Fareed Zakaria has a recent opinion article in which he makes two major points:
I’ve dealt with the first one before. I still don’t see how it solves the actual problem, which is breaking the back of Caliphascism. It still seems petty and cheap to me, arguing that the primary goal of American foreig policy is to stick other people with the check. A free rider or obstructionist criticism of Europe works for me, but that doesn’t seem to be Zakaria’s argument here. And after all that, the problem of actually winning the war remains. He reminds me of old Engineer’s saying - “You have a problem and you decide to use write some PERL code to solve it. Now you have two problems.”
The second point, that seems a bad misreading of history. There’s been recent buzz about the Tet Offensive and how it relates to the current situation in Iraq1. However, one thing that is clear from the discussion is that Vietnamization actually worked. The Viet Cong insurgency was effectively destroyed during Tet and had the US continued to supply arms and ammunition to South Vietnam, it wouldn’t have fallen. I do share Zakaria’s concern about rushing training, which does to be a bit of a panicky move, but to dismiss the overall strategy seems a bad misreading of the situation.
Zakaria also misses another key point, which is that Iraqi forces can be far more aggressive without being affected by world opinion. First, how are people who accepted the Ba’ath oppression going to legitimately object the much milder response of local forces? Of course, the anti-American protestors will make objections but this will serve primarily to isolate and discredit them even further in the eyes of the citizenry.
Of course, there the Machiavellian view that the Iraqis (primarily Shiite and Kurdish forces) will conduct purges that will do to the Sunni Triangle what the Civil War did to the South.
1 I’ll note that, as sad as the loss of the Chinook helicopter was, it wouldn’t have even made a back page story during the Tet Offensive. If this is the best the Ba’ath can do then a Tet style propaganda effort is doomed.