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December 30, 2003

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There was a Post article yesterday that sort of addressed why more troops in Iraq really hasn’t materialized. The Army, Air force, Navy and Marines have all enforced some rule from the Vietnam era that forces National Guard members whos contract was set to expire into additional service. For some their contracts have been extended to 2020 - apparently the Feds way of saying who knows when we are going to let you leave, retire, etc.

The other thing floating around these parts has been the much less subtle whispers that our armed forces are in fact grossly under manned. While these stop-gap orders (or whatever they are called) have managed to boost the number of active service men/women above levels set by congress, the military finds itself stretched very thin.

So the article led me to believe (to some extent) that keeping a massive force on the ground in Iraq isn’t practical - and perhaps possible. And right now the people on the ground in Iraq have less of an idea when they will get to go home than did people pressed into service during Vietnam. It would appear that our "volunteer army" is no longer so voluntary.

as for corporations operating in Iraq currently. I think the environment is as big a factor as US procurment policy is a hamper to getting things done.

Who other than Halliburton and the remnants of a few hardened NGOs are presently operating in Iraq?

von, assuming you're not just being rhetorical, there's a list of Iraq contractors at the Center for Public Integrity, with links providing history of each contractor and what they've been contracted to do. I don't necessarily agree with some of the CPI's analysis of the politics behind the contracts, but they've done a lot of legwork in assembling the raw information. The biggest presences are indeed Halliburton and Bechtel, but they're hardly alone.

theffer, "stop-loss" is primarily being used to hold on to people in key specialties, although there are an awful lot of those needed right now. Phil Carter has an excellent post on the subject, and as the Post story points out, once you've enlisted, you go where you're told to go. If your country needs you, you get to suck it up and deal with the consequences. The US armed forces are voluntary only in the sense of "no one will make you enlist" -- it isn't a standard employment contract, by any means.

The entire "Total Force" concept, where key elements of our military capability are contained within the Guard and the Reserves, implies that things like this will happen. If you don't want to pay to keep those capabilities in the active force (which would be seriously pricy), then something like "Total Force" is the only real option. Spending money on the armed forces is hard to justify in peacetime, but it turns out to be critical when those forces are finally needed.

The other thing floating around these parts has been the much less subtle whispers that our armed forces are in fact grossly under manned.

It's certainly true that the military is being forced to make readjustments to account for its commitments. Part of planning for a war of choice, however, is planning for its aftermath. We should have planned for a larger invasion force and made the necessary adjustments in advance.

This may have caused a one-year delay in the invasion plan. I was (and still am) fine with that. Although I believe that Saddam needed to be removed by military force, I did not believe that he posed an imminent threat to the US or its allies. (I could go on, but I've rehashed this argument endlessly at Tacitus.org.)

von, assuming you're not just being rhetorical, there's a list of Iraq contractors at the Center for Public Integrity, with links providing history of each contractor and what they've been contracted to do.

I was being rhetorical, Michael N.. Consider Halliburton a stand in for the "hardened" defense contractors (and their sub-contractors) currently operating in Iraq, e.g., Bechtel; IAP. For non-hardened, non-defense contractors, Iraq is not a safe country to do business in. As a result, the reconstruction of Iraq has progressed slowly, and at significant additional cost. Until this is changed, we have not succeeded in Iraq.

I'd also caution that the CPI list indicates contracts awarded, and does not always indicate what work has actually been done under the contracts. (See the entry for IAP's $500 million dollar contract, for instance.)

1 year wouldnt have provided enough time for the armed forces to gear up sufficently. I am sure there was a patriotic surge in recruit numbers post 9/11. But with the US preparing for a war in Iraq less than 6 months later (not to mention the question of guessing how long we would have to stay to clean up) I assume the numbers in fresh recruits began to drop. add to that a failing economy, understanding that their ability to influence/change US foriegn policy with little to no resitance from the hill (for a period which is slowly ending) means they knew they had to strike while there hand was hot.

if they pushed out that invade date they would most likely have had to rejustify why we were going in - and quite frankly who would have really cared about saddam in 2 or 3 years? was he a problem - yes. but he was a self contained problem. and hindsight leads me to believe that saddam contained in Iraq is better for the US than the can of worms we have since opened.

which forces me to question my typical utilitarian perspective on things. who is best served by all of this? I cant put my finger on it right now - and who knows what sort of impact election season will have on this.


have a happy NYE von. give the mrs. my best.

