Senator McCain, AEI and a lot of other interested parties are now advocating a medium to large troop increase in Iraq to take more aggressive action, have a greater US presence and secure large parts of the country long enough to create effective security forces. Numbers suggested range from 50,000 to 250,000 as increases in the number of combatants we should send into Iraq. Some people are plainly advocating a policy of annihilation against the Shia militia armies. Others want to re-take Anbar Province. Others just seem to want more "street presence." Abizeid wants more US advisers (he has a euphemism) with small units. A lot of people have a variety of proposed uses for a "troop increase." Would any or all of these measures change the ultimate result? They might if the US persisted long enough. How long? Another 5 to 10 years probably would be my guess.
In any event, I will venture the thought that almost all of those talking about this do not understand the facts of the matter, the time, numbers, structures part of the problem.
People seem to think that soldiers are useful as individuals. They rarely are. UNITS are useful. Soldiers are just the building blocks that UNITS are made of. There is a reason why a soldier, when asked who he is, nearly always includes the name of his UNIT in the answer. Civilians are often puzzled by that. Reporters often refer to some "grunt" as a Ft. Bragg soldier as though his identity was wrapped up in what post his unit was last stationed at. That isn’t IT folks. The man tells you what outfit he belongs to because it is in the context of the fighting team that he belongs to that he becomes significant as a component of the military’s "combat power." He instinctively knows that, but the great majority of people do not.
What does that mean in the context of Iraq/Afghanistan. It means that the 50,000 to 250,000 soldiers suggested as augmentation would only be useful as additional UNITS. We are talking here about brigade or regimental combat teams (3000 men maybe). That might not be altogether true if the units we are deploying to the war zone were understrength but I have not heard that they are.
Brigade and regimental combat teams are social structures that are also weapons systems. You can think of them as being shaped organizationally like pyramids. At the "base" of the pyramid you will find the mass of private soldiers or marines. These people are trained and conditioned to be individual fighters as part of an ascending organizational hierarchy of – fire team (five soldiers), squad (two fire teams), platoon (four squads), company (four platoons), battalion (four companies) and brigade/regiment (some number of battalions between two and five depending on the situation). At each of these levels, the soldiers involved have to be trained to operate as part of the successively higher groups. Like athletic teams the different levels of units work out "play books" (SOPs) for dealing with time stressed situations and routine functions (like supply). Leaders at all these levels must have the education, training and experience appropriate to their responsibilities in a business that has no equivalence in civilian life.
So — If we want to augment the force in Iraq we will need to send more units. Do we have them? Yes. We could send regular units (active duty) back again no matter how recently they have been in Iraq or Afghanistan. We could send national guard and reserve units back on the same basis. We could do that but the force we send that way would have to rotated out of the war in a year or so. With whom would we replace those units? We would already have "screwed up" the rotational queue by pulling units that had a place in the queue out of line to send them back early.
Some people express surprise that the ground forces can not generate a larger number of combat brigades/regiments than they do given the "in service" manpower. In fact, the Army has been re-structuring itself for years to do just that and it is as a result of that re-structuring that the present level of force can be maintained in Iraq/Afghanistan. About 6/7ths of all available active duty combat soldiers and marines are now committed to the war mission. They are either "there," "just back" or in training to go back.
What about the draft? Assuming that it were politically possible (which it is not), the draft would, after six or eight months, produce nothing but a mass of semi-trained individual soldiers/marines who would have to be fitted into and and trained in the kind of organizational pyramid described above. What about WW2? The draft then produced the privates, but the UNITS were trained in the states for 1 1/2 to 2 years before being committed to combat. The only exceptions were the handful of Regular Army divisions and the one Regular Marine division.
So — If you really want to do what is talked abut in terms of augmenting strength in the war zones, then you are going to need MUCH LARGER ground forces with many more brigade and regimental combat teams. To achieve that will require the existing units to be "cadred" (tapped) for leaders for the new "pyramids." The officers and senior NCOs will like that. It would mean rapid promotion. Where would you get the privates, the basic raw material? Think about it creatively.
In any event the creation of each new brigade combat team/regiment would take about a year and a half at the least. Listen up augmenters! Better get started now if you want this idea of yours to be more than a pipe dream.
Pat, do you think they’re serious when they propose this? Surely they are as well-informed as you are about what it really means to say we need tens or hundreds of thousands more troops in there.
My cynical guess is that they know full well it can’t and isn’t going to happen, but they are preparing their future defense for the debacle they’ve created. It’ll go something like: if the American people hadn’t lost the will to fight, we could have won.
