President Bush is expected to give a major speech announcing a new strategy in Iraq. This is an excellent opportunity for the administration to announce a big strategic change that could dramatically improve America's prospects in Iraq.
President Bush has no real competition in setting policy for Iraq as the Democrats, who have taken control of Congress, have no unified message on Iraq other than a vague, general defeatism, and they offer no definite plan for what America should do--except, of course, their usual plan to carp about whatever the administration does.
An internal Pentagon review of the war, requested by Bush as part of his attempt to sidestep the Iraq Study Group, has considered three options: "go big," "go long," or "go home." Going big means dramatically increasing the number of US combat troops in Iraq, going long means committing more resources to the long-term process of training Iraqi forces and building the stability of the Iraqi government and going home means withdrawing US troops.
But there is another, far more effective option: go wide. This means recognizing that Iraq is just one front in a regional war against an Islamist Axis centered in Iran. Going wide means recognizing that the conflict in Iraq is fueled and magnified by the intervention of Iran and Syria.
The Iraq Study Group report flopped because one of its key recommendations--its one unique idea--was for America to negotiate with Iran and Syria in order to convince these countries to aid in the "stabilization" of Iraq. This proposal wasn't so much argued to death as it was laughed to death, because it is clear that Iran and Syria have done everything they can to de-stabilize Iraq, supporting both sides of the sectarian conflict there. It is obvious that both regimes have a profound interest in an American failure and retreat in Iraq. After all, if America can successfully use force to replace a hostile dictatorship with a free society, then the Iranian and Syrian regimes are doomed.
Going wide also means recognizing that more is at stake in this war than just the fate of Iraq. This is a war to determine who and what will dominate the Middle East. Will this vital region be dominated by a nuclear-armed Iran, working to spread Islamic fascism? Or will America be able to exert its military influence and political ideals in the region?
The Iranians seek to extend their control over the region by supporting Shiite Islamist militias in Iraq. But they are also trying to achieve their goal by propping up the Assad regime in Syria, by arming Hezbollah in Lebanon, by arming and funding Hamas in the Palestinian territories, by hosting Holocaust denial conferences in an attempt to justify a war to destroy Israel, by harboring fugitive al-Qaeda leaders, and by supporting terrorists and anti-American strongmen (such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez) around the world.
President Bush warned us last year that "the Iranian regime has clear aims: they want to drive America out of the region, to destroy Israel, and to dominate the broader Middle East." Senator Lieberman has warned that "while we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States."
But these leaders have so far avoided advocating the use of military force against Iran.
The fact is that America is fighting the wrong war in the wrong place. They are trying to fight a regional war by limiting themselves to a local conflict in Baghdad, when it has its source in Damascus and Tehran.