1 year wouldnt have provided enough time for the armed forces to gear up sufficently.

It would have given plenty of time, however, to shift forces, free up additional forces from other commitments, rested others (remember, many of the troops who served in Iraq had just left Afghanistan), and provided extra time to gather allies.

was he a problem - yes. but he was a self contained problem.

I don't wanna re-fight this one, but, briefly: sanctions could not continue indefinitely; the evidence suggested that Saddam was actively pursuing WMDs (and likely had "WMDs up the wazoo," as I remarked in a prior post); and would continue to menace his neighbors, his people, and us for the rest of his sorry existence. I'm sorry, at some time invasion becomes the only option.

have a happy NYE von. give the mrs. my best.

You too, will do, and give my best to D.

I'd want to call a distinction between Saddam wanting WMD and actively persuing them; in the light of weapons scientist saying they lied to him about progress.

After all, it, er, depends on what your definition of 'is', is (shooting myself in the foot).

von, at some time invasion becomes the only option.

When was this? Because I don't see that Sept. 11, 2001 has anything much to do with this. Sorry - in the interests of a short response, ignore that last sentence. The only totally indestructible arguments re. Iraq are humanitarian, and that one has been standing since the 1980s.

Sanctions, from what weapons scientists have been saying, seem to have been working - but only insofar as WMD programmes are concerned. Obviously they were detrimental to the well-being of the Iraqi populace and as such couldn't continue, as you say.

I don't understand how anyone, pro or anti the war, can be against the troops remaining there until there is stability.

Sanctions, from what weapons scientists have been saying, seem to have been working - but only insofar as WMD programmes are concerned. Obviously they were detrimental to the well-being of the Iraqi populace and as such couldn't continue, as you say.

With the benefit of hindsight, yes, we now know that sanctions were far more effective at curtailing Saddam's quest for WMDs than we had guessed. But we didn't have -- couldn't have had -- that hindsight at the time of the decision. At that time, the best evidence showed that Saddam presented a real WMD menace (in addition to the regular kind).

We also know what Saddam was capable of doing when he's not in the box. And, as you suggest, the box was eventually going to be removed. Given the history of the man and the regime, we could not allow him to roam the Middle East (so to speak) unfettered.

Those are two further solid reasons to invade, in addition to the humanitarian reasons you note.

But we didn't have -- couldn't have had -- that hindsight at the time of the decision

Well one never has hindsight in advance, obviously. But Blix did have a word or two to say on the matter. I guess it comes down to a question of his competence. Our evidence so far seems to back him up more than UK/US intelligence services, and Rumsfeld's unfortunate "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

Furthermore, UK intelligence made it quite clear that getting any convincing information out of Iraq was extraordinarily difficult. This is one thing to come out of the Hutton Inquiry here in the UK.

And there was never any official mention of the sanctions being dropped/lifted. I wasn't suggesting they were about to be; only that they were harming the Iraqi people. This might be splitting hairs, but if we're talking really solid reasons, like 100%, humanitarian is still the only one. Not, of course, that one couldn't say it's not reason enough on its own.

But Blix did have a word or two to say on the matter. I guess it comes down to a question of his competence.

Yes, Blix stated that the Iraqis were not cooperating with him and filed a false declaration.

Now, I agree that Blix's more cautious assessments of Iraq's WMD programs proved more correct than assessments by American and British intelligence, but even Blix didn't certify Iraq as WMD free. Moreover, you're dodging the issue by confronting only a portion of it: The threat was not merely from the WMDs Saddam had now, but the WMDs he surely would possess once sanctions were lifted. He has a history in this, you know -- in addition to his history of oppressing his people, invading his neighbors, and generally being a right bastard.

the WMDs he surely would possess once sanctions were lifted - but this was not intimated, as I said in the post above yours. It's not entirely fair talking about dodging issues and then ignoring that point.

