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October 13, 2005

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400,000 troops might have been doable if they stripped everything else, but I doubt that anything could have been done "momentarily". As I recall, it took close to 6 months to get the first three divisions ready and transported over there.

I think you would need 400,000 for at least teh first year, and what we are seeing on teh ground now bears that out IMO.

As soon as they forced General Shinseki into retirement for giving realistic troop requirements everyone should have realized the Iraqi adventure was doomed to failure and our leadership is failing.

Hasn't everyone been saying that the increased troop levels are necessary to combat and hold territory against the insurgency? Is it your hope, Von, that had we gone in with a massive show of force there would have been no insurgency?

I always thought it very probable that we would face an insurgency, so I doubt that if we'd gone in with 400,000 troops, we'd have been able to bring them back out. Maybe this is me being pessimistic, but as events have turned out, I wasn't pessimistic enough in my dire post-invasion predictions.

No, we couldn't have invaded with more troops. Technically we HAD more troops -- they were in transit from Turkey when we invaded, after Turkey refused to let us do the north/south invasion plan.

The problem here was political -- if Bush had kept waiting to invade (even for the extra few weeks it took to get the troops moved from Turkey to Kuwait) he might have been unable to. Part of it was weather related, but for the most part each day Blix's inspectors were coming up empty and convincing mroe and more people Iraq wasn't a threat.

Bush either invaded when he did -- without even the full US capacity in the region -- or he risked having the policial will to do so yanked out from under him.

In any case, even if we had thrown the kitchen sink at Iraq, and even if that had resulted in attention being paid to securing arms dumps, we almost certainly would have ended up facing exactly what we're facing -- a determined insurgency. They wouldn't be the most well-equipped insurgency in history -- as they are now -- but Saddam had opened up the arms dumps right before the invasion and the average Iraqi was pretty well armed to begin with.

We'd still need something like 3 to 4 times our maximum sustainable presence in Iraq.

We NEVER had the capacity to secure Iraq for more than 6 months. We could have done it for a year, but it would have completely broken the army to do so.

Surely there's some sort of tipping point argument to be made about the security vs big-footprint-resentment trade-off wrt the insurgency. OTOH an important factor at the time was projected cost. I assume that the price tag was proportional to troop number. And there was always the issue of having troops available for (actual) emergencies, an issue that would have had more traction at the time if the plan was to go all-in.

Good Point rilkefan.

As I recall there was concern with respect to North Korea taking advantage of the situation at the time.

Keep in mind that the US army in 2004 had 2/3rds as many soldiers as it did in 1991, when we were just starting to come down from Cold War levels.

Another point for consideration: given that we now know that an invasion of Iraq was being bruited at least as early as April 2002, and likely earlier, why did the Bush Administration not immediately start drawing up troop strength (via increased recruitment, incentivizations or what have you) in preparation for such a task?

And on an unrelated note: von, my understanding was that the 300,000 troop strength was a continual occupation strength necessary to suppress the inevitable insurgency, not a temporary "buffer" number. To make the argument I think you're making, you'd need to argue that those 300,000 troops wouldn't have been needed again after the initial few months, which I think is too counterfactual an assessment to make in context.

Anarch: why did the Bush Administration not immediately start drawing up troop strength (via increased recruitment, incentivizations or what have you)

Bring Back The Draft!! The problem with you youngsters is that you don't understand Discipline and Duty and Sacrifice and all the other good stuff imposed upon MY generation which, if not the Greatest G, was (and is) at least the most Self-Reflexive G.

Line 'em all up, shave their heads, put them in uniform, and not only would we straighten out all these raggedy-ass countries (as we so ably demonstrated in VN), but we'd restore Spirit and Backbone and VALUES to American life in general.

(Signed)

A Veteran
(of the Army of the Potomac)

Talking about how we might have better fought the war and won the peace in Iraq may salve the consciences of those who supported the war, but in the end it's just futility and silliness.

