January 14, 2007

"Surge" Math


Fred Kagan, writing on 12/04/06:

Conducting Tal Afar-type operations across the entire capital region all at once would require concentrating all available forces in the area and a "surge" of about 80,000 U.S. soldiers--a large number, to be sure, but very far from the "hundreds of thousands" or even "millions" generated by the use of specious historical examples.

Fred Kagan (w/ Keane) writing on 12/27/06:

REPORTS ON the Bush administration's efforts to craft a new strategy in Iraq often use the term "surge" but rarely define it. Estimates of the number of troops to be added in Baghdad range from fewer than 10,000 to more than 30,000. Some "surges" would last a few months, others a few years.

We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad--the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development--is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.

Just around 3 weeks between the two articles, and Kagan goes from 80,000 (or 50,000*, see below) to 30,000 as to what's needed to secure Baghdad (as Frank Rich quips in today's NYT, "whatever")! What changed? Might Kagan have bowed to AEI elders hoping to get the think-tank a good shot at preening that an in-house plan became that of POTUS, and so the Republic's? Speculative, but what else explains the drop of 50,000 (or, at very least, 20,000) in under a month? After all, it's nice PR to have Joe Lieberman and John McCain drop by 17th St., no, for the victory roll-out festivities? (Another explanation, of course, is that these numbers are getting pulled somewhat out of thin air, but think-tankers would never be so unserious, right?)

Regardless, the actual surge is, as we all know, going to be well below 30,000, Kagan's (supposed) drop-dead minimum. In addition, Secretary of Defense Gates is on the record stating: "I don't think anybody has a definite idea of how long a surge would last..I think for most of us in our minds we're thinking of it as a matter of months, not 18 months or two years." So much for Kagan's minimum of 18 months, though he probably calculates once the boots are on the ground--Gates' current intentions notwithstanding--they'll likely end up remaining in theatre for his minimum of 18-24 months.

Given this background, doesn't someone need to ask this gaggle of discredited neo-cons at AEI the following: do they support the President's plan for the so-called "surge," as it's currently, specifically envisioned? And, if so, how do they reconcile it with their recent writings? Let me guess, something is better than nothing, right (even if too little, too late)? After all, it's not their lives on the line--so why not breezily make policy recommendations that could end up sacrificing a few more thousand men to, in reality, only achieve the "minimum necessary not to lose"?

Meantime, check out this slap-dash power-point (click through the PDF "interim report"), meant to sketch out the broad brush-strokes of Keane-Kagan, the plan that McCain and Lieberman have de facto blessed by crossing town for the "V" is for Victory jubilee. Go to p. 44, and enjoy the all CAPS (always a dead-ringer for striking juvenilia to come): "WE CAN WIN IN IRAQ, AND WE MUST". Ah, if it were only so easy.

Oh, and meantime, don't miss the p. 56 slide listing the "participants". Feeling confident this is a serious plan? Let's be sure to remember these estimable authors though, particularly as this disaster gets worse because of yet more escalatory bravado born of casual swagger, namely, sending 17,500 young American men and women into a maelstrom of urban conflict pitting Sunni vs Shia--with some peshmerga thrown in for good measure--without being accompanied by a serious region-wide crisis management initiative (the ISG's so-called diplomatic offensive), and without any real assurances that the currently constituted Iraqi government can "deliver" or "step up", or "pull up their socks" or whatever the dumbed-down Beltway locution du jour. And, worst, knowing full well the main authors of the surge themselves believed (or at least did as of early December) that we'd need some 50,000-80,000 U.S. soldiers to really begin to have a real go of securing Baghdad (putting aside Anbar and the Iranian border), numbers that are simply not available.

Isn't it long past time to put aside utopic visions of victory, and pursue a realizable plan rather than have more Americans die for a plan all but doomed to failure? Those doing the fighting won't have the luxury of passing the popcorn from afar to see how it all plays out, after all...

*Kagan, not even sure of his 80,000 number back in early December, writes later in the same 12/04 piece linked above: "It is impossible to estimate precisely how many more U.S. troops would be needed in the capital area, or in Iraq, without proposing a detailed military plan. But since the high end of estimates for doing the whole area at once produced the requirement for a surge of 80,000 or so, it is very likely that a surge of 50,000 American troops would be sufficient to stabilize the capital."

"Very likely". 80,000. 50,000. 30,000. Whatevs! Roll the die on the craps table, ok, cuz it's gonna be 17,500 (barely half of Kagan's supposed drop-dead minimum requirement for Baghdad, and that's charitably construing his number-juggling, of course)! I repeat, does Fred Kagan support the President's "surge-lite"? If so, based on what rationale? A hail mary, or reality? Or is this just a Potemkin, souped-up version of Rumsfeld's "just enough troops to lose" doctrine? Have we learned nothing these past four years?

