'Turning Point' in Iraq? Probably Not.

| Mon May 1, 2006 3:01 PM EDT

The New York Times reports that the Army has set up mock Iraqi villages here in California so that soldiers can practice fighting insurgents. Presumably that means that the military is already planning to dig in and stay in Iraq for a long time, despite the odd rumors of a massive drawdown. On the other hand, this interview suggests that no matter how adept the military gets at counterinsurgency, the larger overall strategy in Iraq is so incoherent that it probably won't do much good:

"There is a paradox in the approach," said Kalev Sepp, a former Special Forces officer and one of the most vocal proponents for changing the Army. "The training in the United States and in Iraq is teaching all the right things — decentralization of authority and responsibility to the lowest levels, engagement with the Iraqi population, cultural awareness and political sensitivity — the full broad range of measures needed to defeat the insurgency."

"But on the ground," Mr. Sepp said in an interview, "the troops are being moved onto these large consolidated bases and being drawn away from the population just at point that they have been trained to engage them." Nowhere are the changes in the Army's thinking more visible than at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin.Meanwhile, the Washington Post ran the headline, "Merits of Partitioning Iraq or Allowing Civil War Weighed" over the weekend and now today Sen. Joe Biden chimes in with a plan to split Iraq up into three separate countries. Juan Cole thinks it's a bad idea and has his own proposal for partition. The idea that the United States, under this administration, could handle anything like the "peaceful" break-up of a country deftly strikes me as totally unrealistic, not to mention potentially horrifying (it's worth noting that Biden's model for partition, the Dayton Accords, failed to resolve the Kosovo issue, which indirectly led to yet another round of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans only five years later), but that seems to be what the experts all think.

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