November 12, 2006
Against Troop Increases Before He Was For Them...
It's amusing to see Glenn Reynolds breathlessly linking to this Bill Stuntz piece calling for more troops in Iraq. Back in the day, of course, Reynolds was busily carrying water for Rumsfeld and tut-tutting that more troops weren't the answer.
Glenn Reynolds: against troop increases in Iraq before he was for them! Anyway, it's good to know that the 'more rubble, less trouble' crowd is re-appraising its stance on our troop posture in Mesopotamia--a good 2-3 years late. Good show, Glenn!
Posted by Gregory at November 12, 2006 04:35 PM
Obviously more troops were needed early on. As Friedman said weeks into this war--just enough troops to lose. Rumsfeld's strategy was always to get out as soon as possible (which is why he was so ineffective). I agree Reynolds was late in recognizing that and shame on him, but how does this help the debate now?
The issue is are more troops the answer now? The Weekly Standard suggests this is not a poker hand and when faced with a challenge like this, you double down. Does doubling down mean simply more troops or a different strategy? I am not sure (other than knowing the curent status quo is not working). I suppose that is what we will be hearing from Baker shortly.
Many on the left, would immediately pull out the troops and when the country really decends into chaos (like what happened in Vietnam and Cambodia)--will blame Bush for getting us into it in the first place. In a most charitable light, that is severely misguided. If you think Bush's plan going into Iraq was bad, doing that is by far worse.
"Bush broke it. You bought it from him broken. Now it's all yours."
Don't put men and money into iraq unless you think you can fix it. Otherwise the Republicans will blame your candidates for it in the leadup to the next election, yours and nobody elses.
Don't buy a used war from this man unless your'e willing to accept full ownership and total liability.
Joe.... correct me if I'm wrong, but "double down" is a blackjack term, not a poker term. Perhaps you meant "go all in" or "match the pot" or something? (and no, "double down stud poker" doesn't count -- its really just a variation on blackjack in which the winning hand is determined according to poker rules)
BTAIM, it seems rather late in the game to be advocating throwing good money (not to mention bodies) after bad..... and Reynolds is obviously an idiot if he thinks that the Shiite militias (which are pretty much in control of most of Iraq, even given the "chaos" that exists) would tolerate a signficant increase in the US military presence.
oh, and does Reynolds bother to explain where we're supposed to get more troops from?
(Just curious, Greg... where do you stand on the "this war could have been won if smarter people were running it" --- "smarter people would never have invaded Iraq" continuum? )
Greg shouldn't start throwing too many stones at Glenn or I'll start quoting from "Why I'm Supporting Dubbya." After all, most ot the "mistakes" now being touted with 20/20 clarity had already been made and were well known events by 11/04.
You are right on double down. It's a black jack term. And just like many people have found at the tables, doubling down does not always work as a method. But blame Kristol for use of the term, because he used it and then mixted in the poker reference. Then again, many of you blame Kristol for the war.
Kristol's argument is when you are fighting a war you don't give up because insurgencies often turn on who is more determined. Iraq is not going away (even if we run away) and at least the Kurdish part of the country is doing fairly well. If success is the best revenge, perhaps it could also be a model for what is possible to the rest of the Iraqi people.
Bush is the player. He can "double down" any fuckin time he wants to. Doubling down takes balls. Does he have the cojones? I think not.
You'll notice that Stuntz never says where we're going to GET that massive new influx of troops which are supposedly needed to rescue the situation. A draft? It's a wee bit late for that -- it would take at least 6 months to train draftees, and we don't have that long. (And that would be if more than 28% of the American people trusted our governing nitwits with a draft at this point -- which according to all the polls, they don't.)
Why do people continue to give a wannabe apparatchik like Instashithead any credence? The guy is so early-aughts.
Just like you don't throw good money after bad, you don't reinforce defeat. Where we're losing and where we have a shot is dependent on actually reacting to events as they are, not where the doofuses wanted them to be. That this was even a point of argument pre-11/7 shows just how far the neo-fantasists dragged the debate, and U.S. hard and soft power, down the proverbial toilet.
The contradictions are bad, but the article itself is terrible. The fact that Reynolds breathlessly supports it show his total lack of foreign policy judgment. It compares the strategy needed in Iraq to the American Civil War, and says all will be well if we just tell the Iraqis we will indefinitly commit ourselves to the battle. First of all, the Civil war analogy used in the article is ridiculous. How exactly is our fight in Iraq like the Civil War? Where is the Confederate Army? What provinces does this army hold? What is the analog for IEDs?
We are fighting an insurgency, made up of both locals and jihadists. We can add another 150,000 troops (that we don't have) and neither of these two will stop fighting. The locals who resent us aren't going anywhere. They live there. And the jihadists think it is a divine duty to fight against foreigners. They will continue to flock to Iraq as long as we are there. They will fight us if we are there. Period. Maybe they think if they kill a few more people, we will leave. But even if they don't, they would continue to fight.
The Union won the Civil War through a long conventional campaign based on seizing territory and seeking a grand Napoleaonic battle in the field that would destroy an the opposing army. When conventional combat ended, so did the war. There was no massive insurgency against Union soldiers during Reconstruction.
We beat the conventional Iraqi army in a few weeks. Resenting our occupation, the sunnis started an insurgency. Then Al-Queda type jihadists moved in. We must realize that these insurgent forces are our counterpart. The yin to our yang. They will remain as long as we do, no matter how many people we add. Our very presence creates a destabalizing dynamic, since our presence draws conflict from both the nationalists in Iraq who resent our presence (mainly Sunni, but some Shiite like Al-Sadr) and the foreign Arabs who come only to fight the US. We cannot provide stability the way we do in Kosovo or the Balkans, becuase there are too many who are comitted explictly to attacking American troops through snipers, IEDs, RPG attacks, and the like. People who think they will become martyrs for Allah are not disuaded when you promise to double your resources.
