General Petraeus: No Military Solution to Iraq


General David Petraeus believes that the U.S. must talk to all key parties inside Iraq — particularly the most militant groups that have been opposing the U.S.-backed government.
His statements reflect a common sense realism that boggles the mind to some degree because the obvious question is “What has happened over the last four years?!”
America has spent more time identifying who would not talk to than who it could or should. The problem is that four years of inaction on what would otherwise be a sensible course makes the eventual right strategy much more fragile — because so many view the intentions of the U.S. skeptically. And they should given what we have allowed to happen and the tragedies we have worsened in Iraq.
From an ABC News report on Petraeus’s statement:

He said that “any student of history recognizes there is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency in Iraq.”
“Military action is necessary to help improve security. . .but it is not sufficient,” Petraeus said. “A political resolution of various differences. . .of various senses that people do not have a stake in the successes of Iraq and so forth that is crucial. That is what will determine, in the long run, the success of this effort.
U.S. officials, including Petraeus’ predecessor Gen. George W. Casey Jr., have long expressed the opinion that no military solution to the Iraq crisis was possible without a political agreement among all the ethnic and religious factions including some Sunni insurgents.
However, previous overtures to the insurgents all faltered, apparently because of political opposition within Baghdad or Washington to some of the conditions.

One can blame Washington on the failure for earlier overtures far more than the constituent parties in Iraq. And going a step further, Cheney’s national security team deserves the lion’s share of blame for our current mess — including of course, a couple of the Vice President’s chief spear-carriers — Donald Rumsfeld and Scooter Libby.
— Steve Clemons


4 comments on “General Petraeus: No Military Solution to Iraq

  1. Sam Thornton says:

    While General Petraeus correctly points out that any Iraq solution has to be an Iraqi political solution, it doesn’t appear anything is in his brief beyond tweaking the military tactics.
    It’s embarrassing that a very basic question hasn’t been asked about the prospects of defeating the Iraqi insurgency. When insurgencies have been defeated in the past, how was it done?
    Unfortunately, the answer to the question is that the only way insurgencies have been defeated in the past is by application of retaliatory actions such as arbitrary mass public executions of civilians in response to insurgent actions.
    Imperial Rome kept it’s empire together for a long time doing exactly that. The Nazis effectively stopped resistance movements in their tracks using the same technique. Today, we call that type of activity a war crime.
    When the only effective military tactic available is one we can’t or won’t use, it would seem it’s time to go in another direction.


  2. Keshini Ladduwahetty says:

    What I don’t understand is, here is the military saying Iraq must be solved politically, yet conservative Dems in Congress talk as if any attempt to change our Iraq policy is infringing on the President’s powers as Commander in Chief, and constitutes micro-managing the war.
    Petraeus is echoing what Carl Levin, John Kerry, Joe Biden, etc. have been saying for years. Why can’t Congress take this opportunity to craft the political side of Iraq policy, which everyone agrees is the key to success?


  3. Dan says:

    Where was General Petraeus three years ago? Why did he not bring this up to his superiors then? Is this the way the military is run these days where sensible voices are silenced and run out of the military (like Shinseki)?
    I feel bad for General Petraeus, because he comes off as a very smart man, and a very smart military mind, but I really feel that his plan for today is too late.


  4. JohnH says:

    Petraeus statement would seems to be self-evident. However, from Cheney’s point of view, talking to militant groups that have been opposing the U.S.-backed government risks weakening the US’ ability to control Iraqi oil policy and dictate oil production levels. Cheney will never surrender that capability.
    P.S.-At some point the debate has to start addressing the underlying issue in this war– access to and control of the remaining pools of cheap oil (Iraq and Iran). Otherwise we’re just arguing about the red herrings that the administration gladly distracts us with.


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