The only "surge" that, just arguably, might have made sense was one meant to back-up regional crisis diplomacy. Of course, that's not what we got. So I'm dubious in the extreme, obviously, that this half-baked plan has a snowball's chance in hell, and therefore agree with Chuck Hagel that we're careening towards an even greater blunder within Iraq (putting aside, at least for now, the even more troublesome specter of miscalculation dragging the Iranians in more forcefully, not as improbable as one might hope). More soon.

UPDATE: Rich Lowry, well practiced Beltway water-carrier that he is, is nevertheless going to have to do a bit better than this effort, I'm afraid: "Bush has proposed sending five brigades and a regiment to Baghdad and Anbar, almost precisely what Kagan/Keane proposed. The difference comes in the way the brigades are being counted. The Bush administration is low-balling them as 3,500 troops each, so it comes up with a lower total number. None of this is to suggest that all is well with the Bush surge plan or that it exactly mimics Kagan/Keane, but it is unfair to charge Kagan with inconsistency on the numbers."

Cute. Let's cut through this transparent spin, shall we? And I'll make it harder for myself, by not focusing on Kagan's early December call for 50,000-80,000 men, but rather his late December article putting the drop-dead minimum at 30,000. Here's what Kagan wrote in the later piece:

Clearing and holding the Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods in the center of Baghdad, which are the keys to getting the overall levels of violence down, will require around nine American combat brigades (27 battalions, in partnership with Iraqi forces, divided among some 23 districts). Since there are about five brigades in Baghdad now, achieving this level would require a surge of at least four additional combat brigades--some 20,000 combat troops. Moreover, it would be foolhardy to send precisely as many troops as we think we need. Sound planning requires a reserve of at least one brigade (5,000 soldiers) to respond to unexpected developments. The insurgents have bases beyond Baghdad, especially in Anbar province. Securing Baghdad requires addressing these bases--a task that would necessitate at least two more Marine regiments (around 7,000 Marines). It is difficult to imagine a responsible plan for getting the violence in and around Baghdad under control that could succeed with fewer than 30,000 combat troops beyond the forces already in Iraq.

Bush is reportedly sending only 17,500 troops to Baghdad, and 4,000 separately to Anbar. 'Late December' Kagan says that we need for the "surge" at least 25,000 in Baghdad, and 7,000 in Anbar. So that's 7,500 short in Baghdad, and 3,000 short in Anbar--and that's playing with kid gloves--by not boring into the detail of Fred K's early December piece that spoke of the need for 50,000-80,000 fresh troops, before he dramatically (and so conveniently) reduced the bid/ask.

Contra Rich, this isn't about whether you count a brigade as 3,000 or 5,000. It's about this surge-lite being half-assed, even with a very talented guy like Petraeus at the helm, because we simply don't have the troops (in large because a lot on the dumbed-down NRO Right these past years were carrying water for Rumsfeld's incredibly misguided, troop-lite transformationalist nostrums). The surge is also likely to fail as it will be relying on confusing chains of command, because Kurdish peshmerga are going to be thrown in the mix, and because the Shi'a force being brought in from the south won't fight radical Shi'a militias, but only Sunnis--thus exacerbating the civil war (sorry, sectarian tensions, in NRO-speak). And, in the middle of course, will be G.I.s from places like Idaho and Indiana--getting killed to fight al-Qaeda and those evil Iranian mullahs, we're being led to believe, presumably--rather than, more likely, ultimately proving powerless to prevent Shi'a hegemony in Baghdad (you know, some of those friendly folks doling out the Nick Berg treatment these days).

P.S. Memo to Rich: before casually accusing me of a "smear", take a good hard look at what's shovelled around NRO day in, day out. The aspersions, juvenile belittling and denigrations bandied about the sand-box you call home come pretty fast and often, truth be told, so careful tossing around the "S" word, -k?

Posted by Gregory at January 14, 2007 03:04 PM


The urgent question isn't the math over US surge numbers in Iraq. It is whether Russia will deliver fuel rods to the Bushehr reactor in Iran in the next couple of months. Once the reactor goes hot, an air strike to destroy it could irradiate the oil terminals in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

If America uses its newly reinforced naval presence in the area preemptively to take out the reactor, we will move into a larger war. If the reactor fuelling proceeds, the President's ability to pressure Iran and its networks will be much reduced.

