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August 17, 2006

Comments

"How could you send so few troops to fight such an important war when it was obvious that without security Iraqis would fall back on their tribal militias?"

I think I missed Friedman's columns from the time of the invasion which critiqued the Administration on this "obvious" point. As well as the columns which raised the point about using the War on Terrorism as a wedge issue during either the 2002 or 2004 campaigns. Can anyone point me to them?

This isn't just snark. While a "won't get fooled again" column by Friedman would be worth something, an essential part of such a column is admitting he was fooled in the past, and that seems to be missing here.

I'm guessing that Friedman doesn't understand either the Rumsfeld or the Powell Doctrines. He certainly doesn't get that the Powell Doctrine is one of war, not one of peacekeeping.

We did project overwhelming force against Iraq in defeating their military. If Friedman's point is that we ought to have projected even MORE wartime force against Iraq, I'm thinking there will be quite a lot of disagreement from most commenters here.

The doctrine that of overwhelming force to keep the peace doesn't, as far as I'm aware, yet have a name.

There's some words missing. Feel free to fill them in to achieve any desired effect.

We did project overwhelming force against Iraq in defeating their military.

I have to disagree. We used enough force to defeat Saddam's army, but it was in no way, shape, or form 'overwhelming.' We did the invasion on the cheap, and we are fortunate it didn't cost us more than it did (although there's an argument to be made that we are paying the price for it now, since we never impressed the Iraqis with the sense they'd really been beaten).

As for the rest, I mostly agree. I think that there's much to be said for including one's ideological opponents in a task that one repeatedly stresses the monumental importance of (I accept full demerits from Gary on this sentence, if it ever becomes one), and that still holds if so doing requires a little work and persuasive speaking. What one ought NOT to do is use disagreement over the task at hand to further wedge the parties apart, which is almost guaranteed to result in no cooperation, and resulting performance that is...suboptimal.

So, after having been distracted by Mr Friedman's initial folly (which is not so much a misunderstanding of what went wrong so much as an extraordinarily poor discussion of doctrine), I have to admit that I am in agreement with the bulk of the remainder.

I don't have cites, but my memory of Friedman's columns during the run-up to the war was that although he supported the war and the whole democratization concept, he was increasingly nervous that the Bush admin wasn't showing a clear commitment to doing what needed to done to actually bring that about. I think he was still wildly over-optimistic about the prospects for peace after Saddam was overthrown, but he at least had some idea that it wouldn't be a cakewalk, and he wasn't seeing the sorts of preparations that he would've expected from an administration that was serious about nation-building.

Such is my recollection, anyway.

We used enough force to defeat Saddam's army, but it was in no way, shape, or form 'overwhelming.'

Really? So, they were NOT overwhelmed?

Slarti: I'm not Andrew, of course, but I would think that if we managed to overwhelm the Iraqi army not because we had put in enough troops to be certain of overwhelming them, but because a variety of things broke our way, the force would not count as 'overwhelming'. (I mean: there's a literal sense of 'overwhelming' in which something is overwhelming just in case it actually does overwhelm, but there's also a different sense in which it means: something you could count on to overwhelm. I think it's sort of related to the difference between two senses of 'machine washable', in one of which you show that some article of clothing is machine washable by washing it without, oh, the article of clothing dissolving, or something; while in the other sense, something doesn't count as machine washable unless it's a good idea to wash it by machine.)

but because a variety of things broke our way

Um...if you think that the invasion of Iraq overwhelmed the Iraqi Army, that this was simply fortune smiling upon us, I have to disagree. If there was some other meaning you meant to convey, it wasn't clear.

Slarti: yeah, I didn't mean it was dumb luck or anything. But -- well, I should wait for Andrew on this one -- but my understanding was that even leaving aside the fact that it's artificial to separate the military objectives from the occupation, one wants, in planning an operation, to be prepared for things to go wrong, sometimes badly wrong. And I've heard people argue that we didn't have enough troops for that. To actually give substance to this, I'd have to, well, know something about military planning, but things that leap to mind (and that people seem to have thought were possibilities at the time) include: what if the Iraqis had used chemical weapons? What if they had made a concerted attack on our supply lines, which (as I understand it) were stretched, and which we did not have enough troops to fully secure? What if they had done a lot more in the way of blowing up dams and bridges? And what if the regular Iraqi army (as opposed to irregulars) had actually decided to fight?

Again, I am not the person who should be talking about this, but: I've always thought that in planning this stuff, you prepare for things like this to go wrong -- and for more than one thing to go wrong at once. So what I actually meant by my not very clearly written comment above was not that we won by sheer luck, which I agree is silly, but that we didn't have enough flexibility to have a whole bunch of things go wrong; and that it seems to me arguable that an 'overwhelming' force is one that could absorb a number of really bad breaks without missing its stride.

Um, the majority of the Iraqi Army chose not to fight. It may have been a wise choice, but the statement they were "overwhelmed by force" - as opposed to "just enough force" is not one I would make.

Secondly, this talk of the 2003 invasion is besides the point, as the focus is on the counterinsurgency, which is clearly undermanned.

Ah, but the Powell Doctrine does not apply to counterinsurgency.