"Well", you might say, "If we had just done this, that and the other thing and not done those and these dumbass things, why the we might well now have peace and democracy in Iraq, stability and confidence at home and love and respect from all the peoples of the world, Muslim, Jew, Christian and Jedi alike...oh yes, and a pony"

But it's nonsense. The only way we could have had a sensible, reality-based and well-run invasion and reconstruction of Iraq would be if there had been someone else in the White House. I mean, haven't we figured out by now -- at long last -- that this administration couldn't find its ass with both hands and a flashlight?

The only way the invasion of Iraq could have succeeded would have been if someone else was President. But if someone else was President, we wouldn't have invaded Iraq.

Why didn't the Bush admin start immediately drawing up troop strength?

Because even Bush cannot possibly sell "Quick, cheap, easy war that pays for itself with oil" (the only way he was selling this one -- even pimping 9/11 -- after a few months of Blix coming up empty) AND simulteanously start trying to double the size of the Army.

Afghanistan demanded a war -- even Bush bowed to the pressure and went in, even though his first instincts were towards Iraq. Iraq, on the other hand, was a true war of choice -- and no matter how hard he flogged 9/11, Bush knew -- hell, everyone knew -- that if better be a quick and easy war, especially if no damn WMD's turned up.

A pragmatic President wouldn't have invaded. Luckily for Bush, he made sure he had nothing to do with pragmatists and got rid of any still lurking around the Pentagon, with their troops assesments and historical studies, and high-falutin' numbers.

"More." Here is a small additional piece of information, take it for what it's worth.

I was on a plane recently (aisle seat on a 737, ugh). My center seat partner was an Army special forces trainee, almost done with training. He mostly conversed with our window seat partner (even showed her a scar he got from a bullet ricochet in an exercise), but I overheard quite a bit and chimed in a little.

His officers are telling him he's in training for the "next one" in North Korea. He expects to be there within a few years. His opinion is that we have to surround China.

I remember an animated short film titled, "More." That word repeats as the images change. If I recall correctly, it starts with a baby, proceeds through heavy industrialization and ends with the Earth destroyed and the words, "no more."

I remember an animated short film titled, "More." That word repeats as the images change. If I recall correctly, it starts with a baby, proceeds through heavy industrialization and ends with the Earth destroyed and the words, "no more."

The Ur-Reference, for cinephiles, is to "Key Largo" (1948), in which gangter Edward G. Robinson, asked by (hostage/hero) Humphrey Bogart what he really wants, says, simply: "More."

Not a great film, but it has Bacall, too. Definitely worth watching.

Not a great film, but it has Bacall, too. Definitely worth watching.

That's the one where, towards the end of the film, Bacall, walking out past the band stand, does a little shimmy with her hips? Worth it just for that.

But of course, all of this commentary begs the question of what in the world do we do now??? Particularly in light of the Zawahiri letter and the al Quaeda long range plans? It seems that we are in a quagmire for which there is no real exit.

And I have to question any fool's plan to start a war on another front. We have stretched our army thin with this one, and recruitment is below replacement levels. If we could not win in Iraq with "the army we had", how are we going to attack N. Korea, Iran, and Syria for pete's sake???? Not even this crowd will be able to sell a draft to do so! Haven't they noticed the polls on this war? Don't they see that the country is getting fed up with this carnage? And that does not even begin to address the fact that we cannot afford another. As to surrounding China, what will be the point, when they own us?

I think that commenters have covered the ground well. To sum up:

1) It wasn't just a matter of 'more troops' for the first month or two; it was 1.5-2x the intitial invasion force, for a year.

2) Bush & Co were selling this as quick, easy, costless, necessary and urgent. The extent of mobilization required would have made it clear by summer, 2002 (my guess) that we were in for a real war, not a quicky 'Gulf War II: Faster and Easier'. This would have caused Congress to oppose him. Especially since that Congress might have been majority Democratic, after people realized what was in store.