The outcome of the tactical shift involving our forces in the Baghdad area will matter (if it does) only if the nuclear situation with Iran continues to be possible to keep on the back burner. It will stay on the back burner only if Russia decides not to begin supplying fuel for the Bushehr reactor.

Posted by: David Billington at January 14, 2007 04:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Conducting Tal Afar-type operations across the entire capital region all at once would require concentrating all available forces in the area and a "surge" of about 80,000 U.S. soldiers--a large number, to be sure, but very far from the "hundreds of thousands" or even "millions" generated by the use of specious historical examples.

Kagan here presents us with a strawman worthy of the wingnuttiest of right-wingers. The "historical examples" prediciting the need for "hundreds of thousands" of troops were, of course, based on pacifying the entire nation of Iraq, and not just the capital.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at January 14, 2007 05:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is it possible that the difference is that at the time Kagan didn't think the Iraqis would contrbute the bulk of armed forces, and therefore thought more Americans would be needed. But now is convinced that the Iraqis will contribute the 50,000 troops they say they will? (Which will bring the total combined forces to 90,000).

Posted by: Jeff at January 14, 2007 05:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What convinced Kagan that there would be 50,000 Iraqi troops? Maliki's assurance that there would be? How does he square that with the fact that the Iraqi security forces have never reached the numbers that were predicted and required, have never reached the independent-ready status in numbers that were predicted and required, and are already heavily infiltrated with militias?

As to why the numbers dropped from 80K to 50K to 30K - well, that's pretty darned obvious. Kagan, like so many neocons, wanted to pitch numbers they thought the Bush Administration would actually come up with, and adjusted those numbers downward every time it became clear that 1) Bush wasn't going to be able to muster that many more and 2) Bush wasn't going to send that many more.

The lowball estimates have less to do with how many additionla troops would actually be effective than they do with providing pre-emptive cover for how many Bush actually sends. As in: "Good! He's sending as many as we suggested! See? He really does know how to turn things around in Iraq - um, Baghdad!"

Now that the raw troop total Bush intends to send is down to 21,500 - and the actual fighting complement some lesser number than that - the RW commentariat is in a bit of a dilemma. Either it revises its numbers downward yet again, without any explanation of why the "absolute minimum" dropped another significant percentage... or it denounces the latest effort as too little, too late. Wonder which way most of them will go?

Posted by: CaseyL at January 14, 2007 05:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hi Greg,

I think the salient point is that Kagan wouldn't commit to anything, because like newspaper editorial writers this is not an exercise in accountable policy formulation, but rather an exercise in selling a brand (AEI), and creating space for the administration to conduct whatever it wishes to do. For Kagan to answer your query would take away the power of his perch at AEI - namely the ability to (when the 'surge' fails) then criticise the administration for not implimenting the policy properly. AEI and Kagan's career will live on, the administration has a definitive shelf-life. The Iraqi people, coalition forces and the president's (ahem) legacy are not Kagan's concern (though I'm sure he'll write a sufficiently positive review of the administration 'on-the-whole' in the years ahead).

John Measor

Posted by: John Measor at January 14, 2007 06:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Golly, a think-tank Clausewitz who fudges his numbers as convenience demands? But by now it shouldn't be a surprise. Honestly, I'd like to think that someday a resume' with the phrase AEI "scholar" will be a bar to any employment higher than Slurpee operator at a 7-11, but I don't see it happening yet.....

This is a very astute essay about the millieau that produces a guy like Kagan and the rest of the think-tank Caesars. I'd also recommend the books and essays of Andrew Bacevich, who is probably most lucid observer of American strategy today. I don't think it's a coincidence that his writings are free of jargon and mystic-appealing acronyms, yet manage to get right to the essence of our current predicament.

I'm beginning to wonder if the closest analogy to our Mesopotamian adventure isn't Vietnam or Algeria, but the Crimean War. We seem to be displaying pretty much the same stellar strategic insight and competence as the Brits did 150 years ago....

Posted by: sglover at January 14, 2007 08:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I really believe Fred Kagan is a threat to both the short- and long-term security of the United States of America. I haven't seen such ineptitude since the Heritage Foundation and Jimmy O'Beirne got Simone Ledeen, fresh from cooking school, a job with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

Does merit, ability, and basic common sense really mean so little to these people?

What's next? Mark Steyn as secretary of state?

Posted by: Mark Raven at January 14, 2007 08:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


You keep emphasizing the need for a diplomatic offensive. Could you please flesh out your thoughts on this?

