December 15, 2004

And Now....Kristol

McCain. Hagel. Now Bill Kristol joins the Rummy-must-go crew. May they grow and prosper...

At least the topic of those conversations in the Pentagon isn't boring. Indeed, Rumsfeld assured the troops who have been cobbling together their own armor, "It's interesting." In fact, "if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up." Good point. Why have armor at all? Incidentally, can you imagine if John Kerry had made such a statement a couple of months ago? It would have been (rightly) a topic of scorn and derision among my fellow conservatives, and not just among conservatives.

Perhaps Rumsfeld simply had a bad day. But then, what about his statement earlier last week, when asked about troop levels? "The big debate about the number of troops is one of those things that's really out of my control." Really? Well, "the number of troops we had for the invasion was the number of troops that General Franks and General Abizaid wanted."

Leave aside the fact that the issue is not "the number of troops we had for the invasion" but rather the number of troops we have had for postwar stabilization. Leave aside the fact that Gen. Tommy Franks had projected that he would need a quarter-million troops on the ground for that task -- and that his civilian superiors had mistakenly promised him that tens of thousands of international troops would be available. Leave aside the fact that Rumsfeld has only grudgingly and belatedly been willing to adjust even a little bit to realities on the ground since April 2003. And leave aside the fact that if our generals have been under pressure not to request more troops in Iraq for fear of stretching the military too thin, this is a consequence of Rumsfeld's refusal to increase the size of the military after Sept. 11.

In any case, decisions on troop levels in the American system of government are not made by any general or set of generals but by the civilian leadership of the war effort. Rumsfeld acknowledged this last week, after a fashion: "I mean, everyone likes to assign responsibility to the top person and I guess that's fine." Except he fails to take responsibility.

Rummy's abdications of responsibility are becoming breathtaking in their gall and frequency. What is leadership divorced from real responsibility and being held to account? Cowardice, really.

Oh, on the 'we have enough troops in Iraq' crapola don't miss this either:

MR. RUSSERT: General Meigs, Senator Biden also reported the following: "We were in Fallujah spending time with the operational commanders in there. As I'm leaving, they're putting us on a Black Hawk helicopter. One of the commanders...with stars on his shoulder, waited until the noise was loud enough from the helicopter, leaned up and he said, `Senator, anybody tells you that we have enough troops here, you tell them they're a G.D. liar.'"

GEN. MEIGS: I kind of agree with that. Look, let me talk you through a little sequence here. There were originally three battalions planned as part of the Marine task force that went into Fallujah. Things went hot in Mosul. They had to pull the Striker battalion out, the one most suited to urban combat. They couldn't start the operations in the triangle of death until they finished Fallujah. What that tells you is that General Casey does not have enough force on the ground, enough reserves to deal with more than one thing at a time.

The problem, Tim, is that you're going to have an election in January, you're going to write a constitution, you're going to have another election. The time to make hay is now, and if you don't have enough troops on the ground right now to establish the conditions for an election, which is to play chicken with the Sunnis that aren't in the game and get them to agree to take part in that election and create a safe and secure environment that allows people to walk to the polls, it's not going to work. And I think that's exactly right, and I think General Downing's right about people getting the message, but it's not clear that that's gone to the approval process for deployment of forces to Iraq.

This is worth reading too:

MR. RUSSERT: Forty percent to 45 percent of the troops on the ground are reservist or Guard.

GEN. McCAFFREY: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: What happens when we run out of reservists and Guards when they serve their 24 months?

GEN. McCAFFREY: Well, I'll tell you thank God for the National Guard and reserves. It's astonishing the job they've done. You know, they came as they were. You never see a story of people deserting or refusing to come to the colors. I mean, the individual ready reservists, we've had some problems, but basically these kids are over there to fight. They're doing a terrific job. The next rotation OIF5 breaks the bank.

MR. RUSSERT: What does that mean...

GEN. McCAFFREY: At that point...

MR. RUSSERT: ...OIF5?

GEN. McCAFFREY: Excuse me. Operational Iraqi Freedom--the fifth rotation will use up our National Guard and reserve. We have called up a couple of hundred thousand of these troops. By law, you can't keep them on active duty more than 24 months. At that point, the inadequate size of the active Army and not just combat battalions, the logistic structure to make it work, at that point, we're going over a cliff. A year out from now we're in trouble.

MR. RUSSERT: You won't have the Guard or reservists to fill the gap.

GEN. McCAFFREY: I don't see how we're going to continue it. At that point, you've got to tell General Abizaid just bring in CENTCOM commander--"Hey, we'll fight this war with two and a half Army divisions. That's probably what we can sustain."

MR. RUSSERT: Realistically speaking, do we need a bigger Army? General McCaffrey said we need 80,000 more Army, 20,000 more Marines. General Downing, do you agree with that?

GEN. DOWNING: I do. I think that the Army just cannot take on the missions that they have now and that we can foresee for the foreseeable future. I mean, Tim--and we've seen this thing probably for clearly for over a year. People like Barry have suggested this, that probably two years out that the Army was too small. And there's a lot of resistance to it inside the Pentagon because of the transformation ideas. And those ideas are good ideas and we need to modernize, we need to do things in better ways, but, you know, Tim, the world has changed and you can't make the world into what you want it to be. You've got to accept the world for what it is and you've got to anticipate the missions that you have. The only prudent thing to do is plus up the Army. Now, what should that number be? Certainly 100,000 rings fairly true with me.

Of course, Rumsfeld doesn't get any of the above. He's in denial, he's become bovinely bull-headed, he's taken transformationalist projects (some of which are indeed critical) to an irresponsible degree (the ability to put large amounts of boots on the ground still matters mightily Mr. Secretary). Which is why John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Bill Kristol (and doubtless more people coming out of the woodwork soon) have lost confidence in this Secretary of Defense. I've too, as my regular readers doubtless well know, and I fear I'm likely boring them by returning to this theme so often. But so be it--as I think Rumsfeld's continued presence at the Pentagon is increasingly imperiling the successful prosecution of the war effort.

To close:

MR. RUSSERT: General Meigs, are we winning the war in Iraq?

GEN. MEIGS: I think we are breaking even, which is not where you want to be. I think General McCaffrey and General Downing are right that we don't see a lot of the really great things that are being done on the ground by battalions and brigades. And the feedback you get from folks you know on the force is that they are very positive about what they're doing. But let me mention a minute--take a bit of Bill's answer here. Let's do the simple math. In the QDR process, the secretary of defense agreed with the Army argument, says you need five units rotating and keep one in the field all the time. That was out of our Bosnia experience. The 3rd Infantry Division is going back online after about 15 or 16 months home. That is less than a 3:1 ratio, and 40 percent of those soldiers in that division were in the last tour in combat.

That is telling you that in order to maintain the types of commitments we have in this world today, the Army and the Marine Corps are just too small. Now, if you can't maintain the rotation of the type that Barry is talking about, even if it went down to two and a half divisions, clearly you have got a problem with force structure. The reason the people in OSD don't want to have a larger Army and Marine Corps, it comes right off the top of your budget out of your discretionary spending. But that's a price we're going to have to pay if we're going to have this kind of a foreign policy.

Indeed it is. Why can't the Secretary of Defense see this? Because he has a too myopic transformationalist agenda, is hubris-ridden and stubborn in the extreme, and is running around his fiefdom in overly cocksure manner because POTUS too rarely reins him in. Still, let's keep the heat on. It's in our national interest (and Iraq's) that he go within a year or so. Bush, whom I supported, won and gets to pick his Cabinet, of course. But Bush, imho, needs to reappraise whether Rusmfeld should indeed continue in his post once we've gotten past the Iraqi elections. Here's hoping he decides to move this (quite elderly) Secretary of Defense off stage by '06 at the latest.

Posted by Gregory at December 15, 2004 05:06 AM
Comments

There was never a time or place when you could ask a career military man if the armed forces should be increased and get the answer "No."

Let's have a little more faith in Rummy and Dubya. We have just lost our 1,000th soldier killed in action. And we have liberated 50 million people, established a new Ataturk in Afghanistan, and are pointed for settling elections in Iraq. The wall seems to be bringing pacification to Palestine, Libya turned in its weapons, Dr. Khan was outed, the UN is in utter disgrace. The Saudis are killing al-Quada for us... You have to say the George W. Bush foreign policies, with the help of the military, have been astonishingly successful. He has just asked Rummy to stay on. Who are we to second-guess a winner like George W. Bush?

Posted by: exguru at December 15, 2004 05:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do we have a large enough military to do all the jobs required? Liklely not. Thank you "Peace Dividend."

If 45% of the force in Iraq is Reserves and Guard, does this suggest tha Active Duty force needs to be doubled? Or that tours of duty need to be doubled? And just for a one-front war against a single state?

As a policy matter the US needs to significantly increase the military active duty force, a political decision between the President to propose and the Congress to dispose. Let's trash the SecDef because they have failed to do so. Damn, that feels good!

Once the decision to increase the force size is made and funded, there is the small matter of training and equiping it. Then the minor matter of deployment.

Given the available resources, the logistics, the staging area space, the geo-politics, and the results, it has been a credible job.

Perfect? Absolutely not. But credible.

We live the realm of possible, not perfect.

Rumsfeld's contribution is probably not going to be recognized for many years, but it will take at least that long to analyze and properly critique the whole global war on terror. My suspicion is he will get credit for substituting speed and manouver and coordination and technology assisted precision for massed bodies, lose points for not demanding a quicker and larger increase in the force, but be judged quite effective, possibly transformational. The military recognizes that speed and maouver and precision can quickly defeat an overwhelming defensive force, but the next problem is controlling the conquered territory. Control was not considered sufficiently in the plans. Doctrine is being modified to include control, and perhaps to reduce speed to accommodate control.

You may loathe Rummy, but his accomplishments will likely prove lasting. He is not a creature of Perfect, but of possible. There are some decisions and policies the even the SecDef is unable to influence.

So what do we do today? The election is over and the policies are in place. We may not like it, but that's the way it is.

Posted by: Terry at December 15, 2004 08:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There is something terribly weak in the need to
turn on people. To have an object of hate.
Just make your point and leave it at that.

