Here's a comment from retired General George Joulwan, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. The quote's from Larry King Live ...
Let me be clear -- what I think, and this is my own personal opinion here, what is -- we're in danger. It's not there yet. But if we're in the careful here, we're in danger of losing the initiative in Iraq, and to a degree in Afghanistan. And that concerns me. We had the initiative going into Baghdad. We had a whole groundswell with us. But now that is turning. So it's extremely important, I think, that we reassess how to bring in the international community. NATO right now is in Afghanistan and Kabul. I think we need to broaden this and really get a secure environment in that country for the agencies to operate from the U.N., NGOs, et cetera. That is what concerns me. I don't see that happening right now.
I think there are very few retired military leaders who disagree with that proposition. Indeed, there seem to be very, very few people outside the Office of the Secretary of Defense who don't think we have too few troops in country.
One obvious reason to have more troops is that providing a secure environment is a sine qua non of almost everything else we want to accomplish in Iraq. Another is that it would give the occupation less of a US face, and thus help deflate the charges of neo-colonialism which hover over this whole enterprise.
But there's another important reason.
One of the medium to long-term challenges we face, I think, is that very few people in other countries have much invested in our success. I don't think most Europeans want us to fail exactly. But I think that the way this whole operation has gone down has made a lot of people want to see us at least get our nose bloodied or at a minimum fall rather short of a signal success.
One might say, well, if the French think that, they suck. And maybe they do. But as a practical matter, it doesn't really matter if they suck or if this is a good moral argument against them. One reason is that it's not just the French. And, more to the point, it'll be very difficult to pull this off if everyone else around the world is sitting on the sideliness, quietly relishing our stumbles.
By internationalizing this operation -- on our own terms, but still internationalizing it -- we'll get other countries invested in its eventual success.
The rejoinder to this argument might be that, well, all those other countries will pervert the enterprise to their own weenieful, relativistic, Brussels-esque ends. But, handled right, I don't think we have much to worry about. One of the great failings of the right's hostility to international institutions -- most notably, the UN -- is the inability or unwillingness to recognize how dominant our voice is in almost every international institution we claim membership in.
What I fear is that the administration is going to wait too long to make a course correction.
Despite some rough patches we've hit so far, I think it would still very much be possible for the president to internationalize the operation and have it appear as a grand gesture on our part rather than something we were forced to do because we were unable to manage the situation on our own. We could even present it as something we had intended to do all along. And though few would likely believe us, most countries would probably be eager enough to participate that they'd be willing not to make too much of it.
Unfortunately, if we wait till things really get out of hand, it really will look like a failure for us to call in other countries and we'll be far less able to call the shots. If things get bad enough, other countries that are now willing to send in troops might look at us and say, "You broke it, you fix it."
The key is that there is absolutely no strategic, moral, or diplomatic reason why internationalizing the occupation has to be seen as a failure. Quite the contrary. The problem is that many people in the administration see it as exactly that. And if we wait too long to do what is actually in our own interests, their own flawed vision -- that internationalization means a strategic failure for the US -- could end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.