President_George_W_BushThis piece draws on Bevin Alexander's analysis of Confederate Civil War General Stonewall Jackson's plan to march north against Washington, D.C. Rather than remain tied down before Union armies in Virginia, Jackson wanted to take the war to his enemy's capital. Southern leaders, being unable to think more broadly than the immediate tactical situation, rejected the plan; the result was not a southern victory, but stalemate and slaughter. Poole suggests that America should follow Jackson's strategy and extricate its troops from Iraq by marching through Syria to the sea, thus removing the Assad regime. The resulting civil war, he says, would change the situation in the Middle East fundamentally, and would serve American interests. Leaving aside Alexander's analysis of the Civil War, what are the merits of Poole's plan?

What's good about Poole's article is that it asks us to think outside the scope of how we are doing things right now. It calls for rejecting our present efforts at fighting an insurgency and for mounting a decisive offense. His plan also identifies the fact that Americans can win, want to win, and will vote for a leader who aims to win. The article is also right to observe that the Iraq Study Group report is a blueprint for retreat into defeat.

What's bad about Poole's actual plan is that it runs thoroughly counter to our proper purpose. There are no tactical reasons to march through Syria to the sea. Such reasons did exist for Civil War generals, given the logistics at the time, but they do not exist in today's context. . . .

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