November 23, 2004

More on Troops Levels

Some experts are now arguing we have too many troops in theater. (Hat Tip: Laura):

Those arguing for immediate troop reductions include key Pentagon advisers, prominent neoconservatives, and some of the fiercest supporters of the Iraq invasion among Washington's policy elite.

The core of their arguments is that even as the US-led coalition goes on the offensive against the insurgency, the United States, by its very presence, is stimulating the resistance.

"Our large, direct presence has fueled the Iraqi insurgency as much as it has suppressed it," said Michael Vickers, a conservative-leaning Pentagon consultant and longtime senior CIA official who supported the war.

Retired Army Major General William Nash, the former NATO commander in Bosnia, said: "I resigned from the 'we don't have enough troops in Iraq' club four months ago. We have too many now."

Nash, who supported Hussein's ouster, said a substantial reduction after the Iraqi elections in January "would be a wise and judicious move" to demonstrate that the Americans are leaving. The remaining US forces should concentrate their energies on border operations, he added. "The absence of targets will go a long way in decreasing the violence."

More on all this soon--specifically, why I think it's such a bad idea. Oh, but here's one reason...

The danger of civil war is clear in recent reports that Iranian-backed assassination teams are targeting Sunni leaders. Iraq's intelligence chief, Mohammed Shahwani, charged on Oct. 14 that the Badr Organization of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) had killed 10 of his agents, and that he had found detailed evidence of the plot in three Iranian safe houses in Baghdad. SCIRI leaders denied the allegation.

Iraqi sources tell me they have independent evidence of an Iranian plan to recruit as many as 3,000 Iraqi Shiites and organize them into hit teams of 10 to 15 people each. These sources also describe an Iranian plan last summer to provide intelligence training in Syria for some leading members of the anti-American Mahdi Army of Moqtada Sadr. "The rationale for the Iranians is that the Sunnis must never get control of Iraq again," an Iraqi source tells me.

The Sunnis have embraced this dirty war. The insurgency has been conducting a vicious assassination campaign of its own against the Iraqi government, military and police. Most of the victims are Shiites.

Imagine all the fun and games that would result if the U.S. pulled out somewhat precipitously causing a major power vacuum. Hard-core Sunni insurgents would spin it as a victory--and it would greatly embolden them. In turn, Shi'a militants would feel more threatened by residual Sunni forces no longer distracted by the American interlopers. Thus, prospects for a civil war would increase. Oh, and the Kurds would start thumbing their noses at the Turks more--perhaps leading to Turkish interventions in Kurdish areas. There are many other problems too (as I said, more another day when time allows).

But, certainly, the risks of plunging Iraq into a civil war by pulling out prematurely is one of the worst. Folks, a massive historical development is about to occur in Iraq. The Shi'a, after 500 years, are about to assume power from the Sunni. And we're just going to high-tail it out of there right after the elections and let the chips fall where they may--in this time of immense flux?

P.S. Don't miss this part of the article Laura linked: "Said Ken Adelman, a member of the Defense Policy Board who predicted the Iraq war would be a "cakewalk": "If there is a [stable] Iraqi government after January you can withdraw. I would be OK with that."

Do these people have no shame? Why is Adleman still going on about what we should be doing in Iraq? Wrong once--he's wrong again. A "stable" Iraqi government is not going to magically appear the day after the elections. I simply cannot see how having fewer than 100,000-200,000 troops there, at least for the foreseeable future, is feasible--unless we are happy to leave Iraq to its own devices. Allowing massive score-settling between the Shi'a and Sunni, major Iranian and Syrian troublemaking, Turkish interventions in the north (and concomitant Kurdish troublemaking in majority Kurdish parts of Turkey), and a propaganda victory to the insurgents--all are unthinkable. Yes, if we had a major contingent of Iraqi forces trained and equipped adequately and large U.N. or other international forces available for deployment it would be fine and dandy to make the face of the occupation less American (as the French and Syrians, but not the Egyptians and Iraqi government, so disingenously want to see). But we don't have either. Which therefore, in all likelihood, means we need to stick around in large number for a good while yet. It's the lesser of two evils, I'm afraid.