Hey, it worked for Vietnam. Why not trot it out again to see if it can cover their butts for the next few decades?
Unless of course they’re actually preparing us for the ‘ah hell, bomb ’em back to the stone age’ option.
(Someone [ex-CIA] told me a few years ago that we’d end this war by turning the desert into glass.)
What do you think their motive is for trotting this stuff out?
I am afraid that the miasma of mutual and self-deception and exclusion of independent thought is so strong today, that even if they do know they can’t admit it. pl
People seem generally prone to hold forth about subjects of which they know nothing, but this seems particularly true with military matters. The way people talk about sending more troops to Iraq, you would think they could be grown, like sowing dragon’s teeth. This general, amazing ignorance is just one of the many factors that convince me the situation in Iraq will end in a worst possible case scenario.
You’re missing one important element in the psychological makeup of these people. They are unable to come to grips with the possibility that we might actually lose. Thus, there was no serious backup plan, and never could be. Furthermore, if it looks like we’re losing, then it’s because we don’t have the will to win. In other words, it’s all the pansy critics like you and I who are to blame. We’re sapping the will of the Republic to win. All that’s required is for the dimwits (you and I) to shut up, more determination and troops on the ground, and all will be fine.
Eventually, reality will catch up with them. But the real problem is that such an attitude is really comforting. Life is great if you cannot do any wrong and it’s always someone else’s fault.
Rumsfeld fought all the suggestions from Congress that troops strength be expanded. There were joint resolutions by Sens. Reed and McCain which proposed that Army end-strength be expanded by tens of thousands. Rumsfeld fought tooth-and-nail against them, preferring to spend the money on other things.
The fools that were planning all these operations in 2002 should have known that many troops would be required, just as they should have known that the monetary cost would be huge. I think they just lied about the money, but were deluded about the manpower, despite warnings to the contrary.
In the wake of 9/11, a call to service would have enabled a rapid expansion of troop strength in 2002. Now it’s too late to raise those troops, at least without huge bonuses and lowering of enlistment standards.
I have to wonder who is enlisting now, after the stories of stop-loss and repeated tours in Iraq. A young man or woman might want to test themselves in battle with a year in Iraq, but would pause at the prospect of committing to two or three years in Iraq or Afghanistan, or both. The stories, mostly in local media, about troops killed, maimed and psychologically damaged by these repeated tours have now permeated America.
Parents and teachers – “influencers” – are unlikely to be enthusiatic about kids near and dear signing up for the meat grinder.
Also, here are two recent columns by the realist William Pfaff on the illusory thought which the Colonel is talking about:
Demogogy About a Third World War
Bush left reality behind. Now we are all trapped.
First of all, thank you very much for this article Col., and that remarkably clear and concise description of the problems of raising troop levels.
I do have a couple of questions though, when you say Abizaid is using advisors as a euphemism, do you mean he’s looking towards something like the Phoenix program in Iraq as a way out?
The US seems to have already tried the “Salvador Option”, and that gave us the Shi’ite death squads, if Abizaid is advocating a latter day Phoenix, what do you think the results of such a policy would be?
It seems as if people are going back, reading the things critics of the war said at the outset, then presenting them as serious policy initiatives for the current situation. The proposals for switching sides and reconstituting the Baath party, or supporting the Sunni tribes, or finding our own mini-Saddam to run the place all have the same air about them. A little like slamming the barn door shut after the cows have escaped, armed themselves to the teeth, come back and burned the farmhouse to the ground.
This also seems a good place to link to the most recent War Nerd column for those who haven’t read it.
what I meant is that Abizeid does not want to say advisers so he has some other word for advisers. after all, we don’t want to make any refernce to VN although a lot of things were done better there in the advisory and revolutionary development fields. pl
So — If you really want to do what is talked abut in terms of augmenting strength in the war zones, then you are going to need MUCH LARGER ground forces with many more brigade and regimental combat teams.
All of this would cost not only time but also money. While Congress politically appears to be willing to appropriate whatever funds the military requests, it does not appear willing to levy taxes to raise these funds.
Hence, the military power of the United States ultimately rests upon its ability to borrow these funds from others, who do not necessarily share Congress’ enthusiasm for Pentagon appropriations.
If we have a draft, I’m not supportng it, but if, then we need to do rationally. Anyone under 50 who hasn’t served is eligable.
For medics we get doctors and nurses, for those doing counterinsurgency an IQ of at least 120 and useful experience, for police work cops, for logistics, people who manage it at Walmart, for infantry cross country runners, very skilled hnters and players of all these strange sports, native Americans…
A draft is unfair in many ways, if we do it, we might as well do what we need to win. Identify the types we need, then cull the population for those who fit the specs best.