Let's say Bush sees the light and goes for a diplomatic offensive. Continuing the hypothetical situation, let's say you are one of his senior advisers. A meeting with the Iranians is set. What do you suggest Bush ask the Iranians to do or offer them in return?

I ask this because it's not immediately apparent to me how talking to Iraq's neighbors can stabilize Iraq -- especially when it appears they have had some hand in keeping it unstable (to be fair, our putative allies Jordan and Saudi Arabia have probably been sources of instability in Iraq as well). Could you please elaborate?

Also, what part do you expect the UN-recognized sovereign government of Iraq to play in these regional negotiations (if any)?

Thanks. I'm sure I'm not the only one of your readers who eagerly awaits your response.


Posted by: Dave at January 14, 2007 10:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's double-down time at the Baghdad Bellagio and everybody wants in. Is that so hard understand?


Posted by: St. John McCain at January 15, 2007 12:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There is so much here to write about that it is difficult to begin. First, Keane said on Charlie Rose a few nights ago that phase 2 or whatever will be in An Bar some time in 08. Therefore, the guys don't know what they are talking about. Second, any "surge" can and will be met by an increased counter-offensive, so the numbers are useless. Third, none of what is being addressed mets any US strategic needs in the region.

About the diplomacy: Someone in the administration (god only knows who) must decide on the principles that will be advanced, and then the diplomats can seek out terms that will met those goals. Assuming that one of those principles was "regional stability" then we must set out for the players why this benefits them--which is does. War benefits no one. We do have economic leverage, Iran's frozen accounts, oil field technology, and many other carrots to offer Iran. Syria needs economic help as well.

We must understand that Iraq will not be a democracy; however, the now warring parties can also find common ground.

Yes, it will take time and skill. But what is most important, it takes a clear-headed new policy for the region. Will bush do this? Probably not; however, this is what the Congress needs to pushing for: a new policy. Instead we find ourselves caught in a tug-o-war over the number of troops. The troops can be brought home when the draw down is negotiated at the table.

Posted by: DonnaZ at January 15, 2007 12:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As one of Atrios' readers points out, Kagan's expertise is in Napoleon, and on 19th century Russia, and hasn't published anything peer-reviewed in 10 years. Just because he teaches at West Point doesn't mean he knows anything relevant about the situation in Iraq - modern combat, modern counterinsurgency tactics, etc.

So, why does anyone listen to him?

Oh, yeah, because he tells Bush what Bush wants to hear. Talk about "Piled Higher and Deeper".

Also, if the war is so important, Kagan should enlist. He's only 36.

Posted by: Jon H at January 15, 2007 01:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dave writes: "A meeting with the Iranians is set. What do you suggest Bush ask the Iranians to do or offer them in return?"

Well, why are they harrassing us in Iraq? Because they're senselessly eeeeviul? Possessed by demons? Perverted by their religion and irrational?

No. They're doing so because it makes sense for them to pin the US down and weaken us in Iraq for as long as possible, because they have every reason to think we'd invade Iran if things calmed down in Iraq. Bush's idiotic bellicose rhetoric has ensured this reaction.

Negotiations could start with guaranteeing that we won't invade Iran, so they should lay off.

Unfortunately, Bush and Cheney are insane, and they want war with Iran. i guess they haven't killed enough Americans in their blunders, and are aiming for 6,000 dead and 50,000 wounded in wars that won't accomplish anything.

Posted by: Jon H at January 15, 2007 02:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I wondered if the difference is the word "combat" before 30,000. Maybe with 30K combat troups, the army would need the extra 50K for support. Either way, the 21.5k that we are apparently going to send isn't even close to either number.

Posted by: Chasm at January 15, 2007 02:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Either way, the 21.5k that we are apparently going to send isn't even close to either number."

Especially not when they're being dribbled out a little at a time.

Posted by: Jon H at January 15, 2007 02:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How many troops would be needed to secure Baghdad? This will of course depend on how they are used.

According to this article by Bing West in the Atlantic Monthly, the Sunni Triangle city of Al Qaim (population: 100,000) was secured by single Marine battalion using innovative techniques (e.g., partnering each squad with local police and accompanying them on patrols, etc. -- it's worth reading the article to get the complete picture).

If one battalion could succeed in Al Qaim, then it would seem possible that sixty battalions, utilized the same way, would have a chance of succeeding in Baghdad (population: 6,000,000). On the low end, that would be approximately 25,000 U.S. troops (assuming three 40-man platoons per company, three companies per battalion and rounding up to account for headquarters detachments at the company, batallion, and brigade levels.

Based on those numbers, an addition of 21,500 U.S. troops to those already there would not be, prima facie, futile. Again, how they will be used is crucial.

