« Mother Of Exiles? Not Anymore. | Main | Joe Klein »

January 09, 2007

Comments

My previous comments on the surge stand. I've been all for more troops since day one, but if you can't tell me how these troops will be used differently than other troops, there isn't any point. Throwing more money/troops at the problem isn't the issue.

Seb: I was for -- well, my first choice was no troops, but my second was more troops -- for ages. But I think we've gone past the point at which they can work, and in any case we don't have the troops to send.

One of the things that has always bugged me, in a continuing low-grade way, is that this administration really seems to think that it can defer decisions forever without cost; as though Iraq had a reset button that they could press if needed, so that the cost of not sending in more troops when they could have done some good were simply delay, not the disappearance of that whole option.

This is the administration's "squeaky wheel gets the grease" policy. Iraq is in the news day after day after day, Afghanistan's not, so we can plunder the latter to serve the former, and hope no one notices.

I wonder what will happen six months from now if there is a surge and, entirely predictably, it fails to accomplish anything positive. What then? My guess is we will be told that just one more surge is needed, etc.

I think all the surgistas should be asked about that, and not allowed to speak in favor until they've answered it.

Here's what I want to know -- how come all the people calling for "more troops" never talk about where the troops are supposed to come from?

To get 20k, we're having to yank vital troops from Afghanistan. The pantry is BARE. So why don't people calling for more troops -- now, or even back in 2003 -- explain where they're supposed to come from?

Nothing made me madder than some idiot pontificating about how Iraq would have been "winnable" with 250,000 troops. From where? We can't deploy that many now, in sheer desperation -- where are the other tens of thousands supposed to come from?

Why doesn't that EVER get asked? Why isn't that the first question out of the gate anytime someone gets up there and says "We need X more troops"?

For that reason, it didn't occur to me that we would just forget about Afghanistan. I mean, that would be not just horribly, tragically wrong, but too completely stupid to contemplate, right?

you aren't cynical enough. i'm no political expert, but nearly all of what's come to pass, ever since W first made public noises about invading Iraq has played-out pretty much exactly as i thought it would. it's easy: pick the opposite of what a good, decent, conscientious person (like me!) would do, figure out why it's not a good idea, from that person's perspective, and assume that's the policy... and what you're trying to avoid will be the result.

no WMDs, no al-Q, abandon Afghanistan, foster a civil war in Iraq once Saddam's iron fist is removed, stuck in Iraq forever, al-Q popping up in other countries instead of throwing themselves on our swords in Iraq, etc..

i could give you links, but not without revealing my true identity, and the Legion of Superfriends prohibits that...

good, decent, conscientious person (like me!)

You must prove it cleek by answering these questions three:

First - when did you stop wishing for a complete U.S. defeat in Iraq and switch to wishing for a complete insurgent victory?

Second - are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist Democrat [sic] party?

Third - why do you hate the President, you treasonous traitor?

Ugh. i take the fifth.

... do you have any tonic to go with that ?

no, just vodka, which i have in my drawer here in my office.

"So why don't people calling for more troops -- now, or even back in 2003 -- explain where they're supposed to come from?"

Well, I thought (in 2001 and 2002 and 2003 and 2004 and 2005) that Bush should have gone to Congress for both authorization for larger armed forces and an increase in pay (both funded by a reversal of the tax cuts). But I'm not actually in power. ;)

I don't see why more people don't grasp the most pertinent fact - the impetus for Bush to come up with a new plan was not any actual event from Iraq, but simply the fact of the Democrats winning the election.

How could anyone expect a plan to satisfy a military need, when it's devised solely to meet a political objective? If Bush had ever said "Hm, things aren't going that great, I'd like to send more troops," I would have been happy to consider the idea on the merits, BUT THAT ISN'T WHAT HAPPENED.

Sebastian: Well, I thought (in 2001 and 2002 and 2003 and 2004 and 2005) that Bush should have gone to Congress for both authorization for larger armed forces and an increase in pay (both funded by a reversal of the tax cuts). But I'm not actually in power. ;)

But you did your little all to make sure that Bush would still be in power.

How could anyone expect a plan to satisfy a military need, when it's devised solely to meet a political objective?

it's just another Big Lie - it's so outrageous people just can't look at it and believe they're seeing what they're seeing.

the Bush who's making military decisions now is the same one who said:

"The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. And those are essential lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War."

and flip-flopping is the new black:

    "Leon Panetta, a member of the Iraq Study Group, says advocates of the Bush "surge" once counseled against it."

Q: Did you interview Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who’s about to take over command of multinational forces in Iraq? What did he recommend? He is now said to be a supporter of the surge.
Panetta: At that time he was talking about the need to train and embed U.S. forces in the Iraqi army. (laughs)


etc..

