Plan B for Iraq policy: a 60-day bipartisan initiative

Plan B aims to end the war among Iraqis and win the war against al Qaeda.

If Iraq is Vietnam, George Bush supports the moral equivalent of the Viet Cong with a Maliki government dependent on Shi’ite death squads and often allied with Iranian interests.

Iranian strategy was to fight to the last American and remove their hated Sunni enemy, replaced by Shi’ite allies. 

Iran-supported insurgents will lie low for the surge while Americans kill their Sunni enemies, and Sunni Iraqis are walled in by new versions of the Berlin Wall, de facto and de jure.

Maliki was put in power with dependence on an aggressive Shi’ite death squad leader and Iraqis with long ties to Iran. All military leaders and Secretary Gates have grave doubts about him and are dead right.

Today, America is trapped in a Vietnam-like quagmire where “our guy” is allied with “our enemies” and neither the president’s failed and intransigent policy nor the Congress’s well-intentioned but weak response will change a probably catastrophic outcome.

Today, there is no political, diplomatic or economic strategy that will improve life for Iraqis. There is only a far-too-late counter-insurgency tactic, without a rational strategy, without appeal to Iraqis tired of carnage, who lack confidence in American occupation.

Victory, defeat, surrender and retreat are words without meaning. Timelines only have value within a clear military and political strategy, implemented with real military and political tactics. 

We cannot will Iraqi leaders to do what they have not done for powerful reasons; we must change their calculus of their interests. We cannot will the Iraqi people to support us with surges that only marginally deal with the reasons they reject us.  We must offer them a better life.

Here is Plan B: a 60-day funding plan with a new vote at the end; an American offer for a cease-fire with all indigenous Iraqi combatants; extreme and aggressive pressure on Maliki to achieve long-discussed political changes; the Baker Hamilton Group undertaking a bipartisan mission to enlist massive financial assistance from Europe and Gulf states for post-war Iraq; and a foreign minister-level regional summit within the 60-day period, including Iran and Syria.

The president, Joint Chiefs and congressional leaders should meet at Camp David, followed by public hearings, to devise a true bipartisan strategy including a dramatic new commitment to fund urgent military, troop and veterans needs.

For any policy to avoid the Iranian outcome, genocide, ethnic cleansing, Vietnam quagmire or endless carnage with rising American death tolls, two imperatives must be met:

First, the pressure of a new congressional vote on the Maliki government and all parties would be extreme and excruciating.
If there is any chance for an internal political solution there must be extreme pressure creating a calculus where Iraqi leaders have more to gain ending the carnage then continuing it indefinitely.

Second, there must be a powerful appeal to the hearts, minds and patriotism of average Iraqis tired of war, ready for hope, and yearning to reconcile with each other and unite to kill al Qaeda terrorists who create and exploit their misery.

If we act like the French in Algeria or Vietnam we will end as they did. We must offer a roadmap to transition out of American occupation into an Iraq for Iraqis.

An American proposal for a cease-fire and a major reconciliation and reconstruction plan would receive substantial popular support.

A powerful mulitilateral reconstruction program would be well funded, neutrally administered, highly policed, available on a competitive-bid basis and not managed as crony capitalism with Mafia-like payoffs.

Were the Baker Hamilton Group to perform a mission to Europe, Japan and Gulf states, there would be substantial financial support for a post-occupation strategy that would bring stability over chaos, hope over carnage, with shared commitment and shared benefits.

We must move beyond a quagmire promising endless occupation that does not have a realistic hope of success, will not achieve sustainable support from the American people, and cannot appeal to the hearts, minds, hopes, interests or patriotism of the Iraqi people.

A 60-day initiative would restore the bipartisan spirit of national security policy, with a Plan B in line with military thinking, which would lift the morale of our troops and offer hope to Iraqis.

The president should accept this.

Democrats should offer it, fight for it, and take the case to the country.

Budowsky is a contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service and former aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, former chief deputy whip of the House.  He can be reached at brenbbi@webtv.net and read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog.