by Austin Bay
July 22, 2008
It is ironic, but victory in Iraq could mean defeat for John McCain.
Crown the lucky Barack Obama, bury the courageous McCain -- what a fate
for a warrior senator who has played a key leadership role in Iraq's emerging
I'll repeat that description: "emerging victory." Terror campaigns and
insurgencies end with diminishing codas of violence.
In a recent column, I referenced the "Strategic Overwatch" video that
appeared on the Internet the first week of June. "Overwatch" is a military term.
At the tactical level, one soldier moves, the other "covers" him (overwatches),
ready to suppress enemy fire. At the strategic level, allied nations "cover" one
"Strategic Overwatch" is also a term I encountered when I served in the
plans section of Multi-National Corps-Iraq in 2004 -- a desirable strategic
condition I thought the coalition and Iraqis could achieve.
"Strategic Overwatch" is a limited victory for a United States willing to
remain a reliable Iraqi ally. "Strategic Overwatch" protects the much more
enthusiastic Iraqi version of victory. After his May 6, 2008, speech at
Quantico, Va., I asked Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations Hamid Al Bayati
what would constitute victory for the Iraqi people. He responded viscerally,
"Every day we have democracy is a victory for the Iraqi people."
How blunt. The Iraqis have earned their democracy, and we owe them a
The video summarizes "Strategic Overwatch" in this manner:
Assumptions: The United States is in Iraq for the
long haul; Iraqi political progress continues.
Time to Develop: Could emerge by mid-to-late 2009,
full-fledged by 2011.
Related Events: Iraqi Army continues to re-arm and
modernize; Iraq and the United States agree to a "long-range cooperation
agreement" the Iraqi people see as advantageous to Iraq; ... Iraq begins to
attract steady and sustained private investment; members of the Arab League
begin forging stronger political and economic ties with Iraq.
Effect on Average Iraqi: Increased GDP ultimately
means a wealthier society; Iraqi neighborhoods revive; Baghdad's business
community revives, and the city's nightlife returns.
Effect on Region: Increased internal trouble in
Iran as Iranian people object to the corrupt mullocracy and to the lack of
democracy in Iran; Iraqi-Turkish relations continue to strengthen; Iraq becomes
more assertive in Middle East politics and economic affairs; more Shia Arab
strife occurs in Lebanon (stoked by Iran) with the goal of distracting Iraqi
Shias and-or "radicalizing" Iraqi foreign policy; Jordan re-emerges as a staunch
ally of Iraq.
Eight weeks after the scenario hit the Web, we should change "could
emerge" to "is emerging." Credit the Iraqis with accelerating the process.
Operation Charge of the Knights (March-May 2008), which most so-called media
experts immediately labeled the "Basra blunder," demonstrated that the Iraqi
army's operational capabilities had improved and that the Maliki government
could astutely turn security success into political solidification. Iraqi gains
mean a significant reduction in coalition combat forces could come by late 2009,
with complete Iraqi combat responsibility by late 2010.
So why the irony? Barack Obama wanted to withdraw because Harry Reid and
the Democratic Party insisted we'd lost. As "Strategic Overwatch" develops, the
United States can begin reducing its combat role because we are winning -- and
"we" includes the Iraqis. McCain ought to reap the reward, but given the
national media's creampuff treatment of Obama, the next "instant truth" will be
"see, we can withdraw."
But before Obama declares peace in our time, consider the "Effect on
Region" paragraph. The Iraqis want an alliance. That means Washington must be
prepared to back Iraq in a confrontation with Iran. We know McCain can handle
that dangerous test. In the maelstrom moment when an Obama-advocated rapid
military withdrawal would have devastated the Iraqis, McCain stood firm.