Unless, somewhere, I've missed something. Which is entirely possible.

I don't think there's any word other than overwhelm -- in whatever sense -- to describe what Bush's army did to Saddam's army.

But this is a distraction. The rest of the article is spot on. The Bush administration is not serious about facing this challenge.

Um, the majority of the Iraqi Army chose not to fight. It may have been a wise choice, but the statement they were "overwhelmed by force" - as opposed to "just enough force" is not one I would make.

Secondly, this talk of the 2003 invasion is besides the point, as the focus is on the counterinsurgency, which is clearly undermanned.

But this is a distraction. The rest of the article is spot on.

[Nanny McPhee]I did say that.[/Nanny McPhee]

Stupid Typepad

The doctrine that of overwhelming force to keep the peace doesn't, as far as I'm aware, yet have a name.

hmm, how 'bout The Marshall Doctrine?

Didn't the Iraqi army "melt" away so that they may fight as insurgents?

The insurgents seem to be “winning.”

I thought it was somewhere here that the discussion of the Powell Doctrine as a war doctrine/dessert creme versus it as a peace doctrine/floor wax was hashed out. Am I wrong about that?

Slarti: We did project overwhelming force against Iraq in defeating their military.

And yet, the Iraqi military is still fighting in Iraq, and the US is... losing. (I didn't think you'd bought into that "Mission Accomplished" crap, Slarti. Or at least I believed that your much-touted skepticism would have let you realize that it was... premature, to say the least.)

The US hasn't won the war in Iraq yet (and indeed IMO it can't win - that possibility does not exist any more): trying to claim victory after three years of defeat seems insanely optimistic of you.

Typepad is slow (or something) so sorry for repeating spartikus.

Typepad is slow (or something) so sorry for repeating spartikus.

And yet, the Iraqi military is still fighting in Iraq, and the US is... losing.

And now it's someone else misunderstanding how counterinsurgency works. Well, the mantle was heavy; it's a relief to pass it on.

If the force was “overwhelming” enough there would be no insurgency, but that would be about 1 million.

No war if you had to get 1 million.

So you did, slartibartfast. I take mine back.

Andrew has previously commented on this:

“The battle for Iraq was a close-run thing. Our victory was predicated on the high-quality of our army and some brilliant generalship. Iraq could very easily have gone bad, despite the appearance of an easy victory.”

He recommended Cobra II.

Slarti: And now it's someone else misunderstanding how counterinsurgency works.

What, you think the US is winning? Can you explain your definition of victory, then?

"What, you think the US is winning? Can you explain your definition of victory, then?"

Once again: what I'm saying is that the Powell Doctrine is not one of counterinsurgency, and therefore saying it ought to have been used because, lookit, we're failing against the insurgency...it's inapt.

Again. Maybe a few more times will do the trick?

Slarti, no matter how many times you say it, you still can't turn defeat into victory.

There were many reasons for the US's defeat in Iraq: but certainly one reason was the US's decision to do the invasion with as few troops as Rumsfeld thought he could get away with, a decision which - it was agreed even by Tacitus, back in November 2003 (dunno what he's saying now, of course) - was a crashing mistake.

I thought that (sensible) Republicans had given up trying to claim that the US had a victory in Iraq in 2003, when it is so evident now that the "victory" was only the first stage in its long, slow, bloody defeat?

"Really? So, they were NOT overwhelmed?"

Slart, you'll lose this argument. Donald Rumsfeld rejected all the initial force levels and plans proposed for the 2003 invasion, and cut the numbers to less than a quarter of what the Army insisted was necessary. He then continually whittled and whittled and whittled them further down.

This is endlessly documented in book after book after book by now, from Woodward through Packer through Gordon through Ricks, and so on.

The plan managed to knock over the Iraqi government, but not secure the country.

And key parts of the failure were in not having sufficient numbers of troops to secure the weapons sites, to secure the borders, and to keep order. If these steps had been taken, with sufficient numbers of troops, the insurgency couldn't have gotten started (to be sure, the subsequent decisions by Bremer to disband the Iraqi Army, and to de-Baathize with an order preventing even low-level members of the Baath party from keeping their jobs were also key elements in the failure). That's Powell Doctrine stuff, pre-counter-insurgency, because there as yet was no insurgency, and there likely wouldn't have been a significant one.

What Gary said.

"Well, I just have one question for Mr. Cheney: If we’re in such a titanic struggle with radical Islam, and if getting Iraq right is at the center of that struggle, why did you “tough guys” fight the Iraq war with the Rumsfeld Doctrine — just enough troops to lose — and not the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force to create the necessary foundation of any democracy-building project, which is security?"

That isn't really the whole of the Powell Doctrine, but the question asked is still good.

One of my never-ending points of anger about Bush and Co. is that after 9-11 and certainly after Afghanistan, they should have pushed to increase the size of the Armed Forces to recover from the 1990s cuts(which would have almost certainly needed to include a large pay increase since the chance of war was so much greater than in the 1990s).

So, Gary, you also are saying that the Iraqi Army was not overwhelmed?

I just do not understand where this notion comes from. Clearly they were, and it had nothing whatever to do with luck, or good fortune, or whatever you want to call it.

