December 17, 2004

What Do All These People Have in Common?

Stormin' Norman. Thomas Donnelly of AEI. Trent Lott ("I'm not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld...I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers...") Norm Coleman (that leftist Kofi enthusiast!). Susan Collins. It ain't just the McCain-Hagel-Kristol rogue wing folks--with a few, er, "stray hawks" thrown in. It's gettin' bigger than that.

Excerpts from Donnelly's piece (which you should read in full):

Thus we have a Defense secretary more concerned about the Army and the force he'd like to have--the high-speed-low-drag transformed force of the future--than the force with which he actually has to fight today's wars. And, in fact, Rumsfeld and his lieutenants would also simply like to fight the wars they'd like to have rather than the war as it is. How else to explain the Pentagon's conduct of operations in Iraq? The administration is still patting itself on the back for the initial invasion; this week's ceremony honoring retired General Tommy Franks, President Bush acted as though the problems of the post-invasion period didn't exist: the invasion was "the fastest, longest armored advance in the history of American warfare" with "a force half the size of the force that won the Gulf War" and "defeated Saddam Hussein's regime and reached Baghdad in less than a month."

But the reality in Iraq today is Tommy Wilson's war, not Tommy Franks's war.

Nor is it Donald Rumsfeld's war, or at least not the war he wants. Even longtime supporters and transformation advocates have begun to recognize that Rumsfeld is now a large part of the problem. Loren Thompson, head of the Lexington Institute, a defense think-tank long supportive of the secretary, told the Washington Post on Monday that Rumsfeld won't face reality: "He knows what the situation is, but he has been unready to change his plans."

Rumsfeld has been most reluctant to change his plans about the size of U.S. land forces, and the Army in particular. It was, perhaps, a good idea to "go early and go ugly," as senior generals put it, to war in Iraq; waiting longer to build up forces in the spring of 2003 was not a risk-free proposition, and most of those now bemoaning the size of the invasion force are at heart still bemoaning the invasion itself. But the experience of the past 18 months must count for something in reconsidering the overall size of the Army.

In agreeing to stay on as Defense secretary in the second Bush term, Rumsfeld has made it known that he wants to "complete the job of transformation" he has started. It would be far better if he would dedicate himself to winning the war he helped to start.


Posted by Gregory at December 17, 2004 01:08 AM

I beg to differ. We are winning the war.

Rumsfeld is correct in the need to transform the military. It's a process that should have started ages ago Today, Lance in Iraq recalled the lack of armored equipment requested by General Powell in Mogadishu. We should have been better prepared to fight an insurgency, then and today. We weren't.

As far number of troops on the ground, history will be the judge. By and large, the troops we have are exceptional and are committed to success. I know it goes against the conventional train of thought but something tells me that allocating more troops will not necessarily give us the results we desire. Staffing up tends to introduce greater inefficiencies. By keeping it lean, we stand a better chance of achieving the objective.

I know we are walking a fine line, I know a tremendous cost is being borne by Iraqi civilians. I simply think it is premature to write off Rumsfeld, let's get through the Iraqi elections, let's get through the rewriting of the Iraqi constitution. If we can transition Iraqi to a representative democracy while simultaneously averting a full scale civil war with a mere 150,000 troops, Rumsfeld will be my hero.

Posted by: lola at December 17, 2004 02:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Donnelly couldn't be more wrong.

At least some of the wars we may have to fight in the next 20 years likely will prove more dangerous than Iraq. We face a world full of threats. It would be foolish and shortsighted to reshape the whole force structure around the current situation in Iraq.

The dominance of our technology and our doctrine today result from 20 years of investment in the past, yielding the broad range of options and the low casualty rate operations we enjoy now. Rumsfeld is right to focus on ensuring that the next generation, our children, will benefit from similar advantages out into the future.

Posted by: ZF at December 17, 2004 02:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

People, ideas, then hardware. In that order ...

Posted by: praktike at December 17, 2004 03:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What do these people have in common?

They're not currently serving in the military.

They're not in Iraq.

They not in Afghanistan.

They're not even remotely in any sort of position to make informed judgements about how things are going over there.

They have nothing to lose by jumping on the latest meme-wagon and everything to gain.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 17, 2004 07:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Right. Should we not listen to CATO or the Heritage Foundation on economic policy because none of them are currently serving in the Treasury department?

