November 16, 2006

We've got some new guys and gals in charge — or partially in charge, or sharing being in charge — since last week. I am speaking, of course, of the aftermath of the midterm elections. We now have the Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress, and a former spook is going to be the new secretary of defense. My, my, how things change — or do they?

We certainly have new kids on the block in the Senate and in the House, and a fired secretary of defense with a new guy picked to succeed him, and the new guy will bring a new team along with him. So, now do we get the big “V” for victory in Iraq? Ah, no. Once we allowed Iraq to fall into an insurgency, then further tumble into sectarian violence, and finally crash into the current Civil War — once all that happened — a military victory was taken off the table.

The problem is that what happens to Iraq does not rest with us; it rests with the terrorists, insurgents, those waging the civil war, and the Iraqi government/militias. I say government/militias because people with positions in the government, in reality, control the militias. There is no difference between the militias and the government in Iraq — they are one and the same. We may be training the military and police in Iraq, but there is no government to hand them over to.

The new secretary of defense is a former spook named Bob Gates (no relation to the billion dollar guy), who was Bush 41's CIA director. Gates cannot tell the difference between a tank and battleship, let alone solve the mess in Iraq. Moreover, Gates is the consummate risk avoider, a total “team player,” who will not make a decision without first checking with his boss, his wife, Jim Baker, and his housekeeper. He has all the excitement of watching paint dry.

So the options in Iraq are limited, very limited. My advice is that we keep supporting our great soldiers; they are doing their job better than almost all their senior leaders. And they are certainly paying a higher price in terms of blood, bone, and life.

We should turn over all the training of the police and military to private contractors, and pull back 50,000 U.S. soldiers today. Then, we should finish building the permanent bases we have started, and fully support the Iraqi government with money and training. And finally, we should close down every illegal militia, starting with Muqtada al Sadr's — which might mean closing down the government (as the militias are the government and vice versa) — this is how bad it has gotten. We have to move to help the Iraq government isolate the thugs, criminals, and killers in their midst, without closing down the already-shaky thing called “the democracy.”

Give the Iraqi government six months.

We did a good thing giving the Iraqi people a chance for freedom, but they have to want it and they have to fight for it. No more American soldiers should die there for a government, for people who will not defend themselves, or for politicians here who seem incapable of admitting to their mistakes and doing what is necessary to fix them.

So, Democrats, you got the power — now what? And, OK, Bob Gates, you left the quiet life at Texas A&M to take command of a five-sided building — now what?

Let’s see what these new guys can do.

Colonel David Hunt has over 29 years of military experience, including extensive operational experience in Special Operations, Counter Terrorism and Intelligence Operations. You can read his complete bio here.