Granted that there were not enough boots on the ground to actually hold what was taken. I'm not arguing counter to that, no matter how hard Jesurgislac is wishing that I am.

"Oh, really? Well, I just have one question for Mr. Cheney," he says before asking three.

Friedman is an idiot, even when he's being right.

I think Slarti might be saying we won the conventional stage of the Iraq conflict, but that the Powell doctrine doesn't apply to counterinsurgencies. I'm not sure why it wouldn't, but I don't know.

But if that's what he means, yeah, we were very very likely to win (though I haven't read Cobra II and don't know what might have gone wrong--I do remember Steve Gilliard saying our supply lines were vulnerable but don't know if he really knows what he is talking about.) We captured all of Iraqi territory within a month or so, I think. Then the seriousness of the insurgency gradually became more and more apparent, with at first just a few lefties talking about it (Fisk, for one) and then by the fall of 2003 I think everyone knew it was serious. That's my recollection anyway. Clearly we didn't have enough troops to prevent that from happening (not that I know what the right number would be--I'd prefer it to have been zero.)

Gold star for Donald.

It could be argued that the Iraqi Army could have faded into insurgency had we arrived with a half million troops, and done it every bit as effectively (the fading part, that is). If we'd had that many boots on the ground, we'd probably have seen many more total troop casualties, many more immediate civilian casualties, but probably fewer free-for-alls like Fallujah. Probably more in the way of enforced curfews and severe restrictions on travel, too, but I think the end result would still be a lot of Iraqi Army at large.

JMO, natch. Quite likely we'd be in better shape, but I don't take it as a given.

I still disagree with the idea we overwhelmed the Iraqi Army. We defeated the Iraqi Army; it's not the same thing. We fought OIF on a shoestring. Whether or not more troops up front would have helped is open to debate, but I'm of the opinion that arguing we hit the Iraqis with overwhelming force is inaccurate.

"One of my never-ending points of anger about Bush and Co. is that after 9-11 and certainly after Afghanistan, they should have pushed to increase the size of the Armed Forces...."

A fair notion, but there's a serious problem with that now.

"We captured all of Iraqi territory within a month or so, I think."

Depends what you mean by "captured."

In much of the country, American forces were able to travel through an area, but were still taking low levels of attack. In pretty much all of the country, save for maybe 1% of it, American were able to sit on a position, but didn't control any of the surrounding area. And mostly Americans didn't even go out to most of the country.

So that's a rather idiosyncratic definition/usage of "captured."

Which was the problem.

Slart: "So, Gary, you also are saying that the Iraqi Army was not overwhelmed?"

With overwhelming force? No. And Donald Rumsfeld agreed, stating it wasn't needed, was an obsolete doctrine, should be tossed out, damned generals are stuck in a bygone era, etc., and so on.

The Iraqi military was defeated by speed and maneuver and political failure and their own awfully stupid planning.

Look, Slart, do some reading on this. You're doing your thing where you get stuck on a particular word usage, and just stubborn it out, in this case flying in the face of all the documented military opinion, which you can check on for yourself. I suggest doing so.

Or you can tell Andrew, and Eric Shinseki, and Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor, and all the generals quoted by Ricks and everyone else, that you know more about doctrine and usage than they do.

We defeated the Iraqi Army; it's not the same thing.

We not only defeated them; we defeated them in an absurdly short period of time and with absurdly few casualties on our side. If that's not an overwhelm to you, you and I are not going to agree on this.

Captured to me means your army can go wherever it wants. You haven't captured the territory when that isn't true. So the Germans hadn't captured country X when that country's army was still on the borders keeping them out, but they had captured it when they were roaming freely over the countryside, building bases wherever they wanted to. The Germans captured most of Europe, but in some areas (Yugoslavia, I think) there were insurgencies.

But this is just semantics. There might be some official military definition for when you can claim to have captured territory, and if so I'd defer to the definition. I'm sensible that way, usually, not wanting to pick fights with dictionaries.

Which, come to think of it, might mean Gary. (That's a compliment, btw.)

"If that's not an overwhelm to you,"

That's not the question. It wasn't done by overwhelming force. It wasn't done by strength of numbers. That's the issue being argued, Slart. That's the point you're missing by being stuck instead on the word "overwhelm," rather than "force."

Slarti,

We were successful in executing one of the most expensive bench warrants and assassination attempts in history.

But victory in war?

"Captured to me means your army can go wherever it wants."

Bad definition. Jeb Stuart and Sherman could pretty much go wherever they wanted; they captured, however, nothing.

"Captured" means you control and hold
the territory. It does not mean merely that you can travel through it.

I'd say we're in much more control in Iraq than Jeb Stuart on some raid in Pennsylvania or Maryland or wherever he went. He couldn't stay there indefinitely. The US can stay in Iraq indefinitely. (Shudder.)

But anyway, we're not arguing about anything factual, I think, just the definition of the word "captured". There may be a need for shades of meaning to that word then. Captured version A, captured version B, etc...

I was very, very happy to see this article. I think just about all Friedman readers will be at least a little persuaded by this, and that includes quite a lot of Republicans and people who don't follow the news too much.

