“Officer I would like to report a kidnapping. The NY Times Editorial Department has been kidnapped. How do I know? Easy–this morning they ran an editorial saying that the US couldn’t just cut and run in Iraq. Says that the British tired it and it is not working.” HOLY CRAP said the Officer you are right…we will get on it” Ladies and Gentlemen if any of you know what happened to the NY Times editorial page writers Keep it to yourself.
As Americans argue about how to bring the troops home from Iraq, British forces are already partway out the door. Four years ago, there were some 30,000 British ground troops in southern Iraq. By the end of this summer, there will be 5,000. None will be based in urban areas. Those who remain will instead be quartered at an airbase outside Basra. Rather than trying to calm Iraq’s civil war, their main mission will be training Iraqis to take over security responsibilities, while doing limited counterinsurgency operations. That closely follows the script some Americans now advocate for American forces in Iraq: reduce the numbers — and urban exposure — but still maintain a significant presence for the next several years. It’s a tempting formula, reaping domestic political credit for withdrawal without acknowledging that the mission has failed. If anyone outside the White House truly believes this can work — that the United States can simply stay in Iraq in reduced numbers, while ignoring the civil war and expecting Iraqi forces to impose order— the British experience demonstrates otherwise. There simply aren’t reliable, effective and impartial Iraqi forces ready to keep the cities safe, nor are they likely to exist any time soon. And insurgents are not going to stop attacking Americans just because the Americans announce that they’re out of the fight. In Basra — after four years of British tutelage — police forces are infiltrated by sectarian militias. The British departure will cede huge areas to criminal gangs and rival Shiite militias. Without Iraqis capable of taking over, the phased drawdown of British troops has turned ugly. The remaining British troops hunkered down in the city at Basra Palace are under fire from all directions. Those at the airbase are regularly bombarded. And Basra should be easier than Baghdad. Most of the population is Shiite, and neither Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia nor other Sunni insurgent groups have a significant presence. Elsewhere in Iraq, where internal rivalries are overshadowed by the Sunni insurgency, sectarian civil war and rampant ethnic cleansing, a reduced American force might find itself in an even worse predicament. The clear lesson of the British experience is that going partway is not a realistic option. The United States cannot walk away from the new international terrorist front it created in Iraq. It will need to keep sufficient forces and staging points in the region to strike effectively against terrorist sanctuaries there or a Qaeda bid to hijack control of a strife-torn Iraq. But there should be no illusions about trying to continue the war on a reduced scale. It is folly to expect a smaller American force to do in a short time what a much larger force could not do over a very long time. That’s exactly what the British are now trying to do. And the results are painfully plain to see.