And how about Shinseki? Does he fit through your filter of who is worth listening to?

Focus on the message, not the messenger, because sometimes you can get pearls of wisdom even from the mouths of babes.

Posted by: fling93 at December 18, 2004 12:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't get your emphisis on the number of troops we have stationed in Iraq. The problems we face are derived from the methods used by the insurgents. (Cowardly killers). The enemy is hiding among the population and cannot be pinpointed. The key to ending this conflict is by gaining enough intelligence information to find and destroy the last vestiges of these dirty bastards. This will come as we train the Iraqis to be competent enough to police themselves, and as the Iraqis gain confidence in believing this regime change will be permanent. Where have you once demonstrated how more troops will do any good in advancing the progress of this war? What we need is the political will to more brutal when necessary. We must not restrain ourselves when the opportunity to strike the enemy presents itself. It's no wonder we are constantly being attacked considering the amount of oridinance which exists among the population of Iraq. Every death of soldiers is heartbreaking, but let's not question our strategy every time we lose some troops. This war still has a minute number of casualties compared to any other confrontation of this magnitude. We need to strike at Syria, which is the main hotbed of support for the rebel bastards, as well as the base for the similar attacks on Israel. What do you know about what Rumsfield is or isn't doing? Where would he get these additional troops anyways, as if it matters?

Posted by: Dragnet at December 18, 2004 07:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dragnet, you have an important point. Let me repeat it with a sligthly different emphasis.

The problems we face are derived from the methods we use. The enemy is hiding among the population and cannot be pinpointed. The key to ending the conflict is by gaining enough support from the population that they turn in the enemy. Hell, if enough of the public is against it then most of the enemy will give up. There must be hundreds of thousands of high school students in the USA who aren't doing spectacular sabotage because their friends wouldn't approve and their parents would be upset.

When iraqis believe they have a government that represents their interests they'll support it and turn in insurgents. But there's no number of US troops that can get that result.

Obviously then, what more US troops could do is to persuade iraqis that they can't win and that the new regime will be permanent for the foreseeable future. When we have too few troops they're just targets. Too few troops can't spread out among the iraqis, they have to stay in their bases except when they go out in force and smash large insurgent units. But with *enough* troops we can send them out in smaller attack groups and when one of them runs into trouble we quick send in enough reinforcements to surround the area and punish everybody they find within it. With *enough* troops we can convince the iraqis that the new regime is permanent and there's nothing they can do about it. With *enough* troops we can kick ass and take names. Without enough troops all we can do is kick ass every now and then, especially after they kick us first.

And as you say we need to take off the velvet gloves. We need the political will to be brutal. Whenever somebody plants an IED and there are buildings within eyeshot, we should blow up at least one of the buildings. The people in those buildings probably watched the IED get put there, and they could have stopped it. At least they could have warned us. They're responsible and they should be punished.

Whenever iraqis attack a US unit and a US soldier is killed we should collect ten iraqi civilians from the nearby area and publicly execute them. They should have stopped the attack or at least warned us. When a US-appointed city administration gets run out of an iraqi city, we should immediately bomb-to-pebbles the quarter of the city that the surviving administrators say was the hardest to deal with. If it happens 4 times that city will no longer be a problem.

Right now it's an issue that we can't protect the small minority of US supporters from the insurgents. But we can easily establish that the insurgents can't protect *anybody* from us. Anyplace the iraqis don't cooperate, we can cut off all food, water, electricity, everything, and shoot the refugees. They'll get the idea pretty quick. Sufficient brutality can substitute for representative government. It mostly worked in the philippines. But to do it, we need enough troops on the ground to seal the borders. If we can't seal the borders they'll start getting antiaircraft weapons and better antitank stuff and so on. And we need enough troops to really dominate them. It isn't enough to kill people at random, you have to give them the clear choice between accepting us and getting clobbered. They have to mostly not get clobbered if they turn in insurgents, and mostly clobbered if they don't. We have to be able to seal off the area when we get attacked and capture the insurgents who did it, preferably every time. Whenever insurgents attack and 3/4 of them get away, that's a defeat for us. Even if they didn't do any real damage it gives hope. We need to make it hopeless, we need to make it clear that whenever we're attacked the attackers will die and so will a bunch of innocents.