Look, I'm not saying our G.I.s should be parading around Sadr City every morning in large, obnoxious displays of American power. I get what Bill Nash and others are saying. I can see how, er, a more "nuanced" force posture and such would be helpful. And, to be sure, we can scale down our presence in certain sensitive areas as and when non-compromised (doubtless a good dollop of Iranian agents and/or proxies, not to mention unfriendly Sunnis, have infiltrated the program) fully trained Iraqi troops can pick up some of the slack--and any international troops too (an Arab contingent would be nice someday--though with no troops from immediately neighboring countries). But everyone on the ground right now knows very well that, in the background, the Americans loom mightily as the major constraint on all the various, shall we say, more maximalist agendas. What will all these factions do if that is no longer the case? Hint: They are not all going to lay down their arms, be all cheerily fraternal, and sing Kumbaya around the solidarity-infused, happy Iraqi campfire. More later.


Posted by Gregory at November 23, 2004 12:23 PM
Comments

The 'too many troops' idea was mentioned on BBC news this morning, but without any indication of its, erm, provenance.

Posted by: DavidP at November 23, 2004 01:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

An interesting angle on this, suggested by Steve Kingston: http://godsavethequeen.typepad.com/god_save_the_queen/2004/10/because_theyre_.html
How many more troops could US logistics sustain?
(as a long term occupation force as opposed to the 'surge' of the invasion) given likely constraints on air transport, and dearth of port facilities and rail links.

Posted by: John F at November 23, 2004 03:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While I agree with you that reduction in troop levels is inappropriate, I think that the fact that there can be serious debate about the issue is a good indication that many statements by "others" that "we've simply had too few 'boots on the ground' in Iraq" are not necessarily correct. Rebuilding a nation is a complex job, and no one really knows the "one right way" to do the job.

It is, I think, important to remember that no one seriously suggested that the task in Iraq would be less than a 5-10 year committment. Given the fact that it's only been about 18 months I don't think that the project has gone too badly. In fact it's gone much better than I'd personally expected --- though I still felt it well worth the effort even at my own personal level of expectations of much more chaos, and much heavier casualties.

I'm not, by this, attempting to suggest that the task has been done perfectly, nor to discourage criticism of our efforts ---- we need constructive criticism to get better at what we're doing ---- but merely to point out that the mere fact that there are "bumps in the road" does not PROVE that the alternate ideas advanced by the critics as "mitakes by the administration' are necessarily correct either.

There are pros and cons to each of the possible decisions and we only have data on how one set of decisions has played out. The mere fact that five years was the expected minimum life of the project says that we expected it to be a "rocky road" with some level of "chaos" to be expected less than two years into the effort. It's doubltul that ANY set of choices would have produced a "chaos free" Iraq by this time.

Take, for example, the whole issue of "more boots on the ground." One reason we started the war with even less troops that originally planned was that Turkey refused to allow us to bring the 4th Infantry Division in from the north. At that point "everyone" knew that we could attack for at least another couple of months while we moved the 4ID's equipment to the Gulf. Tommy Franks decided to go ahead with what he had in place and, in a brilliant move, achieved strategic surprise as a result. While one can never KNOW exactly how much it influenced the outcome, it certainly helped contribute to the most unbelievable example of blitzkrieg ever created. That certainly reduced the number of casualties we (and the Iraqis) suffered in the "active phase of the war." Remember the dire predictions of "tens of thousands of US casualties?" They were almost certainly overstated in any realistic scenario, but it's certain that Franks' decision to "go now with what I've got" avoided the expected "set piece" battle where the Iraqis would have done the best, and quickly turned the campaign in to a fluid one in which the US had its greatest advantage.

That rapid campaign had its downside in the fact that the Ba'athists were not as shattered mentally as might have been the case in a more intense and protracted campaign, so PERHAPS they were in better shape mentally and physically to fight the present terror campaign.

On the balance, I THINK that we're far better off in this scenario than in the alternate one, but in truth, I don't KNOW that to be case since we only have speculative data for the alternate scenario.

During the "occupatioin" more boots on the ground MIGHT have helped, but it's hard to believe that any slight iincrease (say 50,000) in the number of troops would have really made that much difference. While such an increased level of troop committment would have made some things move faster, it would also have increased the number of targets for the Ba'athists. So far the difficulties we've had have never been a shortage of combat power, but rather a lack of intelligence to identify targets and developing that intelligence takes TIME.

An increase in the number of troops to do a REAL occupation (remember our troop committment is amazingly small compared to the total population of Iraq) to say 500,000 --- ignoring whether or not it COULD be done --- would have run the risk of really alienating a large segment of the Iraqi populatioin and producing a REAL insurgency. Again, I don't KNOW that would have happened, but it it is a real possibility.

This kind of tradeoff exists for any of the "mistakes" that are laid at the feet of the administration in this effort. SOME of the choices may well have been the wrong ones, but my point is that the mere fact that there's still "chaos" in Iraq does not prove it since we don't know what would have happened with the alternate choice and any realistic forecast of the situation that would exist in Iraq less than 2 years after the start the war would have predicted "some level" of "chaos."

Thanks for your very thought-provoking commentary. I always look forward to your "essays." Even when I don't agree with them, in whole or in part, I find them excellently reasoned and extremely well stated.

Posted by: Ralph Tacoma at November 23, 2004 04:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A praiseworthy post from Ralph, imho. A huge, huge committment of troops (on the order of 500,000) might have meant a slam dunk, but would not have forestalled the eventual development of an insurgency. There would be too many Iraqis wondering why we had so many soldiers around, unless we were trying to hang onto the place.

Which we are not. But that would not have decreased the suspicions.

However, a fifty thousand increase in force levels would help, big time. We have to remember that the Ba'ath have anticipated an invasion since 2001, and set up an insurgency to meet such an invasion. We're going to have about a hundred thousand troops there for the next couple of years anyway. Indeed, if we're going to surge, it should be through the next six months as the Allawi government holds an election and is stood up. Then I can see us pulling up stakes and moving out to the border regions and away from the cities.

Posted by: section9 at November 23, 2004 06:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Besides the moral and military vacuity of the withdrawal scenario, it would be political suicide for the Reps. All of us swing voters voted for Bush because he want a party dedicated to WINNING not NUANCE.

Posted by: Patricia at November 23, 2004 07:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ralph's post seeeeeeems logical until you realize that Iraq's conventional military was a joke and it wouldn't have mattered a whit whether we achieved "strategic surprise" or not. When you can defeat thirteen divisions with a few thousand special forces guys with laser pointers, you're pretty much destined to win.

Posted by: praktike at November 23, 2004 08:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

prtktike,

You MAY well be correct, BUT that certainly wasn't the way the situation was being portrayed by the "talking heads" prior to the invasion. I personally expected us to "clean their clocks" with minimal difficulty, BUT I didn't expect it to be as fast as it was (note, I claim no professional expertise, just that of an amateur military historian). Had we not had strategic surprise, it's quite "plausible" that the Iraqis would have done better than they did. With benefit of hindsight, it's "obvious" that they never had a chance, but to listen to the MSM we were in a "quadmire" after about the first week . . .

However, my primary point is not to defend one choice or the other, but only to point out that we don't KNOW how the other path would have developed.

The same type of discussion as that dealing with "numbers of troops" can be applied to "when we went into Fallujah" (I personally wanted us to clean out that mess in April), or the decision to disband the Iraqi Army. Any of those decisions do have legimate arguments on both sides (both milltary and political ones). Probably we'd still be experiencing "chaos" regardless of which decision we made. If you look at the amount of "chaos" in absolute terms, it's really not that wide spread or common. Even with a 50% reduction in actual number of occurrences, we'd still be having enough to allow the media to ramble on about "chaos."

Again, I'm NOT suggesting that we shouldn't be trying to do it better, even a "mere" 50% reduction in real terms would be worth while, but just because we didn't take a particular path does not, in and of itself, mean that the other path would have achieved "signficant reductions" in the level of chaos.

To give another example, if we had cleaned out Fallujah in April, when I personally would have preferred us to do it, there MIGHT have had quite bad polical repercussions for several reasons:

1) It would have been the US, not an Iraqi government, making the final decision.

2) The people of Fallujah, by most accounts, would not yet have become fed up with the terrorist thugs who were actually OCCUPYING their city.