I should probably qualify that remark about being able to stay in Iraq indefinitely. Facing the current level of opposition, yes. If that massive Shiite uprising occurs that people were discussing in the other thread in connection with B-52 air strikes, then staying there indefinitely would involve slaughtering massive numbers of people, which we wouldn't do except in the process of shooting our way out. (Cynic that I am, even I don't think we'd stay under those circumstances. But if we had Nazi-like inclinations, I suppose we could.)

"I'd say we're in much more control in Iraq than Jeb Stuart on some raid in Pennsylvania or Maryland or wherever he went."

But in May, 2003, the time-period under discussion?

"The US can stay in Iraq indefinitely. (Shudder.)"

But things are going so well.

Incidentally, has everyone read the latest on Joe Darby, the Abu Ghraib whistleblower, and what he has to thank Donald Rumsfeld for?

(I've been blogging a fair amount today; new mouse.)

In May 2003 there wasn't an army led by a General Meade or Grant or McClellan (I don't remember which one it would have been that would have chased Stuart out) that could have kicked the Americans out of Iraq.

Anyway, I'll bow out of this discussion, since so far as I can tell we're quibbling over the proper use of the phrase "captured territory".

Just wow.

Look, Slart, do some reading on this. You're doing your thing where you get stuck on a particular word usage, and just stubborn it out, in this case flying in the face of all the documented military opinion, which you can check on for yourself. I suggest doing so.

With respect, Gary, I submit that, having done nothing but sleep, drink, eat and think weapon systems engineering and doctrine for over two decades, that it's just barely possible I might know a little bit about this sort of thing. Andrew's knowledge I am respectful of, particularly where it concerns matters of ground-pounding and logistics. In those matters, his opinion trumps mine. In wider matters, I'd say possibly not, and that there's certainly room for disagreement between him and me.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I know capabilities in a way that you most likely do not. I understand force multipliers in a way that you can't possibly, unless you've made that a hobby for yourself for the last couple of decades. So consider these tidbits when condescending to me in matters of warfare, ok? I'm not saying that I speak from authority, just that I speak from some nonzero vantage point, experience-wise.

Nevertheless, Slarti, not with all your authority and all your knowledge and all your experience can you create the new reality required for your statement at August 17, 2006 at 04:08 PM not to be false-to-fact.

And in any case - whatever you personally believe to be true, trying to argue in 2006 that the US defeat that began in 2003 was really a victory (if you squint to avoid seeing what happened after the "victory" was declared) is, at this point, really kind of futile.

Iraq is a country so much "captured" by the US to which, over three years after Bush declared that combat operations in Iraq have ended, neither he nor any of his administration dare go there except with extreme security and secrecy.

Slarti,

We were successful in executing one of the most expensive bench warrants and assassination attempts, with the coooolest weapons in history.

But victory?


I'm not saying that I speak from authority, just that I speak from some nonzero vantage point, experience-wise.

I'm confused, though. As I understand it, basically you're arguing that because the Iraqi Army was overwhelmed, that by definition means that the U.S. projected overwhelming force. Is that correct?

The French suffering a real failure of will?

We not only defeated them; we defeated them in an absurdly short period of time and with absurdly few casualties on our side. If that's not an overwhelm to you, you and I are not going to agree on this.

It would be interesting to see a list of wars which:

a) were decided in an absurdly short period of time and with absurdly few casualties on the winning side; and

b) were not won by the use of overwhelming force.

The list would be quite long, I think.

So what on earth are you trying to say here, Slarti? My best guess is that your reasoning goes like this:

Force was used. The losers were overwhelmed. Therefore, the force was overwhelming.

Surely you don't think that is a sound argument?

The French suffering a real failure of will?

I've been wondering why they wanted to get involved in this farce at all. Perhaps they have belatedly realised that HA has no intention of handing its territory over to anyone.

"I've been wondering why they wanted to get involved in this farce at all."

Maybe they were just pretending to get involved so the ceasefire would be agreed on.

The phrase "after you, Alphonse," occurs to mind.

Interesting phrase from the WaPo story: "In 1983, Islamic militants killed 58 French paratroopers in bomb attacks in Beirut."

Somehow, mentioning that these "Islamic militants" were Hezbollah didn't seem worthwhile, apparently.

Maybe [the French] were just pretending to get involved so the ceasefire would be agreed on.

That's possible, but it seems more likely that the Lebanese wanted the ceasefire and gave Chirac the impression HA would play ball. That's ideal from Nasrallah's point of view - he gets to bury the fact that he started the recent fighting, since if Israel now breaks the ceasefire he can credibly say they are the warmongers.

Somehow, mentioning that these "Islamic militants" were Hezbollah didn't seem worthwhile, apparently.

Perhaps the WaPo reads Juan Cole:

"The Dawa's Islamic Jihad appears to have been at the nexus of splinter groups that later, in 1982, began to coalesce into Hezbollah (the 1983 truck bombing of US Marines is often blamed on 'Hezbollah,' but that organization barely existed then.)"

What Gary said.

Does it matter whether or not securing the peace is part of the Powell doctrine? I am sure that, had he been in command, he would have updated its original 1991 formulation to incorporate securing the peace in 2003 since the military action included a post-war occupation. It didn't in 1991.

