December 22, 2004
Hard Questions After Mosul
Mosul piece in the WaPo:
The major difference between the latest attack and the earlier incidents is that it was an attack on a U.S. base, rather than on troops in transit in vulnerable aircraft. That difference appears to reflect both the persistence of the insurgency and its growing sophistication, as experts noted that it seemed to be based on precise intelligence. Most disturbingly, some officers who have served in Iraq worried that the Mosul attack could mark the beginning of a period of even more intense violence preceding the Iraqi elections scheduled for Jan. 30.
"On the strategic level, we were expecting an horrendous month leading up to the Iraqi elections, and that has begun," retired Army Col. Michael E. Hess said.
Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst of Middle Eastern military affairs, said he is especially worried that the insurgents' next move will be an actual penetration by fighters into a base. "The real danger here is that they will mount a sophisticated effort to penetrate or assault one of our camps or bases with a ground element," he said.
If anti-American violence does hit a new level, pressure is likely to increase on the Bush administration to either boost the U.S. military presence in Iraq or find a fast way to get out.
The adequacy of current troop numbers is one of the questions provoked by yesterday's action, said Charles McComas, a veteran Special Forces soldier who served in Afghanistan before retiring. "Do we have the right forces and enough of them to do the offensive patrolling to reduce the chances of this happening again?" he asked.
In a word, no.
A private-sector security expert who recently left Baghdad after more than a year there agreed, noting that the United States originally put an entire division in the Mosul area, the 101st Airborne, but replaced it earlier this year with a force about half that size, only to see insurgent attacks increase. "We have replaced a division with a brigade and think we can offer the same amount of security," he said, insisting on anonymity because his opinions are so at odds with the official U.S. government view.
The attack also indicates that the insurgency is growing more sophisticated with the passage of time. One of the basic principles of waging a counterinsurgency is that it requires patience. "Twenty-one months" -- the length of the occupation so far -- "is not a long time to tame the tribal warfare expected there," said retired Marine Lt. Col. Rick Raftery, an intelligence specialist who operated in northern Iraq in 1991. "My guess is that this will take 10 years."
I supported Bush because I thought, as between his team and Kerry's, Dubya would be the better bet to continue seeing a major 5-10 year effort through. But Rumsfeld's policies, that the President and Dick Cheney don't appear to be forcefully re-appraising, are now beginning to imperil the war effort. Pas serieux. This is not panicky carping from the sidelines. Elections are not a panacea leading to stability. Ethnic tensions will mount and the post-election millieu will prove a period of great flux and danger. Talk of an exit strategy with trained Iraqi forces taking over by '06 is claptrap and farcical. Those forces, btw, will often be infiltrated by Iranian agents, Baathists restorationists, and other enemy groupings. Hell, such infiltrators might have had a hand in the Mosul attack. The quicker the rush to Iraqify--the more half-assed the effort will be. A real training and equipping effort will take place over years, with the insurgency pacified, and with post-electoral inter-communal relations set on a stable (as much as possible) course (this measured in years not months). American forces, and in large enough number to be credible, will have to act as guarantors of security during this exceedingly complex and lengthy transition period. Do enough people in the Administration get this? Not yet, I fear.
It's easy to beat up on me, as Brad DeLong does, for not stating that the buck stops with POTUS. Except that Kerry would have been even worse--all but guaranteeing that Iraqi democratization would not have been seriously pursued ("wrong war, wrong place, wrong time"; troops out w/in 4 years, interim authority head but a "puppet", the better to play into the insurgent's propaganda and handbook). Between arguably underwhelming options in elections, sometimes, hard decisions have to be made. But what's clear now is that it is in all of our interests that the Iraq project not flounder. This would prove the biggest American foreign policy disaster since Vietnam, perhaps worse even. It would allow radical jihadists to renew their momentum, render risible talk of Middle Eastern democratization, and make America appear a paper tiger again (as during the abdication-of-global-leadership-ridden Clinton years). These are critical times. Rumsfeld, if we're stuck with him, needs to be persuaded to rotate more troops into theater. It's not only Chuck Hagel and John McCain who need to raise the pressure. Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh, on the other side of the aisle, should consider doing so to. Better safe than sorry. Force matters. The Powell Doctrine is not dead. Rumsfeld must snap out of denial and get back to basics. Quickly.