Posted by: FJ Harris at December 15, 2004 04:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Downing, was the author of the Downing Plan, which had an
even larger role for special forces, and less for infantry. On
the other hand, I get really tired of this baiting by Kristol,
McCain, et al. John, aren't you supposed to working on the
(Studeman)Iraq War Intelligence Commission, instead of\
mouthing off about steroids and HUMV's (which according
to Phil Carter are never armored). A larger force, with
twice the supply line problems, would have incurred twice
the casualties, with an equal number of diysfunctional troopers (ie; Englund, Graner et al) Keeping the Iraqi army
together, would have earned us the total hatred of the Shia;
and made us subject to calls of oppressors and hypocrisy
(I know, they do that now). It's rather remarkable that the
Green Zone, hasn;t really been hit ala Beirut in 83, but even
that houldn't deter us. We made that mistake then, and again at Mogadishu, then Khobar, but 9/11 has cleared that up.

Posted by: narciso at December 15, 2004 04:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Trotting out Tim Russert, ….quoting Senator Biden …quoting an unnamed General in Fallujah saying there aren't enough troops?.....

Please, citing unnamed and anectdotal attributions is no way to go through the Blogosphere, except as an object of derision. Nor does a panoply of talking heads counterbalance the commanders on the ground. None of whom have submitted troop increase requests from CENTCOM. I’m willing to entertain Greg’s Rummy bashing, but so far, in this post, its unsupported hyperventilating.

Posted by: DaveK at December 15, 2004 04:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The fact that John McCain believes something is almost prima facie evidence of its opposite.

Exhibit 1: Campaign Finance "Reform". Has there ever before been such a laughably inept piece of legislation? The fact that John McCain pushed and championed this worthless rubbishing of the first amendment on America is proof of his complete unsuitability for anything beyond the talk show circuit.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at December 15, 2004 04:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can someone point me to an argument in favor of the *lesser* number of troops in Iraq?

I don't even mean a *good* or persuasive argument. Just an argument. Any argument at all! From what I gather on this site and others, increasing #troops from 150k to 250k is such a no-brainer that a 2 year old kid would be doing it.

But so then what exactly is Rumsfeld's motivation for not wanting to do so? "transformation"? That's lame. And it's so lame, in fact, that I just can't quite believe that Rummy would say Let's not have 250k instead of 150k "because of transformation". That doesn't even make sense. I'm not even saying it's a plausible motive which is a *bad* one - I'm saying it's not even a plausible motive at all.

Okay yes, Rumsfeld believes in "transformation". But to go from there to "therefore he favors the lesser number" is just a non sequitur. Surely there can be "transformation" while still using the larger number? Transformation is about military structure, materiel/supply, logistics, and tactics (I gather); "number of troops in Iraq" is a practical question which need not affect *in any way* the "transformation philosophy" one way or another.

I gather that GD the author of this site would, evidently, say "well Rummy doesn't think so. He *believes in* the non sequitur". Rummy believes that you can't put 250k troops in Iraq rather than 150k because that would ruin his baby, "transformation". Right? Do I believe that?

Well, no. Look. Rummy may be stubborn, arrogant, and all that, but is he a moron who reasons that the sky is purple because 2+2=5?

So what's his *real* reason? You know, the *actual* reason, not the cartoon one being pushed? There's got to be one! And again I'm not saying it will be a *good* reason. But it *will* be an actual *reason*.

Here are the best candidate motives I've heard so far:

-Costs more, alluded to in Russert interview above (but if that's all that's holding him back does he doubt he could ask Bush to budget more? Bush got "87 billion" from Congress, a number he just picked out of thin air, seemingly. What's the problem? Fiscal responsibility holding him back?)

-"that would just put more targets in Iraq" (see this Corner post). But wouldn't it uh also increase our forces' capability to go on the offensive, establish monopoly on force, give Iraqis confidence in a non-tyrant future, and, you know, thereby help accomplish our goals? Also there's no reason to believe # targets scales linearly with #troops, after all you could stuff more people onto the same bases....

-Vague stuff I've heard Rummy say along the following lines: "you can't just send X more active troops, you need to protect them and supply them" (with the implication that it doesn't pay off?) But of course that doesn't make sense either. I mean yes ok if each new troop requires .5 snipers to protect them, .25 cooks to feed them, and .25 truck drivers to supply them (or whatever the real numbers are), you could *still* add X *active* troops to Iraq by sending 2X *military people* there. The (implicit) idea that you'd end up subtracting by addition is laughable.

So again.... anyone know the *real* reasons? (Bad or good.) Because if this followup Mark Levin Corner post is the best they've got, then I agree with Greg, it's stupid. But it's just hard to believe that *is* the best they've got.

Posted by: Blixa at December 15, 2004 04:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do we have a large enough military to do all the jobs required? Liklely not. Thank you "Peace Dividend."

I think this criticism has some (not much) substance to it, but it doesn't come close to letting Rumsfeld and Bush off the hook. They've had over three years since 9/11 to at least set in motion a process to enlarge our military. AFAIK they haven't, instead choosing to deplete the human capital stock of the military we have.

Posted by: Guy at December 15, 2004 05:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The defense of Rumsfeld here is laughable.

"You may loathe Rummy, but his accomplishments will likely prove lasting."

Yes. The Army will be wrecked for quite some time.

Posted by: praktike at December 15, 2004 06:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I read some of this post today in my Podcast. Listen to Charlie read the blogosphere into an MP3 file, then go for a walk in the park. Ten minutes a day of political readings from the best, including Greg, Glenn, Andrew, the Corner, The Captain, and others. I take both sides of the Kristol/Rumsfeld discussion.

Charlie

Posted by: Charlie Quidnunc at December 15, 2004 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I take both sides of the discussion, and read it into an MP3 file. Go for a walk, listen, and think!

Posted by: Charlie Quidnunc at December 15, 2004 06:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fine post Greg. Great job staying on top of this issue. Hopefully your good sense permeates throughout broader circles.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 15, 2004 08:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Could the problem be that Bush does not have the political will to increase the armed forces, and Rummy's the guy that tells him he doesn't have to?

I think a lot of what's going on here is that the CiC did not want to increase the military -- because it would look bad politically -- and went with the advice that told him he didn't have to.

The scary thing may be Rummy isn't the problem, and the next guy will wage the same kind of war.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at December 15, 2004 10:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, how can you believe all this and not realize that this administration has never cared about the facts on the ground?

Posted by: fling93 at December 15, 2004 10:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appalled Moderate,

Ok but why exactly does it take "political will" to increase the armed forces, if this is a no-brainer that everyone in his right mind thinks needs to be done? In what sense would it "look bad politically"? If it's such an obvious thing (and Greg virtually has me convinced...) wouldn't it look *good* politically?

(I'm not trying to be argumentative, I'm honestly trying to figure this thing out, and yours is the first comment that's come close to answering my query of my previous comment... :) Best,

Posted by: Blixa at December 15, 2004 10:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blixa,

I think the way it would look bad politically is that it would seem to be an admission that the earlier strategy was wrong. For better of for worse, admitting a mistake does not seem to be one of this administration's strong suits.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 15, 2004 11:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"it would seem to be an admission that the earlier strategy was wrong"

I agree that the admin. is reluctant to admit mistakes, but I don't understand why moving to enlarge the military (then # of troops in Iraq) need be correlated in any way with "admitting that the earlier strategy was wrong".

The original strategy was to invade Iraq with X troops and that strategy was perfectly correct. The invasion succeeded with that number, so Yay. But now that we're trying to *occupy and transition*, this will require Y troops, with Y > X. Why does asking for Y troops for thing #2 mean an admission that X troops was wrong for thing #1?

At least, that's how they could *spin* it as a non-admission, right? ;-)

Anyway, do people here think it's correct that asking for more troops in Iraq would be "damaging politically" because (D)s would somehow make political hay out of it? If so, what does that say about (D)s' interest in this issue?

Another point I'd like to make is that the political motive (even if true) may have made sense two months ago, but has little plausibility now. The election's *over*, Bush *won*, what does he need to care what will or will not "look bad politically"? I could be wrong, but I just don't buy that this is what's motivating them. I stubbornly maintain that there have got to be *real* reasons ;-) Best,

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 12:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's probably obvious what I think, but my explanation for this administration's behavior is that it cares about as much about actual success in Iraq as it does about the federal deficit.

Posted by: fling93 at December 16, 2004 12:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ok, they "don't care about actual success in Iraq". I'll buy that, provisionally speaking. What then *do* they care about?

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 01:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My point being that even if you have in mind some list of selfish, mendacious, evil, machiavellian, etc things that you think they care about, it still seems likely to me that "success in Iraq" - suitably defined - would work as a proxy for many of them (whatever the evil things might be), and thus they should want it, if only for selfish reasons.

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 01:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My guess would be helping themselves and their constituents. As you said, they already won the election. So why would any real-world results affect this in any fashion?

But more money towards more troops means less money towards their campaign donors. Same reason they don't try to balance the budget.

Posted by: fling93 at December 16, 2004 01:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How would failure in Iraq "help themselves" let alone their constituents?

In your 2nd paragraph you postulate that less-troops is a money-saving measure designed, I take it, to leave more room for pork. Um, ok, well I agree that's one possible answer to my question. Thanks,

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 01:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not saying they're trying for failure, but that they don't seem to care about success. Or results at all.

In addition to explaining their lack of fiscal responsibility, it would also explain why they seem to care about Iraq more than Iran.

Posted by: fling93 at December 16, 2004 01:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I'm not saying they're trying for failure, but that they don't seem to care about success. Or results at all."

But why not? It's in their interest and failure is not. IMHO.

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 01:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How does success help them now?

Posted by: fling93 at December 16, 2004 01:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It would make them look good and help them "politically". After all, they *really* care about that, even after the election's over, or so I was told earlier in this comments thread (not by you admittedly).

Furthermore, success (if it means anything resembling what I think it does) would allow them to draw down some fraction of the troop presence there. Maintaining that troop presence costs money, which they would like to use to lavish upon their constituents - again, going by what someone told me a few comments ago.

Just trying to understand all these claims being made here about BushCo in some sort of *consistent* way. If I'm doing a poor job, I apologize, I readily admit it's difficult ;-)

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 02:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It would make them look good and help them "politically". After all, they *really* care about that, even after the election's over, or so I was told earlier in this comments thread (not by you admittedly).

I think they've found it easier to simply ignore real-world consequences completely. Planning and projection is harder and sometimes involves doing things they'd prefer not to do. Instead, they rely upon spin and propaganda to get what they want, do what they, and still make themselves "look good." At least enough so that it doesn't interfere with what they want to do.

