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Expert analyzes Bush's Iraq plan

Retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs explains his impressions to Tucker Carlson
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On Wednesday, President Bush vowed to keep our troops in Iraq until the job is done.  The president, speaking from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., refused to set a time table for troop withdrawal.  He said Iraqi troops are becoming more capable of fighting terrorists, but that the situation, quote, "will take time and patience." 

To accompany Bush's speech, the White House also released an unclassified 35-page document entitled National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.

"Many advocating an artificial time table for withdrawing our troops are sincere," the president said.  "But I believe they're sincerely wrong.  Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory.

"To all that wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins, so long as I am your commander-in-chief," he added.

Some Democrats trashed the president's speech even before he finished giving it.  Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) issued a statement, claiming that Bush, "just recycled his tired rhetoric of stay the course." 

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) meanwhile, backed Rep. Jack Murtha's (D-Pa.) plan for a speedy and complete withdrawal from Iraq. 

For more on what the troops think about all this, MSNBC's Tucker Carlson welcomed retired U.S. Army Colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs to Wednesday's 'Situation' program.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON:  So it seems the bulk, not the bulk, a large portion of the president's speech was about the Iraqi defense forces.  And that's kind of the key question.  Are they ready to take over?  When will they be ready to take over?  There's all this debate about how many battalions are, in fact, ready to fight on their own.  Congress, congressional hearings come up with one battalion.  You've heard other people say dozens of battalions.  What's the real answer?

JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, like most things in life, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  It ain't zero, and it ain't 112, or whatever it is that's being proffered by the administration. 

There are probably about 30 battalions that are ready.  They don't fight by themselves.  They're not prepared to fight by themselves.  And it will be a long time before they can fight by themselves. 

Once we leave, the bulk, we remove the bulk of our conventional forces, you can expect that we're going to have lots and lots of advisors still with Iraqi forces for a long time to come. 

CARLSON:  What about the argument that the Iraqi defense forces will never stand on their own as long as we're there in great numbers, and that they need the threat of our withdrawal in order to get their act together?

JACOBS:  Oh, I think that they may or may not get their act together whether we're there or not.  I think that our being there does not necessarily motivate them to sit on their backsides.  I think they would-the bulk of them would like us to go home in any case. 

I think we provide a lot of needed security over there, and that's not going to change the near future. 

But we are going home.  The administration has established internally a time table, and I think we're going to start withdrawing troops.  So whether the Iraqi forces want us there or don't want us there, I think we're leaving. 

CARLSON:  If the whole country doesn't want us there, and we're facing this insurgency that is primarily local Iraqis, it sounds like, at least according to the Pentagon, some people are saying you can never defeat an insurgency, or at least we can't.  Do you think that's true?

JACOBS:  No.  I mean, insurgencies have been defeated before.  The British did a great job in Malaya. 

But you approach the defeat of an insurgency very much differently than you approach the defeat of a conventional force.  We started out in Iraq with the objective of defeating a conventional force, bring large numbers of troops in there, not as many as I thought we needed, not as many as a lot of people think we needed.  As a matter of fact, I think we need more there now than we have there now. 

But we go in there with large numbers of troops.  We have enormous numbers of precision guided munitions and so on.  We blow these guys all to pieces, and then a miracle would happen, and there would be a Democratic country. 

Well, life is not like that.  And the insurgency is certainly not like that.  And insurgency takes a different kind of force.  It takes a measured response to a wide variety of challenges, and it takes a long time. 

We never, ever approached the war in Iraq from the standpoint of fighting an insurgency, and we're not doing it now either ...

CARLSON:  What's the first thing we'd do if we were approaching it as a war against an insurgency?

JACOBS:  Well, for one thing, we'd have to have much better intelligence than we have now.  We'd have to focus our intel -- our efforts on gathering intelligence, on using special operations forces, and not conventional forces. 

We'd have to isolate pockets of where the enemy, pockets of resistance, and move outward, secure them.  You know, we went into Fallujah several times.  We've been up in the northwest part of Iraq ...  for a long, long time.  You can't go into someplace and leave.  We found out in Vietnam you can't do that.  You don't go into someplace and then leave, because the bad guys come back again.  You establish a base.  You eliminate the bad guys.  And then you move your security operations outward from there. 

That's how to defeat an insurgency, and there are lots of other things you have to do too, but from the security standpoint, that's what you have to do.  We didn't do that.  We have never done that in Iraq.  And quite frankly, it takes lots more troops than we have there, and a focus on doing counter insurgency operations, and we don't have -- we're just not going to do that. 

CARLSON:  Well, speaking of Vietnam, where you obviously spent a lot of time, you heard similar arguments then, as you're hearing now, that people everywhere, regardless of culture, creed, religion, yearn for freedom, almost above all.  You heard the president say today, the insurgency will fail because will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in liberty.  Do you think that's true?  Is it your experience that people everywhere yearn in the way we yearned for liberty?

JACOBS:  Well, I think everybody yearns for freedom and liberty, especially people who are oppressed.  But the real question is not whether or not people want liberty, but how much they're willing to pay for it.  There's a high price for it.  And if it's too high a price, you're not going to -- you will not pay the price. 

Look at Iraq itself.  Saddam Hussein was in charge of that joint for, you know, three decades, 35 years.  Well, you didn't see much liberty taking place there. 

If they really wanted liberty enough to pay for it, they would have done something back then.  The fact of the matter is, that everybody yearns for liberty.  There's no doubt about it, but you have to be willing and capable of paying the price to achieve it, and not everybody is willing to do that.