3) The facts above would have made it even easier for the MSM, and it's "affiliates" to portray the destruction in Fallujah as proof of how the US was Imperialistically imposing its will on the Iraqi people.

Those facts MIGHT well have led to a much more intense, and even REAL (in terms of WIDE SPREAD popular support), "insurgency." I don't have the personal access to the expertise or data to be able to make a really convincing argument that a worsened insurgency would, or would not, have developed had we gone in in April, BUT it's not an implausible conclusion.

My main point is that in the case of any long term, comples project, such as the entire "Iraq Thing" it's very difficult to KNOW at any given time how well we're doing if we look only at the current snapshot of events.

I'm an engineer, and the closest thing to the effort in Iraq that I've ever personally directed have been major (though trivial in comparison) refurbishments of chemical manufacturing plants. In those situations, even though we had FULL access to all AVAILABLE data, and the active cooperation of the plant's personnel, and we spent considerable effort developing contingency plans, once we got into the project we not only had to use some of our contingency plans, but we also find at least a few situations we hadn't anticipated. A project like rebuilding a nation is inherently ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more complex, and we've only had relatively unrestricted access to the "primary data" for 18 months now. (I say relative since I've never had to worry about people shooting at me while I attempted to define the situation!) In that situation, I can't conceive of any way in which any "perfect plan" could be develped, and, I think, that's a fact we should keep in mind as we develop our criticism. The fact that there is still a problem does not, in and of itself, mean that ny particular decision made earlier would have avoided a similar or worse problem currently.

Criticisms are important as ways to learn how to do it better, but when I look at the potential for problems had decisions gone the way I'd preferred earlier, I have to admit that in many cases I can't PROVE that they would have been "better" (let alone "best") decisions to make.

In this age of nearly instant information, I think that it's often difficult to accept that there may not be a "perfect" decision in a given situation. Adm. Gorshov of the Soviet Navy is famous for having stated that "better is the enemy of 'good enough.'" Many real world complex operations are always going to be driven by that fact.

As a further example of the complexity of the issue on even something as "obvious" as the troop levels, we also need to remember that Iraq is only one theater in an entire war. I'd be very surprised if the theater commanders wouldn't have liked to have "another thousand or so" Special Operations troops of one type of another; BUT many of them are engaged in other areas around the world. They would be particularly valuable, I think, in Iraq since the development of intelligence is of particular concern, BUT I don't have the data to evaluate how critical their other missions may be.

I've probaly been poor at expressing it, but my primary point is that it is necessary to attempt to stand back a bit and look at the overall picture when trying to evaluate where we are in a complex project.

Posted by: Ralph Tacoma at November 23, 2004 09:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why can't arm chaired generals learn to trust the real generals on the Iraqi ground? The goldilocks question "too many" "too few" "just right" should be the province of those who have earned the right to make that determination.

Posted by: Captain America at November 23, 2004 11:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your analysis is interesting, but I have a few problems with it. Still believe we have too few troops in Iraq to handle the on going insurgency in the Sunni part of Iraq. We are rushing troops from one hot spot to another, putting down active insurgents, but unable to stay in strength in one place long enough to prevent the insurgents from returning when the civilans who fled the fightning such as in Fallujah return. This is what happened in Samaria, which the US claimed we had pacified a couple of months ago, only to have the insurgents launch a fresh set of attacks several weeks ago.

Two questions, where do we get more troops? and if we are going to have at least 100,000 troops in Iraq for "the foreseeable future", how do we maintain such a force while meeting our commitments in Afghanistan, Korea, the Balkans, etec.? Already we are using the 82nd ABN Division, including its alert brigade, in Iraq; which leaves the US without a rapid deployment force if a crisis breaks elsewhere in the world.

More National Guard and Reserve units are being moblized with even retirees being called back to active duty. Tours of duty in Iraq are being extended and less time between tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan are being allowed. We can increase the number of troops temporary through the January 30th elections to 150,000, but we cannot keep them at that level or even 100,000 level for the next 3 to 5 years that it is suppose to take to make Iraq stable with a friendly government.

