18 November 2008

Stephen Hadley, Awesome American

In the week-long run-up to VI-Day (Victory in Iraq Day), I'll be posting good articles related to the success of our troops, The Surge, and those who supported The Surge against the Democrat and public opinion tide.

One of the people to include in the pantheon was Stephen Hadley
[...] one fact trumps everything else: Without this good man's courage and persistence, there would have been no surge.

I don't think I am talking out of school to mention facts that have been recorded in newspaper articles and books as different as Bing West's "The Strongest Tribe" and Bob Woodward's "The War Within." The surge story begins back in 2006, when al Qaeda finally succeeded in setting the Shia and Sunni at each others' throats. That October, with Baghdad consumed by sectarian fires, Mr. Hadley tasked William Luti to come up with a new way forward.

Mr. Luti was then serving in the National Security Council (NSC) as special assistant for defense policy and strategy. A retired Navy captain who had commanded an amphibious ready group that included thousands of Marines, he was familiar with war planning. The briefing that he came up with was called "Changing the Dynamics: Surge and Fight, Create Breathing Space and Then Accelerate the Transition." You know it as "the surge."

The difficulty for these two men was that outside their colleagues in the NSC and West Wing, few wanted to hear about sending more American troops to Iraq. The Democrats wanted out and were declaring the war lost. Some Republicans were joining in. The Iraq Study Group offered a face-saving out, and many in the Defense and State departments wanted to take it. The American public was weary.

By having Mr. Luti draw up the concept for a surge, Mr. Hadley ensured that when options were presented to the president, one of them would be to fight. In Mr. Luti's strategic conception, securing the population became the top priority. In public, advocates like retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and military strategist Fred Kagan did yeoman's work to press the case for a surge. But within the White House decision-making process, it was almost this simple: No Steve Hadley, no surge -- and no success.

What can this possibly mean for Mr. Obama? The answer is plenty. Many things have changed since he first came out against this war. For one thing, he is now the president-elect instead of an opposition voice in the Senate -- which means he now bears the responsibility for how the war turns out. For another, back when he first called for U.S. troops to be withdrawn, President Bush's victory talk was treated as a joke. It is no longer a joke.

As Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno are keen to remind us, the gains in Iraq are fragile and reversible. But they are nevertheless real. And that means that if Mr. Obama is not careful, he could be the president who loses Iraq.

It need not turn out that way. At bottom, Mr. Obama's war stance boils down to reducing our presence in Iraq and increasing our presence in Afghanistan. The success of the surge permits him [Obama] to carry out this strategy from a position of strength. In fact, the security pact just approved by Iraq's cabinet suggests that Mr. Obama is now in a position to achieve most of his Iraq aims without jeopardizing the hard-won gains our troops have made -- provided he keeps his word to listen to our commanders on the ground.

(per usual, emphasis added)

What a difference 2 years makes.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.