Furthermore, success (if it means anything resembling what I think it does) would allow them to draw down some fraction of the troop presence there. Maintaining that troop presence costs money, which they would like to use to lavish upon their constituents - again, going by what someone told me a few comments ago.

I think that involves too much short-term pain for them, and no guarantee that it would be worthwhile. Balancing the budget would have similar long-term positives as well, reducing the crowding-out effect. But the long-term is too unpredictable, and the real-world results affect them very little anyway. How else do you explain that Medicare plan?

Anyway, it just seems to me that this administration is one of the least pragmatic ones we've seen in a while.

Posted by: fling93 at December 16, 2004 02:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Planning and projection is harder"

"Harder"? "Planning and projection"? What's so "hard" about sending more men to Iraq? What "planning" does it require? Arranging for all the Guard callups, stop-loss, etc has been "easier"?

"involves doing things they'd prefer not to do"

Well, that's the clear jist of everything you and others are saying, but my question here has been *why*, in your opinion, does this collection of Bartlebys "prefer not to" send more troops to Iraq? The way you're talking this just seems to be an inborn preference which they just inexplicably have for no explainable plausible reason. Can no one actually tell me *why*?

(Remember: I'm looking for *any* reasons, good *or* bad. All I have are a bunch of non-reasons like "Rummy likes Transformation" and "it would cost them politically [even though I don't think it would, and even if it would the election's over]".)

[succeeding then drawing down troops] "I think that involves too much short-term pain for them"

I'm confused. What "short-term pain", exactly, would be involved in succeeding (whatever that means..) and then partially drawing down troops?

"Anyway, it just seems to me that this administration is one of the least pragmatic ones we've seen in a while."

Ok. If they're not pragmatic well that would certainly explain why they don't want to succeed in Iraq. In this vein I would also have accepted They're stupid, They're monsters, They're aliens.... Those of us who don't quite buy into "they just don't like to succeed!" type axioms are still left scratching our heads however. Oh well. Best,

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 02:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As far as I can tell this debate over transformation and troop size essentially pre-dates the Bush Administration and goes back at least to 95 when I remember reading about it, and hearing about it from my military friends.

The Crusader self-propelled artillery piece got cancelled for just those "transformational" reasons ... the argument being that the Cold War military set to fight large scale battles in Europe against the Soviets was hamstrung by logistics for the need to get to Third World troublespots/hell-holes FAST. I believe Crusader got cancelled by Clinton not Bush but I could be wrong because it was too big and heavy to move to Third World battlefields despite being the baddest boy on the block artillery wise.

Rumsfeld picked up on this argument primarily because a smaller, faster, and more lethal Army could intervene in more places with fewer troops with greater flexibility and with less vulnerability to logistics. The analogy used was "just in time" manufacturing I think with lean inventories. Some of this is probably needed and beneficial to our forces. Rumsfeld I think is so wedded to this idea of transformational capability (by integrating advanced, comprehensive battlefield electronics and advanced weaponry down to the individual soldier, sorta like Starship Troopers) that he constantly presses back on anyone who tells him that the current need is for a larger force. Even when it is in fact operationally needed.

There is however, a trade-off. A substantially larger force would need a much larger (exponentially rather than linearly) supporting force providing logistics, and would be therefore substantially more vulnerable to attacks on the logistics. Already there is considerable effort required to protect the truck convoys from Kuwait into Baghdad.

There is no question however, that Rumsfeld has neglected the rebuilding of logistics within the Military, after Clinton cut it to the bone. For example, the deep water resupply fleet was cut substantially, now serving only the carrier task forces. That meant that non task force ships like the Cole HAD to refuel in places like Yemen, which Clinton thought a good thing since it spread "goodwill" (the argument at the time, late nineties). It's absolutely critical that logistics of the Navy, Air Force, and Army be rebuilt. Rummy has failed so far to even make the argument to Congress.

The biggest thing the troops need is APCs. The Humvees were never intended for urban combat, merely behind the lines support. They're a fricking jeep on steroids and that's all. The guys need APCs stat and Rummy ought to get em those ... GWB firing Rummy if he can't get it done.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at December 16, 2004 04:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blixa, the first thing I want to point out is that arguments about the US government are entirely academic at this point. You can oppose Bush and he will ignore you completely. You can suggest minor alternatives and he will ignore you completely. You can give him your total unqualified support and he will ignore you completely.

After 11/2 Bush has a mandate and he will do whatever he wants, subject to Congress giving him the money. Note for example he took a bunch of soldiers' paychecks to pay for other things -- any doubt that Congress will vote to pay the troops?

Bush has some political capital now and he's spending it, he isn't the sort to live off the interest. He's going to do whatever he wants to regardless what you think. We can argue about it all we want and in the short run it won't make any difference at all. It doesn't matter what you think.

That said, here's my best guess about the war. I figure it got presented to Bush as an easy win that would bring popularity to his campaign. Like the gulf war but faster and cheaper. And after iraq we could do fast cheap wars on iran and maybe syria etc, and we'd have a string of them leading into the elections.

So Bush went along with it, and it didn't work that way. The iraq war was of dubious value to the election campaign. Probably for every voter who supported him because we were at war there was another who hated him because of the quagmire. If there had been no war and it was just between values voters versus complaints about the economy, he might have won easier.;

So now he wants out. The more troops we put in the more we'll need to get out later. And where would we get 100,000 more troops? 20,000 I can see easily, with the job market shrinking all we might get that many volunteers without even lowering standards much. But 100,000? Plus the army says it would take 2 years to organise them. They'd have to take a combat-ready unit and break it into thirds and group each third with two green units, and the competent guys would help train the others. After a year or two you'd have three competent units, but you lose the combat-ready one to training for a year or so.

It would be hard to get enough volunteers, and Bush probably doesn't want a draft. He wants an easy way out.

Maybe what he'll do is let the elections go ahead in january, and then let the iraqi Assembly tell us to get out. And then he can say "Well, we did it, democracy is going strong in iraq and we've done the job. Mission accomplished.". And then if things look bad later he can put on his earnest constipated look and use his sincere tone and say "Well, we did the best we could. When they told us they could go it alone we had to trust them. It was the right thing to leave iraq then, they thought they were ready."

In the meantime when people bother him about iraq his attitude is probably mostly "Hey, you guys didn't do what you said you'd do. Now you want extra money? No." So they scrape for resources.

Think of it like a big company with an unprofitable division. They make the bottom line look bad, but it would look even worse to write them off. So until they actually start losing money it's easier to ignore them and put off pulling the plug. But you sure don't want to transfuse a lot of capital into them. Similarly, we're in no danger of losing quickly in iraq. Casualties are at acceptable levels. But it's hard to see how we could win even with a lot of troops there for four years. Easiest not to think about it.

Meanwhile the underlings snipe at each other. Neocons would like to get Rumsfeld out so they could get somebody in they like more. And also, if Rumsfeld goes then everybody but him can blame all the troubles on him. So the new guy comes in and gets three to six months to turn things around befroe people start complaining that it still isn't working. It really might make more sense to keep Rumsfeld until late 2005. Then the new guy can get the benefit of the doubt well into the 2006 elections, and it won't be too hard to keep supporting him past the elections.
If the new guy has nearly 2 years it will look like he doesn't have a workable plan.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 16, 2004 01:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jim, we're set up to fight a war where we have front lines and HumVees, trucks etc can ferry things behind the lines. So they mostly get shot at before we establish air superiority.

We don't have any lines in iraq. HumVees can get shot at any time they're offbase. So suppose we got enough APCs to use them for everything we use HumVees for. That's a lot of APCs. And the HumVees get something like 8-10 mpg on the rods, while the APCs get around 2 mpg. And our convoys of gas trucks are still bringing in fuel at a cost of more than $100/gallon, because we can't trust that iraqi fuel will be there....

Maybe we need to have a small agile army that beats other armies and goes home. We aren't set up to do effective occupation, particularly in nations where the langauge isn't english or spanish.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 16, 2004 02:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Exguru wote, "We have just lost our 1,000th soldier killed in action.".

You're a little behind there, pal. We just crossed the 1300 line on dead soldiers. The Army has evacuated about 14,000 soldiers out of theater for medical reasons of one sort or another. I don't have figures on the Marines.

Casualties aren't very bad yet, but they keep increasing. We'll know it's being won when we patrol more and casaulties go down on all sides.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 16, 2004 02:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jim Rockford's post gives me one important piece of the puzzle: Logistical requirements increase *exponentially* not linearly or less, with #troops. If that's true, then this could be the *entire* answer to the question, because then (it follows) there's a "sweet spot", where all the tradeoffs are balanced, and Rummy could conceivably (extrapolating a bit from what little he's said) have some analysis on his desk causing him to think he's in it (whether he's right about that or not). Now listen close: Rebuttals to Rummy, therefore, would have to be of the form "You're wrong, we're NOT in the sweet spot, because _____." In the blank spot goes your *detailed* analysis (listening, Greg?) proving that the sweet spot exists closer to 250k than 150k.

JThomas, ironically, also helps to answer my question. After explaining how callous, noncaring, etc Bush is, we get this: "And where would we get 100,000 more troops?" followed by a bunch of practical reasons why Putting 100k More BootsOnTheGround(tm) is difficult. Well heck, JThomas, you've convinced me. I agree, that all does sound like a very real, present, and practical limitation on our ability to just up and Send more people there.

So then why is anyone (anyone who's a Grownup, that is) whining that Rummy's not doing it? Isn't that a bit like a 16 year old kid whining that his working-class parents didn't buy him a new sportscar on his 16th birthday? The answer, as JThomas has convinced me, is "we really just can't at this point". So why don't the whiners shut up and accept that?

This has been extremely helpful, thanks :)

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 03:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blixa wrote:
So then why is anyone (anyone who's a Grownup, that is) whining that Rummy's not doing it? Isn't that a bit like a 16 year old kid whining that his working-class parents didn't buy him a new sportscar on his 16th birthday? The answer, as JThomas has convinced me, is "we really just can't at this point". So why don't the whiners shut up and accept that?

But looking at this as a static situation is a mistake:

1) We've had over 3 years since 9/11 to at least set in motion a process to increase the size of the army.

2) If a lack of soldiers would seriously compromise the success of the mission, should the mission be delayed?

