An Army “On the Cheap”

The neocon and INC run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) (Bremer) had a peculiar "dream" for the security of the "new Iraq." 

They seem to have believed that Iraq in the aftermath of the capture of Baghdad was tabula raza, a clean slate, something like Cambodia in the "Year Zero," or France in the aftermath of the great revolution.

Just about all civil and military institutions of government were abolished and then, as they were recreated, they were repeatedly purged of Sunni and Shia members of the Baath Party.  This was done by the decree of a De-Baathification agency effectively headed by Ahmad Chalabi.  He was evidently determined to get rid of as many possible future rivals for power as possible and so the D-Baathification agency delved deep and eliminated most of the established expertise in the previous government down to the level of school teachers and postmasters.

As we all know, the Iraqi Army was done away with.  This pushed several hundred thousand officers and men out into the street.  Many of them have joined the guerrillas with the result that we have learned that they are better fighters than many had thought.

The CPA/Bremer/Chalabi thingy then had to design new security forces.  They had the idea of creating an internal security force to be made up largely of former tribal and religious militias.  This was to be called the "National Guard."  (Haris Watani)  Such groups in the Arab World usually are representative of major players in the political game and have the function of maintaining the status quo while keeping some potential dissident group in check.  The Saudi National Guard is made up of Beduins from trusted tribes and it plays exactly this role.  Not surprisingly, the Iraqi National Guard was largely made up of former Shia and Kurdish militiamen.  Since the role of the National Guard was internal security it was not anticipated that it would need armored vehicles or artillery, and they received none.  Afer all, how much heavy equipment does "head busting" require?

It was also envisioned that there should be an army (jaysh).  This force was to be kept small, kept deployed for frontier defense and not allowed to participate in internal security operations, ever. 

The army was also not to be allowed to be big enough or strong enough to have the capability to attack its neighbors.  Following this line of reasoning, the army was not to be allowed to have armored vehicles or artillery.  There is a problem with this reasoning.  Armies which are not strong enough to attack neighbors may not be strong enough to defend against them.  Military forces should be "sized" on the basis of the CAPABILITIES of potential enemies.  Only a fool "sizes" his armed forces on the basis of an estimate of the INTENTIONS of possible enemies.  Intentions are ephemera.  Capabilities are real.  The country’s potential external military threats are Iran and Turkey.  I judge that they are the only neighboring external powers with the capability to invade Iraq successfully.  Iran and Turkey both have large armed forces heavily endowed withthe very gear which neither the National Guard nor new Iraqi Army were issued.  Does that make sense?

As soon as the CPA abomination ended, one of the first things Allawi’s government did was to merge the National Guard into the army and then start trying to use this half-trained (created from nothing) force against the growing internal security threat,   Nobody seems to have taken seriously the notion that eventually this new Iraqi force would have to be able to take on all those guerrillas and Jihadis as well as defend the borders against Iran and Turkey.  So far as I know there is one battalion of tanks in the force (50 odd tanks) and I have seen no artillery.

People who like to think themselves "modern" often opine that all that heavy gear isn’t needed in a war against guerrillas.  If you think that, go ask the US Army and Marines if they do not want to keep the tanks and Bradleys that they have in Iraq.  Armored fire support makes the actual combat that happens unfair to the enemy and brings victory and lower casualties for our side.  Unfair is good in war so long as the unfairness favors our side.

We are going to start trying to withdraw from Iraq in the new year.  As our numbers fall we will be able to do less and less, and the Iraqis will have to do more and more.  We will inevitably have to leave larger and larger parts of the country to them in the hope that they will provide the security upon which the existence of the Baghdad government will depend.

Will they have tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery?  How about helicopters and just plain old body armor?  How about it?

I sure hope that we are going to do the right thing by these people.  If not, then they are really "in for it."

Pat Lang

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6 Responses to An Army “On the Cheap”

  1. b says:

    “The army was also not to be allowed to be big enough or strong enough to have the capability to attack its neighbors. Following this line of reasoning, the army was not to be allowed to have armored vehicles or artillery.”
    I don´t think that the possibly attacking the neighbors is the reason not to let the Iraqi army have heavy weapons.
    1. It is the fear that these weapons would likely be used against the US forces in Iraq.
    2. It creates the rational to keep US forces in Iraq “See they can not defend themselfs. We need to stay to help those poor people.”
    To be able to protect against a Turkish invasion into Kurdistan or an Iranian march on Baghdad the Iraqi army would need multiple heavy divisions plus a reasonable air force. To build that will take 15 years and lots of money (to pay for second grade refurbished US equipment).

  2. John Howley says:

    Your post helps me as I struggle to get the dust out of my eyes. For all the DoD talk about drawdowns next year, it seems that actual, current troop levels are creeping up. I heard a radio report this morning to the effect that current deployments in Iraq are the highest ever — over 160,000. I’ve heard the line about rotating in extra troops for the referendum. What’s going on on troop levels? How long can we maintain this level of deployment?

  3. blunt says:

    2 footnotes:
    – My recollection on the disbanding of the Iraqi army is that we originally planned not to pay the ex officers. After a few protests we agreed, but it indicates the magnitude of bungling.
    – From what I’ve heard a number of heavy weapons made it to the Kurds. Right now most models ignore them in a potential future civil war, but they have a lot of interests.

  4. here it comes says:

    The following articles is interesting:
    Note how it claims the soldiers over there are uneducated and misled by the terrorist loving traitor press.
    Now if the right is beginning to admit demoralization of troops we probably have a problem.
    Of course to them it’s a potential victory. They don’t live in a world where places like Iraq exist. Gasoline appears magically at the pump and if we all bought hummers our problems would vanish. It’s this Jimmy Cahtah attitude which cause problems just as bad press cause the problems in Iraq.
    But it’s no big deal if that place explodes because all that matters is bickering on talk radio and failure will “prove” the Democrats stabbed us in the back.
    Our stupid uneducated soldiers didn’t know how great our victory even though they were over there because armed forces media were controlled by the commies.

  5. avedis says:

    Ah, you ask the post the very question/point I have been putting out there for some time.
    In fact I asked you a while back what the plan was for arming and financing a real Iraqi army; one capable of defending against foreign invasion as well as domestic insurgency.
    That you – given your access – are only able to re-ask the same question convinces me that there is no plan. This is just another glaring example of the fantastic level of incompetence demonstrated from the get go by the PNAC chickenhawks.

  6. Dan says:

    The Iraqi “army” drives around in toyota pickups and unarmored trucks. I have seen ad-hoc efforts in diyala and elsewhere to “up-armor” trucks with scrap-metal, but that probably doesn’t do much good. Were the will and the training there, they still don’t have the equipment to fight on their own. Iraqi forces are currently dying at a rate at least 4-1 of US deaths. That number will spike sharply if and when there’s a big reduction in US forces patrolling the dangerous roads.

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