Posted by Gregory at December 22, 2004 04:57 AM
I don't see what difference it makes if the Iraqification of Iraq is "half-assed" or not. If Iraqification works there are not many who will quibble because we didn't really know how at first. We have so far lost maybe 1,300 volunteer soldiers, including those killed in accidents. As a price, along with $250 billion or so, and maybe as many as 1,300 more dead, that does not seem too high--provided it buys a new Middle East for all time--which it will if we stay the course. Before we invaded we thought it would cost more like 5,000 than 1,300 or 2,600. We had to go over there and drain the swamp, and there is now a creeping feeling among friends and foes alike that the aggressive Bush policy is working.
Where do we get more troops? Should we start a military draft?
And after Rumsfeld's gone, who's the next target (for the MSM)? Condi Rice?
Greg, this was a war of choice and Bush + neocons always knew that with no WMD, no threat to America, no Al Qaeda connections and mounting casualties the US public would not support the war for long.
In fact the latest polls show, for the first time, that the majority of Americans see the war as a mistake and though 70% believe that the costs are not worth the benefits.
But you seriously think that the public will support another five to ten years of this crap in Iraq? Why? And Why should they?
The public was sold the war on the basis that Iraq had WMD and posed a serious threat to the US - mushroom clouds in Manhattan and all that.
Then they were told that the war would be a cake-walk.........
Bush lied, people died. Biggest foreign policy disaster since Vietnam? Sure. That is - or will be - Bush's legacy. His screw up, his legacy.
Kerry was right. Your thinking, Greg, is exactly what compounds the initial screw up and creates a Vietnam.
At what point has there been enough blood and treasure tossed into the meat grinder? Would you like your son or daughter to be the last to die for some neocon's theory of how the middle east might be changed?
Anyhow, a five to ten year occupation is not politically feasible. So the Iraq experiment fizzles out. Too bad we didn't have some adults in charge post 9/11.
"Cliff May of the pro-war Foundation for the Defense of Democracies noted that it would be wrong to oust Rumsfeld if there is no good answer to the question, "Who should replace him and what policy should replace his?"
Bush would have to pick someone else -- preferably someone who would carry out Rumsfeld's plans to transform the U.S. military (and don't expect any of Rummy's many critics to take on that thankless job). I asked Sen. John McCain last week if he'd be interested in the job. He said he could do more for the military if he heads the Senate Armed Services Committee in two years. "
Er, who would you want to replace Don Rumsfeld, Greg?
"I wish we had a Secretary of Defense good enough to prove that my grand thoughts about the Iraq war were correct after all." Is that it? Let's appoint the Queen of Hearts, or the White Rabbit, and have done with it.
Rumsfeld is in office not because he's perfection on earth but because in GWB's judgment he's better than the available alternatives.
The stryker BDE which is a motorized BDE replaced a light division. Don't compare number of people, compare number of vehicles. Typical LD has two, two vehicles per company, Stryker BDE has four per platoon, I think about 14 per company.
Forgot to mention that patrolling doesn't stop HandI only counterbattery will do that. Because of political reasons we don't do counterbattery but give the terrs a free shot.
Wow. Another non-military commander (this time a "private security expert") says there's not enough troops.
So we add to the conventional wisdom of all the "experts": John McCain, Chuck Hagel, William Kristol, Greg, and now another "private security expert". Not enough troops. Add another 150,000, please!
Meanwhile, the actual military commanders on the ground don't think so! We really must have the dumbest military commanders of all time there if they can't see what all of the experts can. Either that, or they are all so cowardly as to be afraid to speak out. Probably the latter, I think.
Well Al, I think some of the military personnel might have gotten the message from the somewhat suspect treatmen of Shinseki, the Chief of Staff, after he recommended more troops be used.
This administration favors loyalty and discipline above all else. I think the military commanders on the ground have gotten the message.
As an aside, I would add Bremer to the list of those advocating more troops as well.
Of course, Eric Martin, Shinseki was given the "shabby treatment" BEFORE he spoke out. But anyway, that's my point: our military commenders are such cowards that ALL are putting their future careers ahead of speaking out on what the "experts" all think is needed to win the war, right?
And I would NOT put Bremer on the list, since he does NOT believe we need more troops now (in the initial phase of the war, yes, but not now - at least going by what he actually said, without inferring that he, too, is too cowardly to speak out and say we need more troops now).
Why do you have such low standards, Al?
Okay lets fire Rumsfeld. Assuming we can find someone who embodies his virtues and none of his faults this marvelous replacement now decides to rotate more troops in theater, can he find them? Maybe I am wrong, and you are one of the few weighing in on this matter who has an opinion I value, but as far as I can tell outside of short stints we cannot deploy significantly more troops. Please tell me I am wrong and why and I'll join the chorus with gusto.
If I am right however, then the real pressure needs to be put on Bush, Hagel, Biden, Lieberman and McCain to increase the size of the army. McCain I find especially irritating because he has the national profile to make the issue prominent. Instead he is making Rumsfeld the issue rather than the funding and authorization for a larger military. If Rumsfeld has a much larger army and still leaves us short of forces in theater then lets toss the bum.
Of course I could be wrong and there are 600,000 troops out there ready to add to the rotation for a few years. Please enlighten me.
Shinseki spoke out, and then he was pre-emptively publicly "retired."
As for the military men, they are not "cowards," they are doing their jobs. Military commanders are not supposed to contradict, publicly, the president and the secretary of defense. As far as self-preservation is concerned, many would not want to stake their career on stating something that could cost them their jobs - especially, as I said, when they are not supposed to do so in the first place.
As for Bremer, here is what he actually said:
In a Sept. 17 speech at DePauw University, Bremer said he frequently raised the issue within the administration and "should have been even more insistent" when his advice was spurned because the situation in Iraq might be different today. "The single most important change -- the one thing that would have improved the situation -- would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout" the occupation, Bremer said, according to the Banner-Graphic in Greencastle, Ind.
From another speech:
"We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness," he said yesterday in a speech at an insurance conference in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. "We never had enough troops on the ground."
His words are that we didn't have enough troops "throughout" the occupation. Maybe he thinks the occupation is over now, or that we only needed more troops up until a certain point, although it is unclear when that is, but he sure looks like he belongs on the list.
As for cowardice: both those speeches were "off the record" which by definition is an event where you don't authorize quotations because you are saying things that you would not otherwise say publicly, and on the record (unfortunately for Bremer, some quoted him anywa). You can call speaking off the record "cowardice" if you want, but there are other factors involved.
This is a direct consequence of Bush's idiocy on July 3, 2003:
"Anybody who wants to harm American troops will be found and brought to justice," Bush said. "There are some that feel like if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. They don't understand what they are talking about if that is the case. Let me finish. There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on."
Shinseki was given the boot then he ripped the Bush administration. Boot before rip not rip before boot.
There is a solution to the violence in Mosul and areas around it but no one would like it.
Beef up military assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga militias and let them sort out the Sunnis in Mosul and neighboring areas. It will be ethnic cleansing (mirroring Saddam's in gutting those areas of Kurds in the 80s). Problem solved.
Or we could find more troops, probably stripping them from Germany (a good idea) and South Korea (also good for other reasons). But stopping attacks would require an agressive posture that ...
KILLED a lot of people in Iraq, including innocent civilians.
Greg, there is no other way to stop attacks other than counter attacks. More troops can help by allowing an aggressive effort to kill the enemy, but just having a larger bunch of guys stand around passively makes more and bigger targets.
If you want to stop terror attacks you'll have to accept more Fallujah style operations that flatten cities and terrorist refuges. Superman and the Justice League aren't coming to solve the problem non-violently without killing people.
The atypical, and embarrassing, premature announcement of retirement came after he said more troops would be needed - even if his departure was predetermined.
That wasn't a "rip" of the administration, just his reasonable opinion. Even if you disagree with him, you can't say it was a wild statement - especially in retrospect.
It's easy to beat up on me, as Brad DeLong does, for not stating that the buck stops with POTUS. Except that Kerry would have been even worse--all but guaranteeing that Iraqi democratization would not have been seriously pursued...
You provide three justifications for this view, none of which I find convincing:
- "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time"
No a bad way of describing the war, but it says nothing about what the strategy going forward should be, so it doesn't support your position. In case you've forgotten, here is Kerry talking about the strategy going forward, in the first Presidential debate: "We have to succeed. We can't leave a failed Iraq."
- troops out w/in 4 years
When Kerry claimed that, if Iraq were appropriately managed, we would have a reasonable shot at getting our troops out within four years, he may have been overly optimistic. But if Kerry was unrealisticly optimistic about Iraq, what about Bush? Did Bush ever acknowledge that we might have to stay in Iraq for four or more years? I don't recall him doing so. Given the series of miscalculations about Iraq made by the Bush Administration, it's hard to believe that a Kerry Administration could be any less realistic. You yourself say that Bush still doesn't understand the level of effort required.
- interim authority head but a "puppet", the better to play into the insurgent's propaganda and handbook
You don't provide a lot of context here, but I assume you are talking about the incident where Allawi visited the United States and delivered a speech written by the Bush reelection campaign, and Joe Lockhart, speaking for the Kerry campaign, said that this made Allawi an American puppet. Obviously, you can claim that any criticism of the president in war time helps the enemy, but even if we accept this as a justification for avoiding democratic debate (which I don't), you've got a very weak example here. Sistani, the leading Iraqi cleric, considers the Allawi government to be illegitimate, and he's on our side. We aren't trying to sell Iraqi's on the benefit of an American-installed benevolent dictatorship; we are trying to sell them on democracy.
I'm sorry Gregory, but you are turning into a whining hand-wringer who (objectively) is doing nothing but harming the war effort.
a) the torture is not a serious issue. The Iraqis will complain, of course, about Abu Ghraib. But they also know we have not annihilated entire villages, forced relatives to pay to pick up the corpses of their loved ones or killed thousands of civilians in the desert. By comparison with any other recent military operation in the world (Balkans/Rwanda/Ivory Coast/Congo) the US operation in Iraq is unbelievably humane. You can't cycle in and out a half-million troops (Guard, Reserve, Active Duty) without incurring some discipline problems.
b) the 'unprepared troops' is not a serious issue overall for two reasons i) every army in the history of warfare has gone to battle with at least some of the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. The fact that the media has seized upon a few dozen examples is meaningless; ii) there's not much we can do overall to improve 'preparedness'. How many GI's will learn fluent Arabic and Arab customs? Puhleese. Without that all talk about agressive pursuit of intel without offending the locals is bull---t.
c) our enemies will score occasional tactical successes. We are not invulnerable, nor is lack of invulnerability a sign of 'poor planning.' Wait until you hear the squawking about the 'unstoppable insurgency' when (not if) a whole platoon or company is wiped out. It still won't be true, but I'm sure, Friedman, you, et alia, will be biting your nails and tearing your hair. The fact that insurgents have relocated to Mosul from Fallujah or Samarra is to be expected. They still have far less capability then they had and are far more vulnerable to penetration by intel or death in battle than they were.
We do need changes to our approach: I think re-interring all Baathists and possibly having the Iraqi gov condemn and hang an allotment of them every time some terrorist attack takes place would be a good start.
In the meantime, you need to slap yourself. Seriously.
Ok, here's my plan:
1) We have eliminated the WMD threat
2) We have removed Saddam from power
3) We hold elections on Jan 30
4) We wait another 2 months
5) If the Shiites, Kurds and at least some Sunnis don't REALLY start helping us fight the insurgency, we announce LOUDLY that we are unwilling to fight for people who are unwilling to defend freedom.
6) We also annnouce that we will begin withdrawing our troops
7) We try to work we other nations on a post-US Iraq
As a boot here on the ground, I have to vote "no" on removing Rumsfeld.
While everyone has been focusing on problems over here, I'd like to thank him for alot of the successes.
I'm a National Guardsman-who put on my Army uniform last spring after shelving my NYPD uniform.
I spent nearly 6 months training. So, if I'm unprepared, I blame my chain of command not the Army. I went thru RFI twice-I'm the best equipped and most heavily armored infantrymen in history.
As I type this-my dorsal armor plates are bugging me-but they're essential protection.
Funny-when I mobilized in May-the Army hadn't even requested them yet. The Troops on the ground went to chat rooms, said they wanted them and Rumsfelds appointees listened. A few months later, I have them. I know dozens of people who have them and don't wear them-If they get hurt because they lack them-the MSM will blame Rumsfeld, Bush, etc. - even though it's not there fault.
Now, you could argue that things have gone poorly here but alot of those problems belong to the individual services. I can site cases where Infantry Companies trained up for a WWII type fight at the behest of their leadership-obviously that's not happening here.
I hope we drop the troop levels, because Americans are stepping all over each other here. Literally getting in each other's way, anyone who simply wants to "raise troop levels" probably thinks that raising teahcers salaries improves student performance and that the NYPD cleaned up New York simply by putting more cops on the streets and Compstat.
It's aggresive and intelligent tactics that will win here. It's also time. We've simply got to outlast the insurgency as we replace Coalition Forces with Iraqi forces.
It's already happening too. I've been here last then 3 months and I've already spoken with dozens of Pro-Democracry Iraqis and seen thousands more.
Thank the Lord we have adults in charge.
Here's the reality boys. We spent thirty years listening to you right-wing fabulists insist Viet Nam could have been won. In Bush's send off speech, a day or two before "Shock and Awe," he went through a litany of how we were going to do it right this time by occupying the enemy's capital and using any weapon in our arsenal and probably something about unleashing Chuck Norris and a serrated knife.
Well, twenty months later between 5% and 10% of the troops we deployed have been killed or permanently incapacitated - well maybe not, they are talking about sending back amputees! For the most part 15 million Iraqi Shiites have sat it out so far but, if they get active against us, 75 million Iranians will have their back. The four million Iraqi Kurds there are on our side, so to speak. That means an insurgency, drawn from a population of less than 5 million Sunni Arabs (Arabs who, we were told, can't fight), has exhausted the deployment capacity of our front line troops and we are coming up on the limits of National Guard deployment capacity. Now what?
This is a fiasco. Time for a new paradigm or whatever term is in vogue among the national security intelligentsia - this isn't going to be an American century with the United States colossus casting its military, economic and diplomatic shadow across the globe. We have a wrecked Treasury, forfeited any right to moral and legal posturing in international affairs, discovered our military capability is limited (duh), and we have lost all advantage of bluff that has heretofore supplemented that capability. This oil grab and military-industrial boondoggle of a war is lost and Republicans will have to content themselves with the achievement of but a couple of its original objectives; the cashing in at the polls in 2002 and 2004. Osama Bin Laden agrees with Time magazine; Geroge W. Bush is Man of the Year.
Tell Scaife to send money. Time to start pinning this defeat on Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton so things can get back to normal and fantasies can be spun anew.
"but Kerry would have been worse"--Hit and Run commenter thoreau is really getting around!
It seems to me that 9-11 caught us at an ackward moment in that the military had been changing its force structure. I do not think that we have the right mix yet for current operations. Would tossing another heavy, say the fourth armor is Iraq help. I don't think so, just more supply toops to get shot at.
Currently we are training more appropriate troops for operations in Iraq. A young friend of my daughter is in the Army (10th Mountain) and is being trained for counter insurgency operations. But his cohort wont be ready until next summer (we want these kids to go in well trained, not just half assed trained). In my opinion we need things the current army really does not have in abundance. Things like what I call "combat police". Traffic cops and escort people with firepower.
So I think the problem is what Rumsfeld actually said. The army we had wasn't really the right mix for the job at hand, but it was the only army we had on hand. I think we are working on fixing the mix (more Strykers for example). But remember once you figure out what you need it takes time (about a year) to train and equip the troops. The real problem really begain last March/April, so we should have the army we need by next March/April.
Of course you can argue that we should have seen the problem earlier, and in hindsight you would be right.
On the other hand I would entertain the arguement that since most of the people being killed are from supply and command units, we need to reduce the number of troop in Iraq to redudce the supply and command component. Frankly 30,000 fast hitting troops might do a much better job than the 130,000 (or there abouts) we have. More is not always better. If you add another heavy into Iraq your are adding thousands of additional vulnerable troops. More soft spots for the terrorists to hit.
Look at Afganistan. We have virtually no soft targets and combat deaths are much lower and the Taliban is quite dispirited as every time they hit us we hit back harder. In Iraq they can hit units that can't hit back harder.
You raise some interesting arguments that are well worth considering. There is one point you made that I wanted to examine.
According to the report put out by the Brookings Institute entitled, "Afghanistan Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security In Post-Taliban Afghanistan" (as reported in the most recent edition of The Atlantic), the Taliban is 50% stronger this year than it was last year. In addition, US troop deaths have more than doubled in that same time frame from 12 to 31. So maybe the Taliban is not as dispirited as we would like.
Eric Martin: you are wrong. Shinseki was already being canned for among other things purchasing several million black berets from the communist chinese. Then add in the Paladin and the Stryker. For several years the push in the military was to reduce the number of items in the 'barracks bag'. The beret turned even that minor effort on being lighter in the tooth to tail ratio into a sad joke. Then when everyone realized that 'his guy' on the interim IFV project had rewritten the specs over a dozen times to keep from excluding the stryker and then had to totally throwout the weight restrictions then reduce the flight distance to keep the Stryker on board then left the DOD to work for the manufacturer of the Stryker you can see where he had become a joke. A joke that Clinton had installed much like his predessor the Nazi.
In a couple of more months all of you reasonable conservatives will be singing right along with Bullshark - deep down, that's your nature.
The is going to sound harsh, but the difference between 12 and 31 deaths per year is nominal. This year we had a helicopter crash that was not due to hostile action, that right there was (if I remember correctly) 8 deaths.
Where do people get the figure 50% larger? I don't think the Taliban do head counts. On the other hand the turn yourself in for amnesty program is getting hundreds of people. That sounds dispirited to me. The Taliban didn't stop a SINGLE polling area from conducting the vote. That is just pathetic for an insurgency.
I guess my point is we have a presense in Afghanistan and are occupying Iraq. We need to get to the point where we can only have a presence in Iraq. The question is what is the best way to get there?
Just as an aside, with 30,000 fast and hard hitting troops rather than the 130,000 we have would relieve the entire stress on guard units.
Somebody want to go over the special skills a SecDef needs?
If the issue is doing the job *Rumsfeld* has been doing but doing it better, how about Shinseki?
But Shinseki might not have the skills needed. He knows a lot about the military issues and a lot about dealing with the military, but how much does he know about congressional issues and dealing with congress? Or the media? How much does he know about kissing up to Bush?
You would have to check with the Brookings people on their methodology, as I am not certain of what criteria they are using to determine the size of the Taliban. They are not, however, a partisan group with an axe to grind, so I would say it is worth considering.
Only time will tell, but let's hope the Taliban will vanish from the face of the Earth never to be seen again.