Posted by: Guy at December 16, 2004 04:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So it's a retroactive criticism Guy? "Mommy & Daddy why didn't you start an account 3 years ago and save money to buy me a car"?

Look, in fairness you make a fair point, one can criticize Rummy for not having made such plans. I would be inclined to add that heaping such criticism upon Rummy is of dubious worth *now*. At least, it does not advance what is purported to be the goal here, which is to improve the situation in Iraq. (If the goal is just Get Rid Of Rummy, then ok...)

Anyway, the point about the existence of a "sweet spot" still stands. It seems possible, even likely, that the reason they didn't do any of this is not the cartoonish "because of Transformation" but because they decided (rightly or wrongly) that taking everything into account, going from 150k to 250k was cost-prohibitive. Rebuttals to that would consist of saying No it isn't.

Yet no one I've seen has said anything of the sort. Indeed, from all the comments made here, it would seem that most of the Rummy critics *agree* that ramping up to 250k is an order of magnitude more costly (by "cost" i mean everything, not just money) and indeed would be quite difficult to do (the "where are you gonna get 100k?" point).

So why the criticism then? What is accomplished? I'm left scratching my head.

The goal really *is* just Get Rid O'Rummy, isn't it?

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 05:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So it's a retroactive criticism Guy? "Mommy & Daddy why didn't you start an account 3 years ago and save money to buy me a car"?

I think this analogy misses the gravity of the situation. Instead of whining about a sports car, it's complaining that the brake system is shot or that the car is missing a steering wheel.

Look, in fairness you make a fair point, one can criticize Rummy for not having made such plans. I would be inclined to add that heaping such criticism upon Rummy is of dubious worth *now*. At least, it does not advance what is purported to be the goal here, which is to improve the situation in Iraq. (If the goal is just Get Rid Of Rummy, then ok...)

The goal is twofold:

1) Holding people accountable for their mistakes. If policymakers can screw up and then shrug, "hey those costs are sunk, it's useless to complain" then they are more likely to screw up. Moral hazard.

2) People who screw up are likely to screw up again.

Posted by: Guy at December 16, 2004 07:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blixa: I'm confused. What "short-term pain", exactly, would be involved in succeeding (whatever that means..) and then partially drawing down troops?

Cost, for one thing, as others have said. Assuming a draft is out of the question (and I think Thorley Winston's comment over at Winds of Change sums up the problems with it), the only way to increase the size of a volunteer army is to increase the incentives to volunteer. So not only would you be paying more people, you'd be paying all of them (including the current ones) a lot more. And of course, it would be money that would not be going to large lucrative defense contracts, like missiles and satellites and whatnot.

It would also be admitting a mistake. It's not just a question of number of troops for invasion being different from the number of troops for the occupation. The occupation started a long time ago, so they would have to admit that they got the second number wrong. Admitting that they don't have enough troops goes counter to their spin efforts that say that Iraq is going well. And, of course, since Bush is determined to solve Social Security without increasing taxes or reducing benefits, there won't be all that much room in the budget unless he rolls back his tax cut. But again, that would also be counterproductive to their spin that the tax cuts don't increase the deficit.

Blixa: it would seem that most of the Rummy critics *agree* that ramping up to 250k is an order of magnitude more costly (by "cost" i mean everything, not just money) and indeed would be quite difficult to do (the "where are you gonna get 100k?" point).

Because the difficult thing to do is the right thing to do. It is the choice that is most likely to result in a free and stable Iraq and thus make us safer. You do read Greg's blog, don't you?

Blixa: Ok. If they're not pragmatic well that would certainly explain why they don't want to succeed in Iraq.

And the lack of pragmatism, to me, seems to be indicative of the mindset that it is easier to do whatever the hell it is you want to do and claim you've fixed something than to actually fix it. The lack-of-pragmatism explanation also fits quite a few examples, as I pointed out to you back on Sebastian Holsclaw's blog a while back.

For one, the tax cut. Recall he proposed it during an economic boom, using supply-side arguments to counter critics warning about it being inflationary. And indeed, it's designed as a supply-side tax cut, focussing on the higher tax brackets who are more likely to invest the savings to spur production. When the recession hit, he marketed the same tax cut as a Keynesian recession-fighter -- yet spurring supply is counter-productive when you have a cap-ex recession due to excess inventories. A clear case where Bush obviously didn't really care about the actual real-world consequences of the policy. He merely picked whatever theory was convenient at the time to sell the policy that he wanted (and there are huge parallels to how he used intelligence to sell the war rather than to determine if war was the right decision). Of course, your average Joe doesn't understand that, so it's pretty easy to spin anything good as being caused by the tax cut while ignoring or downplaying the bad.

And there's Medicare. Is there anybody who actually thinks it was an improvement? Seniors are confused by it, conservatives decry the huge cost increase, liberals think it's a sop to the insurance companies. Seems to me like the only reason to pass it was to be able to claim credit for adding prescription coverage to Medicare. Your average Joe won't understand or care whether or not it actually improved the situation or made things worse.

It also explains the steel tariffs, which were counter to Bush's free trade ideology and what his own economic advisors told him. Like any tariff, it greatly benefited the few at the expense of moderately hurting the many (and thus, the economy as a whole), but of course, the few were concentrated in a swing state. Ditto for the subsidy-laden farm bill, and the utter lack of fiscal responsibility. That these things would harm the economy clearly didn't matter that much to Bush, and your average Joe won't understand it anyway.

And of course, this also explains why Bush seems to care more about Iraq than Iran, North Korea, or Al Qaeda. And it explains why Rumsfeld is still there, and still refusing to make the hard choices, admitting he screwed up and doing the difficult things to fix the mess they've made. I think J Thomas's scenario is pretty likely. After all, actually making the country safer is a lot more difficult (and has fewer ancillary benefits) than just claiming you've made the country safer.

So I think the complete lack of pragmatism is blindingly obvious, and is the best explanation for most everything that he's done. Or do you have a better one?

Posted by: fling93 at December 16, 2004 07:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

fling93,

I think this analogy [sportscar] misses the gravity of the situation.

Well is it or isn't it fling? Is the need to send that extra marginal troop to Iraq more like a sportscar which isn't worth it (*compared to other things*), or more like brakes which is?

I get what your answer is. I mean I get that you think that the next marginal dollar ought to be spent on More Boots To Iraq's Ground.

Evidently Rumsfeld disagrees. Evidently he thinks there are some *other* competing interests which are, at this time, equally or more worthy of that marginal dollar. (I'm using dollars generically as "units of capital/effort", essentially.) Now: Is he right about that analysis? I have no idea!

But it seems to me that nobody here does either. They know that BootsOnGround is a Good Thing(tm), but they *don't* seem to actually know that it's a Better Thing than whatever-else is competing for that marginal dollar.

In fact - and this is what bothers me about the Rummy critique - no one seems to even acknowledge that there *might be* competing factors here. The issue is presented as if that marginal dollar will either go to (1) MoreBoots or to (2) Rummy's Ego. Well golly, if that's what it is, then even *I* know who wears the black hat in this melodrama.

But is that an accurate picture of the debate? This is why I keep stubbornly asking people to tell me just what they think Rummy's actual motive might be. All I'm hearing is that he's stubborn and egotistical.

That just doesn't cut it as a counterargument. Even if Rummy's monstrous ego has caused him to buy a phone chain of reasoning for 150k instead of 250k, there's still that *chain of reasoning* on the table, whatever it is, to rebut.

I have not seen anyone do so. Nobody even seems to envision let alone contemplate that Rummy could have reasons (bad ones, wrong ones) in his mind, for not doing this obvious thing.

But he *must*.

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 08:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OOPS that response was to Guy. fling93 wrote something else. argh! sorry :)

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 08:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can someone point me to an argument in favor of the *lesser* number of troops in Iraq?

I don't even mean a *good* or persuasive argument. Just an argument. Any argument at all! From what I gather on this site and others, increasing #troops from 150k to 250k is such a no-brainer that a 2 year old kid would be doing it.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Do you guys ever think?

Try this one on for size. After they've been over there for one rotation...two rotations...three rotations...WHO IN THE SAM HILL DO WE REPLACE THEM WITH?

And with what, pray tell, oh great purveyors of wisdom, will these hordes be equipped? This is not a short-term deal, in case it had escaped your notice.

We've been in Kosovo... how long???

Wake up and smell the coffee. We ain't going home anytime soon. You can't send people over there for years on end. Here's a concept for you: you have to have someone back here to rotate in and out.

Duh...

Good God, I'm a woman and I flashed on that one. Resources only stretch so far.

Here's another one for you: on the armored Humvees issue, do a little checking around. You'll find some surprising stats on that. I did -- it only took an hour on the Internet -- something our esteemed press corps proved incapable of handling.

I just love the way all these morons with no military experience (Kristol, et al) become strategic and logistical geniuses - fact-free punditry is a miracle to behold.

Critical thinking is a skill that seems to be lost in today's world. Oh...except when it concerns the military. Everyone seems quite able to second-guess DOD because they have the luxury of hindsight (not, mind you, that they know how things would have turned out if the pundits had had their way - that's the beauty of punditry).

But no one second-guesses the pundits. They opine blithely on all sorts of matters they know abso-fricking-nothing about and no one bats an eyelash. And they are never confronted with the facts.

Nice work, if you can get it. I may need to consider a career change. I certainly have enough opinions. I'd be a natural if I could just learn to ignore those pesky facts :)

Posted by: Cassandra at December 16, 2004 08:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cassandra writes:

"Do you guys ever think?... WHO IN THE SAM HILL DO WE REPLACE THEM WITH? [...]"

First off no I don't think, I just ask questions :)

Second, good answer. In other words, "We're not putting more boots on the ground because WE CAN'T." There are practical reasons why we can't.

Seems pretty persuasive to me. What is peoples' rebuttal then? And why bring Rummy's ego into it? So Rummy has a big ego. I get it.

But ego or not, if we can't send more troops, then we can't send more troops. Again, I'd think grownups would accept this answer. *boggle*

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 08:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Guy: I think this analogy [sportscar] misses the gravity of the situation.

Blixa: Well is it or isn't it fling?

I didn't say that. Guy did, at 7:34PM. My post was at 7:48 PM.

Wow, that was a rather convenient way to ignore everything else I said, huh?