As for "overwhelm" vs. "just enough," a few thoughts.

Rumsfeld's force level seemed to assume that large portions of Saddam's army would not stand and fight and that there would be little or no need for rear area security in southern Iraq since it was populated by friendly Shia. These assumptions were largely correct, but rather dangerous ones to make.

I thought the key moment in the war was the fighting at the Karbala Gap, which is a narrowing of the terrain approaches about 50 miles south of Baghdad Stars and Stripes 4/1/03 article about the anticipated battle. That battle was fought brilliantly by the 3ID, but more importantly, it was unwise for Saddam (more likely Qusay was making the decision) to position Iraq's best troops in this locale for the showdown. Historically, this location was important defensive terrain for Iraqis which may have influenced Iraqi thinking, but it made no sense in modern warfare. The troops were exposed to merciless aerial attack, leaving them hors de combat before the serious action started.

I remember reading at the time about this, a thinking that it was a big Iraqi mistake and would make taking Baghdad far easier. Imagine the different scenario if Saddam had taken the approach of his hero Stalin and positioned these troops in Baghdad's urban environment for a Stalingrad defense, which would have seriously negated a lot of the US weaponry advantages. No way the US overwhelms the Iraqis in that scenario. It also would have led to massive carnage in the city, which would have served Saddam's long term interest of having the citizenry aroused against the US during the inevitable occupation.

Another key factor in the conflict was that the Iraqis simply did not have any adequate means to counter our armored vehicles. 3ID after action report (pdf) -- see page 22

The actual forces deployed did overwhelm the Iraqi resistance, but not because the force deployed guaranteed an overwhelming victory. Put me down for "just enough" and both plucky US military leadership and lucky military developments to explain what ended up being an overwhelming victory.

Followed by collosal incompetence by the civilian military leadership in managing the occupation.

"gave Chirac the impression HA would play ball."

The French aren't dumb, even if Chirac is. And they used to own the Lebanon, so they should have some idea what's up there. If Hezbollah gave up its arms, that would mean more or less that Israel won. Surely the French didn't expect that to happen, or much desire to ensure it. I thought everybody expected them to go there and stand around and hopefully keep the peace for a while.

"Perhaps the WaPo reads Juan Cole"

Alternative version, as per many other experts, as mentioned, for instance, in the Goldberg pieces mentioned in another thread, is that Hezbollah was being covert at the time.

Whichever way one puts it doesn't seem terribly important; it's the same people, same ideology, same goals, same plans. And "barely exist[ing]" is existing.

If I post under a slight different name, it's still me.

"Perhaps they have belatedly realised that HA has no intention of handing its territory over to anyone."

Is it wrong to especially note the bolded word? I think the word is accurate, but everyone in the whole affair has spent lots of time pretending that it isn't.

They are, and have always been, more concerned with their own political standing than with the interests of our country. If they were not, they could not have made such absolutely fundamental errors as failing to send in enough troops to do the job right, or failing to plan for the aftermath of the invasion, or failing to take even basic steps to secure our country after 9/11.

This is so true, and I would suggest that the most compelling evidence of this is their response to the obvious fact even as of Fall, 2003 that the force level was inadequate to secure the peace and the future of Iraq. Perhaps the initial failure was just careless stupidity, but thereafter it became craven political calculation -- putting their own self-interest in front of what was good for the country.

Unfortuantely, many of the conservatives marched in lock step, and bear equal responsibility for aiding and abetting that misconduct.

Following close behind as compelling evidence was their outright hostility to a public examination of 9/11, and the ongoing stonewalling of the investigation into the political use of intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq. This demonstrates someone more concerned with self-interest than the good of the country -- plus a guilty awareness that an open 9/11 investigation might expose the criminal incompetence of the Bush administration that had a lot to do with the failure to prevent 9/11.

And yet we still hear the conservative tripe about how the Democrats can't be trusted to do a better job. Hell, my grandmother could be trusted to do a better job than the disgusting crew currently in charge.

the Powell doctrine is about achieving objectives, the objective was to secure Iraq, at no point has the US ever fully controlled Iraq, instead the opponents were allowed to retreat, regroup and rearm, which was only possible due to the lack of overwhelming force

It seems every thread is now a Lebanon thread.

I thought everybody expected [France] to go there and stand around and hopefully keep the peace for a while.

Well, that's what they had in mind. But if HA isn't even prepared to keep a low profile south of the Litani, but instead rubs the IDF's nose in the shit by strutting around waving flags and improving its fortifications, can the IDF just grin and bear it? If, as may well happen, the Israelis rise to the bait, there won't be a peace to keep. "UNIFIL+" won't have enough "+" to keep the two sides apart.

I am reminded of an old saying about doing business in France: the signing of the contract is the signal for serious negotiations to begin. The Arabs probably understand that but I'm not sure if Americans do.

"signing of the contract is the signal for serious negotiations to begin. "

I thought the saying was: "the signing of the contract is the signal for the serious backstabbing to begin". :)

Sebastian: Is it wrong to especially note the bolded word? I think the word is accurate, but everyone in the whole affair has spent lots of time pretending that it isn't.