War is a serious business and if the local hospital loses a couple of it’s trauma doctors and they are suddenly making $40,000 a year it will remind us of it.
And it would be interesting to hear people bitching that they haven’t been drafted because it implies that they are not among the best.
I think we shoulr remember that it is not the military that sets the parameters for national foreign policy. It just carries it out. If the “central fromt were abandoned, the military would not ask for all the vast amount of O&M money now going into the wars.
Also, I saw that someone referred to Rummy, Wolfie and the idiot Feith as “military” today. No Way! pl
Makes me wonder if, going forward, the United States is going to have a permanent problem of its military trying to implement a national foriegn policy crafted by civilians who have little understanding of the military’s capabilities, limitations and needs, and little interest in the long term health of the military.
WWII got such a large part of society involved with the military that it has been quite easy to find civilians of genuine combat experience. Almost every administration since WWII has had senior members that served in a real war. With the passing of that generation and its replacement by those who avoided Vietnam America is left with people who don’t seem to understand the military, and hence cannot direct it effectively.
Even if Iraq is exited safely it seems probable that the combination of absolute belief in the greatness of US military and incompetent civilian leadership will lead to a military disaster at some point in the future.
“. . .it is not the military that sets the parameters for national foreign policy. It just carries it out.. .”
I always thought the military did defense policy and the state department did foreign policy. We used to have dipomacy, negotiation, compromise, etc. But I guess that was all pre-43. Today all we have is war, belligerence, and threats we can’t carry out.
Foreign policy as we used to know it appears to be gone with the wind.
No. No. All policy is established in what is called the “interagency,” that is the interaction of the various departments under the leadership of the White House.
The Defense Department has a voice in that in that the civilian appointed and/or senatorialy confirmed CIVILIAN people in the Offoce of the Secretary of Defense are a direct part of the interagency. The uniformed military are a separate part of the Defense Department. The Joint Chiefs of Staff participate in the interagency as advisers to the president in the matter of technical and operational advice with regard to foreign policy. In other words they are supposed to tell the civilians (including the president) what the options are for any policy decision and then carry them out when one is picked. If the decision is stupid they are stuck with it as are all those people serving in the ranks who did not have the chance to go to Harvard. pl
You might perhaps have had one opportunity to go large with a chance of success and that was in what should have been Phase 4 during 2003.
You did not go large then and now the record is a consistent and incredible one of mistake and wrong choice. Deep in my heart I suspect that going large, even if it were possible, would not work and would simply reinforce failure.
If Col Lang is right about the time factor, then it means the Administration is considering staying in Iraq at least five more years, because it will take over 2 years just to get all the units in place over there. Then probably at least 2 more years to fulfill objectives to stabilize the country.
If, as we have seen so far, the White House really doesn’t know how to carry out millitary objectives, this will be political suicide for them.
Seeing as how anti-war sentiment was the prime mover of the public’s voting preferences three weeks ago, if the Administration continues to make botch up after botchup in Iraq, there’s no question that the public will elect a pro-withdrawal president in 2008. That would be before the units are even in place to carry out the Go Big Go Long strategy.
Bush and Cheney visiting the Saudi’s and Jordan back to back means one thing: going big against Iran.
Eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth.
As Colonel Lang points out, troop increases in Iraq are a non-starter. As he also points out, troop reductions are a non-starter (as far as the current administration is concerned).
So if the status is to remain quo, why do Presidential diplomacy in the the ME?
To get all you ducks in a row for when you bomb Iran, that’s why.
Of course, there’s that pesky French carrier task force next to Lebanon. Maybe take that out at the same time…teach those perfidious French a lesson.
I do not wish to be proven right, but I said before the election that the most danger would arise if the Democrats won. That would leave this administration a tiny window between the election and the seating of the new Congress to carry out its escalation of the war.
Think Israel bombing Beirut. That’s the template.
Also think of the fact that this administration now knows better than anybody that it has been done like a two-dollar whore by the Iranians. If you’re Bush and Cheney, you don’t let that go by without retaliating.
Sir, I call myself, Grumpy, because I’m a Grumpy Disabled Vet from the Viet Nam era. You have raised a complex issue about where these additional troops will come from. Let’s go back to basics. The U.S. Constitution says if we are going to put troops in harm’s way, there should be a “Declaration of War”. This changes the whole perception of the civilian population of this Nation. The whole Nation goes to war, not just the military and their families. The Nation as a WHOLE braces itself for the sacrifice, not just the military. If we want to attract young people to the military, then we need to stop playing games and we really need to be CONSTITUTIONALLY ACCOUNTABLE!