The failure to grasp this basic issue on the part of many conservative commentators is staggering. They still believe that willpower is the most important tool in winning a battle. That if we clap our hands enough and believe, it will all work out. Do they honestly believe that if the US poured more troops into Iraq, the guerillas would say "gee, looks like they are serious. I guess I will lay down my arms?" It shows a fundamental failure to even understand our enemy and their motivations. It violates some of the oldest dictates of warfare: to know thine enemey.
Well, it is nice to see the Weekly Standard weakly limp back to a feeble embrace of the Powell doctrine. Pfui!
And, Greg, it would be interesting to see you take the p. luka challenge. But I would leaven it with this -- was Iraq worth a draft, and the domestic turmoil that would have caused? Because Iraq should never have been done without one.
Final comment -- I would focus less on the Instalinker, if only because he does not seem to add much to his links. The man who bears responsibility for the actual thought here is the guy who wrote the article. Glenn Reynolds isn't a thought leader, he is a thought linker. And I don't think he is much responsible for the decline of the Republic.
Actually, the one thing Rumsfeld did do was to reform the Army to such a degree that we actually have 37 manuever battalions we could send from the CONUS. Libs have always insisted that the Army is broken, but in point of fact, the soldiers are in pretty good shape.
To answer lukasiak's question, Iraq itself, on it's own, isn't worth a draft. It is actually worth the McCain/Lieberman solution of more troops in Anbar/Baghdad. However, the entire WOT will eventually get a draft, simply because it will metastasize and spin out of control into a global world war. That's how these small wars eventually become big ones..
One of the things that will be interesting to watch is how the media and the Democrats are forced to slowly, surely, change their tune on the war now that they own the legislative branch. To watch liberals actually have skin in the game should be fun. Indeed, the editorial board of the NYT actually chastised the Dems for failing to have a policy on Iraq.
After the election, of course.
This desperate attempt to avoid being blamed for Saigon Redux will be entertaining to watch, as Reid, Levin, Pelosi, and Biden, try to snooker Bush into an "Iraq summit" so they can scam him like they did his father. Bush is playing possum now, but will be more assertive now as problems and divisions begin to consume the legislative branch.
The Democrats will do anything, anything to avoid taking any responsibiltiy for the consequences of their beliefs. However, they can't run against Congress anymore. They're Congress now.
Doubling down does not mean doubling the number of troops in Iraq. That opportunity passed by years ago. We are beyond that. It now means fighting to keep Iraq from spinning completely out of control.
This defeatist talk is nonsense. Iraq is not going anywhere. If we left the Shiites and Kurds would likely end up slaughtering Sunnis and driving them out of their territories and neighborhoods. Sunnis and al Qaeda think the rest of the Sunni world will rise up to help them, but likely they would not raise a finger.
Our metric of success is not creating some shinning city on a hill (or a river isthmus as the case may be) but preventing a country from really decending into civil war. As bad as the current situation is, it is nothing compared to a real civil war.
We need a policy that works--running away is not a plan.
In response to Section9: I thought the problem (according to the Bushites throughout the campaign) was that the Dems didn't HAVE a tune on the war -- except to say that Our President was doing the wrong thing (which he unquestionably was) -- so they can hardly change a tune they don't have yet. As for his statement that we don't need a draft and just need "more troops in Baghdad/Anbar": it was Centcom who said, in that leaked slide, that the entire damn country of Iraq is going to hell and sliding rapidly toward "Chaos".
I'll agree with him that the GWOT will require a draft, and in the not very distant future. But, to repeat my earlier point: how many Americans would trust our current governing nitwits with a draft, even after Rummy's departure? And why should we use whatever troops we do have for Iraq, as opposed to higher-priority goals such as trying to keep Iran from going nuclear and dealing with any crises produced by the fact that North Korea and Pakistan already are nuclear?
Footnote: Since huge numbers of Dems (including Kerry) have already publicly insisted that our mistake in Iraq was not sending more troops, why would the Dem party now monolithically oppose doing so -- if we could find a source for them, that is (short of a draft)? And I remain skeptical that we can find enough spare troops just sitting around in the continental US to solve the problem; regardless of Rummy's obsessive insistence that we don't need any more troops in Iraq, one would think that he himself would at least have used some of those supposed spare maneuver battalions to maintain our current troop level there instead of recycling the same National Guard troops over and over and over.
We were repeatedly warned from the very start -- on very convincing grounds, based on our experience in occupying Germany and Japan -- that we would need several times the troop level that we actually got in Iraq. Since then the situation has only deteriorated further. Are those "37 spare maneuver battalions" going to enable us to triple our current troop level in Iraq?
2nd footnote: It looks ( http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/13/washington/13military.html?hp&ex=1163480400&en=f38aa620af37964c&ei=5094&partner=homepage ) as though the Dems are not going to call for a troop increase -- but then, neither is the Baker-Hamilton Commission, or the Bush Administration. Indeed, Josh Bolton agreed with Biden that what we need to do at this point is "is put pressure on the Iraqi government to take over themselves" -- and he couldn't propose any way to put such pressure on them other than Biden's statement that we will have to do so by starting to withdraw our own troops. So, Section9, if the Dems are going to have to "take responsibility for the consequences of their beliefs", so are the Republicans -- because their beliefs at this point where Iraq is concerned are pretty much the same.
I personally think that a temporary increase in troop strength might work *provided it were combined with a phased troop withdrawal*. That is, we tell the Iraqis, yes, we're going to leave, and we're going to leave by X -- but in the meantime, we're going to provide more troops to help stabilize the situation. The reason I think this *might* work is simply because the fact that we're saying we WILL leave might enable the temporary increase in troops to not necessarily trigger a sudden uptick in violence.
I hope Congressional Democrats at least consider such a plan.
The problem with that is simply that it would be simple for the insurgents to just keep a low profile and conceal themselves and their arms from the US and Iraqi government troops -- something they seem to be very good at doing -- until we DID leave, at which point the violence would simply restart. I honestly do not see any way to hold Iraq together as one nation any more than Yugoslavia could be thus held together, except by brute force by a strong centralized dictatorship (which would now be run by the Shiites rather than the Sunnis). It was never really one country from its very beginning -- unlike Yugoslavia, it didn't even begin as an attempted voluntary coalition on the part of its own people -- and its current "government" is no longer even making much of a pretense to represent any interests other than those of the Shiites.
