Today on Hot Air TV, our second report from Baghdad highlights Iraqi voices.
Bryan writes about the kids in the slums and the Oil for Food legacy in Iraq.
Both the troops and Iraqis we met stressed the importance of jobs as a preventive measure against militia and insurgency recruitment. This jibes with the sentiments in a good article in the New York Times yesterday on efforts to reopen Iraqi factories in Ramadi:
“Any opportunity to re-employ more people and give the government a chance to get income from these factories is important,” said Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, an Anbar tribal leader, as he toured the porcelain and tile factories in his flowing black-and-gold robes. “Especially in this time when Anbar is experiencing terrorism.”
The sheik added, in reference to the idle Iraqis who put the unemployment rate at anywhere from an estimated 30 percent to 60 percent, “They are normal human beings — they would rather work than make violence.”
The concern, of course, is that you can’t put the economic revitalization cart before the security horse–which is why executing the surge and clear-and-hold plans successfully is so key.
Related: Charles Krauthammer proposes a “Plan B.”
Right now there are only three policies on the table: (1) the surge, which a majority of Congress opposes, (2) the status quo, which everybody opposes, and (3) the abandonment of Iraq, which appears to be the default Democratic alternative.
What is missing is a fourth alternative, both as a threat to Maliki and as an actual fallback if the surge fails. The Pentagon should be working on a sustainable Plan B whose major element would be not so much a drawdown of troops as a drawdown of risk to our troops. If we had zero American casualties a day, there would be as little need to withdraw from Iraq as there is to withdraw from the Balkans.
We need to find a redeployment strategy that maintains as much latent American strength as possible, but with minimal exposure. We say to Maliki: Let us down, and we dismantle the Green Zone, leave Baghdad and let you fend for yourself; we keep the airport and certain strategic bases in the area; we redeploy most of our forces to Kurdistan; we maintain a significant presence in Anbar province, where we are having success in our one-front war against al-Qaeda and the Baathists. Then we watch. You can have your Baghdad civil war without us. We will be around to pick up the pieces as best we can.
This is not a great option, but fallbacks never are. It does have the virtue of being better than all the others, if the surge fails. It has the additional virtue of increasing the chances that the surge will succeed.