No, I use it advisedly and the "everyone" you mention doesn't include me. Lebanon is a geographical expression. Hezbollah is a small power and a member of an alliance headed by Iran, which is a rising regional power thanks to the collapse of Iraq and the squandering of American clout. These are what Israelis are wont to call facts on the ground, which means you don't have to like them but you'll have your work cut out if you want to change them.

Getting late here. Good night.

"Following close behind as compelling evidence was their outright hostility to a public examination of 9/11, and the ongoing stonewalling of the investigation into the political use of intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq. This demonstrates someone more concerned with self-interest than the good of the country -- plus a guilty awareness that an open 9/11 investigation might expose the criminal incompetence of the Bush administration that had a lot to do with the failure to prevent 9/11."

This is where I hop up and down and chant "Truman Committee," "Truman Committee," "Truman Committee," and note FDR's willingness to let Congress thoroughly investigate corruption, war profiteering, and other problems with the war effort.

Even a military lightweignt like me worried at the time about Saddam making Baghdad into Stalingrad. I think possibilities like those are why many peace activists predicted the initial phase of the war (when we "conquered" Iraq--note the quotes around the word "conquered", Gary) might cause tens or even hundreds of thousands of deaths. (Which happened eventually, but not right away). Instead, according to Iraq Body Count, the number of civilian deaths in what they call the invasion phase (and what I called the capturing Iraq phase) was around 7000. (The number comes from a study they released last year.) High, but nowhere near as high as it could have been. IBC's figures might be low, but probably not by orders of magnitude.

It might be my lack of military knowledge showing, but I don't see how one could have avoided killing many thousands of civilians in taking Baghdad if Saddam had chosen to fight it out street by street and building by building, especially if he really did use civilians as human shields. Send in half a million or a million troops and you still might have had the Republican Guard holed up in places surrounded by civilians.

If I'm following this correctly, there are two separate arguments going on against Slarti.

Argument one--Slarti, how can you say we used overwhelming force in Iraq when the insurgency started almost immediately? Slarti's reply--I was talking about the conventional phase of the war, which was over in a month or so and resulted in remarkably few American casualties.

Seems right to me. I thought it was clear what he meant--he wasn't talking about what came after the initial phase, after which the Iraqis were all supposed to cheer.

Argument two--If Saddam had made different choices, even the conventional phase of the war might have been much tougher for the Americans, possibly even a disaster. Slarti hasn't replied to this, I don't think. I remember Gilliard talking about the supply lines being vulnerable and never knew if he knew what he was talking about. And there is the Stalingrad option, which Saddam chose not to take. Maybe the Cobra II book goes into all this--I wasn't intending to read it, but now I'm curious.

"If I'm following this correctly, there are two separate arguments going on against Slarti."

Slart, 1:19 p.m.: "We did project overwhelming force against Iraq in defeating their military."

That's what's being argued with.

Andrew, 1:31 p.m.: "I have to disagree. We used enough force to defeat Saddam's army, but it was in no way, shape, or form 'overwhelming.' We did the invasion on the cheap, and we are fortunate it didn't cost us more than it did...."

Jes, as usual, confuses the issue with a bunch of irrelevant comments that boil down to "why won't you admit the war is evil?"

Josh seems to have gotten it right at 6:01 p.m.; at the least, if he got it wrong, I've not seen Slarti correcting him: "As I understand it, basically you're arguing that because the Iraqi Army was overwhelmed, that by definition means that the U.S. projected overwhelming force. Is that correct?"

Kevin Donoghue at 6:13 p.m. also:

My best guess is that your reasoning goes like this:

Force was used. The losers were overwhelmed. Therefore, the force was overwhelming.

Surely you don't think that is a sound argument?

However, Slart appears to have gone off to dinner or whatever, and hasn't appeared on this thread since these points were made, so perhaps he can correct any misunderstanding when he returns.

Slarti writes: "Really? So, they were NOT overwhelmed?"

The Iraqi army was overwhelmed, but nobody else was. Not the insurgents. Not the Mahdi army. Not the people raiding Saddam's weapons bunkers. Not the people stealing oil or blowing up production facilities. Not the people ransacking the ministries and museums.

That's kinda the problem.

Whether this adventure could succeed, and not turn Iraq into post-Soviet Afghanistan with ocean frontage, required beating all of these enemies, not just the Iraqi army.

You've defined the problem as the simplest subset. Beating the Iraqi army was the easy part. The introductory exercise.


Or to put it this way, Slart, the Iraq war is not like a race, it's more of a triathlon. Beating the Iraqi army was the swimming portion.

The Bush administration did wonderfully in the swimming, but then they tried to use a kid's Big Wheel for the cycling portion.

Maybe the Cobra II book goes into all this--I wasn't intending to read it, but now I'm curious.

Oh, please do, Donald. And then come guest blog a 'book report'! I don't want to read it, but I want to hear about it from someone whose perspective is similar to mine.

Re Powell doctrine/overwhelming force: I believe I've made this comment before here, as part of a similar discussion, but it's a relevant data point, so I'll repeat it.

