Playing To Win In Iraq
By Jeff Lukens

Imagine a Super Bowl football team quitting the game in the third quarter simply because they were behind. The premise is so absurd it is inconceivable. So too would be our quitting a war to protect our way of life simply because battlefield conditions are not going perfectly.

Football teams continually adjust their tactics and strategy during a game based on playing conditions on the field. And so does a nation at war. Seldom does any country enter a war with a perfect strategy in which to win it. Almost always, shortcomings are found that require a new approach. A victorious nation modifies what needs to be modified, and they go on.

Thatís what weíve done in almost every war since the American Revolution. It did not happen in the first Iraq war in 1991 because it was over so quickly, but itís what we must do now in the second Iraq war. No one ever said things would go perfectly this time. Unlike football, no one knows for sure when a war will end. But we do know that if we don't play to win, we are sure we lose.

We cannot afford for Iraq to become a base of operations for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups regardless of the drivel to the contrary seen in the New York Times or on CNN. And that is what we face by withdrawing troops and expecting the Iraqi army to take over by the end of the year.

Strategically, the prospect of democratizing the Middle East remains the only plausible long-term alternative to radical Islam. No matter how complex, altering the political traditions in that region remains a necessity. No other option can bring us long-term success. Iraq is where the process begins.

For that to happen, the Iraqi people need to be protected from insurgents and sectarian death squads, or a political solution cannot be achieved. If the U.S. and Iraqi army do not provide them security, the Iraqi people will search for security wherever they can find it.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia has become a menace to stability because of the Sunni insurgent attacks on innocent Shiites. Shia death-squads have filled a void left by a government too ineffectual to provide security to its people from the insurgents.

To stabilize the country, deal with the militias, and deal a decisive blow against the insurgency, rather than reducing American forces in Iraq, we probably need more troops.

Moreover, our troops need more open rules of engagement to do their job effectively. This is war, and they are soldiers, not police officers. The U.S. and Iraqi governments must expect civilian casualties and collateral damage. Itís unavoidable. The irony in this matter is that most Iraqi people would welcome the increased security.

We also need to prevent Iran and Syria from meddling in Iraq. Once we deploy troops on the Iran-Iraq border, Iraqi Shiites will more aggressively search out Iranian agents in the slum neighborhoods of Baghdad. When we show resolve that we are not going to run away, Iraq's leaders will be more confident about their position, and hence govern better as well.

Iraqi forces must own this war, and in the end, win it. Insurgents number at most 10,000. They should be no match over time for a growing army numbering more than 129,000 trained Iraqi soldiers. When the Iraqi people see their army engaging and winning against the terrorists, their perception will change and the war will turn in our favor.

If Iraqis do not establish a viable government that effectively deals with security, the situation will worsen no matter what we do. In the end, a new coalition will need to be formed by moderate Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis.

Such a government nearly came about following the last Iraqi election. With al-Sadr gone, moderation may be possible again. A new government could be formed that may actually preside over the national interest.

At home, the negativism of the Democrats and their media allies regarding this war has been deplorable, if not treasonous. We are in this mess largely because their self-serving statements have encouraged our enemies. With their taking control of Congress, we cannot afford to ignore these statements and their corrosive effects any longer. They must be called out on any statement that undercuts our national security.

Recently, Sen. Joe Lieberman rightly noted, "In Iraq today we have a responsibility to do what is strategically and morally right for our nation over the long term -- not what appears easier in the short term." In other words, we need to continue to advance freedom and moderation in the Middle East, and not run away.

Americans will support a winning strategy. But advisers to the president have also been failing him by taking half steps in this war. We have never had enough troops on the ground. We should applaud, however, his resolve to withstand the demands of a growing number of hand-wringers who are only looking for an easy way out. Only President Bush can make the changes necessary to turn this struggle around. It is his job to lay out the plan.

The only substitute for the defeatism of the Left is a renewed determination to win by the rest of us. That, admittedly, is a tall order. But we can only win this war by a public that demands victory from the naysayers. And that, my friends, is our job. Making our voices heard is critical for all who are concerned about winning this necessary war.



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Copyright 2000-2007, Jeff Lukens