The US Army and Marines, regulars and reservist are simply too few to accomplish this. The constant rotation of troops and the casualties suffered are going to make troop re-enlistments and recruitment difficult, to put it mildly. How the current size Army & Marine Corps are to be maintained, let alone expanded, over the next several years seem to come down to two bad alternatives, 1) a Draft, extremely unlikely given that it would be political sucide, and 2) lowering the standards for recruits. 2 is probably what we will do (and perhaps are already doing) even though it may result, as it did in Vietnam, especially post 1968 period, in a large number of barely competent troops that were a greater menace to themseveles and their country then they were to the enemy.

One bright spot: The murders of two ant-American Sunni clerics in the last two days would indicate we have our own death squads active in Iraq. Figured that would happen when Negropointe was made ProCounsel. He has plenty of experience in this and other dirty parts of guerilla war from when he was our ProCounsel in Honduras during the Contra War against the Nicaraguan Sandanists in the 1980s. Negropointe is a murderous SOB, but he may be what we need right now in Iraq.

Posted by: David All at November 24, 2004 12:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ralph, I would urge you to read this Frontline interview (link below); I imagine it will help you understand what happened. Here's my interpretation: one group of planners, led by MacGregor and Rumsfeld, wanted to go in with 50,000 troops and quickly stand up a new Iraqi regime led by Sunni generals. But once Bremer got there and the Iraqi Army seemingly melted away, the strategy changed to one of outright occupation. Leading advocates for this were Slocombe and Chalabi, who had his own direct channel to Wolfowitz ... but the force level was never appropriate for such a strategy. Hence, where we are today; not enough troops to enforce order and keep the public safe, yet enough troops to piss Iraqis off.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/pentagon/interviews/macgregor.html

Anther one with Walt Slocombe:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/pentagon/interviews/slocombe.html

So you have a situation where the limited amount of planning that was acutally done was based on one set of assumptions and ideas, and what was actually done in the field was based on another concept entirely.

A recipe for disaster.

Posted by: praktike at November 24, 2004 01:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David, In 1989 we had 2.1 milion active duty military personnel world wide. In 2004 the comparable figure was 1.4 million. source. The military met its enlistment and re-enlistment goals this year. The problem is not finding the troops, the problem is the time required to train them and the cost of equiping them. Much of the Pentagon's reluctance to expand the force for Iraq was that the troops would not be trained in time to contribute and would be insufficiently equipped as congress has a history of adding troops but not the funding for operations, maintenance and equipment. It is unlikely that we would need to lower standards in the personnel brought on board or to resort to the draft. Perhaps we should have added 100,000 troops on 9/12, but we didn't.

I see no reason why we could not moderately increase our force totals for the long term and draw troops down from areas where they are not needed such as Germany or Korea without undue strain. Nonetheless with an Army and Marine Corps of 7750,000 and 150,000 troops in Iraq, much of the Army is getting ready to go, in or recovering from tours in Iraq. There seem to be as many experts saying the effort is sustainable as unsustainable. And the current Chiefs are not asking for more.

As to our troops rushing from one hot spot to another, that is what they are trained and capable of doing. It is much easier to kill the enemy by going where he is rather that waiting everywhere for him to come to you. It would be a provocative waste to have the military acting as garrison troops in every town and village in Iraq. He who defends everything defends nothing. Current military operations seem to be going quite well as they usually seem to when unimpeded by non-military considerations.

Posted by: Richard Heddleson at November 24, 2004 02:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Richard,

No disagreement. My point is not to argue troop levels, but only to point out that the fact that there is "chaos" does not, in and of itself, prove that a mistake has been made. Just as it does not PROVE that we should have gone into Fallujah earlier. I do think that an increase in troop levels is probably a good idea at this point since it's important to allow the elections to be as complete as possible. In the specifics of an increase in troop levels at the present time, I think that it's a good idea, but that doesn't mean that I think that arguments to the contrary are inherently nonsensical.

Thanks for the great debate.

All the Best,


Ralph

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Posted by: casino games at November 24, 2004 05:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ralph,

I don't necessarily disagree with many of your contentions, although I think you might be too willing to elide some of the more obvious strategic mishaps. That being said, you raise a valid point about the benefit of hindsight. One thing you said did raise my eyebrow though:

"It is, I think, important to remember that no one seriously suggested that the task in Iraq would be less than a 5-10 year committment."

