The Washington Postleads with the first clues on how a Pentagon review might recommend improving the situation in Iraq. Members of the review group have identified three basic options, which have been dubbed “Go Big” (send more troops), “Go Long” (reduce the number of troops but stay longer), and “Go Home” (pull out). The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at how an Army manual is being modified to take into account the failures in Iraq.
The New York Timesleads several recent studies that reveal there has been little progress in closing the gap in test scores between minority and white students. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with news that Syria’s foreign minister visited Iraq and pledged to support the country’s efforts to end the violence. The minister also emphasized the United States should set a timetable for withdrawal. USA Todayleads with a look at how some states are trying to find different ways to finance road building. Some state and local governments are in trouble because what they receive from the gasoline tax is not enough to cover costs since, in most states, it has been outpaced by inflation.
The Pentagon’s study of the situation in Iraq is allegedly independent from other efforts by the White House and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. According to the anonymous military officials who spoke with the Post’s Thomas Ricks, the Pentagon panel is likely to recommend a combination of “Go Big” and “Go Long,” which would mean increasing the U.S. troops in Iraq by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period of time, coupled with a long-term commitment to training Iraqi forces. One U.S. official called the mixture, “Go Big But Short While Transitioning to Go Long.” After the short-term increase in troops, the plan would call for a reduction of as many as 60,000 troops. There are several potential problems with the plan, including that it seems to go against the expressed wishes of many Democrats in Congress who want to get out of Iraq ASAP.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s tactic of using a small, agile force had been praised a few years ago, but the revised manual will emphasize the need to take into account the security of the local population as well as military victory. Critics of the way the Iraq invasion was carried out say the insurgency was allowed to grow when U.S. troops did not take care of the civilian population after urban battles. In the old manual, combat came first, and then “stability operations” would follow. But the new manual will point out the need to support civilians, even while major combat is still ongoing.
Although some slight improvements have been reported, as a general rule, lower test scores among African-American and Hispanic students continue to appear at an early age and merely get worse throughout the years of public schooling. Under the current No Child Left Behind law, schools were given until 2014 to close the gaps in test scores but, so far, there has been little to show for it. Some are suggesting the new Democratic Congress needs to implement changes before it reauthorizes the law next year.
Syria’s visit is yet another sign of the role regional powers are likely to play in solving the conflict in Iraq. While the Bush administration has tried to avoid talking about it, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group will likely recommend that Syria and Iran should play a role. And yesterday, once again, showed how desperately some sort of answer is needed to stop the violence, as at least 111 people were killed or found dead in Iraq.
The WSJ also goes high with an interview Henry Kissingergave to the BBC, where he said military victory in Iraq is no longer possible. Kissinger also emphasized the need for the United States to enter into talks with regional powers.
The NYT off-leads an interesting dispatch from Iraq analyzing the way in which cyclical revenge is responsible for much of the violence in Baghdad. At first the killings seemed random, but now there appears to be a pattern of “attack and counterattack” between Shiites and Sunnis. And it’s not just militias who are responsible for all this violence. Regular citizens, who find themselves overwhelmed by anger and frustration at the inability of their government to solve anything, are also seeking revenge for friends or family members who were killed.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, the NYT and WP go inside with Hezbollah’s leader once again urging citizens to prepare for mass demonstrations to topple the government of Lebanon. “When the time comes, we have to be ready,” Hasan Nasrallah said, “We could call for demonstrations in 24 hours, 12 hours or 6 hours.”
Everybody mentions Israel called off an airstrike against a Palestinian militant’s home after about 200 neighbors and supporters ignored the warnings of the impending bombing and went into the house. The Palestinians claimed victory, but the Israeli military said it was yet another example of how militants use civilian shields to protect themselves.
The NYT and WP reefer word from the British police that they are investigating whether a former Russian spy who is living in exile in Britain was poisoned. Alexander V. Litvinenko had been looking into the killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
The LAT reveals on Page 1 that even though KB Home Chief Executive Bruce Karatz was forced to leave the company as a result of a stock-option controversy, he still stands to get as much as $175 million in severance pay.