March 18, 2004

Reader Input

Regarding my last post, reader PH writes in:

"As a retired military officer (Army infantry) I totally agree with your latest post about the need for more troops in Iraq and how we need different types of formations, as the unnamed former Marine commander told you.

Kerry has made a comment recently about how the end strength of the Army needs to be increased (he suggested 40,000). Whether he really means it, or is just saying it to look tougher than Bush, is another matter. I'm not optimistic enough to think that he is really committed to such a thing and would actually work towards this, so I can't imagine that I would vote for him.

But I think you'd find that a heck of a lot of the USA/USMC general officer corps agree with you. Rumsfeld is totally opposed, and obstinately so, from what I gather from my reading/TV.

My (first) specific suggestion is to watch for retired Gen McCaffrey (retired Army infantry officer & Clinton's drug czar in the mid 90's after he retired from active service).

I think he is now a permanent professor at West Point. He appears as an NBC analyst, and therefore also frequently on MSNBC/CNBC news analysis shows. He's very articulate on this subject, and will allude to very specific measures that ought to be taken (he does it very briefly because he's always short of time on the air, but he may have articles out there on line. I know he has written for Wall Street Journal editorial page in the past).

I had personal contact with him when I was on active duty and he is one of quickest people on the uptake I have ever seen. He's like Rumsfeld in that he doesn't suffer fools gladly, and I'm sure he is disliked by Rumsfeld since they totally disagree on this. McCaffrey isn't afraid to publicly disagree with the current administration.

(BTW, critics of McCaffrey may see him as a Wesley-Clark type figure who is a partisan opponent of the Bush admin -- I totally disagree, based on what I have seen of him on the air and my personal experience working around him many years ago. I think he takes a totally nonpartisan view of this subject and it has nothing to do with politics for him).

McCaffrey's background is ground combat, to include time in Vietnam as an infantry lieutenant, and one of his sons is a serving up-and-coming infantry officer.
Rumsfeld's personal service time was as a Naval aviator in the mid 50's.

I've always found that early experiences are formative in leaders' views on issues later on life, and to me this case is no exception.

So my second suggestion is that you look for the amount of time and depth of personal experience leaders bring to this subject, when in the future you compare/ contrast views on this critical subject.

My own vague thought is for quickly deployable future large formations of military police, military engineers, civil affairs personnel, and foreign language speakers, who can go into an area and cope with civil unrest and insurgency such we have currently in Iraq -- but also can deal with policing, governance, and rescue type operations for natural disasters (such as the recent earthquake in Iran).

Conceivably such formations could be available for US domestic use in natural disasters as well (remember the way battalion formations of the 10th Infantry (Mountain) Division were sent down to devastated areas of south Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 to supplement local police and firefighters).

I recall some of these soldiers even ended being assigned on an individual basis to help homeowners with damaged homes, for a specific period. Project this out to such scenarios as a future devastating earthquake in the US (ie SF 1906) -- massive fires in southern California -- etc.

I think such formations would find themselves well and gainfully employed and not be a waster of the taxpayers money. They'd ease the strain on our current combat-oriented force considerably. But whether anyone else out there on active service in DoD is proposing such an idea, I don't know."

Meanwhile, Tom Friedman thinks we need more troops in Iraq too.

Frankly, I'm surprised the John McCain's and Bill Kristol's of the world aren't speaking up more loudly re: this issue.

A real debate needs to take place re: troop levels and on an urgent basis--particularly, as I detailed yesterday, given the difficulties with Iraqification efforts to date.

UPDATE:

Note too, of course, that an increase in our troop deployment levels would be the strongest possible signal to assorted jihadists, Baathist die-hards, and al-Qaeda and Co. types active in Iraq that we were in for the long haul and had the requisite intent to finish the job.

Or as Pickering's CFR task force put it, "reaffirming a commitment to the future of Iraq."

MORE:

Reader KS writes in:

"Question: Would more US troops have prevented the bombing of an obscure location like the Lebanon Hotel in Baghdad? What about any other soft target anywhere, anytime?

That's the bottom line in the "police blotter" event line which dictates the popular perception of success in Iraq.

Common Sense (a dirty little phrase in academic circles): It's past time for more troops. The only task left is to train Iraqis to police themselves. There are 100,000 troops now in Iraq. How many US soldiers does it take to perform recruiting and training programs while the rest maintain a showy "presence" for general stability.

What exactly would the extra troops do?

How many "troops" did the Spanish have on their own soil? In Madrid? Did that stop the train bombing?

Of course we all know that the "more troops" argument is simply a hallow feel-good solution for the home audience
."

This is pretty typical of a lot of the mail I get from those who think more troops is a dumb idea.

Sure, of course, the fact that we might have 300,000 troops in Iraq rather than 130,000 doesn't mean some obscure hotel wouldn't have been blown up yesterday.

But surely, in the Sunni Triangle, there are parts of Ramadi and Fallujah that, I'd wager, coalition forces rarely patrol.

Are their bomb factories there? Are explosives being stored there? Do some members of the diffuse Iraqi 'resistance' operate with relative impunity in such areas? Is that allowing for more bombs to be produced and planted? More I.E.D.s?

Yes, to all the above, I'd wager.

Read this too:

Money grafs:

"Rotation will begin at the same time as the American primary season and will last about as long. So, just as the winds of politics really pick up, decisions on how to provide for the next rounds of rotation (OIF-3 and OIF-4) will be made. The preferred course will likely be to simply extend our current underwhelming commitment in Iraq. Our military strategy will continue to be determined by force-structure decisions made decades ago. After all, the Defense Department still refuses to accept the connection between Iraq and the larger war. It also pretends to believe that the current level of operations is just a temporary spike when it clearly marks the beginning of a new norm.

Last week Sen. John McCain observed, "The simple truth is that we do not have sufficient forces in Iraq to meet our military objectives." Noting the rising number and increasing sophistication of guerrilla attacks and the pitfalls of hasty "Iraqification," McCain tried to tell the Pentagon and the president what senior military leaders say in private, but are too cowed to say out loud.

If the mission in Iraq does not soon become a driving force for transforming the U.S. military and, in particular, the U.S. Army, then the promise to "do what it takes" in Iraq will have meant very little. What it takes is more soldiers, now and for the future." [emhasis added]

Oh, and go read this too.

All this needs a much wider airing than, certainly, this humble, little blog can provide.

The best hopes I've got on that score are likely McCain and Kristol.

The CFR Task Force report I blogged yesterday didn't quite come out and say, loudly, that we need more troops in-country (though they indiciated strongly that they'd love to see new NATO divisions come in, as well as beef up constabulatory forces).

Developing (badly, at this stage, sadly).

Posted by Gregory at March 18, 2004 12:20 PM
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