Stephen Biddle: Says the surge can work

Historians in the News

[HNN Editor: An essential part of the surge is the plan to lure Sunni tribesmen to the side of the US. Kapln argues that the tribesmen will probably be willing to make a temporary alliance only. Kaplan noted that after WW II the alliance between Stalin and the West crumbled once their common enemy had been defeated.]

... The idea of extending the alliances may have come, in part, from Stephen Biddle, a military historian and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who, according to the Times, was a member of the "Joint Strategic Assessment Team" that helped conceive the new U.S. strategy.

In a July 12 interview at the Council, conducted by Bernard Gwertzman, Biddle said that the only way to secure all of Iraq is "to negotiate a series of cease-fire deals with Iraq's current combatants in which, even though they retain the ability to fight, they decide it's in their own self-interest to … decline to fight."

He referred to Anbar as "a model" for this concept, and added, "There are now similar negotiations ongoing in a variety of other places around Iraq." In Anbar, he said, the alliance "dropped into our lap"; the Sunni sheiks came to us and asked for help. "If it's going to happen elsewhere, we're going to have to take a more proactive role. … We have to start using the military not as a device to secure everything uniformly but as a device for creating incentives and disincentives—sticks and carrots—to push along the process of local cease-fires with particular factions." For instance, he said, we would have to tell each faction: "We will defend you if you cooperate; if you don't cooperate, we will attack you."

Biddle is a very smart strategist. His writings on the Afghanistan war were shrewdly reasoned and diligently researched, and his book, Military Power, is a modern classic. But I'm puzzled by his idea here. The deals with the Sunni sheiks are explicitly opportunistic. Assuming that the alliances of convenience whip the jihadists, there is nothing preventing the Sunnis and Shiites (and Americans) from going back to killing one another....
Read entire article at Fred Kaplan at Slate.com in an article predicting the surge will fail

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