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November 27, 2006

Comments

Jes: And you think that the US military will risk their lives to stop genocide?

I saw your previous rant, so I’ll try to be careful here. There is no arguing about bad elements in any group. But I will say, without fear of having to back down, EVER, yes. There is no doubt in my mind that the bulk of our troops would. Many have established good relationships with Iraqis. Many believe that they are working for the good of the Iraqi people as a whole.
The US military, given enough leash, will risk their lives to stop any genocide, anytime, anywhere. You could get a pick-up battalion of volunteers to embark for Darfur tomorrow. It is the UN that would make them ineffective once they got there.
If you want to bash specific individuals, units, commanders, whatever – have at it. But this is way too broad a statement.

rilkefan :We would have had to start a Friedman ago to be in a position to deploy them now.

Disagree. We have the capability to marshal troops anywhere in the world in a matter of days. Now as others have pointed out, equipping them properly is another matter. You also don’t want to insert a bunch of green units into a situation like this. You’d want to incorporate the “newbies” into experienced units for some hand-holding etc. But if SecDef said, “I want 50,000 more troops in Baghdad by a week from Monday.” It would happen.


Dantheman: The part of the plan OC Steve cited which sounds most unlikely is point 4

Yeah, I’m still chewing on that too. I think I agree with you. Still – it’s the best overall suggestion I have seen in a while.

'But if SecDef said, “I want 50,000 more troops in Baghdad by a week from Monday.” It would happen.'

We have the planes to move them? The tents to house them? The MREs to feed them? The wherewithal to organize them once arrived? Also note I was talking about having the old 450k figure there or at least x2 from now - 50k won't do it. Also I thought the Baghdad airport was closed and the road to the capitol barely- or unsecured.

Of course take as "deploy" "put in place combat-ready units and maintain them".

rilkefan: Of course take as "deploy" "put in place combat-ready units and maintain them".

Yes I am oversimplifying things and exaggerating. A reaction I suppose to those who think all is hopeless and we can’t do anything at all.

So I’ll just say that I am confident that we do have more troops we can deploy, we can do it a lot sooner than 6 months from now, and I’ll leave it to the military to handle the logistics.

I’ve done more than my share of EDREs (Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise) where you go from sleeping in your own bed, getting a call at 2AM, loading your entire company and all its equipment onto C141s at dawn, and eating dinner in the woods on the other side of the country or even another country followed by rolling into a 30 day field exercise with only what you brought with you. It sucks but the plans, the training, and the experience are there.

I'm ignorantly confident that we could put combat troops immediately into theater x and take objective y - I'm very skeptical that we can drop soldiers from say Darmstadt into Iraq and have them peacekeep any time soon at the distinguish-militia-A-from-B-from-C level while winning hearts and minds (and do so without breaking the army).

Anyway the barn door has been open for a long time now. If you'd been SecDef back in late '03 we might have had a chance, but 2x or 3x for 10 years???

OCSteve: The problem with that scenario, IMO, is that (unless I misunderstand?) you were called up for, essentially, some kind of force projection, a job for which you were (I presume) superlatively trained. Our units outside of Iraq simply haven't been trained in the requisite arts -- a weird hybrid of force protection, police patrols and local diplomats -- which, in addition to requiring specialized training, also requires logistical supplies far in excess of the minimal requirements you enumerated above.

Or, to use a somewhat silly analogy: if all I want to do in class is to rail at my students or to lecture at them, I don't need to eat, shower, shave or even get any sleep; I can do both on autopilot. [In one memorable case, while actually falling asleep at the blackboard.] This is, if you'll pardon the hubris, the teaching equivalent of force projection. If I actually want to get my students to learn -- which requires engaging their interest, maintaining their focus and attention, inculcating certain attitudes, etc. -- I need to make sure that I'm well-rested, that I'm presentable, that I personally am engaged, and so forth. They're nominally the same task, close enough that most non-experts couldn't really tell the difference... but they're entirely different in their purpose, their effects, and their results.

rilkefan: I'm very skeptical that we can drop soldiers from say Darmstadt into Iraq and have them peacekeep any time soon at the distinguish-militia-A-from-B-from-C level while winning hearts and minds (and do so without breaking the army).

Can’t argue. I’m not saying anything will be simple or easy, just that we can do something, just disagreeing with those who say it is hopeless.

Anarch: Same response.