3) Rumsfield (and Bush, and Cheney) were in love with the idea of easy techno-fixes. They didn't like the Army. Rumsfield's neglect was apparent two years after 9/11, and a year after it was clear that we were in a guerrilla war, when he hadn't ramped up armor and armored vehicle production on a war-emergency basis.

4) In the end, sh*theads get into messes that non-sh*theads rarely do.

von, no offence, but you've got it completely backwards. Rumsfeld was demonstrably right about not needing a large invasion force, but the occupation/peacekeeping force needed to be much bigger, not just at the start, but until the Iraqis were back on their feet and with functioning democratic institutions. These days the estimate for effective peacekeeping, based on analysis of unsuccessful operations in places like Bosnia and Rwanda, and more successful operations in places like Kosovo and Sierra Leone, is around 1 soldier for every 40-50 civilians, for at least a year. In Iraq, with a population of around 25m, that equates to 500,000 to 625,000 troops.

What we needed to do--if we were going to engage in this foolish venture at all--was to significantly increase our force size from the get-go, by whatever means including a draft if necessary. And what has been pretty obvious, or at least it seems obvious to me, is and has been that we don't and didn't need more armor, more artillery, more fighter wings, etc., but we needed dedicated peacekeeping divisions (I'm thinking something like a mechanized regiment including an AFV batallion, an MP regiment, an engineer regiment, a HQ batallion, and some special-skills companies and/or platoons, although the experts of course can work out the details). Peacekeeping has been one of the major tasks our military has been engaged in for quite some time, and we couldn't launch into an adventure like Iraq without knowing it was about to become a much larger task. Even beyond Iraq, we're more likely to engage ourselves in some kind of uni- or multilateral quelling of a hotspot somewhere that requires peacekeeping than we are to engage in a hot war where we use all our armor and so forth.

Which is why, as I said, it seems and has seemed really obvious to me that we need to reconfigure our force so that we have at least some units that are designed for the peacekeeping mission.

In fact, we can stand to get rid of some of those heavy units--we don't really need 'em all. Our war-fighting capability is so many light years ahead of that of any other nation in the world that it's really a little bit silly.

That we we could have had a larger presence, in the long-term, and it would've been better suited to the task at hand.

I'm a little skeptical of the value of putting 1/2 million on the ground for just a few months. Maybe in a year they could really do the job, but just "showing the flat" wasn't what needed to get done. If we were truly to pacify Iraq, we needed to go house to house, every house, look in every closet, every cupboard, every barn, put a pitchfork in every haystack, thump and drill for tunnels everywhere--and get rid of God's own arsenal that Saddam has spread throughout the country for the last twenty years and that can probably fuel a real everlasting gobstopper of an insurgency. I don't know how many would've been required and how long it would've taken, but I sent that half a mill for 3-4 months is probably not enough for the job.

Otherwise, I'm not sure what the numbers of Americans really does for us. We can probably do what we're doing now--i.e., holding communications, government and industrial centers and not much else--with less than what we have there already.

We told you so.

Wasn't going to work...

No matter how many chickens you sacrificed, or days fasted, or the volume of your applause, or the amount you prayed.

We told you it was not going to work, and doing it on false premises makes the not working--even worse.

The Ur-Reference, for cinephiles, is to "Key Largo" (1948), in which gangter Edward G. Robinson, asked by (hostage/hero) Humphrey Bogart what he really wants, says, simply: "More."

If memory serves, it's actually Bogart who articulates what Robinson wants as, simply, "more".

Dr Ngo:

The movie you are thinking of is "To Have and Have Not", her first movie, made while she was still a teenager.

oops, should have been directed to Liberal Japonicus.

I basically agree with a lot of what has been said before. But what continues to puzzle me is: why on earth did they want to invade Iraq so badly that (e.g.) they wouldn't try to increase troop strength as needed, because it would jeopardize the invasion?

Well, hilzoy, speculating on other peoples' motives is always fraught with peril, but here goes.

"Saddam tried to kill my daddy; only a war lets a President be great; God told me to do it."

thanx wmr, and with this
made while she was still a teenager.

the concept of statutory makes another appearance.

