as the administration calls it, will be even longer, and more difficult, than anyone might have thought.
It is folly to think we can win in Iraq the way some of us thought possible in 2003. It would be even greater folly to think that by getting out, learning our lessons, and licking our wounds we can save ourselves from considerable danger, expense, effort and loss in what remains a protracted and global conflict with mortal enemies.
I see three options:
- Pay the price that Egypt and others will demand for putting 500,000 Arabic speaking military policemen in Iraq to create stability-- that price will probably include a lot of foreign aid and a settler-free Palestine on the West Bank.
- Mobilize America: start drafting and train our own million-strong peace-and-security-maintenance force.
- Strike whatever deal we can with--get whatever commitments we can from--Iran and Syria to stabilize Iraq, and pull out.
I favor (1), and then (3). (2) is unthinkable, in my view, until after the impeachment and removal from office of Cheney and Bush.