Allawi in Washington
I was pleased that the networks broadcast live the statements by President Bush and Iraq's Prime Minister Ayad Allawi on the White House lawn today. Bush responded in an appropriately ambiguous fashion to a question about Gen. John Abizaid's statement that more U.S. troops are needed in Iraq. (Washington Post) Allawi doesn't want more U.S. troops, at least not right now. What he does want is a firm indication of continued strong support from Washington. John Kerry, whose degree of support for Iraq is anything but firm, criticized what he called their falsely optimistic portrayal of the situation, but he will learn if he is elected president that leaders are duty bound to err on the positive side when speaking to the public. Allawi insists that elections could be held in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces right now, and expects them to proceed as scheduled in January. We'll see.
Unlike others who strain to portray events as much better or much worse than recent televised images would seem to indicate, I remain concerned but less than frantic about the current terrorist offensive, which should not have come as a big surprise. As for what to do about it, I believe the United States ought to make highly targeted counterstrikes while steadily reducing its profile in Iraq, actively supporting the new government militarily but not taking direct responsibility for the course of political events there. Besides trying to undermine morale back in the U.S.A., the insurgents are obviously trying to bait U.S. forces into making a heavy-handed assault that would inevitably result in civilian casualties. A combination of persistence, restraint, and iron resolve will prevail in the end, and with proper U.S. and Iraqi leadership, most people of Iraq will turn away from the deadly allure of gangs led by Moqtada al Sadr, Abu Musab Zarqawi, and their like.