"just disagreeing with those who say it is hopeless"

I'd guess that even say Jes would agree that there'd be hope of a good outcome in Iraq if we put our entire society's full effort into it (e.g. Bush announces tomorrow that he's cancelling football until we set up a stable democracy in Iraq). From our point of view the argument is about things that are practically achievable (even ignoring politically achievable). Friedman says 2x for ten years. I think we're in for about $2 trillion already all told - ready to toss another $10 trillion plus into the pot? Ready to deal with world opinion after year 5 of crushing dissent in Fallujah?

Truth to tell, I'm going to vote for $10 trillion against AIDS in Africa before reconquering Iraq.

OK. Some agreement, some disagreement.

Gambler's Ruin as applied to the St Petersburg paradox seems particularly appropriate here...

I agree with OCSteve that US soldiers would want to stop genocide; I agree that they'd do their damndest to stop it. I have a high opinion of our armed forces.

The issue is whether they'd be able to.

How concentrated are the militias within Baghdad? Within Sadr City? The problem up til now has been that anti-insurgent campaigns have all been whack-a-mole: US forces cordon off one place and raze it to the ground (Fallujah) only to find the insurgents/militias have moved elsewhere. US forces go to the elsewhere, and the same thing happens.

Has the civil war become so focused within Baghdad that, if the militias could be defeated there, the civil war would die out?

Are there specific areas within Baghdad (like Sadr City) which are known homebases for the major militias, which a Baghdad-wide pacification effort could concentrate on?

If the major militias were taken out, would that leave the various insurgencies without a central command, or supply, or strategy - sufficient that they could be mopped up before they get as bad as the major militias?

Are the chances of overall success (i.e., clean out Baghdad and the insurgency/civil war throughout the country dies back enough to be dealt with) good enough to risk letting the rest of the country go to hell in order to focus entirely on Baghdad? And by "letting the rest of the country go to hell" I mean more than abandoning other provinces to their own devices. I mean drawing troops away from everything else they've been doing, including guarding infrastructure, politicians, and even the Green Zone.

In short: would an all-or-nothing, no-sh*t-we-mean-it, full throttle offensive in Baghdad succeed in killing off most of the insurgents/militias driving the civil war?

OCSteve: If you want to bash specific individuals, units, commanders, whatever – have at it. But this is way too broad a statement.

I agree. It was. I was tired and emotional and getting annoyed at people who were telling me I wasn't being hopeful and there must be solutions, when, really, there aren't any.

Rilke: I'd guess that even say Jes would agree that there'd be hope of a good outcome in Iraq if we put our entire society's full effort into it (e.g. Bush announces tomorrow that he's cancelling football until we set up a stable democracy in Iraq).

Yeah, fair enough. And that would also answer the question of where you'd get your troops: if there were a million or so healthy, young (20-30 say), reasonably fit people in the US willing to volunteer immediately for a crash course in special military training* that would see them deployed in Iraq in six months, plus half a million more who didn't need to be as young or as fit who were willing to volunteer immediately to be support staff, then that answers the question of where do you get your troops. That would of course also require immediate investment in resources in the US and in Iraq to house and feed and supply those troops, and in military equipment. That's the kind of thing the US could do if there were competent governance and considered itself to be on a war footing. But, how would you deal with the 1.5 million ponies**?

*specifically targetted towards their being a policing force in Iraq. So long as we're dreaming.

**Actually, I think under the circumstances*** we're talking pink unicorns, not ponies.

*** And, while I'm sorry I got tired and emotional and ranty, still: truly, honestly, how I feel is - there are real people dying in Iraq. More will die. Making yourself feel better by telling yourself that the situation isn't hopeless because look! ponies! pink unicorns! strikes me as cuddling a teddy-bear for comfort while your neighbour's house burns to the ground.

would an all-or-nothing, no-sh*t-we-mean-it, full throttle offensive in Baghdad succeed in killing off most of the insurgents/militias driving the civil war?

No.

There is no way on earth for U.S. forces to get enough accurate intelligence on the people directing the attacks and most actively involved in carrying them out: they are supported by entire communities who depend on them for security against the other side.

Someone earlier in the thread cited Nir Rosen's new piece in Boston Review, which runs anecdotally through the last three years of the escalation of the Shia-Sunni war. Read it and see if you could come up with a way of pacifying Baghdad that isn't simply rounding up every male in Baghdad between the ages of 15 and 65.

Nell: Read it and see if you could come up with a way of pacifying Baghdad that isn't simply rounding up every male in Baghdad between the ages of 15 and 65.

That would work. Hooray! The US has prevented Iraqis committing genocide...

...oh, wait.

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