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And my response is that politicians have sacred missions too. Their duty is threefold: to be judicious about sending the troops off to war, to give the military everything it needs to complete the mission and, if it appears the mission is futile or compromised, to change it or end it. "You have to ask who is really undermining this mission?" says Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a West Point graduate. "Didn't the Bush Administration undermine it from the start by going to war without sufficient cause, without sufficient planning, without sufficient equipment for our troops? Even now, I would argue that the Bush Administration is undermining this surge by focusing merely on the military part of the mission, ignoring the need to reform the Iraqi government, to find a regional diplomatic solution and, of course, ignoring the real facts on the ground."
The facts on the ground are dismal. The near impossibility of the mission is already apparent. The Iraqis promised three additional brigades to help secure Baghdad, but military sources tell me that two of those brigades are Kurdish, and there is a question how many will actually show up. Even if they do arrive in numbers, Kurds a) don't speak Arabic and b) don't like Arabs very much, which may, well, undermine the mission. There was a coordinated series of seven bombs detonated in the northern city of Kirkuk last week, which may be a sign that the long-feared battle between Kurds and Arabs for control of that oil-rich region is about to begin. That makes it doubly unlikely that the Kurdish brigades will deploy to Baghdad. Furthermore, whack-a-mole happens: there are indications the Shi'ite militias are going to ground or leaving Baghdad to fight elsewhere, perhaps in places like Kirkuk, which means, Senator Reed says, "we'll be doing their job for them, fighting the Sunnis in Baghdad."
"We're on the brink of a decisive battle for Baghdad," Lieberman said on the Senate floor. But that was wrong too: the counterinsurgency tactics General Petraeus will use are gradual, not "decisive" in the traditional military sense. We are not on the brink of anything except a long hard slog. I suspect Lieberman understands this but is hyping the mission for dramatic effect. If so, he is raising unfair expectations for the troops and the nation. I'd say that comes pretty damn close to undermining the mission.
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