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December 29, 2004


Great post von.

I've been dumbfounded at this resistance to acknowledge that more troops would improve things. Without even approaching an explanation of why that's a bad idea, many blog folks try to shut down the suggestion by asking "how do you know there's not enough, huh, you unmilitary civlian...how do you know???" As if throwing my lack of military experience in my face is supposed to make me cower and ignore the realities I can comprehend, such as what you so perfectly describe via "even a few of the troops on the ground might suspect that it's important to secure Iraq's infrastructure."

The job is clear in such cases...it's the resources/personnel that are missing.

Is it all simply stubborness? A refusal to acknowledge that they were wrong about the troop number needed? Or is it the inability to figure out how to get more troops without starting the draft back up?

I've been meaning to write a comprehensive rebuttal of that piece. This post will be another arrow in my quiver; thanks.

Doesn't seem like people are interested in commenting on this thread. Too depressing?
I have been reading military.com pretty regularly just to get a view into that world. There is quite a bit of distrust and bitter anger directed toward the Bush administration on the blog. I get the impression that some (I have no idea what percent) soldiers feel that the war is very badly managed in terms of tactics and materials. I also read some Iraqi blogs for the same reason, and I have stumbled on some similar comments: Americans seen as protective of themselves but not interested in actually establishing order. I am not saying that this is a widespread view.
If I was a soldier in Iraq I'm pretty sure my primary goal would be to get home alive. That, of course, flows naturally out of my belief that we should not be there in the first place. My secondary goal would be to avoid doing anything that I might have on my conscience for the rest of my life. There is an article in last week's New York Times magazine about the extraordinarily high number of soldiers coming back with depression, PTS sydrome, and other emotional/mental health problems.
I think we are floundering over there. I also think the floundering is a consequence of having entered the war on false pretenses. Bush must know that support for the war is weak and limited. He wants to "win" but he wants to do it without a draft and without having so many bodies come home that it starts upsetting people. So we are fighting and not fighting-binges and bursts, no overall plan.

Doesn't seem like people are interested in commenting on this thread. Too depressing?

What more is there to say? Great post from Von: yes. The Iraq war is being mismanaged: this is not new. Bush & Co have no plans to manage it better: we knew this.

Too depressing? Yes. The Iraq war is lost: it's just a question of how many more people, Americans and Iraqis, have to die before the President of the US decides to withdraw US troops. With Bush in charge, I wouldn't venture to prophecy when that will be.

Edward: I saw a good Frontline series on this topic, and according to the people they interviewed, Rumsfeld's initial idea was 50,000 troops, and Franks' was several hundred thousand. He wanted to prove a point about a leaner military in which some combination of technology and special forces replace large chunks of the normal army. Personally, I would not have tested my force structure theories on a war as difficult as Iraq, where so many things could go wrong and the tasks ahead of us -- even if you only count the ones needed to avert a disaster, not the ones that would just help in some lesser way -- were so huge. Or at least I would not have done so without a backup plan. But hey -- I'm just a civilian too.

But then, come to think of it, so are Rumsfeld, Feith, and Wolfowitz.

Dr. V, my conspiracy theorist friend (who I've seen a bit too much of over the holidays) has, of course, a theory about Rumsfeld's real goal here. Dr. V insists that this emphasis on a "leaner" military is actually leading up to a fighting force comprised more of machines than men in preparation for the pending war with China. He gives it 12 years before the writing for that is on the wall. Food for thought.

WRT troop levels, it's pretty much a sunk cost at this point. Rumsfeld's bright idea about 50K troops would have been sufficient to defeat Iraq's depleted military; unfortunately, Rumsfeld also believed that once the Iraqi military fell, we'd be greeted as liberators. We weren't.

OTOH, Franks knew better. I'm convinced he knew force levels of ~125K were insufficient for post-combat security and stabilization ops. Yet, he didn't push it as hard as he could have. There's sometimes a fine line between duty and dereliction of duty.

But as I said, it's moot now. We've reached a point where injecting more troops won't have much of an effect. Right now, the insurgency can be sustained indefinitely because they have the tacit, if not active, support of 20% of Iraq.

This leaves us 3 choices, none satisfactory: first, we can declare victory and beat feet outta Dodge; second, we could adopt the Scheuer approach and abandon the pretense about a democratic model in the ME; or third, we could continue the status quo until our casualties dictate an exercise of option one.

Allow me to me cry over some spilled milk: the old iraqi army. . Properperly purged, they would have provided the troop levels necessary to secure law & order and protect the infrastructure. Indeed, even very improperly purged, they would have been a lot better that the unfunny joke that is the current Iraqi National Guard (or whatever they're now called after the latest but surely not last bout of re-organistation). Not to speak that the insurgents wouldn't have a ready pool of humiliated and unemployed soldiers and officers to recruit from.
I've pondered wether it would be possible to put some milk back in bottle by remobilizing it. Of course, it would mean admitting responsability for spilling it in the first place, which makes it a total non-starter as long as Bush is in the WH.
Besides, I've think we've already reached the point, or about to do it any time now, when the insurgency has become strong enough that no amount of troops can defeat it, viz. viet nam after '68.
I think the dictionary entry for 'iraqization' in the future will be 'like lebanization, only an order of magnitude greater'.

link accident. sorry.

working link to the article

Rumsfeld's bright idea about 50K troops would have been sufficient to defeat Iraq's depleted military

Uh, no, actually. Rumsfield's bright idea was explicitly predicated on the assumption that they wouldn't fight - but they did.

Even with 150k troops the invasion of Iraq was a much closer-run thing than people realise, because even that number was predicated on a quick surrender by ordinary Iraqi conscripts. The Iraqi strategy of attacking supply lines with fedayeen while holding the bulk of their troops within the cities (where their morale and loyalty were easier to maintain, and where airpower and mobility mattered much less) had the coalition in serious trouble by the end of March.

Fortunately Saddam did a really dumb thing at that point: he made Qusay C-in-C. Qusay, in search of a spectacular victory rather than trying for attrition, ignored his professionals' advice and moved the Republican Guard out of the cities, where it was promptly destroyed by airpower. The resulting demoralisation at senior command levels led to them look more favourably on longstanding US offers of sanctuary and money (this is the back story to what happened at Baghdad airport). Only after this did the demoralisation spread to more junior levels.

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