I guess that depends upon how you define "task" but in the present context of discussing troop levels, you are missing one very serious person: Paul Wolfowitz.

In testimony before Congress in the run-up to the invasion, Wolfowitz claimed that we would be able to reduce troop levels to approximately 30,000 by August 2003. It is now nearing the end of November 2004, and it appears that Greg is right, that we need a continued high level presence (close to 100,000) in order to stave off regional and civil conflict.

I think that Wolfowitz greatly underestimated the nature and length of time the "task" of maintaining order with a large number of troops would be.

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 24, 2004 06:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Coming in late here, but I think that any increase in troops would/should only be a short term need (6-10 months). We forget, thanks to the MSM, that the vast majority of IRaq is relatively stable and peaceful.

Stabilize the country as much as possible between now and the elections and for a stability period thereafter. Meanwhile, the Iraqi army and police forces continue to graduate members and grow. Rapidly increase the Iraqi face of the peacekeeping force in the most sensitive (read Sunni) areas, while keeping Coalition forces available for quick reaction in hot spots and while increasing border protection between Iraq and Syria/Iran.

I for one think it's advantageous to have to run from hot spot to hot spot... it encourages the terrorists to think they can come out and fight us, and they get killed in the multitudes as a result. Too strong an occupying presence, and they go to ground and plan more carefully -- long term result is more effective terrorist attacks.

Posted by: Jimbo at November 25, 2004 01:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"the vast majority of Iraq is relatively stable and peaceful."

I don't think that's accurate, given this:

http://csis.org/isp/pcr/0410_progressperil.pdf

Posted by: praktike at November 25, 2004 09:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Our senior officers knew the war was going badly. Yet they bowed to groupthink pressure and kept up pretenses. ...Many of my generation, the career captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war, vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand." Colin Powell

Posted by: J Thomas at November 26, 2004 04:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jimbo, that's a fascinating idea. I would naver have thought of it.

Let me see if I understand. Instead of getting the insurgents to keep their heads down while we do reconstruction, and get a widely-supported iraqi government set up with an effective army and police force, and turn iraq into a model democracy where insurgents don't have a chance -- instead of that, we keep things so disorganised that the insurgents think they can win so they pop up and kill government leaders and police and take over cities, and that lets us go in and kill them.

It's an interesting plan and it could achieve what you say. My main question about it is: Whose side are you on?

Posted by: J Thomas at November 26, 2004 04:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David All said, "One bright spot: The murders of two ant-American Sunni clerics in the last two days would indicate we have our own death squads active in Iraq."

I'm glad there's a bright spot. Of course, given the amount of violence and the amount of unemployment likely there are a bunch of contract assassins running around iraq by now. It would be surprising if anti-american sunni clerics had no enemies with money, perhaps personal enemies, or professional rivals, etc.

On the other hand Negroponte has a federal deficit worth of money, and if he could figure out who to hire he could go to town ordering people killed.

I'm not sure I'd consider this a bright spot. Maybe your sense of humor is more mordant than mine.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 26, 2004 04:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J Thomas: I was being somewhat ironic. It may be that these deaths are not the work of a US sponsered death squad, but it seems likely give Negropointe's previous job as Pro-Counsel in Honduras running the Contra War against the Nicaraugan Sandianistas, where the US was using death squads left and right, so to speak.
As to whether this is really good news or not, we will just have to wait and see. I do not like the idea of US sposnsering assainiations like the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, however given the current situation in Iraq, this just might work.

Posted by: David All at November 27, 2004 01:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To my way of thinking, a plan that "works" would result in iraq becoming a peaceful democracy.

At present we have terrorists wherever americans are interacting with iraqis, telling the iraqis that they'll be killed if they collaborate with us. And we aren't very good at all at protecting the iraqis who do collaborate.

That doesn't look hopeful.

So the obvious counter-strategy is to set up our own terrorists who'll run around and tell iraqis that they'll be killed if they don't cooperate with us. That's the obvious move, but how does it lead toward peaceful democracy?

Looking back at the various regimes the US has supported that used death squads, how many of them are still in power?

Not Saddam. Not the Contras. Not Pinochet. Not the greek junta. Not Marcos. Not Suharto. I haven't kept track. Are any of them left?

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