Condoleezza Rice basically tells Charlie Rose that we are not leaving Iraq. Period.

My 2 cents –

Okay, just stop it. I’m so tired of talking points. Both sides have ‘em. On one side, we have, “we can’t have politicians telling the generals in the field what to do.” Well, our Constitution has been set up in such a way that politicians tell generals what to do. On the other side, “the American people have spoken and have put us in charge to end the war.” Well, that is sort of true. If the American people unanimously wanted the war to end, then the Democrats would govern with 70 or 80% of the seats in both chambers.

There are a few things that are clear. First, the opinion of the American people has been slowly changing over the last two to three years. We’ve lost faith in the purpose and the execution of the Iraq war. In December 2003 (Quinnipiac University Poll), 46% of Americans thought that President Bush was handling the war in Iraq well. Over the years the percentage of Americans who supported the war and supported President Bush’s handling of the war has declined. In an April 25, 2007 poll from the same researchers, President Bush had an approval rating of only 31% on his handling of the war in Iraq. A new CNN poll (May 4-6, 2007) reveals that 57% of Americans believe that Congress should send the president another bill with funding and timetables.

Let’s skip over the “whether we should have gone to Iraq or not” discussion. Unfortunately, that is never a discussion. It begins with a group of talking points and usually goes downhill from there. Instead, let’s look at the situation on the ground. Here’s what we know – the violence in Baghdad appears to be decreasing. Violence outside of Baghdad appears to be increasing. Politicians, in Iraq, have aligned themselves with various factions and militias. Many of the same politicians, that support the American effort during the day, are supporting militias at night. Dismantling militias will be a long and tedious process. It will require the help and the support of the average Iraqi citizen.

How do we win the hearts and minds of the average Iraqi citizen? Well, that’s easy. We need to provide jobs. We need to provide security. That’s the problem. In order to rebuild infrastructure and provide security we need more troops. We need more than the 20 or 30,000 troops that are included in the Surge. (There is clearly a difference between strategy and tactics. The Surge is a tactic. Our strategy has remained the same. Our strategy has been to go house to house and to find the insurgents and capture or kill them.)  Military experts have estimated that we would need between 350,000 and 500,000 troops to complete this task.

Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice gave us a little glimpse into the future while doing an interview for the Charlie Rose show, earlier this week. He asked a series of questions which are really summed up, in saying, what happens if there is no change in Iraq and six or 12 months, then what? Dr. Rice’s answer was chilling for those who believe we need to bring our troops home now. Dr. Rice said, “We are not looking to leave Iraq. That is not why this president went into Iraq…. We are not going to leave Iraq that is not capable of defending itself.”

Lt. General David Petraeus
wrote the book on counterinsurgency. Defeating a insurgency is a long and protracted strategy. There are no shortcuts. There are no quick fixes. You must win the hearts and minds of the civilians. You must choke off the supply of new recruits by providing better opportunities for the civilians. It takes somewhere between seven and 10 years to adequately suppress an insurgency. Does the American public want to continue another five to seven years of combat in Iraq?

This is really the question. The question isn’t do we want to win. The question isn’t do we want the troops to come home. Instead, the question is do we want another five to seven years of combat in Iraq? Do we want to spend $1 – $2 trillion in Iraq?

Finally, what happens if we leave Iraq right now? We don’t know. Nobody knows. There are way too many factors to be able to adequately guess what the outcome will be. Saudi Arabia has promised to support their Sunni brothers. Iran is already meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq. One can easily assume that they would support their Shiite brothers with more weapons and more material. Jordan and Turkey could be pulled into the battle depending upon the numbers of refugees pouring across the border. Syria. It is hard to see how Syria can stay out of the battle. On the other hand, one can easily imagine a scenario in which all of Iraq’s neighbors get together to prevent total chaos from breaking out in Iraq. It would be in Iraq’s neighbors’ best interest to help Iraq find a political solution. With the help of the European Union, Russia, Japan and China, the United States could force a political solution. It may not be the political solution that the United States wants but it would be peace. In my humble opinion, this is the only way out. Super majorities in both houses of Congress will need to force this scenario or we the American people will be paying at least another trillion dollars and watching hundreds if not thousands of our fellow Americans being killed or maimed in the struggle.