Blixa: Evidently Rumsfeld disagrees. Evidently he thinks there are some *other* competing interests which are, at this time, equally or more worthy of that marginal dollar. (I'm using dollars generically as "units of capital/effort", essentially.) Now: Is he right about that analysis? I have no idea!

I rather doubt it, or else he would have made that case. Most of what he says seems to be within the spin of Iraq is doing fine and that we don't need more troops -- not that troops have too high an opportunity cost.

Blixa: In other words, "We're not putting more boots on the ground because WE CAN'T." There are practical reasons why we can't.

You're the only one who says that we can't. The rest of us are saying that it will be costly. But there's a way to pay for that cost: roll back the tax cuts. We're out of the recession now, after all, and they weren't really Keynesian tax cuts in the first place anyway.

Posted by: fling93 at December 16, 2004 10:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

fling93,

I didn't say that. Guy did, at 7:34PM. My post was at 7:48 PM.

I know. See my apology in the subsequent post. 08:25PM.

Wow, that was a rather convenient way to ignore everything else I said, huh?

I didn't "ignore" everything else you said, or any of it. I just didn't have a chance to respond to it yet. Perhaps I shan't. I have covered much of what would have comprised my response in other comments anyway. The one thing I wanted to respond to is this:

And of course, it would be money that would not be going to large lucrative defense contracts, like missiles and satellites and whatnot.

This made me happy, but only for a moment. Finally! Someone was acknowledging that this involves *tradeoffs*. It's not a question of adding more troops vs. *nothing*, it's a question of using the marginal dollar on adding X more troops or using it for Y more Other_stuff. What is that other stuff?

Well, humorously, to you, it's just "pork". Silly satellites and missiles! Just a bunch of "pork"! What do those things have to do with fighting wars?

I wonder if you would also say that running factories in three shifts to up-armor transport vehicles also constitutes "pork"? :-)

Do you understand what I'm trying to get at yet? If you dismiss all else as "pork" then OF COURSE we should be tossing Infinite dollars into the BootsOnTheGround bucket. But life doesn't work that way, life involves tradeoffs.

What's the "sweet spot" of tradeoffs between dollars spent on up-armored vehicles vs. dollars spent on troops to Iraq? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Do you realize that it renders your complaint rather shallow? One cannot, after all, insist that Rummy spend infinite dollars on both things. What ratio then is best? You don't know. Right?

[me: Rummy thinks the tradeoff's not worth it] I rather doubt it, or else he would have made that case.

Well, the kernel of truth in what you're saying is that Rummy can fairly be accused of *poorly communicating* his thought process, whatever it may be. That is undeniable, after all here I am soliciting wild-ass guesses from strangers as to why they think he's chosen 150k instead of 250k :) If Rummy had done a better job of communicating, presumably I'd *know*.

But to go from there to Therefore Rummy doesn't consider this a tradeoff issue is just silly. Of *course* Rummy considers this a tradeoff issue. He can't not! *Everything* is a tradeoff issue, that's the whole point. The question is not *whether* he considers it a tradeoff issue, but *how* he has calculated those tradeoffs and whether that calculation is correct. It is on that note that Rummy is open to criticism, surely. But no one that I have seen has done so. So what substantive criticism am I left with? Just this: Rummy has an Ego.

Most of what he says seems to be within the spin of Iraq is doing fine and that we don't need more troops -- not that troops have too high an opportunity cost.

That is not an accurate picture of what I've heard Rummy say. I've never heard him say Iraq is "doing fine" for example. And it's quite the contrary, when Rummy says things such as, You can't just send X troops to Iraq, you have to supply them and protect them, that is a *clear* allusion to the rising opportunity cost of adding the marginal troop to Iraq.

You're the only one who says that we can't. The rest of us are saying that it will be costly.

By "can't" of course I mean "can't, without incurring a cost which is too great". And I'm not the only one saying it, Cassandra has said the same thing, and on the face of it - lacking info to the contrary - that must indeed be what Rummy believes as well.

But there's a way to pay for that cost: roll back the tax cuts.

Is the lessened economic growth and perhaps loss of morale incurred by RAISING TAXES (I refuse to speak like a nincompoop and refer to RAISING TAXES as "rolling back tax cuts") offset by the gains to be gotten by adding the N marginal BootsOnTheGround which could in principle be paid for by raising those taxes?

I have no idea. And neither do you. (For example what's N?) And evidently Rummy thinks not. He could certainly be wrong, but I've seen no persuasive argument to that effect.

But at least I do feel like we're getting somewhere. What you're saying is that you want the Bush administration to raise taxes and use the resulting added revenue to send more troops to Iraq. You are certain that this tradeoff is worth it. Well, at least you acknowledge the tradeoff exists. That's more than I've been hearing in the usual anti-Rummy drumbeats. Best,

Posted by: Blixa at December 16, 2004 11:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blixa: Is the lessened economic growth and perhaps loss of morale incurred by RAISING TAXES (I refuse to speak like a nincompoop and refer to RAISING TAXES as "rolling back tax cuts") offset by the gains to be gotten by adding the N marginal BootsOnTheGround which could in principle be paid for by raising those taxes?

I said "rolling back tax cuts" because I think it would be undoing a bad decision, and I've explained why, and you haven't argued. I could also have said "rolling back that increase in Medicare." But I'll use your terminology if it bothers you that much.

As the tax cut was not designed to stimulate economic growth in the first place, I doubt it will affect our economy that much at all, especially since Greenspan has been raising interest rates lately. If anything, a tax increase would merely allow Greenspan to leave rates where they are. Fiscal policy doesn't occur in a vacuum. Most conservatives dislike the Keynesian notion of using taxes and spending to try and control the economy anyway.

Blixa: It's not a question of adding more troops vs. *nothing*, it's a question of using the marginal dollar on adding X more troops or using it for Y more Other_stuff. What is that other stuff? Well, humorously, to you, it's just "pork". Silly satellites and missiles! Just a bunch of "pork"! What do those things have to do with fighting wars?

Plenty. But what do they have to do with stabilizing Iraq?

Blixa: I wonder if you would also say that running factories in three shifts to up-armor transport vehicles also constitutes "pork"? :-)

Actually, this is an excellent example of where the Bush administration's priorities lie. Armor and equipment and troop levels are extremely important to the occupation effort, but are small potatoes to defense contractors.

Do these funding priorities indicate an administration that particularly cares about what happens in Iraq?

Blixa: And it's quite the contrary, when Rummy says things such as, You can't just send X troops to Iraq, you have to supply them and protect them, that is a *clear* allusion to the rising opportunity cost of adding the marginal troop to Iraq.

Okay, but it's not his job to weigh Defense Department needs against other needs. That's Bush's job. Rumsfeld's job is to tell Bush how much he needs to get the job done. Saying the above seems like a cop out, trying to pass the buck by saying it can't be done. Or else he'd have simply said what that actual projected cost is.

Of course, maybe he learned from Lawrence Lindsay that you shouldn't project costs accurately, so maybe the fault comes back to Bush after all.

fling93: And of course, it would be money that would not be going to large lucrative defense contracts, like missiles and satellites and whatnot.

Blixa: This made me happy, but only for a moment. Finally! Someone was acknowledging that this involves *tradeoffs*.

Sure. Every choice involves tradeoffs, including the choice to invade in the first place. My entire point is that this administration does not seem to be one that bothers to weigh them, thus all of my examples. After all, has the Bush administration ever addressed the argument that an occupation of Iraq would reduce our options for dealing with Iran, a far more serious threat? This is an obvious tradeoff, but I don't recall any debate over it at all.

Combined with all of the other policies (Medicare, tax cut, steel tariffs, farm bill, increased discretionary spending, Rumsfeld & Iraq), it sure seems like they don't particularly care about real-world results.

Blixa: I didn't "ignore" everything else you said, or any of it. I just didn't have a chance to respond to it yet. Perhaps I shan't. I have covered much of what would have comprised my response in other comments anyway.

Sounds pretty evasive to me. After all, you still haven't proposed a better explanation to fit the above examples.

Posted by: fling93 at December 17, 2004 12:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As the tax cut was not designed to stimulate economic growth in the first place, I doubt it will affect our economy that much at all,

Ok so you're on the record stating that raising taxes will have no significant effect on the economy. I disagree. Now I have a better idea where you stand and where your cost-benefit analysis is coming from.

Most conservatives dislike the Keynesian notion of using taxes and spending to try and control the economy anyway.

What this has to do with anything = ___? You still assume I'm a conservative, don't you?

Plenty. But what do they have to do with stabilizing Iraq?

"Stabilizing Iraq" is not and cannot be the single, only objective to which all of the resources of the U.S. government ought to be pointed. Also it is not a binary switch, there is no "Iraq is Stable" state vs. "Iraq is Unstable". There are only *degrees* of stability. Is allowing Iraq to become 1% Less-Stable (whatever that means) worth the marginal extra missile? Well I have no idea. But that's the tradeoff.

[defense contractors, not tanks] Do these funding priorities indicate an administration that particularly cares about what happens in Iraq?

I don't know. Perhaps not. Interestingly, neither do your funding priorities, which I take it are that we use as much money as possible to send as many people as possible into Iraq. Which by the same token implies that you're not all that interested in armoring them up..... so callous! Just like Rummy! ;-)

it's not his job to weigh Defense Department needs against other needs.

Ok but it is his job to weigh some Def. Dept. needs against others. (And I've got news for you, in *wartime*, the morale of the homefront is one of the Def. Dept.'s needs...)

Rumsfeld's job is to tell Bush how much he needs to get the job done.

He's done so and the answer, evidently, is 150k. Are you asserting this number *won't* get the job done? Based on what? Note: It may get the job done *less well*, or not as well as you would like, but that's not the same thing as "not getting the job done".

Saying the above seems like a cop out, trying to pass the buck by saying it can't be done. Or else he'd have simply said what that actual projected cost is.

I conceded he does not communicate these things well.

My entire point is that this administration does not seem to be one that bothers to weigh them

No, your point is that they weigh them in a way that you consider to be incorrect. Which is your right to think that. Of course, it would be more compelling if you, or someone, would actually come up with an *argument* to that effect.... Best,

Posted by: Blixa at December 17, 2004 12:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I felt that the current furor over the SecDef's remarks re Armor was a media generated attack.

