Here’s my plan for success in Iraq. (I’m not going to stretch to call it “victory,” I will leave it at “success,” where I define success to mean that the Iraqi government has sovereignty and authority, sectarian violence ceases, al-Qaeda cannot fill a power vacuum, and Americans stop dying.) This is a draconian plan, yes. It’s harsh realpolitik, yes. But how else can you treat a country tipping into a civil war where 10-year-olds join the Mahdi Army to fight the American invader?
- Announce a timetable for phased pullout of combat troops to the Iraqi government. The pullout should begin immediately, start small, and ramp up such that noticeable levels of American troops are leaving Iraq within six months to a year.
- Simultaneously with the combat troop pullout:
- Deploy increasing numbers of special forces elements in Iraq, with a specifically counterterror mission objective. These troops should be inserted in such a way that they are largely invisible to the Iraqi public, and they should be located at secure bases. They should respond instantly to both al-Qaeda-style terrorism and Iraqi sectarian terrorism.
- Scale up the number of military advisors deployed with the Iraqi police and army. These men should be authorized only to protect themselves if exposed to violence.
- Drop aid packages all over Iraq. Blanket Sadr City with first-aid kits and MREs.
- If (hopefully, “When”) the Iraqi government asks us to stop our pullout and assist them (assuming they don’t grow into the role we leave them with and combat sectarian violence themselves), we refuse the first couple of times.
- Eventually, though, we need to be prepared to go back with troops. The idea here is that we enter the country at the behest of the Iraqis, and we enter on a purely peacekeeping mission. Once the Iraqi police is capable of patrolling the streets, we leave for real.
- Back home, we legislate a higher mandatory fleet average fuel economy for automakers, we put strict mandatory carbon-emissions limits on industry, and we pour tons of research money into electric cars, solar Stirling converters, fuel cells, wind turbines, and fusion and pebble-bed reactors. We make it abundantly clear (and true) that we don’t need to pay attention to the Middle East for energy needs, so that Middle Eastern powers can’t blackmail us into any action.