CHANGING COURSE IN IRAQ….I have to confess that I’m mystified by Wes Clark’s op-ed in the New York Times today about how we should change course in Iraq. For starters, he makes a few recommendations regarding troop deployments:

20,000 troops…along Iraq’s several thousand miles of vulnerable border….military efforts against insurgent strongholds…maybe 30,000 troops….six to eight American brigades…available as a last resort if there is trouble in cities with large militia factions like Baghdad, Basra and Najaf.

….Still, none of this necessitates a pullout until the job is done. After the elections, we should be able to draw down by 30,000 troops from the 160,000 now there. Don’t bet against our troops.

What am I missing here? Does this arithmetic add up?

And the politics is even worse. Iraq needs to ban militias. The Pentagon needs more translators. Iraqis need to federalize all oil revenues and prevent the creation of a Shiite region in the south. Sectarian influences need to be reduced. And Iran needs to be told to respect Iraq’s independence.

If any of this stuff were possible, we wouldn’t have any problems in Iraq in the first place. But the Shiite majority doesn’t want to ban militias, it doesn’t want to prevent the creation of a Shiite super-region, and it doesn’t want to reduce sectarian influences ? and we can’t make them. The Kurds don’t want to federalize oil revenues, and the Pentagon doesn’t have any more translators. As for Iran, good luck.

This might have been a great plan two years ago. Today it’s a pipe dream. What’s the point of writing stuff like this?