(To be continued.)
In the spirit of equal time, here’s the other interpretation of Cheney and Bush’s visits to the ME: a mini-UN of “moderate” (read Sunni dictatorships) Arab states to help us out of the quagmire.
That’s what Le Monde believes. They sure as hell know more about it than I do.
What I do know is that the Coalition of the Willing (remember them?) now consists of less than a dozen suits in London and Washington (okay, and Tel Aviv).
As a non-military person, thanks for the “plain-English” explanantion of the manpower terms of military units. Is it true that ther military doesn’t have”Divisions” anymore??
Off topic: we were lucky enough to be visited in our classroom by a cadet from USMA last week – home for the holiday. She gave a great talk and the class of 12th graders enjoyed hearing about a style of “freshman year” that few of them had given any though about!
How about keep UNITs iraq permanently, and gradually rotate UNIT’s personnel?
I think it effectively increase UNIT’s number in Iraq.
Are there any drawback?
One of my mentor, who was former US-ROK CFC deputy commander, criticised UNIT rotation hurt it’s readiness. He said newly deployed unit must adapt changed environment.
I think regular unit rotation mean just “search-destroy”. If they want “clear&HOLD”, unit’s permanent presence is a lot better option.
Page 2. As we ALL become accountable, trust will START to form. A thought from our past, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” George Washington, 1789. Washington really points out a crtically important point, Our young people need to see the whole truth, not just selected sound bytes. Just think back to what we were told to do after 9-11, get back to normal, travel and shop. There was nothing about national sacrifice and preparing to go to war. The young will not sacrifice until the nation sacrifices. We have been hearing this called, the long war. How long is “long”? I’m not talking about a split second, but are we talking about years, decades, centuries or millennia? We have a tough time ahead of us. Mr. Lang, thank you, for sharing your thoughts with us. Thank you, for your service to this GREAT NATION. “Grumpy”
Theoretically the Army still has divisions, but in fact the “unit of action” is the brigade combat team. I think they still have divisions so that generals can still be promoted to two stars in the combat arms.
The marines someone else must speak for, pl
No. We tried that in VN and the result was that unit levels of training eventually declined toward zero, nobody knew anyone else and nobody cared.
I was lucky. I was in SF and we always cared because we were a tribe.
Humans, especially soldiers, need to hunt in tribes. pl
Col., my understanding was that in other conflicts units would be rotated away from the front, but not out of theater in order to rebuild their strength with new soldiers. Would it be possible to do something like this, where units are moved out of forward bases and off patrol for a few months, have people at the end of their terms sent out and replaced with new soldiers. Once the unit has had a chance to work together in a non combat area, they can then sent back out, or was that the way it was tried in Vietnam?
The option I’ve seen floated is rotating personell on the basis of small units that were trained together stateside, say nothing above platoon level, while leaving the command structure for the larger unit in place?
Are the insurgents not also obliged to organize themselves into units of some sort?
If so, of what sort? How are they thereby constrained?
Can their unit organizations somehow be attacked?
If not, why not?
Colonel Lang –
Thank you for the excellent analysis. However, I wanted to pose what I hope will be a thought-provoking question.
The current debate over whether we have enough active duty forces for Iraq and Afghanistan brings to mind Abraham Lincoln’s admonishment to Union General McDowell in 1861 when he balked at advancing on the rebel positions across the Potomac. McDowell complained that his troops were green. Lincoln replied, “yes and so is the enemy. You are all green alike.”
Here are the questions. Are the relative qualities of the two opposing military forces more important than whether one army has attained a particular level of training? And given that the US is conducting low intensity warfare against irregular forces, do we need to train our soldiers to the same levels we did when the Warsaw Pact was the enemy?
I am not advocating this approach, per se, but I am interested in what you think.
Among the major American mistakes in VN:
– No unit rotation out of the line of operations. Units committed in 1965 fought continuously until withdrawn in the early ’70s. Individuals were rotated home after a year or got a week’s leave after six months.
– Battalion and brigade commanders held command for only six months.
– Very little in-country training of US units took place. As a result UNIT effectiveness declined sharply as time passed. Units could have been taken to the Phillippines for rest and re-training but they were not.
– No effort was put into keeping men together in the same units, quite the opposite.
IMO rotation should be by brigade/regiment. Little units have no real solidity as command and control centers and the little units need to fit into a stable structure of command and control. pl
Yes insurgents have organization and yes they can be attacked if one can find them. pl
Of course, McDowell was defeated and it would have been decisive defeat if Jeff Davis had listened to Jackson and allowed an advance INTO Washington right after the batttle.