Dave P. (aka Dave)

Posted by: Dave at January 15, 2007 05:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I wonder what the chances are of the change in strategy the "surge" is intended to support actually happening.

Decentralizing the deployment of American troops in the Baghdad area, let alone increasing the number of provincial reconstruction teams in the country by a factor of five, is not something that can be done overnight. Between now and the time the "new direction" can more than just begun several weeks must pass. It may be that during this time the Maliki government, willingly or not, will give a good indication of whether it is prepared to take the steps the new direction calls for.

If it is not, the American response will probably not be to try and proceed as if nothing had happened. It is more likely that the things the Maliki government does want will be held up, and that faced with the task of addressing the Mahdi Army in Sadr City without support from the Iraqi Army the Americans will push it off down the road, perhaps deferring the entry of reinforcements to Iraq or sending them to Anbar instead.

Of course this could be all wrong. It presumes that Gen. Petraeus will not be willing to allow the Iraqi government to dictate the terms of engagement with militias, and will be willing (and authorized) to walk away if he doesn't get what he thinks he needs. We'll see.

Posted by: Zathras at January 15, 2007 05:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I wish I'd had a math instructor in high school as jolly as Mr Kagan, my capricious approach to the rigidly unforgiving logic of the subject may have been more appreciated. How many years I've wasted thinking my lack of coherence a drawback when it comes to intellectual pursuits.

Posted by: saintsimon at January 15, 2007 01:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Also, if the war is so important, Kagan should enlist. He's only 36."

He needs to lose a couple chins before he enlists. A DI would have to work overtime to get that sack of blubber anywhere close to the shape to be in theatre. Sorry, but this armchair machismo being trumped by wimp/blimp reality seems to be trend among chickenhawks, no?

Posted by: los at January 15, 2007 01:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey, Britain WON the Crimean War, don't you dare compare this clusterf*ck to our imperial triumphs...

Posted by: Dave at January 15, 2007 01:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Of course this could be all wrong. It presumes that Gen. Petraeus will not be willing to allow the Iraqi government to dictate the terms of engagement with militias, and will be willing (and authorized) to walk away if he doesn't get what he thinks he needs. We'll see.

The question is "what does Petraeus want?" If its to find a workable solution to the security crisis in Baghdad, then his priorities are consistent with the Maliki government. If, on the other hand, Petraeus is there to function as an extension of Bush's insane Iraq policy, there will be trouble.

The strategy apparently being advocated by the Maliki government is described in today's NY Times ) thusly...

As described by American commanders, the pattern in the eight months since Mr. Maliki took office has been for the Shiite leaders who dominate the new government to press the Americans to concentrate on Sunni extremists.

The argument is that Shiite death squads, which have accounted for an almost equal number of deaths, are engaged in retaliatory attacks, and that those will cease when the Sunni groups are rooted out.

Simply put, the US needs to pick sides --- and if you are going to be working with the Iraqi Army in Baghdad, the side you pick needs to be the Shiite side. Eliminate the "insurgents" in the Sunni neighborhoods, and you eliminate the need for the Shiite death squads.

Unfortunately, as Greg's quote from the Financial Times so amply demonstrated, US policy in Iraq is completely irrational....

The contradiction at the heart of the US approach, however, is this: after casually overturning the Sunni order in Iraq and empowering the Shia in an Arab heartland country for the first time in nearly a millennium, Washington took fright at the way this had enlarged the power of the Shia Islamist regime in Iran. Now, while dependent on Tehran-aligned forces in Baghdad, and unable to dismantle the Sunni Jihadistan it has created in western Iraq, the US is trying to put together an Arab Sunni alliance against Iran. This is a fiasco with the fuel to combust into a region-wide conflagration.

Bush's political agenda is to go after the Mahdi army --- because its the Sadrists who are most insistent upon a complete withdrawal of US forces from their country. Bush wants a permanent presence in Iraq, and thus al-Sadr is an impediment to that goal.

If Petraeus decides to try and implement Bush's political agenda and insists upon going after the Shiite militias, this latest escalation will devolve from a fiasco to an unmitigated military disaster..... We might be able to convince the Madhi army to lay back for a while, but we aren't going to convince them to lay down their arms, and any effort to disarm them by force would be insane.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at January 15, 2007 02:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Also, if the war is so important, Kagan should enlist. He's only 36."

los: "He needs to lose a couple chins before he enlists. A DI would have to work overtime to get that sack of blubber anywhere close to the shape to be in theatre. Sorry, but this armchair machismo being trumped by wimp/blimp reality seems to be trend among chickenhawks, no?"