(And, once again, it is seriously doubtful if we have enough troop reserves to greatly increase our presence there now even for a short period. The problem is not that we "lost" Iraq so much as that -- without a draft -- we never had any chance of owning it in the first place. And if we're going to institute a draft, there are more important things to institute it for.)
It is always interesting to wonder whether the conservatives are referring to their fantasy world where Iraq is just thriving despite the domestic terror-loving Fifth Column or to the actual thing. If the former, I think the mission is already accomplished several times over, so the troop question is quite beside the point. But if they are limping back to reality, then they would have to accept that all their basic premises have turned out totally wrong, and that they are clueless in this frightening world where facts have liberal bias. This occupation has been botched beyond repair and the only thing left is the blame game - the administration and the Republican Party have no idea what to do except to postpone the inevitable for a while, and what they now desperately want is somehow, some way to get to blame the Democrats. Granted that is a bizarre, Goebbelsian effort, the "opposition" has had zero effect on the US grand "strategy" in Iraq.
(Anyway, how this blog, purporting itself to be "rational" thought it possible to endorse Bush in 2004 is beyond belief. It is hard to take any of this latter day posturing very seriously without a harsh and deep self-examination of that awful folly.)
Does anyone think this is all staged, that we're seeing a concerted effort by right wing media machine to blame the chaos to come on liberals? Does no one else see the disingenuous motivation behind these calls for more troops? Despite what Ricks writes about Rice wanting Gates - do we not see here he's been chosen because he's on the ISG and the results of the study are already known by Bush et al and everything is being set up to put the Democrats in a no win situation, if not now, in 2008?
Can someone please explain to me what the fascination is with the blo(g)viations of an otherwise obscure law professor from Tennessee?
Doubling down does not mean doubling the number of troops in Iraq. That opportunity passed by years ago. We are beyond that. It now means fighting to keep Iraq from spinning completely out of control.
It's good to see republicans start to admit that iraq has spun completely out of control.
This defeatist talk is nonsense.
OK, give us some nondefeatist talk that isn't nonsense.
We need a policy that works--running away is not a plan.
OK, Joe. Present us with a policy that works. I'll be fascinated. If I believe you I'll spread it wherever I can and credit you.
We need a policy that works--running away is not a plan.
It is if accompanied by minstrels.
Brave Sir Robin ran away.
Bravely ran away, away!
When danger reared its ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat,
Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin!
I would absolutely base troops a sizable reserve of troops in Kurdistan (and of course that is not my idea). They would welcome us and would twart any Turkish ambitions in a partition. I would push for the proportional sharing of oil weath. A base of troops in Anbar is also needed to deal with traffic across the border with Syria.
At this point flooding Iraq with more troops are not the answer. A lighter footprint of better troops is needed. Iraqis should take over more operations with Special Forces support. A larger troop reserve in Kurdistan to act in the case of major uprising. We should continue to battle al Qaeda in the country, continue pushing for a federalist union.
People seem to be relishing in defeat as if it was the best option. Here's a link from Reynolds:
http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=111006A Completely abandoning the effort now would be a huge mistake.
Running away would cause real chaos. Adding more troops at this point is not going to work. The goal now is to work out a solution with various smaller groups like we did in Afghanistan.
Joe, I like the idea of basing troops in kurdistan, provided we have sufficient airlift capabilities to get them out. We absolutely don't need the drama of watching them fight their way out on the ground through western iraq and jordan to israel.
It's up to the iraqi government to arrange how to share the oil wealth. We don't have any business dictating that to them or enforcing our decision with our troops.
And we're going to have to accept that the syrian border is out of our sphere of influence.
I agree that flooding iraq with more troops that don't know the language would be useless. I like the idea of having special forces help the iraqi troops, but we need to be able to get them out of there if things turn sour. We need to be ready to pull the special forces out on 10 minutes notice wherever the iraqi troops switch sides and start helping the insurgents attack the special forces.
People seem to be relishing in defeat as if it was the best option.
No. Defeat is not an option.
Nobody chooses to be defeated.
Joe: "If we left the Shiites and Kurds would likely end up slaughtering Sunnis and driving them out of their territories and neighborhoods."
If news reports are to be relied on, this is already happening in many areas while US troops look on. So, if our troop presence is not necessarily preventing sectarian violence (and I think we should be very cautious about 'taking sides') then what are those kids dying for, anyway?
I'm very happy that's how it played out, I do feel compelled to note that I found both their concession speeches very gracious (at least the snippets I caught). We get nasty in politics, and in blog polemics, and amidst the internecine carping, and so on. So it bears noting, even if only once in a while, that human beings (including some we dislike tremendously) are capable of impressive displays of character and dignity. This is perhaps true more often than we acknowledge, particularly in this rather hurly-burly medium.
A while back, Greg, you had an idiotic post in which you asked people whether they wanted more snarkiness or more content and analysis.
It was idiotic because anyone with a keyboard can snark. You are neither particularly unique or impressively adroit at insulting people.
You are, however, possessed of a rare understanding of foreign affairs.
Your comparative advantage is clear.
More importantly, your patent inability to understand this and refrain from getting nasty is certainly diminishes your credibility when it comes to everything else.
Nobody likes an elitest jerk. And given the choice between listening to somone talking down to them and yelling hysterically and people who at least come off with a modicrum of civility, the uninformed typically will go with the civil advice.
And that sort of leads to the larger point. For all the "blame the neo-con conspiracy" stuff, it's worth noting the abject failure of the "realists" here to convince people of their views. If everyone else is so damn stupid, and you're so damn smart, how come you couldn't make a more effective case.
I, at least, have never convinced anyone to change their mind at the same time I was calling them an asshole.
I am disgusted as you all are by what happened on the ground. I supported this war but expected it to be fought competently. Unfortunately, it did not happen that way. That does not suggest running away from the mess is the best option. It is not. It would be disasterous.