A couple of other unrelated things that might provoke a post from someone

This, from Next hurrahs emptywheel, suggests a closer examination of Tony Blair's possibly 'surprise' visit as well as this from DHinM (A person who I have seen on DKos, and who, until I actually typed out the name, I thought was someone of Vietnamese descent)

It also seemed to me that the neocons were very sure that infantry-rich nations like Pakistan and India would supply many divisions after the invasion. Everyone would want to donate cannon-fodder to get in on the action. Planning on this happening takes their stupidity to a new level, especially when the CPA went ahead and kept all the action for the Republicans. If you're counting on bribes to save you, you really ought to pay them first.

If Bush's current travails and falling poll numbers have accomplished nothing else, they've made starting another war very problematic.

No one outside his irreducible 30% would believe a word he said about how we "have" to attack Iran or N Korea. Even if he was telling the truth (and when has he, ever?) we just don't have the troops, or the equipment - or, probably, a strategy other than the usual Tinkerbell Wishes.

Bush could order attacks unilaterally, thanks to the blank check Congress gave him. But I think at this point the GOP leadership would do whatever it could to oppose him, because another war is a sure road to defeat in '06 and '08.

I wonder if even the military would obey an order to widen the war. Or - here's a scenario for the paranoid! - obeying an order to expand the war secretly, a la Nixon's secret bombings of Cambodia. The possibility of a mutiny by the armed forces is... well, reassuring on one hand, very worrisome on another.


Morat writes: " No, we couldn't have invaded with more troops. Technically we HAD more troops -- they were in transit from Turkey when we invaded, after Turkey refused to let us do the north/south invasion plan."

Except that Bush and Rumsfeld could have cranked up recruiting in late 2001 and enlarged the military *then* at the peak of post-9/11 patriotic fervor, and after Afghanistan when war looked all high-tech and easy, all commandos, target designation lasers and JDAMs.

And they could have used big incentives for long enlistments, to reduce turnover in the following years.

They didn't bother, leaving them with the problem of recruiting soldiers during a war that's gone to crap.

"Part of it was weather related"

I don't even buy that anymore. The claim was that they had to invade before summer, because then it'd be too hot, and we couldn't have our troops roasting in the desert for the summer.

Well, now they've been roasting there for three summers. So I guess it isn't that big of a deal after all.

Flashback:
--------------------------------------

The number of U.S. troops that would be required to administer Iraq after a U.S.-led military campaign is "not knowable" because of the large number of variables in how a conflict might unfold, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday.

He also said it "makes no sense to try" to come up with cost estimates for a war in Iraq because the variables "create a range that simply isn't useful."

"We have no idea how long the war will last. We don't know to what extent there may or may not be weapons of mass destruction used," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference. "We don't have any idea whether or not there would be ethnic strife. We don't know exactly how long it would take to find weapons of mass destruction and destroy them."

Here

"What http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/13/AR2005081300853_pf.html>we href> expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

Or http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-10-13-voa61.cfm>not href>.

"So long as I am the President, we are never going to back down, we are never going to give in, we will never accept anything less than total victory," Bush said.

Those who aren't http://www.michnews.com/artman/publish/article_9882.shtml>kool-aid addicts ("If there is ever a realist in the White House, it is Mr. Bush") may wonder about the utility of statements like this.

hilzoy: why on earth did they want to invade Iraq so badly that (e.g.) they wouldn't try to increase troop strength as needed, because it would jeopardize the invasion?

Because of the 2004 election campaign and the looting opportunities for the cronies and base.

How does keeping our occupying forces to a bare minimum help?

Aside from suicide attacks, terrorists are not especially brave. If our forces appeared too strong, they would flee Iraq and attack elsewhere -- the Zarqawi letter of February 2004 confirms this. Our very weakness on the ground in Iraq is what will tempt the terrorists to attack us. Then we can destroy them in an attrition war very much to our advantage -- as long as we have the willpower to sustain it.

Why is the U.S. in Iraq?

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