You're slightly spinning the point about WMD by emphasising Blix's mention of Iraqi fudging and lumping the fact he was most likely more reliable than the evidence our respective governments chose to follow over him, into a paragraph then listing Saddam's (obvious) failings as a leader and human being.

But before I go on the (equally obvious) line of Uzbekistan et al (and allow me to point you in the direction of a good post about this on some random blog - and I hope the article's author has lobbied his government to adopt his policy), let me say if you're fine with pre-emptive strikes, then you're luckier than I am. I can't get round the idea of them being difficult to justify. But then these are strange days. My problem is, how do we now say 'no' to India, to Pakistan, to China, if they consider preemptive strikes? What moral authority do we use with Putin, should he invoke the doctrine of preemption against Chechnya?


Okay, let's look at the reasons given for going into Iraq, as said at the time:

War since Iraq is in breach of UN resolutions?

There are only two parts of the UN charter that 'permit' war. Both are in Chapter VII.

1. Under Chapter VII, Article 42, the Security Council may authorize the use of force.

2. Under Chapter VII, Article 51, a Member of the United Nations may use force without authorisation if it is under attack or under threat of imminent attack.

Neither was the case for the United States or Great Britain. Any attack on Iraq was therefore an illegal war (it seems ridiculous and distasteful to describe war in terms of legality, but there it is).

Surely there's hypocrisy in saying we're attacking SH for not following UN resolutions when we attack contrary to the UN charter?

Flagrant disregard for UNSCR 1441

“authority to use force against Iraq exists from the combined effect of UNSCRs 678, 687 and 1441” - UK Government, to ME, 27th March.

Arguing a cumulative authority (which is an appalling claim to legality) from a number of UNSCRs does rather act as an admission that no single one advocates the use of force.

Furthermore, they appear to be at odds with the Prime Minister, who said to the Commons on 18 March:

“We have to act within the terms set out in Resolution 1441. That is our legal base.”

Granted, UNSCR 678:
“Authorizes Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 January 1991 fully implements, as set forth in paragraph 1 above, the foregoing resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area”

However, UNSCR 687 rescinds this:

“Affirms all thirteen resolutions noted above, except as expressly changed below to achieve the goals of this resolution, including a formal cease-fire”

We therefore need a new authorisation of force.

UNSCR 1441 decides Iraq is in breach of a number of resolutions but does not authorise force, a fact noted by a number of UN ambassadors after its adoption.


Weapons of Mass Destruction & al-Qaeda

It was generally acknowledged by politicians and intelligence services that there was no link between the Iraqi Government and al-Qaeda, and that there were far more likely sources for weapons for the terrorists than those which may have been in Iraq (although the whole WMD claim was subsequently played down by politicians as they realised it looked likely they weren't going to find any after all - hic et ibidem).

Furthermore, a recording claimed by the US and UK to be by Osama Bin Laden was anti-Saddam Hussein.

Let us ignore the fact that both the US and the UK are also in breach of UN resolutions as regards their weapons of mass destruction...

This just leaves the humanitarian issue.

If you're talking about reasons we should have cited for going in, like WMD he could/would have acquired in future, that's all well and good. But they were NOT the ones given at the time; let's be clear about that.

All right, von, perhaps my last post is just adorably naive - I mean, if those arguments couldn't convince people at the time, why on earth do I expect them to convince you now?

But do you see why it's only the humanitarian argument we can really be sure of agreeing upon?

James Casey,

The Congress of the United States of America provided the only authorization necessary for its' President as Commander in Chief to take action against Iraq. All questions or arguments referring to said action by the Congress should be referred to your elected representative.