It's not that the issue of armor is not a legit one, or that the media or the soldier who asked the question was wrong to do so... but the whole thing looks like a stinkin setup from my POV. To go after Rumsfeld, and by extension GWBush.

After Rumsfeld falls, who's the "next Ashcroft"? Will it be Sec of State Condi Rice? Alberto Gonzales?

btw greg, i don't mind replacing rumsfeld IF -- IF Mccain is the one picked to replace him. If McCain politely declines (because of 08 prez run), then I'd rather see Rumsfeld stay than please the defeatist liberal media.

Posted by: john marzan at December 17, 2004 01:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

fling93: As the tax cut was not designed to stimulate economic growth in the first place, I doubt it will affect our economy that much at all,

Blixa: Ok so you're on the record stating that raising taxes will have no significant effect on the economy.

No, but you're on the record for quoting me out of context, as I continued on to say, "especially since Greenspan has been raising interest rates lately. If anything, a tax increase would merely allow Greenspan to leave rates where they are. Fiscal policy doesn't occur in a vacuum."

The point being that fiscal policy can be easily balanced by monetary policy. Especially when it wasn't strong fiscal policy in the first place.

Blixa: You still assume I'm a conservative, don't you?

Yes. I've always operated from this assumption, even in our prior exchanges, since I'm also a conservative (albeit a libertarian-leaning one) and I've always found it helpful to emphasize common starting points. You've never corrected me until now. So are you saying you're a liberal?

Blixa: "Stabilizing Iraq" is not and cannot be the single, only objective to which all of the resources of the U.S. government ought to be pointed.

By that argument, there should have been a discussion on whether we should commit so many resources in the first place by invading Iraq. Which is the obvious reason why this administration hasn't argued that, or else it would have to explain why invading Iraq would be worth reducing our available options to deal with a bigger and more immediate threat like Iran.

Blixa: when Rummy says things such as, You can't just send X troops to Iraq, you have to supply them and protect them, that is a *clear* allusion to the rising opportunity cost of adding the marginal troop to Iraq.

fling93: it's not his job to weigh Defense Department needs against other needs. That's Bush's job. Rumsfeld's job is to tell Bush how much he needs to get the job done.

Blixa: He's done so and the answer, evidently, is 150k.

"How much" referred to the monetary cost of adding more troops. Whether that cost is too high is not Rumsfeld's job to ascertain.

Blixa: Are you asserting this number *won't* get the job done?

No, Greg Djerejian is. I'm no military expert, but Djerejian knows more about this stuff than I do, and as he's not a liberal with an anti-Bush agenda, I'm inclined to trust his judgment on it. If you disagree, take it up with him.

Indeed, you've not been arguing this point, but merely asking for explanation of Rumsfeld's behavior if this were true. I've given you one. Even better, I showed how the explanation fit a lot of other policies. And you haven't contested that.

fling93: My entire point is that this administration does not seem to be one that bothers to weigh them

Blixa: No, your point is that they weigh them in a way that you consider to be incorrect.

Now you're trying to tell me what I think? Wow, that's extremely evasive to the point of using a straw man. No, my point is that they haven't weighed them. Recall I said, "the lack of pragmatism, to me, seems to be indicative of the mindset that it is easier to do whatever the hell it is you want to do and claim you've fixed something than to actually fix it." If you don't care about fixing something, you don't need to weigh costs, which is why my explanation fits so well.

Or can you come up with an example where Bush weighed costs and explained how the economic benefits of the tax cuts would outweigh its impact on the deficit? Or how the benefits of invading Iraq outweighed the risks and costs of committing so many resources to a country that was not our greatest threat? Or how the steel tariffs or farm bill's benefits would outweigh the obvious costs to the economy?

Posted by: fling93 at December 17, 2004 01:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

as I continued on to say, "especially since Greenspan has been raising interest rates lately. If anything, a tax increase would merely allow Greenspan to leave rates where they are. Fiscal policy doesn't occur in a vacuum." The point being that fiscal policy can be easily balanced by monetary policy. Especially when it wasn't strong fiscal policy in the first place.

Again, so you're saying that raising these taxes won't have a significant effect on the economy, right? I may be stupid, but can I really have misinterpreted a statement like "I doubt it will affect our economy that much at all", which is a direct quote from you?

By that argument [US gov't can't commit 100% of resources to one thing], there should have been a discussion on whether we should commit so many resources in the first place by invading Iraq.

There was. The Nay side lost. The vote occurred in October 2002 as I recall.

"How much" referred to the monetary cost of adding more troops. Whether that cost is too high is not Rumsfeld's job to ascertain.

It's not? Then why are people criticizing him? If it's some other person's job to ascertain whether sending the next marginal troop is too expensive or not, and the current policy is based on a judgment about that which is flawed, then by all means, let's criticize *that* person for calculating that marginal cost incorrectly.

Who is it, pray tell?

[Blixa: Are you asserting this number *won't* get the job done?] No, Greg Djerejian is. I'm no military expert, but Djerejian knows more about this stuff than I do, and as he's not a liberal with an anti-Bush agenda, I'm inclined to trust his judgment on it. If you disagree, take it up with him.

Fair enough. I don't "disagree" with him, indeed I respect him enough to read the blog or I wouldn't be here, let alone would I have used this thread to ask the questions I have. But neither do I know that he is correct. I see little basis here for drawing a hard and fast conclusion one way or the other on these things.

No, my point is that they haven't weighed them.

Ok. I see. I think you're wrong. I feel fairly confident in asserting that when making these decisions, people in the administration like Rummy have been (correctly or incorrectly) weighing various tradeoffs. We'll have to agree to disagree.

can you come up with an example where Bush [said] how the benefits of invading Iraq outweighed the risks and costs of committing so many resources to a country that was not our greatest threat?

Yes, Bush asserted as much here. To paraphrase, War would be costly, but not doing war was so risky, that war is worth it.

These are only assertions, of course. Completely bald ones. (Of course, so is the assertion "if we stick with 150k troops, we'll fail", that you say Greg is making.) I doubt that Bush sat down with a slide rule and performed any actual cost-benefit calculation to come to this conclusion. :-)

But nevertheless the answer to your question is Yes, he did indeed assert that while war would be costly, it was in our interest. Multiple times. I do not know whether he was correct. But it is odd that you never heard any of these speeches at all. Best,

Posted by: Blixa at December 17, 2004 02:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blixa: Again, so you're saying that raising these taxes won't have a significant effect on the economy, right?

I'm saying the effect can be easily neutralized by monetary policy. Remember, when something is affected by multiple sources, you've got to weigh all of them.

fling93: By that argument [US gov't can't commit 100% of resources to one thing], there should have been a discussion on whether we should commit so many resources in the first place by invading Iraq.

Blixa: There was. The Nay side lost. The vote occurred in October 2002 as I recall. ... To paraphrase, War would be costly, but not doing war was so risky, that war is worth it. .. Yes, he did indeed assert that while war would be costly, it was in our interest.

Weighing the costs of a decision consists more of saying that it will be costly. You need to be specific. So refresh my memory. How exactly did the Bush administration address the opportunity cost of the invasion, specifically that it would reduce available options to use against Iran? What specific reasons did the Bush administration give for its claim that Lawrence Lindsay's cost projections were too high? What explanation have they given for the fact that Lindsay's projections were better than theirs?

fling93: "How much" referred to the monetary cost of adding more troops. Whether that cost is too high is not Rumsfeld's job to ascertain.

Blixa: It's not? Then why are people criticizing him?

Because they judge that he was wrong on the number of troops needed for the occupation. This was the topic of the post that we're commenting on. I'm not criticizing Rumsfeld with this statement; I'm criticizing your defense of him.

fling93: [Blixa: Are you asserting this number *won't* get the job done?] No, Greg Djerejian is.

Blixa: Fair enough. ... I see little basis here for drawing a hard and fast conclusion one way or the other on these things.

Neither do I. I merely responded to your asking for an explanation that fits, and my explanation is an utter lack of pragmatism. You've not argued that it doesn't fit, indeed saying, "If they're not pragmatic well that would certainly explain why they don't want to succeed in Iraq."

So you've not contested this explanation, nor have you offered up a better explanation. Just try the tax cut. As I said before:

Recall he proposed it during an economic boom, using supply-side arguments to counter critics warning about it being inflationary. And indeed, it's designed as a supply-side tax cut, focussing on the higher tax brackets who are more likely to invest the savings to spur production. When the recession hit, he marketed the same tax cut as a Keynesian recession-fighter -- yet spurring supply is counter-productive when you have a cap-ex recession due to excess inventories.

If he really believed the tax cut would not be inflationary because it would stimulate supply, he cannot believe the same tax cut would fight a cap-ex recession. Indeed, it would exacerbate it. My explanation for this bizarre behavior is that Bush doesn't actually care about the real-world consequences of the policy. What's your explanation?

Posted by: fling93 at December 17, 2004 02:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm saying the effect can be easily neutralized by monetary policy.

Does "can be" = "will be"? Presumably you are saying Yes, else your continued responses would be nonsensical. So, once again, for the third time, your assertion here, on which your cost-benefit analysis is partially based, is that raising taxes will not, on balance, significantly affect the economy.

As I stated initially.

Weighing the costs of a decision consists more of saying that it will be costly. You need to be specific. So refresh my memory. How exactly did the Bush administration address the opportunity cost of the invasion, specifically that it would reduce available options to use against Iran?

You're saying that the Bush administration skated the argument, alluded to it but didn't go into specifics. I agree. Of course, I doubt very much if, prior to any war, any leader of any nation-state in human history has ever argued for that war by preparing some kind of balance sheet and demonstrating numerically the positive payoff expected. But I digress.

Saying that to the populace they made a vague hand-wavy rhetorical plea for the tradeoffs being worth it (which is what they did), is different from saying that they didn't evaluate tradeoffs at all, not even privately. I presume by the way that every single person involved in making the decision to go to war made those tradeoffs privately, drawing upon whatever information to which they were privy. Including all the members of Congress who cast the operative votes. Not all of whose considerations, by the way, may have been any more pragmatic than you think the President's were.

[Whether that cost is too high is not Rumsfeld's job to ascertain.] [Blixa: It's not? Then why are people criticizing him?] Because they judge that he was wrong on the number of troops needed for the occupation.

