The Generals' Compromise

The WaPo has an unsettling story today on how the strategy the president will unveil tonight emerged:

The Joint Chiefs were also worried that sending more troops would set up the U.S. military for an even bigger failure - with no backup options. They were concerned that the Iraqis would not deliver the troops to handle their own security efforts, as had happened in the past. They were particularly alarmed about the prospect of U.S. troops fighting in a political vacuum if the administration did not complement the military plan with political and economic changes, according to people familiar with their views.

Pentagon officials cautioned that a modest troop increase could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops.

Even the announcement of a time frame and mission - such as for six to eight months to secure volatile Baghdad - would play to armed factions by allowing them to game out the new U.S. strategy, the chiefs warned the White House.

Then there was the thorny problem of finding enough troops to deploy. Those who favored a "surge," such as Kagan and McCain, were looking for a sizable force that would turn the tide in Baghdad. But the Joint Chiefs made clear they could muster 20,000 at best - not for long, and not all at once.

We may be about to hear a strategy disowned by the military brass, opposed by the party that controls both Houses, insufficient by the metrics of even its supporters, and a result of a compromise that has more to do with securing agreement in Washington than with actually turning the tide in Iraq. That's my fear anyway. I don't see the sufficient troop numbers to turn this around. And the economic reconstruction aspects seem to me to be pathetic.