As for our troops being stationed in Kurdistan or elsewhere in Iraq--they are more than capable of handling any Iraqi forces (and frankly would be supported by a friendly populace in the North who have been very successful in preventing the mayhem of the south spreading to their areas of control). We are dealing with an irregular insurgents who are doing hit and run tactics against one another and us, choosing the softest targets possible or setting bombs to inflict casualties without serious risk to themselves. Large numbers of troops are not the answer to that--hunting down the insurgents is the solution. Iraqi forces backed up by Special Force units need to end such violence.
Most of the horrendous behavior is from al Qaeda fighters wanting to start a war to end all wars not only against Kaffirs from the West but those appostate Shias. Fortunately even most Iraqi Sunnis hate them (but fear them) and I think we could reach a concensus of hunting them down and killing them.
The Iraqis want a civil war and want the violence to stop. The idea that this war is not winnable is nonsense, the problem is we are going about it the wrong way.
We do not need a buch of unspecialized troops in bases supported by KBR and other Haliburton subsidiaries. We need a sizable combat force of Marines, Rangers and Airborne to back up special forces troops on the ground. Our goal is to prevent full scale civil war breaking out, an equitable adjustment of oil revenues to all Iraqi civilians, interference from outside countries, and keep the current government on its feet and hopefully get its economy going again. Historically it is probably equivalent to the Malaya action by the British in the fifties.
Footnote: Since huge numbers of Dems (including Kerry) have already publicly insisted that our mistake in Iraq was not sending more troops, why would the Dem party now monolithically oppose doing so -- if we could find a source for them, that is (short of a draft)?
it was a mistake to not have sufficient troops to pacify Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the invasion -- but the situation is different now, and throwing more troops into Iraq (at a point at which the Iraqis in general, and the Shia in particular) what us out would be counter-productive....
unless, possibly as Mitsu has suggested, an increase in troops is temporary, and one part of a plan that includes solid plans for withdrawal from Iraq. IMHO, any increase in American troops--even temporary-- in Iraq is both fraught with risk and of dubious utility at this point. Nevertheless, Mitsu's idea might work.....
Maybe I'm missing something, but how would you define the semantically nonsensical phrase "breathlessly linking", and where did Reynold's do it? The post you link seems pretty straightforward and completely lacking in any emotion at all.
You and I have always viewed things relatively similarly, but I must admit that I prefer your analysis of what to do more than your analysis of other peoples positions. Therefore I second the plea for a reduction in snark. This is a case in point. Reynolds links to all kinds of people with all kinds of conflicting opinions. That is what he adds to the blogosphere and has been pretty clear he isn't the expert on such things. When he does stake out a claim it is usually about what he doesn't think makes sense or, as in this case, that he isn't sure of the answer but is pretty sure much of the criticism is somewhat weak, or at the point in time in question he hasn't been convinced. I also didn't find the link "breathless."
In the case you are bringing up Reynolds was not carrying water for Rumsfeld. He was saying he wasn't sure whether it was a good idea to send more troops or not or whether Rumsfeld should be fired or not. In fact his thoughts recorded at the time were fairly humble as I recall and the post you link to with all the updates demonstrates that quite well.
I am curious, really curious what specific things we need to do at this point. Not the past, now. No bromides such as we need to strengthen this or that relationship, that is always true. How do we strengthen them, what cost and benefits should we expect? At this point should we put more troops in? If so, what would they do? Would they step up anti-insurgency efforts? How? Doesn't that entail more "killing of our enemies," the kind of rhetoric you seem to be hell bent on banishing? If not, how do we reduce our commitment over time. Should we consider partition? If not, is a unitary Iraq after we withdraw a better outcome and why? We have bad options all around it seems to me (though f course that was true before the invasion which is one reason you supported it.) So any response in the near future is likely to leave us unsatisfied.
So instead of gotcha, and in this case I must say a rather weak one, I am looking forward to some detailed, with pluses and minuses, recommendations going forward without it being buried in so many insults that I am not sure what you really want other than to show what idiots so many people are. If Kristol was wrong in the past, is he right now? Whether the link is breathless or not, does it make sense? Can the insults and show what you would do instead. While whatever differences between you and Stuntz may be important, in the grand scheme of things he sounds more like you than Murtha. Wouldn't a dialogue between people that have fundamental similarities as to policy be more productive than this?
In fact, since Reynolds finds the Stuntz piece worth considering a well thought out response showing what aspects of his thought makes sense and what you would add or subtract going forward might even get a Reynolds link. I would certainly ask him to do so. If you want your own version of sanity to prevail that might be a good place to start, getting a link from Reynolds. You would certainly get one from me. I have been visiting for the last two months trying to figure out exactly how to characterize your preferred path forward, along with how you might answer the most salient objections to include in a post. Unfortunately I have not been able to decide exactly what you favor, though I certainly know who you think is an idiot, immature, breezy, etc. That includes people who, once we lose the rhetorical differences, seem within a few yards of what you advocate.
I agree with you about the overheated rhetoric in regards to Scowcroft, though how that is any less reductive than what I hear about the neo-cons or other parts of the "keep trying in Iraq" crowd is something I am really grappling with, and some of that seems to be coming from you. Nor is all the criticism of Scowcroft unfair, though I many years ago dropped any belief that any approach is without distasteful, and disastrous at times, aspects. Nor is pointing out that the descriptions of his successes are at times conveniently arranged. Once again though, most people's record is mixed at best in the Foreign policy realm.
As said by an earlier commenter, play to your competitive advantage. If not for your sake then for those of us who respect your opinion. Glenn deserves better, and more importantly, you do.
Greg, I third the comments by Dave S. and Lance above, but I'll be a little more blunt. I agree 100% with your stance on Iraq, and am disgusted by administration and the bungling of Rumsfeld and the neocons.
However, you don't have to such a hatefully insufferable a**hole towards those you disagree with. You're a professional, Greg, not a salivating amateur blogger. Even if you can't dispel your (to my mind utterly misplaced) contempt, you surely ought to be able to suppress it in writing. It simply prevents you from being able to communicate. And it's bad form.