Why would he need to lose any weight. I'd assign him to a frontline unit in Iraq, as the guy they send forward at checkpoints, to search cars for bomb. Suicide bombs, especially. If he finds one, it'll probably be by the bomber setting it off upon being searched. Since dodging explosions only works in movies, it really doesn't matter what shape he's in.

Of course, his chances of survival are slim, but he won't mind, because he's a patriot.

Posted by: Barry at January 15, 2007 02:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Also, to add to Kagan's dishonesty (assuming that any AEI scholar hasn't already hit the infinite dishonesty zone), Tal Afar was pacified by walling it off, telling the population to leave under threat of bombardment, and searching/ID-ing all people going in and out of the walled zone. Not too doable for Baghdad.

And Tal Afar has been 'pacified' at least twice.

Posted by: Barry at January 15, 2007 02:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

NPR had Fred Kagan as a commentator after the President's speech announcing the surge. He did not voice any strong criticisms, although he did emphasize that we will be in for a very bloody and violent period over there in the next few months as the United States brings peace to Baghdad.

Taking the war beyond Iraq to Iran and Syria is not really part of the AEI plan, although it does set the stage in that the surge will torpedo most of what the Iraq Study Group came up with. There are strong parallels here with what we did to Laos and Cambodia once it became clear that we were not going to succeed in installing the kind of government that we wanted in Vietnam.

Posted by: Don Thieme at January 15, 2007 08:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rich Lowry says that Greg is smearing Kagan, by somehow misrepresenting Kagan's position.

"[Kagan and Keane] called for five brigades and two regiments to Baghdad and Anbar, more than 30,000 combat troops (but even more troops than that if you count logistics, etc. to support the combat troops). Bush has proposed sending five brigades and a regiment to Baghdad and Anbar, almost precisely what Kagan/Keane proposed. The difference comes in the way the brigades are being counted. The Bush administration is low-balling them as 3,500 troops each, so it comes up with a lower total number."

So you see, 21,500 troops are "almost precisely" what Kagan and Keane proposed. Glad you cleared that up for us Rich!

Posted by: Tim at January 15, 2007 10:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

21,500 is "almost precisely" 30,000?

I like how he says "The Bush administration is low-balling them as 3,500 troops each, so it comes up with a lower total number" as if that made perfect sense. He doesn't even bother trying to explain how five understrength, non-supported brigades are supposed to do the work of five full-strength, fully-supported brigades.

After all, what's another few thousand US casualties?

Posted by: CaseyL at January 15, 2007 11:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

all the (admittedly few) pro-wars are silent.

all the wars (many) are vocal.

but no one has a friggin clue.

welcome to WAR.

Posted by: neill at January 16, 2007 04:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

that second line should read 'anti-wars'.

Posted by: neill at January 16, 2007 04:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Further memo to Mr. Lowry: WE'RE WINNING.

Posted by: norbizness at January 16, 2007 02:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'd hate to fly a plane these idiots designed, if that's their math abilities. Off by more than a factor of two? Hey, no problem!

No, we're just feeding in another set of troops into the meat-grinder so our President can continue feeling he isn't a failure.


Posted by: grumpy realist at January 16, 2007 04:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What is horrifying to me is that there appears to be no Plan B in place. It doesn't surprise me, just horrifies me. I watched Steve Hadley on Meet The Press and whenever he was asked "What if....?" questions related to the surge failing to provide planned results, his response was invariably along the lines of: "We expect to see xyz..." that matched the verbalized vision for the escalation's (sorry, augmentation's) outcome. There was no articulation of any course of action to address the very real negative alternatives to their expected outcome.

This is no new strategy, this is the same old hype in new clothes. Didn't we expect to sweep through Iraq and emerge victorious in 6 months? Didn't we expect to find WMD? Didn't we expect to be greeted as liberators? On the basis of these past expectations, we developed inadequate plans based on ineffective risk analysis and without any alternatives defined should the initial plan fail to produce the desired results.

One thought that occurs to me every time the administration brings up the fear of an Al Quaeda run state is that once a terrorist group has control of a state they have much larger priorities to address than striking against the outside world. They have to address infrastructure maintenance and the very real and resource-intensive activities required to run the state. They may allow other terror groups safe haven for training, but Al Quaeda running a state pretty much defuses it for direct terrorist activity. This may seem a bit harsh, but at least if the state is known to harbor terrorists (as the Taliban did), we know where to monitor and listen.

Posted by: DawnP at January 16, 2007 04:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't see many College and Young Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom lining up at military recruiting centers. Do you?

