In a Washington Post editorial today, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and National Review editor Rich Lowry call for an escalation in Iraq. Appearing on Fox News to reinforce the argument, Lowry claimed that if Bush were to say, “we’re going to send two more divisions into the city [Baghdad] and lock it down and secure it… people would actually react favorably to that.” Watch it.
Kristol and Lowry state, “The bottom line is this: More U.S. troops in Iraq would improve our chances of winning a decisive battle at a decisive moment.” Their argument is wrong on many levels.
First, there is no indication from public polling that there is any U.S. support for increasing troop levels in Iraq. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that only 17 percent of Americans supported increasing force levels, while 53 percent favored decreasing them.
Second, the argument wrongly suggests that violence in Iraq is constricted to Baghdad. In fact, as the senior Marine intelligence officer in charge of Western Iraq reported, the political and economic security situation there is — like Baghdad — rapidly destabilizing.
Third, escalation is the wrong remedy to the problem because it fails to understand the root cause of the problem. Increasing troop levels feeds the perception that the U.S. is in Iraq to stay, thereby fueling the insurgency. Moreover, the numerous increases in troop levels throughout the occupation have not improved security on the ground.
HOST: And you and Bill Kristol wrote a piece suggesting we need more troops in iraq. If the president were to call for that right now, what do you think the reaction would be?
LOWRY: Well, I have a view that’s counter to the conventional wisdom on that. I think what is dragging Bush down on Iraq is that the people are not convinced that he has a plan for victory there. And I think if he frankly acknowledged the crisis situation on the ground in Baghdad as he has begun to, he has used the word crisis in the speech recently, and said look this is how we will deal with it, we’re going to send two more divisions into the city and lock it down and secure it, and I think people would actually react favorably to that.
And the one encouraging thing in Iraq despite all the distressing news is in those neighbors in Baghdad that are intensely patrolled by Americans, they are more secure and we are able to make progress when we have the guys on the ground to do it. And I just believe we need more guys on the ground.