We can do all of this analysis, but in the end, it is what it is. One question that I would like answerd by all of the Monday morning quarterbacks is; if the situation in Iraq would have been similar no matter what strategy we used, was the Rumsfeld strategy the right one? Small footprint, keep a lid on things to help new government, and do not expose the troops.
This was going to be a political war no matter what we would have done. A country that finds the "atrocities" at Abu Ghraib too intolerable is not going to let you shoot looters on sight or flatten Iraqi cities. Lets face it, under these circumstances I think Rumsfeld's strategy was honorable. He was a true realist considering the political climate in this country. He limited the exposure of our troops. I fear some of the downsides to the other strategies I have heard would have resulted in many more deaths and not much more progress.
I would stay the current course because the Iraqi troops have to come up to speed. If they cannot take over succesfully then we should withdrawl, although I still think it is too early. Lets face it, it was a worthy adventure anyway. We got rid of Saddam and his 2 Sons, who would have been a thorn in our side for decades to come, and we gave a country in the middle east the chance at Democracy. What else were we suppose to do? The Radical Islamist are not going away. Besides, the alternative is too scary to contemplate.
Lance, I do not think you understand war. There are no black and white answers. There is only a commitment to win and do what ever takes to accomplish that goal. If you look at WWII, we did what it took to win a war. We didn't constantly second guess eventhough mistakes were made. The terroist understands this and have used it against us to achieve the goal we see going on in this debate today. I gurantee that if the terroist thought they could not sway public opinion the violence would subside. All this other analysis is BS.
A couple of points to make here. I honestly don't think we did not take enough troops into Iraq. The troop numbers were fine. What we failed to do, was take enough MP's. Instead of using MP's and SF exclusively, we were , and to an extant still are, using dismounted tankers, cannon cockers, and other MOS's that don't spend the vast majority of their time in MOUT training. SF by nature is a small portion of the military, and MP's have been a critical MOS since I was over there in 91, when I was with the 1st Mar Div. Now I'm an SP with the Air Guard, and just about everyone in my unit has done two 6 month tours in the box. Some have done two in Iraq, and at least one in Afganistan.
The other point I want to make is that we are fighting a asymetrical battle. Insurgencies generally take around 10 years to beat, and they are not designed to fight toe to toe with another force, but instead to fight their psyche. In this they have taken a page straight out of Ho Chi Mihn's book. Unfortunately the Dems, some Repubs, and a good portion of the populace have bought it hook line and sinker. Of course it has not helped having the Dems in the back seat acting like spoiled children on a trip to Wally World, screaming out "are we there yet?", through the whole thing.
In closing there are a couple of ways to beat an insurgency. The 1st is to become so absolutely brutal, that you end up being the dictator you replaced. This is not an option for a western country, if they want to continue being a law abiding democracy. The other is through a combination of winning over the local populace, educating them, and showing a unified, unswerving front in our absolute willingness to see this thing through to a successful conclusion. I know we will never attempt the former solution, and with our leftist elements at home, I have serious doubts we will ever succeed with the latter approach. As things stand right now, I just pray to God that we will never repeat the same mistakes we made in Vietnam, Gulf War 1, and Somalia. If we abandon these people now, our reputation as a country will never recover.
Ah, the search for the deus ex machina for Iraq continues.
What would have made Was it more troops? Less troops? Better planning? Different leadership? Better intelligence? A magical incantantion, perhaps?
Or was building a liberal democracy from the ashes of a blood-soaked police state dotted with rape rooms that spent 30 years bouncing from war to civil war and back again going to be a difficult, painful, deadly task no matter what?
The choice between freedom and peace is obvious. We made it many tmes before, and the opting for the latter at the expense of the former never served us well in the end.
No one is offering any serious alternatives because there are none. We'll keep training Iraqis until they can handle the job themselves, whether that takes one year or ten. And then we'll see whether Iraqi democracy can survive.
And then we'll see if Iraq's neighbors can survive a free and democratic Iraq.
Great analysis Brad and TallDave. Do you mind if I use your comment in other online discussions. People live in a world where they think that things have to have a clean and clear solution. They do not realize that the solutions in these circumstances are messy and may take years. There are no silver bullets.
What amazes me is all these people who have the answers never contemplate the downside of their alternative strategy. For example, did they ever think that the reason that a good portion of the country is stable is becuase we removed the Bathist. Maybe the Shia and the Kurd areas may not have been so stable with the Bathist left in charge. Once you depend on them in the beginning to help with the initial occupation, you are stuck with them. What would we do with the entire country destabalized? Talk about hopeless! It would make our current mess look like a cakewalk.
Anyone suggesting a solution for the current problem or criticism of past policies should provide an objective anaysis of the possible results and downsides. I haven't seen any of this from either the Left or the Right. It seems allot of this is just conventional wisdom based on assumptions without any serious analysis. Conventional wisdom usually makes me nervous.
Modern era insurgencies have been successfully combatted, but victory has required massive committments of troops, resources, cash, and years (and an undercurrent of brutality). The most successful counterinsurgencies were also in colonial situations, where the ultimate goal of the colonial power was to turn things over to a government that would retain ties to the former colonial power.
Failures outnumber successes disproportionately, and even the successes were costly. It seems that the US does not have the capacity to successfully carry out a successful counterinsurgency campaign. Given that, it is probably best that the US work toward an early exit strategy.
I have in the past experimented with linking breathlessly. The mechanics are quite simple; you simply find an online article you wish to link to, and hold your breath until you have copied and pasted the link into a blog post containing some comment about the article.
Linking breathlessly can be a real challenge if you are in the habit of writing lengthy posts. The linking itself does not consume much time, but since the link is of limited value without the post honesty demands that breathlessness continue until the post is written, edited, and published. The difficulty in staying on subject should not be underestimated, and if one is writing in a public place -- a coffee shop, say, or a library -- one is liable to be subjected to strange looks and occasional unkind remarks by fellow patrons. Under no circumstances should linking breathlessly be attempted if one is blogging from work.