No member of the extended Bush clan has served in the GWOT. Few Bush Rangers (raised $200,000+), Bush Pioneers ($100,000-$199,999), senior Administration officials, neocon think tank members or right-wing media figures personally know any enlisted servicemembers or junior officers.

Who is/was the best-connected Wounded Warrior on Walter Reed's Ward 57? Certainly not anybody they know.

Fred Kagan is 36 and eligible to serve. It's his plan; why doesn't he bet his life on it?

And so it goes . . .

Posted by: Operation Yellow Elephant at January 16, 2007 07:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I can't help but wonder when the those opposed to war and opposed to this adminsitration will finnally take to the streets and march on Washington in massive numbers. A lot of people seem to forget the protest marches before Bush started the invasion. They didn't work then, but that was with a split opinion on whether to fight or not in the first place. I imagine protests now would be received much differently than back in 2003.

Just what does it take to get this country moving, in either direction? Pro-War chickenhawks refuse to enlist but comment from the sideline about the gravity and importance of this fiasco and that we must win this fight with 150k troops, and yet, at the same time, most of America is sitting at home watching the premiere of 24 and American Idol.

When do the real war protests begin in earnest? What happened to Amercian outrage and ability to act?

Posted by: Andrei at January 16, 2007 07:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lowry's new post on this matter is inane. The ratios Kagan is relying on in his 12/04 TWS piece for his force estimates are based on COMBAT FORCES. To get to the levels he claims, 30,000 combat forces just aren't enough. 50,000 combat troops probably aren't enough, either, given the low quality of Iraqi forces. That's that. Lowry really ought to read more about this stuff before talking; unbelievable. . . .

Posted by: KL at January 16, 2007 08:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When do the real war protests begin in earnest? What happened to Amercian outrage and ability to act?

I believe a pretty large rally is scheduled for Jan 27th, in DC. But I think the ball is really in the Congress' court -- where there are encouraging signs of life.

Anyway, I don't think street protests have accomplished anything since the early 60's. I live in the DC area, I've seen my share of them, and I even walked in one or two antiwar demos on the eve of our Mesopotamian adventure. I always find them dispiriting examples of just how undisciplined and incoherent leftists can be. At a minimum, I think an event intended to protest war ought to be somber. But what I always see instead is dress-up time and puppet theater.

Posted by: sglover at January 16, 2007 09:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am generally sympathetic to this post, and would take much of what Kagan writes vis-a-vis Iraq with a enormous grain of salt, especially given the "fudging" of numbers documented here. That being said, the notion that those supporting the "surge" or whatever you wish to call it have no fat in the fire is simply not true. McCain's son is in the pipeline, Eliot Cohen's son is in the Army; there are good, decent people who have a personal stake in the outcome that support, with some caveats, the President's plan.

The broader issue here goes back to the chickenhawk slur - smart, decent people who have not served in the military can study these issues and come to informed conclusions. Greg is an excellent example of this. The greatest danger, IMHO, is not the relatively small group of think-tank warriors in Washington. The great danger, and one that will persist well beyond the war in Iraq, is the emerging split between the nation's elite and the military. Of all of those bright young kids coming from Andover and Groton and Harvard and Yale, how many are choosing to pursue careers in investment banking and later private equity in New York, as opposed to careers in the military? How many of them would even consider doing 3-5 years of service before going to Harvard for the MBA and on to Goldman or Carlyle or Blackstone? I think this divide does not correlate with party affiliation; it is true of both Democrats and Republicans.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts, Greg, on this subject. BTW, I recognize some folks from this background serve at State or in the IC, but I emphasized military service because I think the cultural division is sharpest there.

Posted by: Charlie at January 16, 2007 10:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think the author must not have read Kagan's articles as carefully as he ought to have. Because it appears that the problem he has with Kagan's varying estimates. Is the context in which Kagan suggested those numbers would be appropriate. 80 grand to -all at one time - pacify all of baghdad. 50 grand to pacify the city in consecutive stages As well as hold and patrol the areas pacified.
If I read Kagan right. His definition of a surge is - through extending tours, altering troop rotation so certain brigades rotate in early and others have their rotation out delayed - rapidly augmenting combat troops in country with the amount of combat troops necessary to increase the total number of combat ready boots on the ground in Baghdad to somewhere between 50 & 80 K. I think the poster mistook these numbers as being the amount needed in addition to those already in Iraq.

Posted by: Mike at January 17, 2007 02:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

lotsa gumflappin round these parts...

me, ahm gonna wait n see what actullly happens.

course ahm kinda simplle like....

