|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Conditions in Iraq will not improve sufficiently by September to justify a drawdown of U.S. military forces, the top commander in Iraq said yesterday.
Asked whether he thought the job assigned to an additional 30,000 troops deployed as the centerpiece of President Bush's new war strategy would be completed by then, Gen. David H. Petraeus replied: "I do not, no. I think that we have a lot of heavy lifting to do."
Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, his diplomatic counterpart in Baghdad, said a key report they will deliver to Washington in September will include what Crocker called "an assessment of what the consequences might be if we pursue other directions." Noting the "unhelpful roles" being played by Iran and Syria in Iraq, Crocker said: "We've got to consider what could happen."
Comments by Petraeus on "Fox News Sunday" and Crocker on NBC's "Meet the Press" were an indication of the administration's evolving strategy for confronting rising congressional demands to begin planning troop withdrawals. In addition to warning about the possible regional consequences of withdrawal, both men emphasized a "mixed" picture on the ground, citing successes while acknowledging the difficulty of the task ahead.
Asserting steady, albeit slow, military and political progress, Petraeus said that the "many, many challenges" would not be resolved "in a year or even two years." Similar counterinsurgency operations, he said, citing Britain's experience in Northern Ireland, "have gone at least nine or 10 years." He said he and Crocker would make "some recommendations on the way ahead" to Congress, and that it was realistic to assume "some form of long-term security arrangement" with Iraq.
The Iraqi conflict is going to be with us for years if not decades. The country has become the focus of a crisis of Islamic civilization that is closer to its onset than its conclusion. Violent conflict between the now dominant Shiite community and Sunnis nostalgic for power is but one aspect of this epochal upheaval.
As in the Palestinian territories, the Iraqi struggle has been complicated by the presence of forces driven not by national goals but by the global objectives of jihadist Islamism. These jihadists, finding inspiration in their reading of the sacred texts of Islam, have embarked on a holy war against the West.
It is against such fanatics, some of whom call themselves Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, that General David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, has just announced a major offensive. I wish Petraeus and the 155,000 troops now in Iraq luck, but I am not hopeful.
The fact is that however many bomb makers are taken out, however many cells broken, the social and religious forces driving angry young men across the Muslim world into this sort of fight are not about to abate.
A population explosion is pushing these men into societies with few jobs and scant hope for the future beyond a range of causes - from Palestine to Iraq to the perceived debauchery of modernity - capable of drawing them into a consoling, if nihilistic, zealotry.
Against this reality, exacerbated in Iraq by the whirlwind fragmentation that often occurs in multi-ethnic societies when the lid of despotism is lifted, America's September deadline for measuring the progress achieved by the addition of 30,000 troops looks almost comical.
Let's face it folks, things are not going to be measurably better in Iraq by September. They may be about the same; they could be worse. The destructive energy disaggregating the country is still building. Wars tend to end when their participants are exhausted. We are not there yet, not even close.