I do not know if Glenn Reynolds links breathlessly. His posts are usually so short that it is hard to tell. He certainly could if he wanted to, but for very short posts what is the point? Actually one could argue persuasively that there is no point in attempting breathless linking in longer posts either, which is why I don't do it anymore.
The troop numbers were fine. What we failed to do, was take enough MP's.
Brad, you're right. We took about the right number of combat troops. What we needed in addition was roughly 500,000 arabic-speaking MPs.
In closing there are a couple of ways to beat an insurgency. The 1st is to become so absolutely brutal, that you end up being the dictator you replaced. [....] The other is through a combination of winning over the local populace, educating them, and showing a unified, unswerving front in our absolute willingness to see this thing through to a successful conclusion.
We aren't capable of winning with either approach. We won with the brutal approach in the philiippines, but that was back in 1896-1925 or so. It divided the country then.
We sure can't use the gentle approach in iraq, not now. We've shot too many civilians already. Abu Ghraib was an anomaly but we had special forces guys doing waterboarding and sexual torture etc routinely, that was policy and the iraqis iknew it.
In vietnam we tried an inbetween approach and it failed. We're trying an inbetween approach now, without sufficient force to do it the hard way and without enough language skills to use the soft approach.
Anyone suggesting a solution for the current problem or criticism of past policies should provide an objective anaysis of the possible results and downsides.
Tom U, I will make a short attempt at that. it's necessary to offer at least two alternatives in such an attempt. I will present the two alternatives that look best.
1. Stay the course. The problem we're facing is that our primary tool is military force, but there is no military solution. Yet americans can't expect to do much in iraq without being kidnapped unless they are part of a reasonably large military force, so military force is all we've got.
Solution #1: Put the US military forces in iraq under iraqi command.
We can't hope to come up with good uses for those troops ourselves because the problem isn't large well-defined enemy military units. And US forces doing whatever-the-hell they think best against iraqi advice is a big part of the problem. Allawi told us not to attack Fallujah or Najaf, he said US military assault would not solve the problems. He was right. He lost his place in iraqi government for it, because what iraqis wanted him to do was keep us from doing things like that, and he couldn't.
If anybody can figure out a good use for US troops in iraq, it's the democratic iraqi leaders themselves. At the least they can keep our troops out of trouble. They can assign iraqi army officers to accompany every US unit, whose orders supercede the orders of the corresponding US officer. And of course US units can cooperate with iraqi army units. That will vastly increase the effectiveness of US forces at aiding the democratic iraqi government. It makes no sense to leave the US military in iraq supporting the iraqi government without this step.
Downside: It might not work. If it doesn't then at some point we have to pull the troops out.
It would be hard to do. We'd be averse to putting US troops under foreign command. It might result in high casualties. Iraqi leaders wouldn't value US troops the way US politicians at least pretend to.They certainly wouldn't value US troops over iraqi civilians as much as we do.
This is probably a nonstarter because we are not willing to put US troops under foreign command. But no other approach involving US troops in iraq has any chance of success.
Solution #2: Remove US troops from iraq, after consultation with iraqi leaders.
Since we have no mission for US troops in iraq beyond training iraqi troops in the tactics that have failed for us....
80+% of iraqis say they want us out. That's from polls done in the least dangerous parts of major iraqi cities, where the pollsters felt reasonably safe. The fraction may be different in the poorer and more dangerous areas. The iraqi government has done nothing effective toward this fervent desire of their voters. Suppose we went to them privately and said, "We'll keep US forces in iraq as long as you want us to, but how long do you honestly want us to keep them here?". Maybe if we actually asked them what they wanted, they'd want to rather insultingly order us to leave and then watch us leave. They might or might not be safer in iraq with us gone, but there's nothing they could do that would get them more political capital than telling us to go away and having us go.
They desperately need an extra $20 billion or so for each of the next couple of years. Like, their decrepit oil facilities couldn't really expand production much even if they weren't getting sabotaged. They need $20 billion or so to refurbish them, and if they had it (and if the violence died down some) they could make a good deal more money. But they don't. How long does it take us to spend $20 billion extra to keep the army in iraq? About 7 weeks. If we actually gave about a fifth of the money we're spending to blow up iraq to the iraqi government and let them create jobs and infrastructure and such, would they be better off? Maybe not, maybe they'd just steal it. But it would be a whole lot cheaper than what we're doing now and what we're doing now has much less chance of success.
So that's the plan. Pull out the US militlary and give the iraqi government 20% of what we've been spending to hang in there, assuming the iraqi leaders agree.
Downside: It might not work. It could go just as bad as leaving the troops in place, except it would cost less and we'd get fewer US casualties.
How could it be worse than leaving the troops in iraq? Iran might possibly invade. That doesn't look likely to me. They wouldn't want to give up the moral high ground. And if iran invaded that would be the perfect excuse for us to come charging to the iraqis' aid, and the iraqis might welcome us on that basis. We help them beat the invaders and then we leave again. What's not to like? Beating an invading iranian army is the osrt of thing we're best at. While we're in iraq iran is unlikely to invade and we can handle them easily if they do. If we pull out they're slightly more likely to invade and we have a slightly harder time of it to push them back. Not too bad.
Tuirkey might invade kurdistan (and also the northern oilfields). That's a problem. Turkey is very unlikely to invade while we have troops in kurdistan. But it's risky to keep troops in a landlocked country that has no neighbors that are friendly to either us or them. Kurdistan's neighbors are syria, turkey, iran, and iraq. Likely none of them would agree tok ship our military supplies for US troops to help the kurds. If our generals truly think US bases in kurdistan are sustainable, then I'd go along. I'm pretty hesitant. The other obvious approach to defending kurdistan -- giving them nukes -- is not worth discussing.
Say we pull out of kurdistan, will turkey invade? They have reasons not to. They care a littlel what the EU thinks. They don't get much value from policing yet another 5 million angry kurds. Particularly if kurdistan winds up without the oilfields. If the kurds can avoid making things worse for turkey from not invading than from invading....