Posted by: neill at January 17, 2007 05:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

iraq the model

Sunday, January 14, 2007
What? Already running away!?

Insurgents and terrorists are already abandoning some of their positions in Baghdad and moving to Diyala, al-Sabah said:

In Diyala, politicians, religious and tribal figures demanded that their province be included in the security plan of Baghdad. This came after dozens of foreign Arab militants ran away from Baghdad to areas across Diyala in order to avoid raids by the Iraqi and American forces during the incoming security plan to secure Baghdad.
Eyewitnesses told al-Sabah that areas such as New Baquba, Gatoon and al-Zour in Miqdadiya have become convenient bases for terrorists and foreign al-Qaeda members from Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.
This movement of terrorists forced most of the families in these areas to leave either to neighboring countries or to the southern provinces.
The people are asking the interior and defense ministries and the MNF to seal the entrances and exits in order to contain and capture those terrorists in order for Baghdad's plan to succeed. In the same regard a knowledgeable security source stressed that the success of Baghdad's plan depends on the stability of surrounding provinces, especially Diyala…
Actually the people in Diyala have every reason to worry about such migration of terror cells because in fact even without reading what those eyewitnesses and officials had to say one would expect insurgents and terrorists to choose hiding in Diyala rather than other provinces until the security operations are through.
I can see some reasons for this choice; Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda fighters would prefer Diyala over Anbar because:
-They have established many bases in the both, but;
-Anbar is expecting 4,000 additional troops. This along with increased pressure by the tribes in Anbar and the fact that reaching Diyala would be easier than Anbar make Diyala the alternative.
On the other hand and at the same time Sadr's militiamen seem to have chosen Diwaniya to be their destination in case they come under fire in Baghdad, the same al-Sabah report adds:

The national security officer in Diwaniya Mehdi Abu-D'ayna stressed that his province that enjoys stability would possibly turn into a shelter for militants escaping areas of tension similar to what happened in the past.
But he also pointed out the security measures that are underway to stop militants from entering the city such as increasing the number of checkpoints and asking the locals for more cooperation in monitoring strangers.
And the reasons to expect this movement here are clear as well; first of all Diwaniya is not far away from Baghdad, and the past few months had shown the level of the Sdarists strength in that city when order was restored only after reinforcements were summoned from neighboring provinces.
The Sadrists feel they are very strong in Diwaniya and what their man in the city said yesterday shows the level of extremism of the Sadr followers in this city. This is the same man who ordered the execution of unarmed Iraqi soldiers last summer and his threat this time shows a strange lust for violence that is likely to attract militiamen who want to keep fighting regardless of place.
Both cases indicate that the bad guys are adjusting their plans as the government and US military adjust theirs. The clear and hold tactic means militants will have little chance to maneuver within Baghdad like they used to do to work around previous crackdowns so now they are planning to make long-range maneuvers in provinces outside Baghdad.
Although the main objective of the new security plan is securing Baghdad, it would be a good idea for the military commanders to keep an eye on a few other provinces because we don't want to fight the same men twice, or thrice!

Posted by: neill at January 17, 2007 05:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Good post re: the tired chicken hawk slurs repeatedly posted on here. With respect to the cultural split you mention between the military and elites, a few thoughts:

1) If the Ivies that banned ROTC bring it back on campus, more Ivy students might join the officer corps -- particularly if they can get ROTC scholarships to help defray the hefty tuition.

2) A recent Fortune Magazine article about Teach for America (which enlists Ivy League students to teach in places like the South Bronx) noted that Teach for America is so successful recruiting top grads that firms such as Goldman Sachs are now partnering with it. Goldman and other firms will offer grads a job and defer their start date until after they complete their few years of service with Teach for America. This demonstrates that a significant number of Ivy grads are willing to defer making money for a few years and devote themselves to some form of public service, however quixotic.

Why aren't more Ivy grads spending those few years in the military? Aside from the danger of getting killed, I'd guess it's because culturally they have a low opinion of military officers. Even though it's obvious that John Kerry botched a joke that was aimed at Bush's intelligence (in the process showing that Kerry isn't smart enough to attempt verbal improvisation), there seems to be a real contempt for the military among many liberal elites. Of course it's verboten to say it, but the message gets across clear enough to aspiring elites.


Posted by: Dave at January 17, 2007 02:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How often has Kagan been to Iraq? - He speaks with great confidence about place like Tal Afar, which only an official success - not a success by 2003 standards.

Kagan's plan have the Sadt city door-to-door suggestions -They are hilarious in a gallows humor kind of way.

Posted by: Comment at January 17, 2007 05:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.

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