In October 2002, speaking at Virginia Military Institute, Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni invoked the Powell doctrine by name, saying that if we go in (he'd spent the previous ten minutes ticking off reasons not to go in), it has to be with overwhelming force and overwhelming numbers. He then explicitly connected that with the immediate post-capture-of-Baghdad moment. He mentioned as reasons to have those very large numbers (he was talking about 350-400K) to prevent inter-sectarian revenge violence, and protecting the infrastructure that would be needed to "keep and win the peace".

On April 11, in the midst of the massive looting in Baghdad with virtually no troops defending anything, I thought of Tony Zinni, who must have been seething. (I was going to say "holding his head in his hands," but it's impossible to imagine Zinni doing that. I was doing that on April 11, 2003.)

Too true Gary about the Truman Commission -- sometimes the point is best made by simply comparing this crowd's conduct with how differently it was done before.

Conservatives should be asking themselves why it is best for our country to refuse to do things openly.

"I don't want to read it"

Just curious, and you certainly don't need to explain if you don't care to, but I'm curious why not. (I haven't read it yet, myself, but that's because I haven't been going to the library often in this heat, and because they charge $ to reserve a book.)

I have to admit I'm underinformed in part because I can't bear to read e.g. the Suskind book, being angry and anguished enough already.

I think I just maxed out, long ago, myself, although, to be sure, that's also largely a matter of shifting moods from time to time, which is, of course, purely a matter of my internal emotional state.

My biggest problem reading books, though, these days, is pulling myself away from the now, now, now of the interwubs.

"The Dawa's Islamic Jihad appears to have been at the nexus of splinter groups that later, in 1982, began to coalesce into Hezbollah (the 1983 truck bombing of US Marines is often blamed on 'Hezbollah,' but that organization barely existed then.)"
Posted by: Kevin Donoghue | August 17, 2006 at 06:49 PM

Oh that’s rich!

So you’re telling me that one of the main Shia groups that the US placed into power in Iraq was actually behind the Beirut bombing?

The wonderful world of Middle East politics is full of these riches. And, yes, there are old links between Dawa and Hezbollah. We put all sorts of lovely people into power in Iraq. My favorite being the speaker of the house, who is thought to have been affiliated with Ansar al-Islam.

"So you’re telling me that one of the main Shia groups that the US placed into power in Iraq was actually behind the Beirut bombing?"

Kinda. The family tree is a bit complicated, but basically. You didn't know, I take it.

Of course, most people only started paying attention to who was who in Mideast terror groups, and what they did, in the past five or three years.

Not all of us, though.

So Gary, as one of the 'not all of us' crowd: did you enjoy being lectured about the Middle East by people who had learned what little they knew of it by reading The Corner and Michael Ledeen as much as I did?

"My favorite being the speaker of the house, who is thought to have been affiliated with Ansar al-Islam."

Somewhat better phrased as "Speaker of the Parliament," since it's a unitary parliament, with no "house" or "senate," but in any case my main point was to note that he's musing about quitting, or possibly being forced out by Shi'ites and Kurds who think he's too sympathetic to the Sunni insurgents, according to an article yesterday.

More and more apt, it seems, as regards Iraq:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

"So Gary, as one of the 'not all of us' crowd: did you enjoy being lectured about the Middle East by people who had learned what little they knew of it by reading The Corner and Michael Ledeen as much as I did?"

As you may have noticed, one of my many failings is being far too often apt to fall into unintentional condescension, as well as, yes, occasional intentional condescension (though far more often the former than the latter; the latter mostly only when I get pissed off and don't adequately control for it), on the limited number of topics I fancy I know something about, so that leads to yet another one of my failings on that long long list: not taking that sort of thing so well as I should or might.

So: not so much.

Just remember: These People Only Understand Force, You Know.

Ah, good old racist dehumanization: it never goes out of style.

"So Gary, as one of the 'not all of us' crowd: did you enjoy being lectured about the Middle East by people who had learned what little they knew of it by reading The Corner and Michael Ledeen as much as I did?"

What's that about? Did you two show up at a Little Green Footballs convention?


Nell,I'll hopefully get around to reading Cobra II soon. I think I saw it in the library. I'm not going to buy it. My wife doesn't want me going overboard on book purchases (which is a good thing, since I tend to buy things and then never get around to reading them.)

"Did you two show up at a Little Green Footballs convention?"

Fat chance. Charles Johnson has taken a couple or more personal swipes at me in years past, although back in the first quarter of 2002, he did link approvingly to a couple of things I wrote; that was back before it became a hate-site, and it was a very different blog.

The wonderful world of Middle East politics is full of these riches. And, yes, there are old links between Dawa and Hezbollah.
Posted by: hilzoy | August 17, 2006 at 11:35 PM


This is why, I think, some folks (from the Clean Break Neocons and Juan Cole) suggest that Najaf is the intellectual center of radical Shiaism [?].

Yes, Dawa and others hid out in Iran, but the heart of Shia's Islamic Revolutionaries is in Najaf not Tehran. Even the dreaded Ayatollah Khomeini was revolutionized in Najaf.

I still believe that Al-Sistani’s “Quietism” isn’t as “quiet” as some seem to suggest.

I was at some pro-Sunni sites (yes, remember the source) that suggest that Iran and Hezbo’alla are proxies for Najaf.

