Cut the ties or lose the war in Iraq
Just as predicted, President Bush has decided to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq in a "surge" specifically to end the killing and carnage in the Baghdad area.
Although I want to win the war in Iraq every bit as much as George W. Bush wants to win it, I have not favored a surge in troop levels and I still oppose one unless the we use the troops for just one thing: to win.
And winning this nasty back-alley conflict, against an enemy that hides among the people in crowded urban neighborhoods, means being just as hard-nosed and determined as the insurgents have proven to be.
Our failure to get down and dirty in this war is why we have reached this sorry state. We have been fighting with the hands of our troops tied behind their backs by both our own government and the government of Iraq. Rules of engagement that the insurgents ignore have shackled us. With them, anything goes.
That's because we have labored long and hard to satisfy the "elite media" and "left-of-center" politicians singled out by Newt Gingrich the other night as embracing a "level of routine cowardice" that he said works to embolden America's enemies.
He advised following the example of my father, President Reagan, who he recalled steered America out of the "malaise" of the late 1970s and toward victory in the Cold War.
My dad understood that victory has no substitute in war, as General Douglas MacArthur pointed out.
We can win this war if we untie the hands of the military. If we are not going to allow our armed forces to go in and do what they do best break things and kill people then we might just as well give up and go home.
In war as in sports, the late Brooklyn Dodger's manager Leo Durocher's motto rules: "nice guys finish last."
President Bush bought himself a little time by advocating a new war policy in Iraq. He has just six months to prove that it will work. If it hasn't provided results by then the Democrats will cut off money for the war, America will withdraw, and all hell will break loose.
One test of the President's resolve, and the ability of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and his government to dig in their heels and do what they must will be how they attack the problem of Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army in their redoubt in the slums of Sadr City.
Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric, is nothing less than an instrument of the Shiite regime in Iran, and his army represents an advance guard of the Iranian regime's armed forces, just as Hezbollah is their advance guard in Lebanon.
It has to be one of the combined U.S. and Iraqi armed forces' first goals to eliminate al-Sadr and his 10,000-man army of well-armed thugs. We should have dealt with al-Sadr a long time ago before he became as powerful and as popular as he is today among Iraq's Shiite majority.
Up until now, Maliki has been unable to face up to the al-Sadr problem. If he continues to resist getting rid of him and his army, we might just as well fold our tents and depart. Muqtada al-Sadr must go preferably following in the footsteps of Saddam Hussein. And soon. Very soon.
As retired army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters wrote in the New York Post Thursday, "Ultimately, it's the Iraqis, not the additional American soldiers and Marines, who'll decide Iraq's future. And the acid test will be their government's handling of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army."
Col. Peters warned that "If we and the Iraqis try to avoid Sadr City's challenges, you'll know the entire effort's a hollow sham."