We could airlift weapons and supplies to kurdistan. That would do them some good in an invasion. We'd have to violate somebody's airspace. Maybe iraq's. If the kurds haven't been fighting iraq and have treated their arab minorities well the iraqis might not even object.
OK, back to iran. The obvious thing is for iran to try to take the southern oilfields. But if they took the whole country they'd be in position to strike at kuwait and saudi arabia. Or jordan and israel, if they're feeling crazy. This would not be in their best interest. They have better things to do than police millions of angry sunnis. They'd do better to show they weren't a direct military threat by not attacking iraq even when the iraqis have no force that could stop them. It's likely they wouldn't do it. But it always makes me nervous when I depend on other people acting in their rational best interest. Look at the US 2004 elections....
The big thing we lose if we pull out is we lose control of events. Nobody in iraq would listen to our good advice, they think we're crazy scared bloodthirsty perverts. It would be hard for us to convince them to do things. But they listen to us when we point guns at them. Without the military we lose all influence in iraq. They might do things well or badly, for good or evil, and we don't get a say in it. When we aren't intimidating their journalists they're likely to start publicising all sorts of atrocities we don't want to hear about. They might welcome anti-US terrorists, or tell them to go away, or beat them down -- and whatever they do makes us look bad. We couldn't begin to stop the terrorists and they can? Maybe everybody who's collaborated with us would feel a sudden urge to leave the country, that isn't good for us either.
Of course, we aren't much in control of events now. But we at least have the illusion of control. We get to point guns at people. It costs us $12 billion a month that we otherwise wouldn't need to spend, and it costs us some casualties, and it costs us the use of our army. Some better candidate for occupation may come up, and we can't do it while our forces are pinned down in iraq. It's scary to lose the illusion of control. There's a strong chance we won't be willing to do it.
But one last thought -- say we pull out the soldiers and send them home to rest and train. We look fast at all the mistakes we made and look for training so we can do better next time. And just suppose that iraq does keep getting worse. Pretty soon increasing violence would disrupt the food distribution and a whole lot of people would be in danger of starvation. Like 80% of the country. And *then* we invade again. There's no effective army to oppose us. We bring food. That's a powerful incentive not to shoot at us. A lot of our mistakes would be wiped out. Most political decisions are not ours to make because we set up an iraqi government and claimed it's sovereign. If the iraqi government is lost in the confusion before we invade, then we don't have to worry about it. We bring in as many arabic speakers as we can. It wouldn't exactly be a completely fresh start, but it would be close. Far better than hanging in there while it all unravels.
Congrats, Greg, on support for the Dems.
Whatever their plan is -- now they control the funding, now they are responsible for cutting and running if they cut funding.
More troops earlier would have meant more Iraqis killed by US forces earlier, and more US casualties -- and less Iraqi gov't development. And possibly a Kerry 2004 victory, though that's less clear.
The biggest military mistake since Bush 41 is the lack of Arabic language training for the Liberation/ Occupation troops.
If the goal was to keep Iraq unified there were two big mistakes:
1) using party lists instead of local geographic districts for representation; such lists support extremists and division (as in ex-Czechoslovakia & ex-Yugoslavia) instead of moderation
2) failure to impose a Oil Trust idea to return most oil money cash directly to the people, or at least the voters.
The media problem of the Reps is the desire to be the "winners". Only the Iraqis can win. We are supporting a nation building exercise, which is long. slow, and hard. But we, America & Coalition and the Iraqi gov't, are making good, steady progress. The problem is the comparison -- progress as compared to what?
As compared to Darfur? Congo? Zimbabwe? Lebanon? The Dems constant critique of Rumsfeld fails to note the standard of comparison.
The final problem is one of control. In a Limited War, the winners do NOT control the timing of the end. The losers, and only the loser, control the timing. When they decide they will stop, rather than continue. In Total War, like total barbaric insurgency suppression, the winners can use massive destruction to take away the ability to kill in resistance, and hence resistance. In Limited War, the resistance will always be able to kill.
Bush has also been foolish to accept that Iraqi Muslims killing Iraqis is his fault -- the PR campaign should have included a body count of: Iraqis mudered by Muslims, and the blame should be put on the Muslim murderers. Not counting Iraqi bodies was also a mistake.
It's up to Sunni non-terrorists to turn in the Sunni terrorists and stop the anti-Shia bombing. As long as this doesn't happen "enough", there will be Shia being murdered. And Shia forming death squads to murder Sunni in revenge, for a little bit of justice. If we leave too soon, the Iranian supported Shia death squads will take over and "end" the Sunni insurgency, possibly with massive ethnic cleansing as has already happened substantially in some small areas and villages.
Which would be terrible, but now I doubt the Dems will allow themselves to be blamed for this -- so will do "something" to change.
Same car, new driver. Troop levels won't be more than 10% different for the next 3 months, but there will likely be more training of Iraqis, less US patrols.
Finally, the real problem is American impatience. If the minimum time is 10 years, but with mistakes might be 12 or 20 years, it is not really clear that Rummy has made so many mistakes. No Dem has offered a time schedule of how long nation-building "should" take, in Iraq or any Arab country.
We would have won in Vietnam by waiting, staying, 16 more years after 1973, till 1989. We chose to leave, we chose to cut funding, we chose to lose. We Americans, especially the Dem Party (whom I voted for in 1976).
[I also ask Greg for more analysis of future options; snark over the past is ok, but answering 'What is to be Done?' is most important.]
If we'd stayed in vietnam until 1989 ....
Wow. It would be a completely different world. We wouldn't have had the money for Star Wars and the USSR would have held together. Would north vietnam have occupied the rest of cambodia, or would we have occupied cambodia instead? Would china have invaded taiwan, sure that the USA was pinned down in vietnam? Probably no invasion of panama or kuwait. We'd be busy. We'd have shrugged off the problems with iran and not encouraged Saddam to start the iraq/iran war.
A whole different world. Hard to imagine. Would we be a third world country by now? It was a giant expense, increasing over another 16 years.
What does it take to get the US public to go along with a 20+ year war complete with draft?