According to Wikipedia, this is the Powell Doctrine - when a nation is engaging in war, every resource and tool should be used to achieve overwhelming force against the enemy.

The questions posed by the Powell Doctrine:

Is a vital national security interest threatened?
Do we have a clear attainable objective?
Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
Is the action supported by the American people?
Do we have genuine broad international support?

Whether or not the Iraq invasion, and the occupation, followed these precepts is left as an exercise to the reader.

No, yes, no, no, no, no, yes, no would be my answers. Powell's proposition was that any armed expedition should have yes across the board.

what ajay wrote.

You've defined the problem as the simplest subset. Beating the Iraqi army was the easy part. The introductory exercise.

Again, not arguing otherwise.

Look, this is really quite simple. Opponent: Iraqi Army. Air support for opponent: essentially zero; we not only achieved air superiority, but enemy air was effectively a no-show. SAM support for enemy forces: effectively nonexistent. Little in the way of long- or even medium-range SAMs. Lots of shoulder-fired SAMs and AAA, but this ultimately didn't deter us by much.

Look, it's not as if the size and composition of the force we deployed in OIF is exactly a state secret. Nor is the size of the opposing force in OIF relative to Desert Storm exactly a secret. The Iraqi Army in OIF was approximately one-third of the numbers available for Desert Storm. Tanks and artillery were approximately one-half.

So, we had numbers. We had air support and air superiority. We had counterbattery-fire artillery. We had effective man-portable antiarmor missiles, and we had A-10s, WCMD/SFW, Hellfire missiles, and in a pinch, LGBs. We had training and discipline. We had intel eyes and ears, and trained personnel to properly interpret them. The enemy had practically none of these things. Certainly the enemy forces exhibited resourcefulness on occasion, but "on occasion" against our army isn't enough.

So, yes, I'm saying that not only did we field an overwhelming force, but that overwhelming is understatement.

As for the peacekeeping mission following defeat of the Iraqi military: absolutely, we needed more boots on the ground to do that properly. I'm not sure how many more times I have to say that before it takes, here.

Achieving capitulation of the Iraqi population as a whole would have, I suggest, required wholesale bombing of cities and towns, destruction of huge amounts of infrastructure, and generally more in the way of wholesale slaughter and ensuing death by starvation and disease than we were prepared to inflict. And, just possibly, more than we ought to be prepared to inflict.

And once again for the short of attention span, this says nothing at all about the necessity for a larger peacekeeping force, and a workable strategy for closing the borders and countering the insurgency. If I've got to do a Bart Simpson vis a vis our counterinsurgency efforts for this to sit right with Mr. Farber: please, Gary, supply the chalkboard. You were right; I was wrong, N repetitions. Pick a value for N.

Still trying to redefine reality so that you can declare a win where none occurred, Slarti?

the attempt to create a mythical division between "peace-keeping" and "war-fighting" is exactly at the root of the problem.

If you can't keep the peace, then you didn't clear, hold, and control. And if you didn't do those things, you didn't win the war.

This isn't the Olympic gymnastics competition, in which you can get full points on one event even though you tanked on the compulsories.

There is only one military mission, and that is to achieve the political goals for which the war was started.

"but but but--we were way ahead at the end of the first quarter of play!"

If you're still thinking it's like sports, then you still haven't let Clausewitz sink in.

ajay: I would question your one 'yes', in response to: "Do we have a clear attainable objective? "

The answer to that is 'yes' only if the objective is topping Saddam's government, or something like that. But that should never have been our overall objective -- for reasons that are now presumably obvious, toppling Saddam's government should have been seen as a means to some larger objective, like creating a stable Iraqi state that does not threaten its neighbors or harbor terrorists -- or something like that. Toppling Saddam was never enough.

And any such larger objective runs into big trouble with 'attainable'.

I had the same thought about ajay's second "yes", i.e. to "Is the action supported by the American people?"

Sure, they supported something or another. They supported attacking Al Qaeda's base in Baghdad or some such nonsense. They supported the cake-walk they were promised, the one that would pay for itself, lower the price of oil, and bring stability to Israel all in three weeks.

But as soon as you have to say "no" to

"Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?"
and
"Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?"

then there's really no way to have a meaningful "yes" to
"Is the action supported by the American people?"

We were sold a bill of goods through a series of lies. If there had been a full and frank analysis of the risks and costs, there would have been very little support indeed. That's why the administration had to lie so often and so massively.

Good Grief. Slartibartfast is not making much of a claim here, and certainly not one deserving of "Still trying to redefine reality so that you can declare a win where none occurred, Slarti?" and similar.

Clearly the US won the initial battle(s) -- in overwhelming fashion, using overwhelming force. And just as clearly, the US was unprepared for the battle(s) that followed. "Win the battle, lose the war" is not a revolutionary concept.

It's not unlike Germany's experience fighting the USSR in WWII. Overwhelming victories early, grinding defeat later, both following from a fundamental misapprehension of the opponent and the nature of the fighting to come.

Model 62: Yes, that was harsh. (Sorry, Slarti. I am now taking the weekend off.)

But see Kid Bitzer's comments. war is not a contest you get to stop at the point when you can declare victory and pretend the rest of the war didn't happen.

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