How to win the Iraq war

Success can still be achieved in Iraq along historic precedents of Ireland, South Africa and El Salvador when armed combatants ended their wars and joined the political process.

The current escalation is doomed because it encourages the dominant party to sectarian war, the Maliki government and its allies among Shi’ite militias and Iran to intransigence, using American troops to achieve military victory in their war against Sunnis.

If Senate Republicans demonstrate clarity and conscience they can save our country from continued catastrophe, save their party from electoral disaster, and save Iraqis from a cauldron of carnage that will bring war without end.

Official Washington almost universally believes privately that the Iraq enterprise is doomed because official Washington also believes, incorrectly, that the president will never change the policy.

The president vowed to never negotiate with Syria and Iran, insulting even the Speaker, who advocated this. The president changed that policy.

The pressures are rising dramatically.

Republicans increasingly recognize the disaster. Incoming British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not support escalation, but could lead a global coalition for major economic aid to post-sectarian war Iraq.

The president morphs all combatants into one blob he calls “terrorism,” resulting in a fog that obscures the mission and destroys our ability to accomplish it.

There are two wars in Iraq, both of which can be won, through completely different tactics.

There is a war against al Qaeda that must be won through military victory, uniting America with patriotic Iraqis of all factions who oppose occupation by America, Iran or al Qaeda.

There is a war pitting Shi’ites against Sunnis for dominance in post-occupation Iraq. The escalation places America on the side of Iraqi Shi’ites and Iran. It destroys the one hope for victory through a political solution similar to El Salvador, Ireland and South Africa.

General Petraeus cannot change this, and almost certainly knows it. The elevation of General Petraeus to false sainthood is a disservice to the general, the country and the truth because it obscures what is really happening, and what we must do to succeed.

We can only win military victory in the first war, against al Qaeda, by achieving political victory that ends the second war, among Iraqis.

While we urgently want a political solution, the Iraqi parliament wants a two-month vacation to avoid it.

While we urgently want an Iraqi government for all Iraqis, Maliki removes Iraqi generals seeking reconciliation because he wants military victory over the Sunnis, and will fight to the last American to achieve it.

We view the surge as American blood buying time for an Iraqi political solution. Maliki and Shi’ite allies use it to buy time for sectarian military victory.

It is not enough for 11 Republicans to visit the president, make these points, wave their polls, and then continue the policy. It accomplishes nothing for senators to express exasperation with the Iraqi government, unless they act on it.

Congress should send the president an Iraq bill that requires a new vote within 90 days.

Democrats, Republicans and the president should apply maximum and extreme pressure for a political breakthrough.
In any Iraq plan the value of benchmarks is zero percent and the value of enforcement is 100 percent.

The only enforcement is a new vote by Congress.

We can reduce American casualties by 80 percent with a policy offering a higher probability of success, through a redeployment of troops within Iraq, but the president will not agree, yet. The alternative is a new vote in Congress within 90 days, to make it clear that America will not shed blood for Shi’ite dominance and endless war.

Will Maliki and his allies agree to Iraqi power-sharing that is genuinely pluralistic, tolerant and fair?

If not, Americans should not die for a sectarian cause serving Iranian interests.

If they will, it happened in El Salvador, South Africa and Ireland and can happen in Iraq with demonstrable progress within 90 days.

Plan A escalates war without end, and carnage without hope.

Plan B is hard, but the history of El Salvador, South Africa and Ireland proves it is possible.

We win one war, by ending the carnage among Iraqis, and win the other war, by killing the real terrorists, who pose the real threat.

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