John McCain showed great courage during his captivity by the North Vietnamese communists. But his criticism of coalition strategy in Iraq amounts to telling our forces to do something they’re already doing. Playing political games in time of war demeans him.
Here’s his suggestion:
Instead of trying to shift forces around the country to secure all of Iraq from insurgents, he said U.S. troops should concentrate on securing and holding insurgent strongholds. “Our forces would begin by clearing areas, with heavy force if necessary, to establish a zone as free of insurgents as possible. The security forces can then cordon off the zone, establish constant patrols, by American and Iraqi military and police, to protect the population from insurgents and common crime, and arrest remaining insurgents as they are found,” he said.
Senator McCain said in this newly secure environment, reconstruction could proceed without fear of attack and sabotage, and political meetings and campaigning could take place in the open. In short, he argued, civil society could emerge.
The Senator said such a strategy would require more troops, and would result in more casualties. But he said it was necessary to stabilize the country.
But what he proposes is exactly what the coalition is doing, except rather than pour in more US troops, they’re training up the Iraqi army – the only long term solution. Here’s what’s happening on the Syrian border (my emphasis):
Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines, Soldiers and Sailors with Regimental Combat Team –2 began a new phase of Operation Al Hajip Elfulathi (Steel Curtain) today by entering the town of Ubaydi.
Ubaydi, located on the banks of the Euphrates River, is only 20 km from the Syrian border, and was the site of Operation Matador last May.
The towns of Husaybah and Karabilah were cleared earlier in the operation and permanent Iraqi-U.S. presence has been established.
Operation Steel Curtain differs from Matador in the respect that a permanent presence of Iraqi and U.S. forces will be established in the city.
The goals of Operation Steel Curtain are to restore Iraqi sovereign control along the Iraq-Syria border and destroy the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating throughout the Al Qa’im region.
This offensive is part of the larger Operation Sayaid (Hunter), designed to prevent al Qaeda in Iraq from operating in the Euphrates River Valley and throughout Al Anbar and to establish a permanent Iraqi Army presence in the Al Qa’im region.
Getting the Iraqi army trained has been incredibly hard, and good men have died in the process. The current progress makes the effort and sacrifices worthwhile.