1. Well "judge" away. Knock yourself out. It's a free country. "Judging", i.e. asserting, that Rummy is Wrong on #troops is not the same thing as *establishing* that it is so, however. Yes, I see plenty of people, Greg included, "judging" it to be the case. I can't get a handle on how I might go about actually *evaluating* the accuracy of this claim, however, especially when the issue is presented (as it often is) in such a one-sided manner, with no plausible motive presented for Rummy (he's just "stubborn" you see, QED - or in your version, he's "not pragmatic" and "doesn't care what happens"), and as if no tradeoffs actually exist (which I know cannot be true).

2. You dodged my question anyway. Again: If it's "not Rummy's job" to evaluate whether the cost of sending the next marginal troop is too high to do so, but that cost has indeed been (erroneously) judged to be too high by someone, then who is the culprit?

I merely responded to your asking for an explanation that fits, and my explanation is an utter lack of pragmatism.

Got it. Thanks.

Let me just illustrate my frustration with the absence of substance, and indeed to some extent the circularity, in this Rummy critique and then be done with it. Here is the conversation as I see it:

1. Rummy Critic (RC): Rummy is wrong. 150k is not enough troops.
2. Me: How do you know?
3. RC: Since more troops would help, therefore more troops is the obvious thing to do.
4. Me: But what about tradeoffs? Have you evaluated....
5. RC: Rummy's not looking at tradeoffs.
6. Me: Ok then why isn't he doing it if it's such a no-brainer and he doesn't actually have some important tradeoffs in mind?
7. RC: Because the real reason he's not doing it is that he's stubborn, doesn't care, and mostly just doesn't want to admit he's wrong.
8. Me: But how do you know he's wrong in the first place?
9. GOTO 3.


I see no way out of this loop for li'l old me. Oh well. Best,

Posted by: Blixa at December 17, 2004 05:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cassandra, you told us that you spent an hour looking for data and you found important data, but you gave us no clue what it was.

Here are the results I found: The sole-source company that said they could go from 450 units of armor a month to 550 is making armor for the new model of armored HumVees. There's no need for them to make more unless we make more armored HumVees a month. We aren't.

What Rumsfeld was talking about when he said "a matter of physics" was the team in kuwait that's making armor for old HumVees and also improving the armor on other things like Strykers etc. They don't have to go through the bidding/contracting/etc phase because they're part of the army. They're working full-out to make armor from sheet steel and stick it on vehicles. They're swamped and aren't getting all the vehicles armored that need to be armored. They've done 6000 vehicles of all descriptions so far, and their maximum rate is 400 a month. They could go faster by putting more men onto it, or by contracting out part of the work, or if there are other problems (lack of water etc) by applying money to whatever those other problems are. But the money isn't there.

And money appears to be the central issue. Our military has overspent their budget for iraq.

Meanwhile we are putting in place an antimissile defense that doesn't work. If we suppose it might work someday we could spend the money now for things that will let us deploy the thing faster when it works. I'm not at all clear what those things would be. Which things are we sure enough about the final design that we can do them now? New bases in alaska and on the east and west coasts etc, where the antimissiles will be deployed? I dunno. It doesn't make sense to spend a lot of money deploying a system that doesn't work.

Back to iraq, and Blixa. Why isn't there enough money? The manpower shortage I can see. We could maybe get 20,000 more soldiers just by authorising them and training them, we turn away some qualified applicants now. Likely 20,000 - 30,000 if we reduce standards some. But they'd take time. If we got them 2 years ago -- but 2 years ago Rumsfeld believed they wouldn't be needed. Maybe he still thinks they aren't needed, but there isn't money for them whether they're needed or not.

Why isn't the money there? Why are we failing to pay our soldiers? The only possible answer is that we're overspending the budget. So why haven't we put more money into it?

Here's what I remember. We went in with no cost estimate at all. After we'd been in iraq for awhile Bush finally came up with an estimate: $87 billion. But it wasn't enough and he needed more. And then more. And he didn't want to go back for more until after the election, because it would look bad to voters. So the army had to get by on what it had, it had to hold out until the elections.

And now.... it wasn't in the omnibus spending bill, was it? Um. $25 billion for the end of 2004 and beginning of 2005. They're planning to ask for another $80 billion plus for the rest of 2005. Unclear how much the supplemental bill will be, but we'll surely spend more than $100 billion in 2005. We're planning to up-armor some 35,000 vehicles, at a cost of $4 billion, and about 60% of that has already been done. That leaves only 14,000 or so. At 400 a month....

Why have the troops been starved for money? Because the administration didn't ask enough from Congress. Why not? Maybe they've consistently been optimistic about how much it would cost. Maybe they wanted to wait until after the elections. Either way, the result was we tried to run the occupation on the cheap, and it hasn't worked well.

If I'm right that the reason it was underfunded was the election, now it might get the funding it needs. We might recruit more soldiers. We might even do some reconstruction. Of course there's the argument that Bush won't change anything because that would show he was wrong before. But he already won the election -- what does he care what anybody thinks now? We'll have to wait and see what he does.

OK, on the argument about a "sweet spot". The claim is that larger armies cost an exponential increase in logistics, so a larger army would grow too much of a tail. But this is thinking backward. First you estimate how many fighting men you'll need, and then you figure out how to supply them. If you start out with the number that it's most practical to supply and that number is too small to do the job, then you lose. You can argue that you lost the war with an optimally cheap logistic tail, but that argument plus a war crimes trial can buy you a hanging. If we can't afford the logistics we need for the soldiers we need, then we shouldn't be there.

Our original idea was that Chalabi was going to run an iraqi government that would take care of security for us, and we wouldn't have an occupation problem at all. That failed. So we improvised. We converted combat troops to occupation troops. They went from "shoot anything that might be a threat" to "protect civilians". Well, no they didn't. They were supposed to, sort of. For awhile they were doing foot-patrols to try to replace iraqi police. That didn't last. There's no way american soldiers who mostly don't know the language can be effective iraqi cops. So they settled for doing checkpoints that irked iraqi civilians and every now and then somebody got flustered or didn't know the checkpoint was there (particularly at night) and we shot them dead. Etc. Does it sound like we had an occupation strategy thought out? Garner started doing elections but soon Garner was out and Bremer was in and Bremer cancelled the elections because too many religious guys were winning them. We got attacked some and the idea was to find Saddam and outlast the attackers. We found Saddam and there were more attackers. So then we figured we'd do reconstruction to take people's minds off their troubles. But we didn't have enough security to do reconstruction. So we recruited iraqis to do security. But the big majority of them won't fight insurgents and some of them are insurgents. So we said it will blow over after the elections, but before the elections we'll have to take back the no-go areas. We're bogged down in the first no-go area we took back and it's 6 weeks left.

Does it sound like we have a plan? To figure that 130,000 or 150,000 troops in iraq is the best number, you'd have to have a plan for what to do with them. And we mostly don't.

OK, assume we're going to still be in iraq in 2 years. Then we need to pay for a bunch of new troops. 2 years from now we'll need them even to keep our current troop levels there. But if we're getting out in February we won't need extra troops for iraq.


Somebody was saying that we're bogged down in iraq when iran is the bigger threat. But it would be *very* hard to invade iran. If things had worked out in iraq we could invade iran from iraq easier than any other way. It didn't work out, but they surely thought it would. We could argue about how utterly stupid they were to think so. But if you *have* to invade iran, you really need iraq first. My view is that after looking at the iraq trial run, I say we can't invade iran. We'd better put up with them getting nukes or else make some kind of deal with them. Maybe there's something they want more than nukes. Who knows, maybe they'd give up nukes if we signed a treaty that said they'd allow inspections and we'd never ever invade them for any reason other than inspectors finding nukes or getting a runaround. But we plain don't have what it takes to invade iran, and we luckily found that out by invading iraq before we hurt ourselves in an iran invasion.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 17, 2004 06:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good points all J Thomas but my responses are:

-There's never going to be "enough" money.

-Why do you point to things like missile defense (is this exactly a huge expenditure? suppose we put ALL the money from missile defense to the Iraq war how much extra troops would that get us? would it be significant?) that we spend money on instead of other things that we spend money on. We spend money on tons of things. Money is fungible. You can't single out one thing and blame it.

-"If you start out with the number that it's most practical to supply and that number is too small to do the job, then you lose" is perfectly correct since it's a tautology, but to get there you have to actually *establish* the "too small to do the job" part. Nobody here has. I get that all of you think it's "too small" in general (your evidence is that things are messy in Iraq) but too small to do the job? This also requires defining "job" and "do". There's a difference between doing the job messily and "not doing the job". I see a lot of *assertions* that it's "too small to do the job" but I don't know how to evaluate their veracity.

-"To figure that 130,000 or 150,000 troops in iraq is the best number, you'd have to have a plan for what to do with them." By the same token then, on what basis do you think 250k would be any "better"? Since there's no plan at all. We should throw 100k more troops into a theater where we "don't have a plan" in the first place?

-" But if you *have* to invade iran, you really need iraq first. My view is that after looking at the iraq trial run, I say we can't invade iran. We'd better put up with them getting nukes or else make some kind of deal with them. " I'm basically with you here.

Best,

Posted by: Blixa at December 17, 2004 04:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J Thomas: Somebody was saying that we're bogged down in iraq when iran is the bigger threat. But it would be *very* hard to invade iran. If things had worked out in iraq we could invade iran from iraq easier than any other way.

Yes, it would be very difficult. But it's even more difficult if your military is bogged down in an occupation that even the Bush administration thought would take a couple of years. Or if Iran gets the nuke while you are otherwise preoccupied with a lesser threat. Certainly, you at least want to maintain the threat of invasion as leverage to extract concessions. Now our hand is greatly weakened.

fling93: I'm saying the effect can be easily neutralized by monetary policy.

Blixa: Does "can be" = "will be"?

I suppose it's remotely possible Greenspan could keel over and be replaced by an incompetent Bush loyalist.

Blixa: "Judging", i.e. asserting, that Rummy is Wrong on #troops is not the same thing as *establishing* that it is so, however. Yes, I see plenty of people, Greg included, "judging" it to be the case. I can't get a handle on how I might go about actually *evaluating* the accuracy of this claim

Then we aren't debating that, are we?

Blixa: You dodged my question anyway. Again: If it's "not Rummy's job" to evaluate whether the cost of sending the next marginal troop is too high to do so, but that cost has indeed been (erroneously) judged to be too high by someone, then who is the culprit?

