The writing is on the wall. The American people are already being prepped for withdrawal, which equates to defeat for Americans and Iraqis alike any way you look at it.

 

American resolve is not being weakened by those who wish a precipitate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. American resolve and our military leadership are endangered by the President of the United States.

 

Speaking before a friendly audience at the Annapolis Naval Academy, an audience that included current and future tactical and strategic planners, President Bush provided a unique strategy for victory in a beleaguered nation weary of decades of war and murderous dictatorial rule.

 

According to the president: "Our mission in Iraq is to win the war. We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting operations against the enemy nationwide, to conducting more specialised operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists.

"We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities and reduce the number of bases from which we operate, and conduct fewer patrols and convoys."

Ignoring for the moment that we are not fighting terrorists, but Iraqis, members of the Sunni Arab resistance, al-Qaida of Iraq notwithstanding, as a student of military history, never have I heard such an ignominious "strategy for victory".

"What is the difference between winning and losing a war? In any case, everybody is losing."

Jeffrey Press, Mexico

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In view of this address, my heart goes out to marines, soldiers, sailors, and their officers who are trying their level best to bring security to Iraq and are then undercut by their Commander-in-Chief. The same could be said for the Iraqi security forces who may be abandoned prematurely.

It has been suggested that the president was referring to some future time when Iraqi security forces would assume those responsibilities being abrogated by Americans.

That may be too far off for President Bush to consider now, noting that he was using present tense, not future tense. Speaking before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on 30 September, General George W Casey Jr, who oversees US forces in Iraq, informed the senators that there are fewer Iraqi battalions at "Level 1" readiness than there were a few months ago.

American resolve is not being weakened by those who wish a precipitate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

That the number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without US and coalition help has dropped from three to one. Noting the negative progress, I am unaware of any update on this critical matter.

More recently, Gary Schmitt, director of strategic studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told the Los Angeles Times that while some Iraqi units have improved, "to get a force that is really effective requires a lot more experience than this army is likely to have for years".

Writing in the Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows reports: "Time and again since the training began, inspection teams ... have visited Iraq and come to the same conclusio - the readiness of many Iraqi units is low, their loyalty and morale are questionable, regional and ethnic divisions are sharp, and their reported numbers overstate their real effectiveness."       


American resolve and our military leadership are endangered by the president of the United States.

For the first time I greatly fear the outcome of this war. Bush's address to the Annapolis audience creates the identical scenario - overstating our ally's capabilities while underestimating the abilities of our antagonists - that many experienced during the Vietnamese war.

For the very first time, realisation is setting in that this war could be lost. Such a fate would be as a direct result of the actions of the president who put the troops there in the first place.


Only to lose. The pure irony of this impending defeat is that it is not being caused by the withdraw-now crowd or the more moderate set-a-timetable bunch, both of which draws the ire of Bush, Cheney, and company, but it is being caused by Bush, Cheney, and company.


There is little doubt that America invaded Iraq for all the wrong reasons. That Saddam was allied with al-Qaida and somehow involved with 9/11 was ludicrous.

That Saddam had WMDs with which he intended to threaten the civilised world was not so ludicrous, but proven untrue.

That aside, nearly three years later, now the goal is to create a free Iraq, a worthy goal, which should not be marginalised.

 

Moreover, it is a goal desired by many Iraqis yearning for freedom. Unfortunately, the euphoria of the elections on 15 December is now over and it is time now to get down to the serious business of creating an effective government in Iraq because freedom is not a given with mere free elections.

 

The American command is doing more to reduce the number of American troops than the resistance could ever hope to achieve.    

Furthermore it is virtually impossible for a government to work amid violence, death, and destruction.

 

It is understood that the majority of Iraqis want the Americans to leave. That wish is shared by the majority of Americans.

 

However, the wishes of both peoples carries with it a caveat ... not just yet. Despite the moribund nature of some of the paragraphs above, there is hope, and part of that hope comes from the American people, the vast majority of which want the Iraqi people to enjoy the freedoms we take for granted.

 

A poll conducted in November by the unbiased RT Strategies indicated that a large majority of Americans, a stunning 70%, are opposed to a "precipitous withdrawal" from Iraq.

 

In addition, there have been several polls, including AP/Ipsos and ABC News/Washington Post, that show that an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake in the minds of a majority of Americans.

 

The consensus of Americans is the determination to stick it out, to achieve peace and security in Iraq, and a willingness to pay the price. They need only to be led properly.

 

Hope also comes from an unexpected quarter ... the enemy. At times, due to the fog of war, one side does not know how much it has hurt the other. "The other", in this case, is al-Qaida.

 

There is little doubt that al-Qaida has poured a large portion of its resources, financial, human, and materiel, into Iraq in an opportunity to confront the "Great Satan" in its own back yard, and al-Qaida of Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is a manifestation of that urge.

 

It is understood that the majority of Iraqis want the Americans to leave. That wish is shared by the majority of Americans.

However, al-Qaida of Iraq, due to its penchant for attacking mosques, killing Muslims in prayer or grieving Muslims at funerals of al-Qaida's victims, has become a pariah in Iraq.

What is in doubt is just how much support al-Qaida is providing the resistance, both having common goals - defeat of democracy and freedom in Iraq.

 

Recently, Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida's operations chief, pleaded that all Muslims should take up arms and refusal to do so was a "malignant illness" that would lead to the defeat of militant Islam. He spoke of "no hope for victory" until all Muslims joined the al-Qaida-led jihad.

 

Continuing his plea, he said: "As long as this malignant illness continues to survive within us, there is no hope for victory and there can only be more defeats, tragedies, disasters and betrayals." Clearly, this is not a man speaking from a position of strength.

 

Also, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida's figurehead and spiritual leader, has been conspicuous by his absence. Nevertheless, allied forces must continue their inexorable search for al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

 

Unfortunately, Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, recently announced an American troop reduction in Afghanistan.

 

Quickly following in the wake of that announcement was still another relating to Iraq. American troops levels were beefed up for the constitutional referendum on 15 October and the parliamentary elections on 15 December, eventually reaching 159,000.

Rumsfeld announced that American troop levels would be immediately reduced to 138,000, considered core strength for Iraq.

 

Subsequent to that announcement, came still another. General Casey, the same General Casey that questioned Iraqi security preparedness on 30 September, stated that, in all likelihood, the American troop level would be reduced to 130,000 by March. It is very difficult to understand President Bush's "strategy for victory".

 

To the practised eye it appears to be a policy of disengagement and withdrawal. Some American mothers and fathers who have children in Iraq are distressed by this policy. It means their sons and daughters will have less support from the government that sent them there.


Moreover, the American command is doing more to reduce the number of American troops than the resistance could ever hope to achieve.   

 

The Third Option, a reinforcement of American troops until the insurgency is quelled, affords the Iraqi people an even chance of having a stable nation.

President Bush must have the courage to employ that option, rather than paying mere lip service to Iraqi freedom. Here is the sad part. There are serious doubts that will ever happen.

 

Sandy Shanks is the author of two novels, The Bode Testament and Impeachment. An avid historian, he is also an experienced columnist, specialising in political/military issues.      

The opinions expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.