CSIS Strategic Analyst Anthony Cordesman didn’t use that metaphor exactly. Here is what he wrote in an email he sent me this morning along with his new report, “Still Losing? The June 2007 Edition of “Measuring Stability in Iraq“:
The latest Department of Defense report on “Measuring Stability in Iraq” attempts to put a bad situation in a favorable light. It does not disguise many of the problems involved, but it does attempt to defend the strategy presented by President Bush in January 2007 in ways that sometimes present serious problems. More broadly, it reveals that the President’s strategy is not working in any critical dimension.
The are enough indicators in the June 2007 report, however, to make it all too clear that the US is not making anything like the overall progress it needs to implement the President’s strategy. Moreover, it is all too clear that the most import issue is not the “Plan A” of the Bush Administration, or any “Plan B” from Congress, but the sheer lack of any meaningful Iraqi political development of a “Plan I” for political conciliation.
As in Vietnam, the US can win virtually every tactical encounter. As in Vietnam, this is irrelevant without political unity, effective governance, and a nationalist ideology with more real world impact than its extremist, sectarian, and ethnic competition.
Part of the problem is that the US is trying to fight the wrong “war.” The US does need to fight a serious counterinsurgency campaign, but this seems to be focused far too narrowly on both Al Qa’ida, which is only one Sunni Islamist extremist movement, and on the most radical elements of the Sadr militia. The US does not have an effective strategy or the operational capability to deal with the broader problem of armed nation- building, or with a widening pattern of civil conflicts.
The attached report analyzes both the strengths and weaknesses of the June 2007 report. It also provides a summary of the key trends in conciliation and governance, security, the development of Iraqi forces, economic development and aid.
Cordesman’s sober, lucid, unsentimental analysis just lays out the picture in Iraq as it is — not like he or any of us hope it might be. This kind of truth-telling needs much more air time.
— Steve Clemons