Option 1: Invest More Resources in Counterinsurgency. Several recent articles argued that where the United States actually engages in counterinsurgency within Iraq, it is successful. (The operating definition of counterinsurgency warfare is 20 percent military, and 80 percent political.) While effective, its not a widespread U.S. initiative. Indeed, the articles suggested that where counterinsurgency occurred, it was done despite an absence of guidance from the Bush Administration, which disapproves of the word insurgency and, therefore, doesnt formally support counterinsurgency.
While counterinsurgency seems to be the only good news coming out of Iraq, there are problems with this approach: fully embracing counterinsurgency means the U.S. would have to send more troops to Iraq, rather than withdraw them. It also means spending more money on repair of the Iraqi infrastructure, rather than rapidly reducing our expenditures. And, it suggests changing the role of the military from conducting combat missions to conflict resolution, directing the pacification of large sections of Iraq.
In their characteristically half-ass way, the Bush Administration has been trying to get other nations to invest in counterinsurgency. This hasnt been successful, because those nations dont like us very much; they take the position that since we broke Iraq, we should fix it. This leaves the Bush Administration with a basic dilemma: they want to hand off Iraq to someoneour allies or a stable Iraqi governmentbut there is no such entity.
Unfortunately, there are problems with this option. Critics say endorsing the three-state solution invites ethnic cleansing. That It would inevitably require a massive relocation of ethnic minorities; for example, the substantial number of Shiites that current live in Baghdad would have to relocate to the Shiite state. And, there is another problem with this option: How would Iraqs oil revenues be divided? Oil resources are not distributed equally among the three ethnic states.
The Bush Administration doesnt like to talk about the three-state solution, because it suggests that their design for a democratic Iraq wont work and that the US should fund population relocation. They ignore the reality that ethnic cleansing has already begun. Throughout Iraq, minorities are being threatened and killed. As a result they moving out of the country or to an area controlled by their ethnic group.
Interestingly, while President Bush has resisted a timetable for withdrawal, the net effect of recent Pentagon policies has created something comparable. Since January, American troops have been withdrawn from most Iraqi hot spots and relocated into the highly fortified enduring bases. In many cities, security is now the responsibility of Iraqi forces advised by a few American military personnel. Meanwhile, Iraq has lapsed into civil war.
What will happen? Many families have endured the spoiled child syndrome, where a favored child acts out again and again, without being punished, and eventually gets into serious trouble. Then, the legal system gets involved and expects the child to abruptly learn to observe limits. This causes new problems, because his upbringing has taught him that there are none.
At the heart of the Iraq dilemma is our own version of this syndrome: President Bush was a chronically spoiled child, who acted out, but was never taught limits. Not surprisingly, he wont take responsibility for the mess hes made of Iraq.
As a result, there is no optimal solution in Iraq. If the Democrats regain control of the House or Senate, they can force a withdrawal of troops. While problematic, this is the most satisfactory of the three possible options.