Wow. Just wow. What a great imagination you have!
There might be more support for the war now if Bush had explained from the first that it would be a 20-year commitment. A lot of us thought it was supposed to be a cakewalk.
Talk about imaginary worlds... Somehow, some way the powerless Democrats are to blame, if only this, if only that, if, if, if... It is slightly obscene to read these these armchair strategians' masturbatory fantasies - you tend to deal with the world you have. Or you lose wars. The US had a perfect window of opportunity to make this occupation work. It botched it beyond belief: the Bush administration is directly, solely responsible - the Democrats were bullied to cheer on the sidelines, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway if they hadn't. A wasted imperial adventure is what we have now got in connection with a seriously unbalanced national economy. Beijing applauds. And waits.
"BTAIM, it seems rather late in the game to be advocating throwing good money (not to mention bodies) after bad..... and Reynolds is obviously an idiot if he thinks that the Shiite militias (which are pretty much in control of most of Iraq, even given the "chaos" that exists) would tolerate a signficant increase in the US military presence.
oh, and does Reynolds bother to explain where we're supposed to get more troops from?
(Just curious, Greg... where do you stand on the "this war could have been won if smarter people were running it" --- "smarter people would never have invaded Iraq" continuum? )"
Wow...what thoughtful and intelligent remarks. Shite militias don't "control" Iraq. They ARE busy murdering their fellow countrymen but they don't "control" Iraq. But I suppose if all you do is read the NY Times and watch CBS, I could understand how you have forgotten about the Sunnis and Kurds. And by tolerate, you mean they would resort to suicide bombs and more kidnapping and butchering of civillians?
And for the record, troops are available. Trained and ready and proud to serve.
Currently, there are 499,000 active duty Army troops, backed up by 700,000 National Guard and Army reservists. That's a third less than when the U.S. fought its last big war in the Persian Gulf, in 1991; 130,000 Army troops are in Iraq. Pentagon officials had hoped to reduce that number, but the ongoing insurgency prevented it; 9,000 Army troops are in Afghanistan; 3,000 help keep the peace in Bosnia, as do 37,000 in South Korea.
I agree that we should have never gone into Iraq...Not with Iran and Syria and Korea just sitting there.
The war is coming...one way or another.
"You're a professional, Greg, not a salivating amateur blogger."
You're only a professional if you behave like one. Act like an ass, and guess what...
This is the entire origianl Stuntz post from Reynolds:
"HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR BILL STUNTZ has thoughts on what we should be doing in Iraq."
No one is offering any serious alternatives because there are none.
Yes, and that is precisely what many people warned about before the war.
But people like the InstaThug and you were all gung-ho, eager to fight. Anyone opposing or even concerned about the war were just terrorist sympathizers.
You got us into this mess, scumbags. Fuck you, and fuck the Instacoward. I might suggest doing the honorable thing --shipping out immediatedly to Iraq in a combat role. Or maybe just getting a samurai sword ..
Bruce Moomaw: "Footnote: Since huge numbers of Dems (including Kerry) have already publicly insisted that our mistake in Iraq was not sending more troops, why would the Dem party now monolithically oppose doing so -- if we could find a source for them, that is (short of a draft)?"
Bruce, the difference between then and now is that the war has been lost. Putting in twice the troops, *with* proper planning on how to do the occupation (step 1: shoot all neo-conmen and women), *might* have prevented the situation from deteriorating to the present point.
"And I remain skeptical that we can find enough spare troops just sitting around in the continental US to solve the problem; regardless of Rummy's obsessive insistence that we don't need any more troops in Iraq, one would think that he himself would at least have used some of those supposed spare maneuver battalions to maintain our current troop level there instead of recycling the same National Guard troops over and over and over."
Once you understand that Rumsfield does not, never did and never will have any clue as to why the USA has large ground forces, much of his actions make sense (from his perspective).
As I believe that you have demonstrated far more personal integrity over time than someone like Andrew Sullivan, I fully expected to see an apology for, or at least some type of correction of, this comment when I returned your website. I was surprised that you have declined to do so.
There was absolutely no justification for your characterization of Reynolds's post as being "breathless" and your refusal to retract the statement is quite revealing.
Where did all these silly trolls come from?
Wanting an apology for calling Glenn Reynolds a silly hack? Whatever for?
Three years ago these guys were calling lots of names. Anybody who had a clue about irasq got called a moonbeam and a dhimmi. Now they're demandiing civility?
These guys deserve to be waterboarded until they explain who's paying them to post this way and how much they make, and confess whatever illegalities they might have committed. Then they deserve long prison terms in US facilities with the usual civility from the guards and other prisoners. But probably almost all of them will get off scot free.
Um, has anyone noticed Greg has done what was asked of him (w/o apologies) in the next post -- laid out an attempt at a vision? And I wager he did it without holding his breath.
I just came back and noticed he did, though I haven't read it yet. I also would note it was Reynolds who linked to it as I suspected he would and said so in my comment above. All the Reynolds bashing shows me some people don't understand Reynolds positions, to the extent he even holds strong ones. They use him as an ink blot to project their own passions (all sides are guilty of that.) Reynolds has been far more respectful of Sullivan and Greg than vice versa if it is name calling that we are worried about, so while I do not expect nor would ask for an apology, I would note that in general Reynolds is one of the more gentlemanly critics one could have. I in fact look forward to the day he disagrees with me. Lots of readers and all I have to put up with is some ambivalent criticism along the lines of "it seems to me" or "that doesn't agree with what I am hearing from" or "I think when I hear that of."
Anyway, I am looking forward to reading Greg's post. I am sure it will be excellent, for when he puts his mind to laying things out he is one of the more fair minded and reasonable public intellectuals we have.
I saw someone quote Stalingrad as an example of "all you need is more will" for war.
Hitler demonstrated at Stalingrad that you can lose an entire war by having lots of will, and insufficient intelligence -- he shocked the world by how he was willing to throw away his army on a stupid battle, and thereby lose his hope for oil, Paulus' army, and the entire war.