Meanwhile there have been two (I think) attacks on targets in Somalia in the last couple of days. I know very little about the situation there and have no opinion one way or the other about the attacks except that engaging in another fight in another country doesn't seem feasible right now.

The "surge" serves only one purpose, and that is a political purpose here in the US. Surprise, yet another round of war-planning in which that is the primary criteria. If the recent election had gone well, he would be sitting smugly doing nothing different.

Even Bush now says we are "not winning," but he is desperate to prevent that turning into "losing" or "lost."

So lets pretend we are only at half time in the big game, and even if down 34-14, there is still a chance if we just put in that extra effort.

That's why there is no particular logic as to how the extra troops will help. Its just about promoting another version of something to do to forestall the day of reckoning. Its about substituting the platitude "never say die" for an actual war plan. Its odious.

When I hear Bush advocating yet another war charge, I see him carrying an American flag with skulls substituted for the stars, and the red stripes dripping blood onto the white.

Back when more troops was my distant second choice, I thought two things: first, that this seemed like one of those situations in which sending in more troops would be less likely to strain the army, since they would seriously lower the chances that we'd end up in a protracted war (note: lower from 'pretty likely' to something more like 50/50; I always thought that the uncertainty of this was one big reason not to invade); and second, that as a backup we should start training and getting equipment for new troops immediately.

Now, however, I think the time for that has passed, and I have precisely zero interest in making it easier for anyone to use the army in this way ever again.

When I hear Bush advocating yet another war charge, I see him carrying an American flag with skulls substituted for the stars, and the red stripes dripping blood onto the white.

Which would make a good editorial cartoon, along with him shouting "Charrrrge!!!" and some weeping relatives.

lower the chances that we'd end up in a protracted war

Out of curiosity, what would you define as a protracted war?

I'd say combat lasting more than three or four months? I don't know what Hilzoy meant, exactly, but I'd say there's a category difference between something like Grenada, or Panama, or Gulf War I, where the shooting is over in a couple of weeks or less, and an extended war.

Out of curiosity, what would you define as a protracted war?

I think a "protracted war" is by definition perjorative -- one that goes on longer than anticipated resulting in costs a lot greater than anticipated. No one applies the term to a long war if progress is still being made, and the length is not the result of some prior screw up that would have permitted an earlier conclusion.

The American Revolution, which lasted for 6 years, protracted? -- maybe the British thought so...

Andrew: what I meant, more precisely, was a protracted need for lots and lots of troops. It seemed to me that if we put in enough troops at the outset, then we could ensure security when people were still forming their first impressions of us (at least, the first that could be formed up close and personal), and that if we ensured security and poured in some pretty serious money to employ Iraqis in reconstruction, we could have had a chance of putting ourselves on a path that allowed us to draw down our forces a lot quicker. Thus, I thought that it would have been possible to put in more troops than we could keep there for (say) two years when we first invaded (while of course starting asap to train up more troops as backup, since, for what my uninformed opinion is worth, the first maxim of military planning is: do not imagine for a moment that you can predict war.)

So I really should have said: a protracted period of the kind of war in which we'd need this massive number of troops. I didn't actually think we'd be out of Iraq quickly; just that things would have settled down.

Oops, forgot to answer your original question: protracted meant something like: more than a year.

Iraq is lost, Afghanistan will be lost too. And one of the reasons I supported the invasion in Afghanistan was that at least the population could benefit from it. Of course I assumed that there was some truth in Bushes promis that the US would really help rebuild Afghanistan.

The outcome will be an even worse situation in all area's. Same level of oppression as before the invasion, more harddrugs (the Taliban had destroyed all opium crops when they still sought international recognition of their government) and drugscartels, even less willingness to be influenced by the international community - and Osama bin Laden is still in the area.

hilzoy,

Thanks. And yes, some of the maxims we try to live by are:

- no plan survives first contact with the enemy
- the enemy gets a vote

Hilzoy, you're being totally unrealistic to suggest the surge will allow Bush to avoid admitting failure for "a few more months."

Bush will never admit failure. He'll do everything he can to keep the balls in the air for the rest of his term, even if it's obvious they can't stay up indefinitely. Then he'll leave office and insist for the rest of his life that if he'd just had a few more years to run things, everything would have worked out in Iraq. He may even believe it.

As for cartoons, this year's "Spectrum" collection of SF illustrations has a magnificent image of Bush as a vampire and the Statue of Liberty with two punctures in her neck.

I'm sorry to have to correct a career officer, and hilzoy to boot, but isn't it "Never get involved in a land war in Asia"?

Jake,

Don't forget 'Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.'

Fraser, that's a Village Voice cover illustration from 20-26 October 2004. I have a newsprint copy hanging on my wall.

Andrew--

Incontheivable!!!11!!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad