August 19, 2005

Rummy: "I don't happen to have it on the top of my head"

A telling exchange from one of the Pentagon press gaggles:

Q General Myers, you talked about some Iraq units working on their own combat support. Today, how many Iraqi battalions are completely independent, able to provide their own support and able to conduct their own operations?

GEN. MYERS: I'd have to get the number for you. I don't have it top of my head.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It's also -- it's also not a useful construct in this sense: If you take the 173,000 Iraqi security forces, a large fraction of 173,000 are border guards. They're functioning in the borders; they're doing what they do. A large number are police. A number -- very few -- are counterterrorism elements or special police commandos that function and do their thing.

The army is the element that was originally designed to deal with external threats, and has been, obviously, reoriented to deal with the insurgency and normal security for the Iraqi people because the insurgency is what it is.

And we've got all that numbers we presented to the Congress. I don't happen to have it on the top of my head.

But I think that there's been a pattern where people have tried to diminish the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces by trying to pluck out a single number and saying, "Only -- out of 173,000, only these X number, small number of battalions are capable of functioning independently."

The reality is that a large number of them are doing exactly what it is they were organized, trained and equipped to do, and increasingly, they are doing it with less and less external support from the coalition countries.

GEN. MYERS: All 178,000 --

Q Sir, to pull U.S. troops home, won't you need the Iraqis to operate completely independently? I mean, how are you defining victory in Iraq today?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Those are two different questions.

Q Well, isn't it -- you said before that you tie it to being able to turn over cities and security control to Iraqi forces.

SEC. RUMSFELD: And that's happening, as he said.

Q And won't they have to operate --

GEN. MYERS: I only mentioned a couple of areas. There are more than that. And we'll try to get that to you as well.

Q Mr. Secretary, along those lines?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes.

Dear God friends, the President of the United States of America has made it abundantly clear that the very center and core of the U.S. exit (sorry 'success') strategy in Iraq is the training and equipping of an Iraqi Army (Witness his oft-repeated locution: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down"). And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of Defense don't even know how many Iraqi batallions can operate wholly independently? I'm all for delegating so as not to have an LBJ redux of POTUS and aides up and about at 2 A.M. picking what bridges near Hue to bomb--but, er, who is minding the bloody store--who is really excercising a real duty of care standard here? These guys should be going to bed every night with such figures firmly implanted in their head--even if Petraeus is currently doing a bang-up job of it and little corrective oversight is required at this precise juncture. Sure, this all comes amidst a backdrop of an improving picture on train and equip (a very, very nascent improvement, with many, many miles to go yet...). But the effort got off to a horrific start (because we disbanded the Baath Army wholesale, because we didn't even anticipate the prospects of an insurgency with carry over implications for the kind of Iraqi forces needed, because we distorted data about numbers of trained, and so on).

As Jeff Miller of Carnegie put it well a while back:

On the defensive, Secretary Rumsfeld asserted that “it is flat wrong to say that anyone is misleading anyone.” While that may be true, the secretary added: “Numbers are just numbers. Capability and capacity to do things are something other than that.” He cannot have it both ways. Either the numbers he and the president cite as evidence of progress mean something or they do not. If they do not, as the contradictory numbers and assessments increasingly suggest, we must face the question of what actually underpins the U.S. security strategy in Iraq. [emphasis added]

Now, as I said, things are getting better of late. But the whole T&E effort has been beset by a fog of disingenuousness, if not purposeful misrepresentations, from the onset. Witness, again from Miller:

The total number of all security forces was reported to have more than doubled in the three months from October 2003 to January 2004. “We’re making very good progress,” said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on CNN in March 2004. “We’re up to over 200,000 Iraqis that have been trained and equipped.” What he failed to point out was that 74,000 of those 200,000 were members of the Facilities Protection Service—building guards with less than one week of training. And of the 75,000 Iraqi police officers included in the total, 60,000 were entirely untrained. At the time, only a paltry 2,300 qualified as fully trained.

No, Rummy can't have it both ways. So which is it Mr. Secretary? Gross numbers, or how well/thoroughly they've been trained for the specific tasks they've been designated to handle? The answer, of course, is both. The further take-away, that Rummy's tries to obscure, is that we are far from having the requisite number of fully trained and equipped Iraqi forces. Rummy all but admits it here:

It's also -- it's also not a useful construct in this sense: If you take the 173,000 Iraqi security forces, a large fraction of 173,000 are border guards. They're functioning in the borders; they're doing what they do. A large number are police. A number -- very few -- are counterterrorism elements or special police commandos that function and do their thing. The army is the element that was originally designed to deal with external threats, and has been, obviously, reoriented to deal with the insurgency and normal security for the Iraqi people because the insurgency is what it is.

Well, I'm glad the border guards are "doing what they do" (allowing infiltration of materiel and enemy fighters from Iran and Syria, say?). And I'm glad we've got a lot of cops on the beat. But Rummy's obfuscations are there for a reason. He's hiding from stating the obvious, not only because he doesn't even precisely know, but also because the answers are quite damning. The actual amount of fully trained army units trained to prosecute a counter-insurgency, able to operate independently (not to mention, of which more below, that they need to be persuasively multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian and such nettlesome details), is quite, shall we say, de minimis--even per this Pentagon friendly report:

Different readiness levels indicate different capabilities. Level 1 is the highest rating, where units are fully independent in all aspects. This includes being able to plan and conduct operations without coalition support. It also means the units sustain themselves through their own systems, handle all maintenance and have every piece of equipment needed to perform any mission.

Level 2 means units that are "in the lead" in the counterinsurgency effort. The units plan and execute their own operations, but they do require coalition support. This support is typically logistics, close-air support, indirect fire, medical evacuation and so on.

Level 3 indicates units fighting alongside coalition units. An Iraqi company will be embedded with a coalition battalion. The company gets support from the coalition and operates with the battalion.

Level 4 indicates units just forming.

There are very few Iraqi units in Level 1 status. Most units have been in existence only four to six months. The ministries of Defense and Interior will need more time to develop supply systems, maintenance depots, finance systems, personnel assignment procedures and so on.

Officials speaking on background said there are many Iraqi units capable of "fully independent operations, but not yet fully independent." They said nearly three dozen Iraqi army or police units are assessed as in the lead or independent - Levels 1 and 2. The bulk of the units are in Level 3 - fighting alongside coalition units.

Bottom line: the majority of Iraqi forces that have been trained are at Level III and below. Bill Roggio has more, and is more optimistic than B.D. perhaps, but I'd think he'd agree with my broad assessment nonetheless [UPDATE: Or maybe not!]. Petraeus is doing an amazing job given hugely challenging conditions, but we are still at a very early stage. And don't forget the importance of the army being multi-ethnic, truly a national institution, the better to act as glue to the nascent, fragile polity--keeping it from being torn asunder by conflicting sectarian/ethnic impulses. I'm sorry to sound like a broken record on this point, but no less a foreign policy authority than Henry Kissinger agrees it's critical too:

The Iraqi equivalent may well be the ethnic and religious antagonisms between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. In Vietnam, the effectiveness of forces depended on geographic ties, but the provinces did not perceive themselves in conflict with each other. In Iraq, each of the various ethnic and religious groupings sees itself in an irreconcilable, perhaps mortal, confrontation with the others. Each group has what amounts to its own geographically concentrated militia. In the Kurdish area, for example, internal security is maintained by Kurdish forces, and the presence of the national army is kept to a minimum, if not totally prevented. The same holds true to a substantial extent in the Shiite region.

Is it then possible to speak of a national army at all? Today the Iraqi forces are in their majority composed of Shiites, and the insurrection is mostly in traditional Sunni areas. It thus foreshadows a return to the traditional Sunni-Shiite conflict, only with reversed capabilities. These forces may cooperate in quelling the Sunni insurrection. But will they, even when adequately trained, be willing to quell Shiite militias in the name of the nation? Do they obey the ayatollahs, especially Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, or the national government in Baghdad?

And if these two entities are functionally the same, can the national army make its writ run in non-Shiite areas except as an instrument of repression? And is it then still possible to maintain a democratic state?

The ultimate test of progress will therefore be the extent to which the Iraqi armed forces reflect -- at least to some degree -- the ethnic diversity of the country and are accepted by the population at large as an expression of the nation. Drawing Sunni leaders into the political process is an important part of an anti-insurgent strategy. Failing that, the process of building security forces may become the prelude to a civil war. [emphasis added]

Building such an ethnically diverse national army, in requisite number and in convincing fashion, to Level 1 (or even 2) levels, will take another 3-5 years yet in my view. Until then, American forces must remain in theater in very significant number--assisting Level 2, 3 and 4 Iraqi troops in fending off the insurgents. It's true, the more Iraqi forces are put in the lead, the less American an 'occupation footprint' will result. Another reason to keep focusing on T&E, but not a reason to cut bait and flee the coop. Democrats who believe the continued presence of U.S. forces is the biggest evil in Iraq have it wrong. It is the Sadr's and Zarqawi's who want U.S. troops out soonest. Indeed, increasingly many non-Zarqawite type Sunnis will realize it is in their interests to have U.S. troops in theater to protect them from large scale revanchist Shi'a slaughter. The American Army, in convincing number, must stand shoulder to shoulder with the broad middle of Iraqi society that still hopes to emerge into the post-Saddam era with a unitary, viable democratic polity.

It's still possible. The Shi'a know that an autonomous Shi'a south won't really fly with the Sunnis, and would likely condemn the country to civil war. They are likely merely using such demands to position themselves better in negotiations to gain other concessions (though there is a strong Iranian hand at play here, as such a region would represent added lebensraum for Teheran). Similarly, the Kurds know well that full blown independence is a non-starter, as it would lead to a major Turkish intervention. The path ahead, muddied and treacherous as it is, is relatively clear: 'soft' federalism with pockets of autonomy, yes, but still a persuasively credible central government.

Who acts as guarantor and protector of this so fragile central government? Only the U.S. can--until the Iraqi national army is truly prepared to help assume this awesome responsibility. If we leave hastily, on some declared timeline or otherwise via pretend faux-conditionality, the insurgents will wait us out, the various factions will busy themselves mostly with planning for the post-American future by pursuing maximalist objectives and other unhelpful intrigues, the chances of full blown civil war and discord will ratchet up hugely. Announcing an exit won't 'concentrate minds' in positive fashion, as smart and thoughtful Democrat commentators like Kevin Drum argue. It will lead to different calculations entirely, ones that are anathema to our policy goals in the region (negatives like greater Iranian influence in the south, a possible crisis with Turkey in the north, an embittered terror haven in the Sunni middle).

Let me put this differently. Final success in Iraq won't happen on George Bush's watch. But a disaster could certainly happen on his watch. True success is only possible and in the offing well past Inauguration Day January 2009. If we stick it out, that is, and hand off to Bush's successor a project that is moving in the right direction. If Bush resists making fake declarations of victory and stands firm--he will have proven a serious figure before the harsh verdicts of history. If he goes the easy road (the Rumsfeld path, in my view), and instead leaves the Iraqis to sort out their fate after some 'decent interval' in late '06/early '07, with civil war the likely result--every single American soldier, coalition soldier, and Iraqi who died in Mesopotamia will have died largely in vain--so that Bush will have proven a deeply mediocre, morally wanting, and tragic leader indeed. (I say largely because a brutish genocidaire in Saddam will nevertheless have been unseated. But no amount of suger-coating or revisionism or empty cheer-leading could hide the fact that this war would have been fought largely for very little, if we leave a country that is coming asunder before our eyes. Particularly given that the main realist rationale for the war was wrong (no WMD), is it too much to ask that we at least make a doubly serious effort of seeing a democracy take root in Iraq? Is it really impossible, so that we should throw up our hands in despair and walk away?)

Some people say, let them confederate merrilly away, with three new ethnically/sectarian defined para-states for each main group. But am I alone in fearing that the bloodshed and chaos, even more than we see today, particularly in ethnically mixed locales like Baghdad, and Mosul, and Kirkuk, would be god-awful? No, the default option must still be all hands on deck to see a unitary polity through. And the effort must still be counted in years, in my view, not mere months or next year, say. Perhaps we will not leave a perfect democracy behind even in 2011. But at the very least, we must leave a stable polity behind--but one that is not just run by another strong-man leader--rather one that is moving to further democratize but under conditions of general stability. Needless to say, we aren't there yet. Not by a long shot. So why all the talk of exits?

Posted by Gregory at August 19, 2005 06:09 PM | TrackBack (17)
Comments

Greg, you really need to accept fully the idea that the invasion was a flawed plan in the first place.

By what fundemental reasoning do you assert that what you want to see accomplished can be accomplished. And how would you do it (details please)?

And please no koolaide induced fantasies; hard fact based thinking only.

The idiot boy playing POTUS and the '80s retreads and convicted criminals he hired to administer for him can't save Iraq, but neither could a team of the best and brightest. Iraq belongs to Iraqis and they - and they alone - are the only ones who should have ever been tasked with overthrowing and recreating their government.

Posted by: avedis at August 19, 2005 08:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let me play "extreme skeptic" here -- do we have good reason to believe that units are moving up in levels (from 4->3, 3->2, 2->1), or is BD just engaging in wishful thinking? To what degree are the better units (say, Levels 1 & 2) merely grandfathered from previous forces (say, Shi'a & Kurd militia, the Iraqi army) rather than "graduates" from lesser levels? The dynamic story is more important than the static one.

I'm inclined to ignore the Pentagon's spin and trust Petraeus, but I am concerned that we don't have any real data to measure performance. If we don't have any reliable estimates of the transitions I mention above in say, 6 months, we are in serious trouble.

Posted by: Guy at August 19, 2005 08:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dude, reality check: "because we disbanded the Baath Army wholesale"? All seriousness aside! To the best of my recollection the bulk of the Iraqi Army disbanded itself on contact with US forces. Those that did not, the fedeyeen, were fanaltical Saddam loyalists; I don't see them becoming the backbone of the new Iraqi army. The officer corps were handpicked Saddam cronies, do you really believe that a new Iraqi government could EVER trust such men? Even if the Iraqi Army had maintained its cohesion instead of evanescing on contact the bulk of it were raw, untained conscripts which would have needed pretty much as much training and equipping as they are now getting, no help there. How is it that you persist counting the disbanding of the Irqi Army as Rumsfeld's mistake? Rumsfeld has goofed big time, no question, but disbanding the Iraqi Army is not one of those errors.

Posted by: Tamquam Leo Rugiens at August 19, 2005 09:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ask a stupid question....

Sure, I'd like to be able to plot a straight line from the initial de-Baarthification of the Iraqi Army at zero effectiveness and zero time all the way to fully functional, stand-alone Defenders of the Iraqi Republic and so be able to extrapolate the war's future finish date.

Just don't expect it to happen with mathematical precision. War's a chess game - the other side has surprise moves and makes mistakes.

Why don't we hear from reporters embedded in the Iraqi units or at least from reporters embedded in US units fighting with Iraqi units? That would be much more telling.

Rather than raggin' on Rumsfield, go get the facts. Better yet, help fight and win the war.

Posted by: Joseph Somsel at August 19, 2005 09:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why don't we hear from reporters embedded in the Iraqi units or at least from reporters embedded in US units fighting with Iraqi units? That would be much more telling.

One problem is that such data would be anecdotal.

Posted by: Guy at August 19, 2005 09:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My only guess is that you guys have been nipping at the weekend entertainment a little early.

(1) Why do you think that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs would have the number of Iraqis ready to operate wholly independently right at hand? Whjy do you even imagine that number is well-defined? Are there any Iraqi units operating wholly independently at this time?

(2) You're falling into the "nine women for one month" fallacy. You don't start training a group of soldiers and have them become fully trained and ready for independent operations in little bits; they are ready when the entire unit, it's logistical and materiel support, and its chain of command is well established. If you took 200,000 raw recruits in the US, and started training them at the same time the Iraqis started, including all the materiel suppport we could offer, do you know how many you'd have "fully trained and ready to oeprate independently" right now?

Answer: none.

As pointed out above, with an existing officer corps heavily loaded to baathist party loyalists, or at least putative loyalists, and non-commissioned officers similarly heavily weighted to Baath Sunnis, you can't just put in NCOs as cadre; you will, in many cases, be training new recruits to make them as quickly as possible, effective NCOs.

(3) "Fully trained and ready to operate independently" isn't even the right metric: Iraqi forces can become effective as part of joint operations long before they're ready to meet that criterion. Check out Austin Bay and Michael Yon, among others: Iraqi troops are becoming a bigger and bigger part of joint operations, while US troops increasingly provide heavy weapons, backup support, and materiel and logistics.

Which is precisely what you'd expect if you were training them to become independent. They don't need to teach truck drivers: they need well-trained, effective, blooded troops with experienced, trustworthy NCOs and officers. You get that by putting them into position and in combat with experienced troops --- just as we are. As they become more experienced, experienced US troops will be able to be trotated away, leading to a gradualte force drawdown --- just as it's been described for ages.

Some of those troops are clearly quite effective (once again, read some of the boots-on-the-ground blogs instead of partial transcripts of press conferences in DC.) As more troops become available, there will be more opportunities for other troops to get to the combat. Then they can start concentrating on developing materiel and logistics (although I'd bet there are logistical supply lines being developed now, with OJT from the US.) But until all of the conditions are met, the number of "full trained troops capable of operating independently" will be very near zero.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at August 19, 2005 09:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hmmm.

C-SPAN broadcast this conference (yesterday) held at AEI about the future of the marines or something like that, but a lot of the talk was about Iraq, as you can expect. I can't remember the name of the person who said this, but basically he said that as long as there is some back up, then the Iraqi units do fine. It's just the whole logistics of handling an operation totally by themselves is not there yet. So that if you have an American 'embedded' with them they do well. Basically, they are trying to instill the 'warrier' spirit, as they put it, into a group of people who haven't quite had that and it is difficult. In the past, you were supposed to keep your head down if you wanted to survive. So that there is this weird dynamic where the insurgents (or terrorists, really) are creative in a way that the Iraqi army recruits have not yet learned to be. I found that point fascinating.

Posted by: MD at August 19, 2005 10:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is only recently I've started to follow the discussions here at BD. And in the brief time I've spent here, because of the higher quality of debate and discussion, I'm questioning many of the opinions I have about what is the "right path" in Iraq. So, thank you one and all for your contributions.

Though I'm disinclined to support any kind of withdrawal of forces before some reasonable political stabilization is instituted, I'm troubled by an issue that doesn't seem to provoke a lot of dicussion.I've read the administration and the Pentagon are currently engaged in building heavily fortified bases in Iraq. I believe Congress, as of last May, appropriated half a billion dollars for said purposes. Building bases would seem to preclude any real plans for a complete withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, it would seem to point toward the intention of maintaining a powerful military presence in the Middle East on an indefinate basis. I cannot help but again question whether the public isn't being deliberately deceived and kept in the dark as to the real foreign policy objectives being pursued by the Bush administration.

Posted by: Mr. Greenjeans at August 19, 2005 10:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And also, not to excuse anything, but four to six months doesn't sound like a very long time. Wouldn't you expect units that are together that long to be only at level 4 or 3? The medical residents I train take almost a full year to get to a very basic level of competence (and they are absolutely the best - hard working, intelligent, try hard). I know it's not the same as the military, but training people to do anything is quite hard. I do agree that spinning, or underplaying the difficulty, is probably not the best way to go about things.

Posted by: MD at August 19, 2005 10:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, never mind about my last comment. I see that you already made those points.

Posted by: MD at August 19, 2005 10:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A great thread! About 10 posts and we’ve already had a better discussion than any you’ll find in a major newspaper. Others have already contributed many of my thoughts, but here’s the list as they’re worth reiterating:

• We’re not just trying to teach tactics and skills, but make a cultural change from top-down authority to independent thinking of the troops. This is very hard to do, yet vital for their success.
• We started with nothing. The original Iraqi army wasn’t a stepping stone to our end goal but an anchor we needed to cast off. As others have noted, most of it was cast off for us.
• Counting only fully-functional battle groups isn’t the right metric. It is one metric, but well-functioning boarder guards and police are just as important in this struggle as Special Forces.
• As Rummy has also pointed out, it’s not enough to say we need X troops of Y type with Z proficiency before we can leave. The situation on the ground is constantly changing and these numbers change with it – both up and down.

I don’t think there is any doubt we’ll be working with them for 3-5 years, the question is in what capacity and how does that change over the timeline? It’s perfectly conceivable some of the “lesser trained” troops (border guards and the like) will take heat off the US forces such that they can more effectively work with the Iraqis or go home. In fact, they may have a larger impact on US force levels in the near term than fully-trained independent units.

Because of this, I can see both a troop reduction and a long-term troop commitment in our future.

It seems the same people who criticized Bush and Co. for oversimplifying the invasion and occupation are the same ones who want to oversimplify the conditions for withdrawal. I for one, have always believed getting in and getting out were equally complex tasks.

One more point, Greg is correct that this goes beyond 2009 which is why it’s important for Bush to stand firm for his entire second term. “Going wobbly” will only embolden those who’d like to push an immediate pullout as part of their 2008 election strategy. I’m hoping the 2008 debates will be on how to fight the larger GWOT and not simply another of the continuing referendums on Iraq.

Posted by: kevin at August 19, 2005 11:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kevin,

Fair enough, but I would ask that more important than Bush standing firm is that he make this case to the American people and to the world strongly and forcefully.

I voted for Kerry in 2004 and would happily do so again. That being said, I don't want Democrats or the country at large thinking that bringing the troops home right away is a viable option. One of the lessons of 9/11 MUST be that our foreign policy has long-term consequences. It's not about "blaming America" or some such tripe. Just about making sense of the world. Even well-intentioned men of honor make mistakes or misjudge the long term impact of actions.

All I'm asking for is the President to make an honest and forthright statement on that. Spend half the time he spent galavanting around the country selling Social Security selling a long term commitment to Iraq. I think American people and the world might have actually been right with him.

Of course, the myth is that this administration acts on principle and doesn't poll test things to death. Fact is, that IS a myth. Domestic political considerations, and short term ones at that, have driven this administration from the beginning. If we see a significant withdrawal in 2006 (I believe we will), it will happen in the summer and provide endless hours of "local hero adjusts to life after war" stories for September and October...

Posted by: just me at August 20, 2005 03:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, you’re exactly right, you can’t have it both ways. It’s like the industrial rule of thumb; you can have any two of three things, a high quality, cheap, and quick product, but not all three at the same time. In this case, you can’t have many, high quality soldiers soon.

On the other hand, exactly how many infantrymen do we actually have in Iraq in that 138,000? Answer: not many. It’s not even a problem of tail to teeth. Right now, most of our forces garrison large bases. Select groups are out patrolling, others are in the fight, but vastly more support them.

It was never a problem of numbers, but of utilization. We could certainly pull back LOTS of those troops in garrison, that’s just a fact, and still have the same combat power in the region for as long as we could with what we have now. The fact that the President has repudiated Defense for suggesting a premature withdrawal makes this whole thing a wash, close to a non sequitur.

The number of Iraqi troops? Well, they aren’t giving back any cities are they, fleeing police stations now, and they’re increasingly doing the fighting and taking the casualties. They’re dishing them out too. That beats cost-benefit, nth degree diplodunk analysis metrics anyday of the week and six times on Sunday on how well the Iraqis are doing.

Posted by: Brad at August 20, 2005 06:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Santayana's famous definition of fanaticism - "redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim" - seems to be operating in BD's post and in some of these responses. As I've tried to say before, for our long-term strategic objectives this war is lost even if the Iraqi army were able to take over from American troops this afternoon. We are not going to end up with a showcase democracy (even by traditional middle east standards), but with a non-secular Iranian client state run by clerics, with large parts of the country under the thumb of local militias enforcing Islamic rule. Our effort based on a hopelessly naive view of the region and our ability to determine outcomes. With 500,000 troops at the outset - or even now - we might have been able to impose our will, but at this point the Islamic genie, suppressed by Hussein, is well out of the bottle. Given this incompetent and misconceived effort, there are no good choices left. None. We can either commit the additional resources that would be required to put the genie back in the bottle - and that's not going to happen (I doubt it evem CAN happen, given the strain under which our military is already operating) - or we can start thinking about a post-Iraq plan B: perhaps an alignment with the Kurds, including bases in their area of the country, so we will have a continued military presence that will keep the Iranians wary. But any notion that Iraq is going to turn out to be a success for American interests seems to me to be way out of line with the realities in the region and on the ground.

Posted by: sheldon at August 20, 2005 02:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Watch out Mr. Djerejian. Someone's going to accuse you of being 'shrill'.

Posted by: rdg at August 20, 2005 04:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg things haven't been getting better lately in Iraq. More US troops have died in August than in most other months, the constitution is bogged down and the Iraqi police that survive the insurgency cut and run when they can.

Face it you are locked into an unwinnable war for Iraqi domination. It may be that many Americans decided that 1000 troops a year and 5bn a month is worth to stabilise the world gas market. But the Spanish tried this with gold mines in Latin America and it broke their empire.

There does need to be some acceptance by those on the right that not only is the war a total failure it was a pretty stupid idea from the start. Once you accept that you can make some intelligent forward looking decisions (try the 14 permanent bases for a start).

But accepting you are the problem, and coping with the fact the you have helped create an Iranian superpower in the region, will take some doing for many Americans.

Posted by: Jeremy at August 20, 2005 04:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What’s this? Great Shinseki’s ghost, Batman, I heard 500,000 troops in Iraq and we could hold hands and remake the Middle East. Except no, 500,000 troops is the ENTIRE army and you would scarcely be able to get one tenth of that from the Europeans…so where, oh, where, do you get the grunts?

This isn’t hard. We were doing better with less than 100,000 in Vietnam in 1971 than we were in 1968 with 500,000 troops; why? Because we used that small number much better than we did that HUGE number. This, dare I say it, “shrill” quality about accounting belongs under fluorescent cubicle lighting in the illustrious halls of bureaucracy, and not in the dirt where you have to kill. Two totally separate things, you win wars by throwing steel at the ‘bad guys’ and not foul language.

Keep ‘em separate.

And this isn’t hard either; a loss in Iraq will certainly translate into a client state of Iran and set about the worst of your fears. So the choice is between assuring the worst and the possibility of the worst, and, surprise, surprise, the left is banking hard defeat.

Posted by: Brad at August 20, 2005 05:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad,

And this isn’t hard either; a loss in Iraq will certainly translate into a client state of Iran and set about the worst of your fears.

At this point, a client state of Iran is one of the better choices on the menu.

Posted by: Guy at August 20, 2005 05:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad is, or course, exactly right about the numbers. I'm just happy to see someone else take up the bat for awhile. The Doomies here and elsewhere talk a great and quasi-logical game, but they're prognostications are all for naught if they don't understand that it's what that 138K does, not that there should be/should have been 200, 500, or whatever new number they're currently fishing with.

Want to walk the talk? Here's a good starting point:

http://www.army.mil/modularforces/

Too lazy - highly likely. Well then, let's see if I can remember the...

Drink Me

Did I tag it right?

Posted by: Tommy G at August 20, 2005 07:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey! I remembered. Gods, that was strangely satisfying. Not bad considering that I'm not suppossed to actually be in the Army. What with me loving my job and all.

And let's not forget the equally useful (er, sorry - to many "Thomas" videos in the background) ...equally illuminating Global Security, which Greg has arleady thoughtfully provided for you on the right limit bar.

Try under "Where are the Legions?"

Posted by: Tommy G at August 20, 2005 07:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey! I remembered. Gods, that was strangely satisfying. Not bad considering that I'm not suppossed to actually be in the Army. What with me loving my job and all.

And let's not forget the equally useful (er, sorry - to many "Thomas" videos in the background) ...equally illuminating Global Security, which Greg has arleady thoughtfully provided for you on the right limit bar.

Try under "Where are the Legions?"

Posted by: Tommy G at August 20, 2005 07:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

I would agree your lambasting of Rummy might have some merit if the MSM press corps was sincerely interested in an answer. He probably has as many numbers floating around as MacNamara did, but putting them out would either be portrayed as optimistic propaganda ("last throes!") or set off a Biden-like denounciation for the next three weeks of our abject failure to date. I agree he should have been sacked for Abu Ghraib and the looting fiasco, but this one is piling on.

As to the commentors that are again bringing up the "permanent bases" canard, I have two questions:

1) Are you suggesting we build bases without the best standards of safety and reliability just because we might only be in them fro a few years?

2) Don't we get any credit for past history, as in when the Phillipines or Panama asked us to leave permanent bases?

Posted by: wayne at August 20, 2005 07:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As to the commentors that are again bringing up the "permanent bases" canard, I have two questions:

1) Are you suggesting we build bases without the best standards of safety and reliability just because we might only be in them fro a few years?

I'll admit to ignorance here -- did we build permanent bases in Saudi Arabia? (I'm guessing yes.) What about the Balkans?

2) Don't we get any credit for past history, as in when the Phillipines or Panama asked us to leave permanent bases?

Something you'll have to ask the Iraqis, not us. One of the problems in Iraq is that a large section of the population is suspicious that our interests in staying in the country go beyond wanting to generate robust democratic institutions. The permanent bases send the wrong message.

Posted by: Guy at August 20, 2005 08:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's amazing how even intelligent people like Greg
can talk about baby steps of progress----steps which have no discernible impact at all---and blithely ignore the evidence of a worsening catastrophe. At least the wingnuts who are saying that civil war is not such a bad option---after all, look where Lebanon is today!---have a reality-based approach.

This war is Vietnam on steroids and cocaine, sitting on top of the second largest oil reserves on the planet. The US may never recover, by which I mean that our status as the sole superpower will be gone, and never return. For sure, the reputation of the US as a mostly benign power cannot be regained without an accounting that would put most of the war leadership in prison for life.

There is a particularly American fault when dealing with problems, which I see as the flip-side of can-do optimism: the refusal to acknowledge that sometimes you are just fucked---you lose, no returning to square one.

Posted by: marky at August 20, 2005 08:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sacked for Abu Ghraib and the looting fiasco?

Oh precious. An inside job on a museum, normally item number one thousand of top places to secure for the safety of the country and what happened on ONE shift of ONE day at ONE prison, contrary to every rule in the book and common sense [much less even effective interrogation techniques; hint, professionals don't smile like frat boys while "torturing"] therefore everyone up top has to have heads roll for specious reasons. No dice, padre, no dice.

Again, who has to win in Iraq? Do we, the Coalition really have to win, or do we just let the insurgents run @ss over tea kettle into a wall of their choosing? How is it that we face several dozens, if not hundreds, of groups with limited membership that hate the Coalition only slightly more than each other, who infight nearly constantly, who ’serve’ the minority Sunnis by ostensibly killing the Sunnis, and on and on. This isn’t as hard as fighting the Vietcong, who had at least a North Vietnam in support of them; the insurgency is like a Vietcong rampaging across Hanoi, lobbing bombs into Baghdad every once in a while.

I have to admit, I’m completely under whelmed at the thought of the insurgency. We can merely outwait them and win; better than cutting and running, arguably better than taking out a better armed Saddam, or Uday, or Qusay later, but that’s academic.

I enjoy Gregory’s commentary. I hope he gets it back someday.

Posted by: Brad at August 20, 2005 09:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The US may never recover, by which I mean that our status as the sole superpower will be gone, and never return."

Oh, Marky. We try and be nice, we try and give you people sign-posts, and guides, and hints, but you never seem to pay attention.

Did you not bother with the Brigade Transformation link?

Query: How many Active Duty US Army Brigades are currently in Iraq?

Um, Mark? I have a follow-up question. Since the Army is transforming from 33 to 43 available Combat Bridages, is it not obvious, on the face of it, that, if necessary, we can maintain a viable force in Iraq indefinately?

Oh, Mah-ark? Do you see where I'm going here? You, and your fellow- traveller's ridiculous argument that our capability is somehow now squandered, broken, and otherwise so completely pre-occupied as to render our military capabalilty incredible, is not just so much wishful thinking, it belies your feigned concern for the men and women of our nation's military.

That...you know what? nevermind. Keep typing. The security of our nation depends as much on peopl like you scaring democrats away from the current incarnation of their party, as it does me and 76 Brigades worth of my friends popping overseas fro time to time.

Moron. (Mmm. Deliciously added for that "your ad hominem attacks, blah, blah , blah" flavor. Enjoy.

Posted by: Tommy G at August 20, 2005 10:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad?

Can you take it from here? I've got an amazing dinner with frineds back from OEF to go to tonight, and I suspect I'll be to drunk and happy to return here until late Sunday afternoon. At which time, as I've recommended before, I intend on addressing the sorry state of my garden.

Unsurprisingly, I love pulling weeds...

Posted by: Tommy G at August 20, 2005 10:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tommy,
The costs of the war are measured in more ways that military effectiveness, although it is inarguable that US military effectiveness is harmed when other countries see how a "low-grade insurgency" can bog down so many troops.
The costs of fighting a war in the middle of prime oil territory are measured directly by the loss of oil-production from Iraq. Last I read oil production is down from even 1 year ago, but I don't know the current figures. Furthermore, this war adds to instability of oil production by engendering a cycle of attack the oil distribution infrastructure. Further, I have read that other countries have now booby-trapped their oil wells so as to discourage invasion by the US. It takes little imagination to see how dangerous this development is. Also in the short term, the general instability of the region leads to higher oil prices.
I'll let others argue about the sustainability of a US presence in Iraq, but our presence is hugely expensive, and the public is unlikely to support further spending of this magnitude without seeing tangible gains.

As far as being a moron, since you mention it, anyone whose understanding of history is so limited that he sees dominance solely in military terms, without regard to economic factors and the need for allies, is really beneath my responding to, but since I started, I'll leave what I have written, for other, more able minds.
Suffice to say that your perspicuous inability to see the forest for the trees is wonderful qualification for being a Bush supporter.

Posted by: marky at August 20, 2005 10:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To my earlier point that the war is lost even if the insurgency ends this afternoon, see below. I wish at least one of our gung-ho war supporter would address this issue. Perhaps they can't . . . .

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. diplomats have conceded ground to Islamists on the role of religion in Iraq, negotiators said on Saturday as they raced to meet a 48-hour deadline to draft a constitution under intense U.S. pressure.

U.S. diplomats, who have insisted the constitution must enshrine ideals of equal rights and democracy, declined comment.

Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish negotiators all said there was accord on a bigger role for Islamic law than Iraq had before.

But a secular Kurdish politician said Kurds opposed making Islam “the,” not “a,” main source of law—changing current wording—and subjecting all legislation to a religious test.

“We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi’ites,” he said. “It’s shocking. It doesn’t fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state … I can’t believe that’s what the Americans really want or what the American people want.”

Posted by: sheldon at August 20, 2005 11:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

History demands we note that these two stories are both from todays AP Wire:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Talks on Iraq's new constitution have stalled over the role of Islam and the distribution of the country's oil wealth, negotiators said Saturday. The leadership of the country's Kurdish minority said it may drop its contentious demand for the right to secede....

Iraqis have until Monday night to complete work on the draft constitution or else parliament must dissolve."

"WACO, Texas (AP) - It's no yellow jersey, but President Bush on Saturday presented Lance Armstrong with another shirt to show off his biking experiences - a red, white and blue T-shirt emblazoned "Tour de Crawford." The leader of the free world and the world's biking master rode for 17 miles on Bush's ranch for about two hours at midmorning. Bush showed Armstrong the sites of the ranch that he calls "a little slice of heaven," including a stop at a waterfall midway through the ride....

After the presentation, Duffy said, they posed for pictures and the president announced, "OK, let's go swimming."

Posted by: Martin at August 20, 2005 11:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Does President Bush play the fiddle?

Posted by: Martin at August 20, 2005 11:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just me:

I’ve thought a lot about the position that Bush should come out and put a plan on the table. If you’re like me, you realize the innocence of the “it’s been two years and they’re still shooting at us” crowd and thought perhaps many of these people wouldn’t be so pessimistic if Bush had said at the outset it would be a 5-year commitment. But the reality is it sounds better than it would play out, because any plan he puts on the table is likely to weaken, rather than strengthen, the resolve of people in the long term.

For example, if he said 3-5 years (or 5-7 years, or 7-10) at the outset, that might have kept everyone quiet for that time period. But what happens when it expires? The “pull out now” and “war is unwinnable” crowds will take the initial estimate as PROOF that it’s now time to pull out.

Of course, you can then play it the other way – say it’s a 20-year commitment, but then you’re likely vastly overstating the case and would have people asking “if it’s really a 20-year commitment, then why didn’t he say that up-front?”

Any number he uses, by definition, will be inaccurate. The best he can do is state the strategic goal was important enough to commit troops in the first place and is therefore important enough to keep them there until the job is done. That is the honest answer and that’s what he’s always said.

See also: wayne’s post regarding the MSM.

Posted by: kevin at August 21, 2005 12:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Er, uhh... does anyone else see that elephant squatting over there in the living room? You know, the one with "Noble Purpose" tatooed on its butt?

Posted by: Paul at August 21, 2005 03:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

Let's say a national army can be built approximately in the fashion you have in mind. Let's also say the US will be able to nurse the political process along until ethnic, religious, secular, etc. elements can form a government of national unity. One aspect of the plan that escapes me is how you ultimately put them together into something resembling a functioning democracy. Perhaps this is because it is difficult to think of examples where such an outcome has been sucessfully engineered by an external power in a country in which none of the diverse and competing indiginous groups views itself as having been militarily defeated.

An army of the type you envision, absent a mature political culture, could be more loyal to US interests, the interests of internal elites, or a doctrine of stability at the cost of civilian rule. Can a government, even if comprised of constituencies that generally agree on a loose form of federalism at the outset, collectively trust the army to serve its interests and continue to hold together? Could the US sufficiently trust such a government to serve its interests (as you have defined them) to relinquish control of the army?

Do you envision military order preceding or succeeding political order, or alternatively, running roughly in parallel? Given this ordering, what do you see as the most important prerequisites to ensure a healthy integration?

Posted by: Anodyne at August 21, 2005 04:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Adam Goodheart’s “Setting them free” tells about Edward Coles, a Virginian who inherited slaves and wrote to his former mentor Thomas Jefferson, asking for guidance and support of his plan to free his slaves, in 1814. Jefferson piously wrote of his abhorrence of slavery and his certainty that it must someday be eliminated. However, he then warned that Coles must not abandon this property and his country with it. Freeing the slaves would have disastrous repercussions. We can’t do it now. All hell would break loose. Jefferson wrote similar letters to other do-gooders, and in 1822, wrote the famous phrase “we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.'' Coles however freed his slaves; no disaster followed.

Jefferson did not invent the image of the slaveholder with the wolf by the ears. It was used by many classical writers, including Polybius, whose cyclical theory of history and admiration of the Roman Republic’s separation of powers were mentioned by several of the Founding Fathers in their letters. Jefferson carried Plutarch with him much of the time and knew this metaphor. Thoughtful men knew that slavery was wrong 2000 years ago. They sought excuses to continue it. There was in fact no simple or painless time to eliminate American slavery.

There is and will be no easy time to leave Iraq. We might be able to defeat the insurgents with 400, 000 men, but we can’t with our present numbers. They can’t defeat us, but the killing continues. I was in Vietnam- we could sweep through villages but when we left the VCs came back or resumed their previous activity. It’s called 4th generation war. A career military man better be optimistic in Nam or he couldn’t be promoted. I assume that this is also true in Iraq.
I supported the invasion of Afghanistan, but not the Iraq invasion. I think Bush belongs on trial in the world criminal court. He should not be impeached because Congress gave him license to do as he saw fit. It’s the American system which is at fault and leads to progressively more military overextension. The idea of American exceptionalism will bring us down.

Posted by: Jeremiah at August 21, 2005 05:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Take your time, Tommy, no rush here.

Hold on, Marky, high oil prices have led to regional surpluses which gets reinvested in the markets which equates to job creation and that helps lead the Middle East out of its patented squandered riches. Or if you like, it’s a tax on the world to help pay for Iraq…in other words, production would have to be down by almost half to mean that the bottom line in Iraq is being harmed, important in figuring out whether the Iraqis can cope or not with reconstruction costs. All of that is immaterial to your protestations, but be careful you don’t mistake features for flaws and vice versa.

Now on to the military situation. The military is doing quite well, thank you, and will be doing quite well in the future, I am sure, and even in your worst doomsday scenario, will be doing quite remarkably. Retention is high in every service, but with some possibly worrisome trends in the Army/Reserve in recruiting. Does that mean anything about the long term success of the US in Iraq? No, we will not stay to fight until the last man, so slow attrition by recruitment gaps or by fatalities so other limiting factors are going to dominate, not absolute numbers.

And it is far from inarguable, even plain wrong, to say that US military readiness is affected by engaging in combat as engaging in combat has the undeniable side effect of preparation for further combat. What you mean is that deterrence is lost by the appearance of being bogged down, I assume. Is this the case?

Military matters, economic matters, strategic matters not pertaining to either of the above, and on are important for the overall picture, but attention to detail will quickly show your premises are faulty. Is it extremely likely that any cadre from North Korea to Tehran are chomping at the bit because they might be able to, eventually, have their movement succeed, probably with them dead or in jail (Uday, Qusay, and Saddam). I doubt it; deterrence holds.

As for the inclusion of Islam into the Iraqi constitution, if it happens in a theocratic way, indeed, bad, but the constitution must be ratified by enough provinces that if it doesn’t please the [secular] Kurds, it will be voted down. Then they’ll do it again until they get it right, something they can all agree to. It won’t be a Jeffersonian democracy, because there aren’t any Iraqi Jeffersons, but the political process will go forward.

Posted by: Brad at August 21, 2005 08:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I would like to debate this point:

"Some people say, let them confederate merrilly away, with three new ethnically/sectarian defined para-states for each main group. But am I alone in fearing that the bloodshed and chaos, even more than we see today, particularly in ethnically mixed locales like Baghdad, and Mosul, and Kirkuk, would be god-awful? No, the default option must still be all hands on deck to see a unitary polity through"

This is the VERY foundation of continued presence of the US in Iraq. But is it obviously right? Up till now we most likely have had more than 100.000 civilians killed IN ADDITION to the conditions under Hussein. So now you are obviously hinting, that things would get WORSE than under Hussein as a result of the US interference, aren't you? It is admittedly rather vague thoughts, you offer in the above quotation. But for one: If really the country got divided, would we not see most people in the mixed areas moving to areas, where they were more liked. If you compare with Lebanon, you do not find grounds for your fears after some time.

I would admit, that in some important ways, the united society would be the better solution. But that depends on your view of life. If it is traditional, you are better off with segregation. If it is individualistic or influenced by christian culture, you would prefer your solution.

But I do not see any reason for you to envision a federal state worse. Do you think Switzerland is a subhuman misery, a bomb waiting to explode? A catastrophe?

Posted by: Jorgen Christensen at August 21, 2005 08:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad,

Why do I think Rumsfeld should be sacked for the looting and/or Abu Ghraib?

My recollection of the looting problem was that it entailed more than the Museum. We had two hours of "Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy" and three weeks of infrastructure and document destruction. Shinseki had warned that we needed more troops to minimise this but was rebuffed.

As for Abu Ghraib, the left opposition to American power has told us for many, many years that the three things they are going to beat us up about are cluster bombs, depleted uranium shells, and our POW/interrogation techniques. A good example of this was the film "Three Kings" attacking GHW Bush for not being a neocon, and abandoning the Iraqi's to Saddam after GW 1. Any political leader who did not pay attention to the political dimension of putting a bunch of Jerry Springer Show misfits in charge of a prison, putting an affirmative action nincompoop in charge, then overpacking it by 500% was inviting the problems we experienced there. He deserved to be sacked.

Posted by: wayne at August 21, 2005 02:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wayne, I am not entirely unsympathetic; a good case could be made that OIF was won despite Rumsfeld. My particular touch points are the privatization of the military, which increases efficiency at the cost of reliability (private contractors don't have to say how high when the CinC says jump) and some 'transformation' tenets which may or may not have legs.

On the other hand, both would be absolutely horrible precendents; it is unfair to charge a superior that far removed with the criminal actions of subordinates. Rules were in place including common sense so there is no excuse for professionals to act like that in Abu Ghraib, and it is possible to refuse an unlawful order, so just following 'orders' should that be conjectured in, doesn't fly for those troopers. And the looting is more a failure that would translate to punishment over cultural damage done to an enemy, or allowed to happen, in a time of war. This could bite generals and the line troops right in the ass down the line for such things as destroying mosques. It is hard enough to kill bad guys hiding behind innocent people, do we really need to declare the very walls sacrosanct?

A better case is that looting is the best evidence that the number of troops available was insufficient to impose order, and once realized, was never remedied. That would be a far better place to debate from because cultural damage alone is simply par for the course in war.

Posted by: Brad at August 21, 2005 05:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There never was an exit strategy for Iraq and there won't be anytime soon, at least under the Bush administration. It's why they continue to build permanent bases in Iraq. Therefore the numbers are indeed irrelevant to Rumsfield and the rest of the Bush administration.

Posted by: js at August 21, 2005 06:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One aspect of the plan that escapes me is how you ultimately put them together into something resembling a functioning democracy. Perhaps this is because it is difficult to think of examples where such an outcome has been sucessfully engineered by an external power in a country in which none of the diverse and competing indiginous groups views itself as having been militarily defeated.

This is more or less trivally true, if only because by definition democracy cannot be imposed from outside. But it's very hard to overcome the feeling that underlying this argument is the old "A-rabs aren't sophisticated enough to govern themselves democratically" argument.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at August 21, 2005 08:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Charlie,

"But it's very hard to overcome the feeling that underlying this argument is the old "A-rabs aren't sophisticated enough to govern themselves democratically" argument."

Try to overcome the feeling. The question, which raised an issue that might be more or less trivally true, applies generically.

I'm unclear on how the word "imposition" entered into the discussion. Please elaborate.

Posted by: Anodyne at August 21, 2005 10:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is more or less trivally true, if only because by definition democracy cannot be imposed from outside. But it's very hard to overcome the feeling that underlying this argument is the old "A-rabs aren't sophisticated enough to govern themselves democratically" argument.

Nonsense. The "feeling underlying this argument" is that democratic government is a function of certain institutions, that the institutions necessary to generate such a government take time to evolve, and that this evolution becomes particularly difficult and drawn-out when the country in question has had a lengthy history of totalitarian government as well as deep and long-simmering ethnic/religious cleavages.

Posted by: Guy at August 21, 2005 11:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Guy and Charlie,

If there is feeling underlying my question, I don't know what it is. The questions I raised may be trivial, irrelevant, ineptly framed or deferrable until other conditions are met. I was just interested in hearing Greg's and others' thoughts on what seemed like a tricky issue that the US and Iraqis might eventually have to address even under ideal circumstances. My apologies for any misunderstandings.

Posted by: Anodyne at August 22, 2005 12:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nonsense. The "feeling underlying this argument" is that democratic government is a function of certain institutions, that the institutions necessary to generate such a government take time to evolve, and that this evolution becomes particularly difficult and drawn-out when the country in question has had a lengthy history of totalitarian government as well as deep and long-simmering ethnic/religious cleavages.

I think that’s why it’s important to note that all parties see keeping Iraq together is in thier best interest. That forces them to negotiate the Iraqi Constitution in good faith, whereby the rules will be set that allow these diverse groups to begin building the institutions that underlie democracy. It’s easy to look at the vacuum that currently exists in this area and feel a sense of fear, but ask yourself why these institutions would be formed in Iraq before the Constitution was written and ratified.

Our own founding fathers had difficulty tying together 13 colonies without a history of repression, bloodshed and civil war. That the Iraqis, given their history, are doing this in record time is actually quite remarkable.

Posted by: kevin at August 22, 2005 05:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This isn’t hard. We were doing better with less than 100,000 in Vietnam in 1971 than we were in 1968 with 500,000 troops; why? Because we used that small number much better than we did that HUGE number.

YES! And what a resounding triumph that adventure was....

Yeah, yeah, I know, the NVA never beat us on the battlefield, etc. But like the North Vietnamese (Giap?) said, in the end it didn't matter. Iraq was was sold as a cost-free adventure. (That this Big Lie ever passed is a sorry milestone in the decline of American republicanism -- small 'r'). Now consensus opinion is tending toward the view that the marketing was deceptive, and the inevitable disillussionment is only gonna get worse. There'll never be broad support among Americans for anything better than an exit that isn't too horribly catastrophic.

I always marvelled at the smugness of the neo-cons, who thought that they had the inside scoop on history and politics, and yet never grasped their own countrymen's weak stomach for sustained imperial social engineering projects. I'm still surprised that anyone listens to them about anything.

Posted by: sglover at August 22, 2005 08:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iraq was was sold as a cost-free adventure. (That this Big Lie ever passed is a sorry milestone in the decline of American republicanism -- small 'r').


HOW ironic - that you lie here

Who said it would be "cost free"?

You can spin all you like - but the record shows continual statements to the nature of the WoT as a long struggle


Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 22, 2005 09:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sglover, Americans don't have weak stomachs, even in Vietnam during the Worthless Generation in the sixties. Never equate the political leadership and courage of the eiltes with American people.

All of our problems are inherently political, and that reads you, if you think that Iraq is unwinnable when winning is a function of patience, and like Vietnam, genocide is the penalty for losing.

Posted by: Brad at August 23, 2005 05:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Are we still talking about Abu Ghraib? Did anyone else see Michael Yon's reporting where he says the Iraqi Sunnis fighting us think the place is great - air conditioning, hot showers, solid food. They think its worth paying 5,000 dinars a night! Besides, we're fighting people who's minds are set against us and their fellow Iraqis. We break those minds while traditional methods break their bones. War will always be tough noogies but I'd call that an improvement.

The post-WWII Germans didn't have much of a track record with democracy either, before Adenuer. The Weimar Republic was formed under conditions somewhat similar to Iraq (former one-man rule, the Freikorps) after WWI and struggled under the heavy burden of reparations and French revenge. Post-WWII, with US support and guidence, they've done better than OK.

I've a coworker who is a ex-pat Iraqi (he was something of a childhood friend of Saddam although a Shia.) He thinks things are going pretty good there although Sunni/Shia tensions remain high. In fact, he just divorced his Sunni wife (a cousin of Saddam) who is something of a deadender. There is a personal toll. Still, he's a smart guy, crafty and realistic. If Iraq has enough people like him, they'll do all right.

Posted by: Joseph Somsel at August 24, 2005 04:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

@ Pogue Mahone:

"Who said it would be "cost free"?"

Well, maybe 'cost-free' is indeed exaggerated, but how about this:


Budget Director Mitch Daniels:
On September 15th 2002, White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsay estimated the high limit on the cost to be 1-2% of GNP, or about $100-$200 billion. Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget subsequently discounted this estimate as “very, very high” and stated that the costs would be between $50-$60 billion [Source: WSJ, “Bush Economic Aide Says Cost Of Iraq War May Top $100 Billion,” Davis 09/16/02; NYT, “Estimated Cost of Iraq War Reduced, Bumiller, 12/31/02; Reuters News, “Daniels sees U.S. Iraq war cost below $200 billion,” 09/18/02]

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:
“Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that's something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question.” [Source: Media Stakeout, 1/19/03]

Top Economist Adviser Glen Hubbard:
“Costs of any such intervention would be very small.” [Source: CNBC, 10/4/02]
 
Budget Director Josh Bolten:
“We don't anticipate requesting anything additional for the balance of this year.” [Source: Congressional Testimony , 7/29/03]


More here:

http://www.house.gov/schakowsky/iraqquotes_web.htm

Posted by: Jens at August 26, 2005 01:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

@ Pogue Mahone:

Now compare the quotations / quotes above to this:

"Waging the trillion-dollar war
By Linda Bilmes The New York Times
MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2005

(...) The cost goes well beyond the more than $250 billion already spent on military operations and reconstruction. Basic running costs of the current conflicts are $6 billion a month - a figure that reflects the Pentagon's unprecedented reliance on expensive private contractors. (...)

The bill for repairing and replacing military hardware is $20 billion a year, according to figures from the Congressional Budget Office.

But the biggest long-term costs are disability and health payments for returning troops, which will be incurred even if hostilities were to stop tomorrow. The United States currently pays more than $2 billion in disability claims per year for 159,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf war, even though that conflict lasted only five weeks, with 148 dead and 467 wounded.

Even assuming that the 525,000 American troops who have so far served in Iraq and Afghanistan will require treatment only on the same scale as their predecessors from the Gulf war, these payments are likely to run at $7 billion a year for the next 45 years.

All of this spending will need to be financed by adding to the federal debt. Extra interest payments will total $200 billion or more even if the borrowing is repaid quickly. Conflict in the Middle East has also played a part in doubling the price of oil from $30 a barrel just prior to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 to $60 a barrel today. Each $5 increase in the price of oil reduces our national income by about $17 billion a year.

Even by this simple yardstick, if the American military presence in the region lasts another five years, the total outlay for the war could stretch to more than $1.3 trillion, or $11,300 for every household in the United States."

(Linda Bilmes, an assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce from 1999 to 2001, teaches budgeting and public finance at the Kennedy School of government at Harvard University.)

http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/08/21/opinion/edbilmes.php

Posted by: Jens at August 26, 2005 02:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
"Awake"
--New York Times
"Must-read list"
--Washington Times
"Pompous Ass"
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
Recent Entries
Search
English Language Media
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
U.S. Blogs
Columnists
Think Tanks
Law & Finance
Security
Books
The City
Western Europe
France
United Kingdom
Germany
Italy
Netherlands
Spain
Central and Eastern Europe
CIS/FSU
Russia
Armenia
East Asia
China
Japan
South Korea
Middle East
Egypt
Israel
Lebanon
Syria
B.D. In the Press
Archives
Categories
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS RDF

G2E

Powered by