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By Ralph Peters
Posted December 5, 2006
The proposal to embed more American military trainers with Iraqi units makes sense, but creates a grave danger: the prospect of a coordinated revolt among Shias in uniform who slaughter or take hostage thousands of our dispersed troops.
The best deterrent is the back-up presence of our own Army and Marine combat formations. As long as our cavalry can ride to the rescue, the prospect of a sectarian mutiny to "teach America a lesson" and humiliate us remains low.
Now early word has it that The Fabulous Baker Boys (straight from the political boneyard and known formally as the Iraq Study Group) will recommend withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq by 2008, while leaving behind our embedded trainers and vulnerable support units.
This is the sort of nonsense that sounds great to civilians with no military experience. To veterans, it's nuts.
The problem here is the com position of the panel headed by former Secretary of State James Baker. Not only does it drag yesteryear's Washington insiders out of the crypt, its make-up reveals the disgraceful extent to which our governing "elite" despises those in uniform.
Why on earth wasn't a single retired military officer appointed to the the Iraq Study Group? We're at war, for Heaven's sake. Briefly interviewing a few generals is no substitute for a steadying military voice amid the committee's naifs.
Washington insiders pretend to respect our troops but continue to believe that those in uniform are second-raters and that any political hack can design better war plans than those who've dedicated their lives to military service. This is arrogance soaring through the clouds - and a disheartening replay of the shut-out-military-advice approach to warfare that got us into such a mess in Iraq.
The administration should've swallowed its pride and asked retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki to sit on the panel. Or Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who knows how to think and fight. Or just a lieutenant with a combat patch on his shoulder.
Instead, we got Vernon Jordan (presumably, the token lobbyist) and retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Jordan may know K Street inside out, but he doesn't know a thing about the streets of Baghdad. O'Connor was a terrific Supreme, but she has no background in military matters, the Middle East or international affairs.
What the Iraq Study Group does have is a staff with long ties to the Saudis. And Baker's own relationship with the Saudi royal family has been so accommodating that he often seemed more of a Saudi lobbyist than a U.S. official. He's got plenty of time for billionaire sheiks and princes, but none for American officers.
This is going to be Saudi Arabia's report (and Syria's, too - Baker never met a dictator he didn't like). Even Iran may get a nice slice of the pie. The study's underlying strategy will be to re-establish the sort of phony stability that gave us the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein - both horses backed by Baker.
The composition of the study group was just a set-up. Baker didn't want experts who could challenge his "experience." And the much-praised bipartisan nature of the panel is meaningless when every member is from the old, failed guard and the youngest member is in his late 60s. Think they're going to produce innovative thinking and fresh ideas?
So we're left with another panel of amateurs designing a military strategy - this one recommending the withdrawal of our combat troops, who constitute the only insurance plan we have in Iraq. Baker would then leave behind embedded trainers and vulnerable logistics bases.
The model for what could re sult comes from the Eng lish-speaking world's history with Islam. In mid-19th-century India, as the British sahibs kidded themselves that their "loyal" subordinates adored them, Muslim (and Hindu) East India Company troops staged widespread, coordinated attacks that butchered "embedded" officers, government officials and their families.
"Mercy" wasn't in the mutineers vocabulary. The torture of captives was common. Sound like Iraq to anybody?
The Sepoy Mutiny was a close-run thing. Only the presence of British regiments saved the day. Wherever they had substantial numbers of regulars to call on, the Brits were able to hold off the masses of religious fanatics until additional forces arrived from elsewhere in the empire.
Unlike our politically correct leadership in Iraq, yesteryear's Brits responded to savagery with savagery. The result was six decades of internal peace in India.
Of course, not a few American officers would dismiss the possibility that "their" Iraqis could turn on them. That's exactly how the British officers felt.
Our trainers would put up a tough fight against any such revolt. But they could only fight as long as they had ammunition. Even the best Special Forces A-team we've got couldn't hold on indefinitely against a battalion led by fanatics.
Let's not permit vanity-intoxicated Washington has-beens to dictate military policy. If we've learned nothing else from Iraq (and we should've learned plenty by now), it's that the details of military operations must be left to professionals: Tell the generals what you want them to do, Mr. President - then let them figure out the best way to do it.
Only a ship of fools could launch the recommendation that we address the problems of violence-ravaged Iraq by withdrawing our combat troops and leaving behind tens of thousands of hostages in uniform.