I answered that earlier: "it's not his job to weigh Defense Department needs against other needs. That's Bush's job." And it really does come down to Bush, as that's where the buck stops. Assuming we don't have enough troops for the occupation (and neither of us is arguing whether we do or not), either Rumsfeld is wrong about how many troops we needed for the occupation, in which case Bush is at fault for not replacing him and for appointing him in the first place. Or Bush is wrong to prioritize his tax cut over troop levels requested by Rumsfeld. Or if you think the economy is somehow unable to support a tax increase now, Bush was wrong to think our economy could support the cost of the invasion and occupation in the first place.

Blixa: Let me just illustrate my frustration with the absence of substance, and indeed to some extent the circularity, in this Rummy critique and then be done with it.

Interesting. Your frustration with this straw man argument has now changed. It used to be a lack of explanation for why Rumsfeld would not want success. Now that I answered that, you're suddenly frustrated with a new and entirely different fictitious straw man argument. Well, if you find it easier to argue with yourself, knock yourself out.

fling93: I merely responded to your asking for an explanation that fits, and my explanation is an utter lack of pragmatism.

Blixa: Got it. Thanks.

And do you agree, or do you have a better explanation? If you agree that lack of pragmatism is the best explanation that fits the pattern of examples, that's pretty much the main point I was making.

Posted by: fling93 at December 17, 2004 05:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Assuming we don't have enough troops for the occupation (and neither of us is arguing whether we do or not), either Rumsfeld is wrong about how many troops we needed for the occupation,

I'd stop there. *Assuming* we don't have enough troops, Rumsfeld is wrong. Numerous people, including the writer of this blog, whom I respect, are saying as much and I'm trying to figure out if they are right.

Your frustration with this straw man argument has now changed. It used to be a lack of explanation for why Rumsfeld would not want success.

My frustration has not "changed". A lack of explanation for why Rumsfeld would not want success is, in fact, number 6 in the conversation I strawmanned-up, above. Certainly it's true that my initial queries in this thread were focused on number 6. At the same time they are part of a larger frustration which I have, which I later more fully divulged, as you see. I sure hope that's okay with you fling93.

[they "aren't pragmatic"] And do you agree, or do you have a better explanation?

I'm not sure I want to say because there's no point arguing with you. I solicited explanations, you gave me yours. Again: thanks very much. Got it. Since you seem so eager to know what I think of your explanation, I'll say, however.

I don't necessarily dispute that TeamBush "isn't pragmatic", but at the same time I don't think it's an "explanation" for anything, per se. "They're not pragmatic" is, perhaps, something like a psychological *diagnosis*. It's a conclusion you've drawn, perhaps a very astute and correct one, from careful observation of their behavior. That's all fine and dandy but it's not an *explanation* of that behavior, to my way of thinking.

For example, on the specific issue, "Rummy's not pragmatic", even if true, just doesn't quite get at what I was going for. When I say Why doesn't he do the obvious thing and you say "he's not pragmatic" this really doesn't answer the question, it almost *repeats* it. You may as well say He doesn't do the obvious thing because he doesn't do obvious things.

What I'm going for is more like the following. Okay, so let's agree that Rummy's not pragmatic, in the sense of his psychological makeup or whatever. On the #troops issue I'm guessing his unpragmatism expresses himself in the form of an *erroneous, delusional conclusion* such as the following:

"I don't have to send more troops, because X."

Where X is some (bogus, stupid) argument he has convinced himself to be true, on erroneous, poor reasoning (as just another example of him not valuing pragmatism).

So what I was *really* asking was, What do you think X might be? Telling me "he's not pragmatic" just tells me that he delusionally favors some bogus argument X. It doesn't actually tell me what X is.

So that's why I don't really bother arguing with you. I can see that you are really attached to your "they're not pragmatic" theory, almost to the point of wanting a pat on the head for it, and I don't know what to say. Maybe it's a really good one. But truth be told it wasn't actually an answer to my question, and I didn't see the point of asking you further. Sorry. Best,

Posted by: Blixa at December 17, 2004 06:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

re: And money appears to be the central issue. Our military has overspent their budget for iraq.

Not quite: In October the Rapid Acquisition Authority empowered SecDef to spend up to $100 million to do an end run around normal procurement for urgent battlefield needs (armor fits that def'n).

My husband does this for a living (he's not in the exact branch that would be requesting armor now - he's one step up the line - more long-range stuff). Congress has been quite expliicit about not wanting our guys to go unprotected. If they want the money, it's there.

THEY'RE NOT ASKING FOR IT. NO ONE HAS INVOKED THIS LAW. IT'S DECEMBER.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 17, 2004 06:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

On the humvees stuff, I don't have time to go look all that up again - sorry. Try Mudville Gazette or you can click on my name - I have a post - I think it was called something like "why we need Milbloggers" on my blog. Not terribly in-depth analysis, but it had some good info and perspective in the links and trackback.

I'm not indulging in shameless link whoring - someone asked the question and I have too much going on at work - otherwise I'd give you some better direct links.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 17, 2004 07:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blixa: *Assuming* we don't have enough troops, Rumsfeld is wrong. Numerous people, including the writer of this blog, whom I respect, are saying as much and I'm trying to figure out if they are right.

Sure. I'm addressing your implied argument that if it were true, there's no reason for Rumsfeld not to increase troop levels. My response is that it doesn't matter to Rumsfeld (or Bush) whether we need more troop levels or not.

Blixa: I don't necessarily dispute that TeamBush "isn't pragmatic", but at the same time I don't think it's an "explanation" for anything, per se. "They're not pragmatic" is, perhaps, something like a psychological *diagnosis*. It's a conclusion you've drawn, perhaps a very astute and correct one, from careful observation of their behavior. That's all fine and dandy but it's not an *explanation* of that behavior, to my way of thinking.

Sure it is. If they don't care about real-world results, all of their behavior makes perfect sense. As I said, "the lack of pragmatism, to me, seems to be indicative of the mindset that it is easier to do whatever the hell it is you want to do and claim you've fixed something than to actually fix it."

Blixa: I'm guessing his unpragmatism expresses himself in the form of an *erroneous, delusional conclusion* such as the following: "I don't have to send more troops, because X." Where X is some (bogus, stupid) argument

And my explanation covers this. He doesn't have to send more troops because, no matter what happens in Iraq, the Bush administration can claim credit for anything good and downplay or ignore anything bad.

Just like they did with the economy and Bush's tax cut/steel tariffs/farm subsidies/Medicare plan.

Blixa: My frustration has not "changed". A lack of explanation for why Rumsfeld would not want success is, in fact, number 6 in the conversation I strawmanned-up, above. Certainly it's true that my initial queries in this thread were focused on number 6. At the same time they are part of a larger frustration which I have, which I later more fully divulged, as you see.

I don't believe you for a second, but that doesn't matter. Just don't expect me to respond to your rebuttle of an argument of your own creation. Because then you'd just expand your argument with this fictitious strawmen to include several new steps, one of which you are now "frustrated" with.

Blixa: I can see that you are really attached to your "they're not pragmatic" theory, almost to the point of wanting a pat on the head for it,

Oh, I value your judgment of me, just like I'm really genuinely concerned about your "frustration" with fictitious strawmen and their circular arguments.

I kept bringing it up because it was obvious that you were avoiding it and didn't have a better explanation. If you disagree with it, explain why. Otherwise, I'll just leave you to bicker amongst yourself.

Posted by: fling93 at December 17, 2004 07:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

fling93,

It's striking how often you accuse me of somehow willfully "avoiding" certain things you write, when the truth is usually that I was not impressed by them and thus was uninterested in responding to them. I respond to things which I am interested in, not those that don't. Is that ok with you fling93? Maybe you should put a little red asterisk next to all the sentences you think are really swell and must not be "avoided" next time, so I will know that you desperately wanted them to be responded to.

Again, thank you for sharing your hugely-explanatory theory that the reason for this, and lots of other, (axiomatically) bad decisions is that Team Bush, you have divined, doesn't care about whether their decisions are good or bad. Rest assured I have taken this theory under advisement and made a note of it in my little notebook. Bye.

Posted by: Blixa at December 17, 2004 07:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blixa: Again, thank you for sharing your hugely-explanatory theory that the reason for this...

Wow, you don't seem frustrated with your strawman's stupid circular argument anymore. Glad to have helped. You're welcome!

But maybe if you hadn't been so uninterested by the unimpressive argument that addressed your "concerns," you wouldn't have overlooked it and been so "frustrated" for so long.

Posted by: fling93 at December 17, 2004 08:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cassandra, you say we have a ten-thousandth of a trillion dollars available that the army hasn't even asked for. When they're so strapped for cash that some of the troops haven't been getting paid.

That looks like sheer carelessness to me. They could use the money to get extra armor or to get the things it would take to install more armor faster etc, and they just haven't done it.

Maybe the problem is organisation. Maybe the people who're supposed to be organising the finances are overwhelmed or are disorganised, and that's the limiting factor.

I don't understand it. Unless using the paychecks for other purposes was just a political ploy, they must have a giant cash problem. And here's a hundred million dollars (not much, but still a tiny squirt of money that's designed to go just where they need it) and they haven't even asked for it.

There's something wrong here somewhere.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 18, 2004 12:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Curiously, no mention of the one guy at Tim Russert's table that sunday morning who wasn't a paid beneficiary of a huge standing army say exactly the opposite of your quotable Generals in this posting, Greg.

Simple oversight, no doubt.

Posted by: Tommy G at December 18, 2004 01:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Never fear - I found it for you:

"MR. ARKIN: I think it would be a shame for America to increase the size of the Army. The reality is that we should draw down our forces as much as possible in Western Europe as quickly as possible, recoup as many of those troops as we can, reduce our forces in Iraq, not increase our forces.

It seems to me we can have a quick reaction capability and a security capability in Iraq without having the sort of support structures and the sort of large Army of occupation that we currently have there. I think we can actually do more with less. And I think that the notion that somehow we are going to pay for the mistakes of Iraq by increasing the size of the Army, which cannot really be done in a short term-- it has to be done in the sort of long-term view--that would be a mistake.

I think our military priorities at this point should be pretty clear in Iraq that we need to move quickly in pushing as much as we can on to the shoulders of the Iraqi people. And the notion somehow that we're going to increase the size of the overall Army on top of increasing our forces in country gives the wrong message."


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