What part of the paragragh above is so difficult to understand. You either helped or opposed the election of your representatives. You had your say. The rhetoric used by those you supported or opposed is irrelevant. Their subsequent actions are relevant and your concerns should be addressed to them.

The President does not (and cannot) act without the support of Congress. Amendments or acts of the UNSC are not (and Constitutionally, can never) be pretexts for military actions by the United States.

Why is this so difficult to understand?

"All questions or arguments referring to said action by the Congress should be referred to your elected representative."

Who will have to then make a transatlantic call, as Mr. Casey's elected representative (whoever he or she might be) does not have any offical oversight over the USA - a state of affairs stretching back to July of 1776.

"and I hope the article's author has lobbied his government to adopt his policy"

I have, actually. I was a letter-writing madman a few weeks back. :)

On the important issue: "Many (including I)...."

Ugh. English, man, English. "Including me...."

Moe,

You are, of course, correct. Mr. Casey should be invited to the US to make his appeal directly to our governing entity. His subsequent disposition is a matter best resolved by normal VRWC procedures.*

*Do you happen to know his approximate weight?

RDB: *Do you happen to know his approximate weight?

Metric or Imperial?

And Moe - Kudos for the writing. It'd be a shame if the various pundits across the Web didn't actually try to do anything to get their opinions implemented.

RDB again: The Congress of the United States of America provided the only authorization necessary for its' President as Commander in Chief to take action against Iraq. All questions or arguments referring to said action by the Congress should be referred to your elected representative.

Absolutely. I don't dispute that. But then that wasn't mentioned at the time by those taking the decision to go in. They trumpeted UNSCRs and as such I pointed out at the time and do so now that this was mistaken. I'm 'just' saying that the majority of the reasons we were told were wrong. Not all of them.

If they'd said at the time "Look, he's evil and we don't need any reason other than that", I'd have had more respect for them. The whole UN thing was a shot in the foot for almost everyone (the UN included).

Moe: Mr. Casey's elected representative (whoever he or she might be) does not have any offical oversight over the USA

That's the problem I have with unilateralism. I haven't got any say over it if it's not my country who does it. >:-C

But do you see why it's only the humanitarian argument we can really be sure of agreeing upon?

That begs the question, doesn't it? So, sure, if the humanitarian argument is the only one you can really be sure of agreeing upon, I suppose it's also the only one we can be sure of agreeing upon.

As you imply with your reference to Uzbekistan, however, pre-emptive action cannot solely be justified on humanitarian grounds. So, if you don't buy the argument that Saddam is and would be a danger to the US and its allies, then, yes, I'd hope that you would oppose a pre-emptive war to remove him.

As for the justifications for war, well, I'm sorry that the best arguments for removing Saddam didn't get made in the United States. I've been highly critical of Bush on many grounds, including his handling of the lead up and aftermath of the war. For the record, though, I've heard your duly elected represenative make arguments similar to the ones I set forth above.

Now, turning to Mr. Farber (who last took issue with my summary dismissal of a British curse word on the Holiday open thread):

Ugh. English, man, English. "Including me...."

Farber, I was in a rush. But here's a deal: I'll forgive your sentence fragments if you'll forgive me that typo.

For the record, though, I've heard your duly elected represenative make arguments similar to the ones I set forth above.

Yeah, he did, but he didn't cite it as a reason for going in, just as a reason not to trust Saddam Hussein's word on the status of his WMD programmes. Which is fair enough.

There are times when I worry that my stance is really picky and missing the point - and I'm sure there are people reading this who'd agree with that - but on balance I still hold to it. It's a shame the world has to be in shades of grey.

Oh, and the British curse word you dismissed has pretty much the same impact over here as its 'e'-less parent. Is it not much in currency Stateside?

I do think you're splitting hairs, James Casey -- but, heck, they're yours to split.

Is [sh_te] not much in currency Stateside?

It's used a bit -- generally by the same people who use "effing" as a substitute for the f-word. Which is to say, silly people.*

von

*I'm allowed to say that because I've used both effing and sh_te at various times in my silly life.

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