And we need more troops to occupy syria. Without more troops how can we do that? And lebanon, of course. Once we have syria and lebanon we can send supplies that way without the political problems we get by supplying through israel and jordan. But it will take even more troops to pacify lebanon and syria.

And that many troops will obviously require a draft. We can do it with a draft, and it won't bother the economy much given the number of people we have without jobs.

I'm not sure this is a good idea, but I want to thank you for presentinig it and giving me the chance to clarify it.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 18, 2004 03:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cassandra, yes.

The people who know what's going on in their little corner of iraq are all people who have a lot to lose by speaking up. They're under orders and can suffer a whole lot of unpleasantness up to and including orders that will get them killed if they follow them and years of hard labor if they don't.

The US army has demonstrably lied to the press in a long series of incidents to make the thing look better. And unimbedded press tends to disappear.

So we have no reliable information about the course of the war.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 18, 2004 03:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nice work, J Thomas.

Posted by: praktike at December 18, 2004 04:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hmmm. Could it be that putting all of one's eggs in one basket is now the cutting edge of brilliant strategy?

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 18, 2004 06:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No reliable information, you say? Well, is that all you're upset about? Here you go, J - enjoy.

I especially liked the part about all of the hospitals, schools, and sanitation facilities we've been employing Iraqi citizens to build. Over 1100 construction sites in all.

No, no - no thanks necessary. Too happy to help.

Posted by: Art Wellesley at December 21, 2004 01:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Art, see what you think of this:

They tried to look at where the money goes. To do that accurately would require that someone keep accurate books that could be audited, but there's no particular reason to think that's happening. So they depended largely on estimates from the US officials responsible, plus other sources just as unreliable including official audits.

First there's the question how much of the money goes to security. Estimates range from 15% to 70%. It probably varies across iraq; safe areas like Mosul and Basra used to be would have low estimates.

Then they try to estimate corruption, fraud, and mismanagement. Of course there are no reliable data about that; if we knew about corruption we'd either clean it up or cover it up, depending on who's doing it. The only precise public estimate they found was 30%. This is low compared to our experience in vietnam, but not implausible. This study rather arbitrarily suggested 15%.

Then there's US overhead, that is money spent in the USA administering the spending. 10% is authorised. Would you suppose a US bureaucracy would leave its allocated funding unspent?

Profits for US firms was estimated at 6%. There's nothing wrong with US firms getting profits from their work in iraq, but that isn't money spent in iraq.

Insurance, international salaries, etc. "Charles Hess, the director of the Project and Contracting Office in Baghdad, recently estimated that insurance costs alone consume 30-50% of contracts." "Interviews with contractors in the field suggest that insurance costs are up to 30% of payroll costs."

"One senior U.S. official has suggested that only 25% of U.S. reconstruction funding is reaching intended projects, while others have said the amount is less than 50%. In conversations and press reports, other administration officials have confirmed the breakdown suggested in this paper."

The numbers these guys give are not at all firm, but that's because it's very very hard to get accurate numbers about where the money is going.

Maybe the more important concern is about the actual reconstruction that's happening on the ground. In the USA we have a complicated system of building inspections etc to uncover bad practices. But the cost to do that in iraq would be prohibitive because of the security concerns. So our supervision of iraqi reconstruction projects is weak.

So OK, let's look at the link you provided, that shows the projects we think we're spending money on after overhead, security, corruption, etc have taken their bite. It's signed by the same Charles Hess.

2 billion dollars. Of that, we've spent....

976 million on "Security and law enforcement".
162 million on "Democracy".
105 million on "Justice, Public Safety and Civil Society".

That's 1.2 billioni dollars on things that might be very important to iraqi society in the long run, or that might turn out to be 100% corruption. You can inspect a police headquarters and confirm that the building has actually been built -- provided you get there before the insurgents blow it up. Similarly with jails and courthouses. How do you measure "democracy" spending?

Then there's actual infrastructure.

515 million on "Electricity Sector"
92 million on "Oil Infrastructure"
50 million on "Private Sector Development"
39 million on "Water Resources and Sanitation"

Etc. Note for example the 13 million dollars to reconstruct "Health Care". Pick a typical hospital in your community and estimate how much it spends a year....

I'm sure it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling to read about all the hospitals etc that we're going to spend money on, that we haven't started paying for because they haven't broken ground yet. In my industry we call that "vaporware" but there's the chance it will turn real someday.


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