It may be that the Confederate volunteer army that had been trained at Manassas was not as green as Lincoln thought. A lot of the units were created by incorporating pre-war militia units that had existed for quite some time. The 17th Virginia Infantry would be an example. Six of the nine companies in the regiment had been the 6th Virginia Militia Battalion in the Alexandria area for many years. The senior officers were all officers of that militia battalion before the war.
I do not know if the volunteer units of McDowell’s army had a similar history.
The amount of training I was estimating was what I would consider to be a minimum. It is actually MORE difficult to fight a counter-guerrilla war than a conventional one. We are re-learning that lesson.
I can train a guerrilla battalion in six months maximum starting from “scratch” with people with no military experience. That unit will fight in the right circumstances but it will be unreliable under stress and very hard to control. It will also be poorly disciplined. The main issue in training troops up to regular standards is command and control. You have to have it and it takes a lot of intensive work to get it. pl
We have now been in Iraq longer than we were in WW II. Today’s NYT article about the insurgency’s financial self-sufficiency, even accepting Col. Lang’s misgivings about the underlying report, invites another invidious comparison to WW II. Although we were late getting into that war, Germany and Japan ultimately could not stand up against America’s industrial capacity once it got cranked up.
The insurgents in Iraq seem to be operating (“Are they hampered by lack of funds? I see no evidence that they are.” – Col. Lang) on a couple hundred million per year while it costs us $8 billion per month to fight them. How long can that continue? How much do additional units add to the monthly tab?
If an increase calls for more help in training Iraqui units will that area become a ‘fast track’ promotion area? Whether that happens or not will the training units be of a higher quality than at present? could the training the area in which the additional forces be placed. If the last is so how does that relate to the leader at the beginning of this post?
Sunni and Shias alike must rely on the various militias to keep them safe (or at least, to avenge their being blown to bits). Unless Americans can provide security – which they have not been able to do so far – an attack on a militia will be seen as an attack on the population that militia “protects”.
A political solution where the militias willingly disarm is possible only if the people have the belief that the Iraqi government or the Americans will provide security – and there is no basis for this faith.
IMO, what happened in Afghanistan is likely to happen in Iraq – namely, various warlords are going to fight it out for power, and then a totalitarian-fundamentalist outfit like the Taliban will arise and impose order on the country, and people will not resist them simply because they keep the peace.
Every time I watch Ret., or active, Gens speaking on TV I get a clearer understanding of why the military is in the shape it is in. Latest example was a man named Michael DeLong. He seemed clueless, or disengenous, or both. Some guy name Granger was only slightly better.
I mean it is sounds silly of me to note that. Look at their training and experience….but they just seem like fools. And, as hard as this is to believe, they seem to understand Iraq, and, gasp, military tactics, even less than I do. I doubt that is possible. So they must be disengenous…or else simply fooling themselves.
Arun, excellent points. Without security and a strong state militias will not disarm – they have no incentive when they are still fighting for power. And the Afghanistan example is spot on except that the Taliban were created, trained and funded by the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies. The Northern Alliance with Russian support were not defeated by the Taliban and controlled their territory. In Iraq with multiple external sponsors it will be difficult for any entity to roll over the others. One possibility that I see is if the Shia unite and defeat the Sunni and control Anbar and Baghdad with an iron fist. But that is not going to happen with all these Shia factions from Iranian supported SCIRI & Dawa and the more Iraqi Sadr’s groups fighting each other too for power. The way this resolves itself in my opinion is sheer exhaustion but the death and destruction will not be forgotten for many generations.
A question I’d like to bring to this discussion of “Going Big” is who is the enemy?
It seems each day our military is fighting numerous actors going after us and each other. As PL stated so aptly its a “war of all against all”. And the US military is just another actor in this tragic drama.
So even if we could get many more brigades in theater who would we fight and can we stop the escalating anarchy – this war of all against all?
It just does not make any sense to me anymore. I realize the Decider unleashed it all but is it fair on our troops who are sacrificing in blood every day to fight in an undefined war of all against all? I think not. The best way, IMO, to honor their sacrifice is to bring them home and get out of the middle of the Iraqi chaos.
RE: Unit rotation
This was tried in Vietnam with USMC infantry units 66-67 time frame. The unit goes back to Okinawa, where the Northern Training Area features a challenging jungle environment. Personnel would rotate in and out, causing about a 40% turnover. The unit would then go back to VN or would go afloat off the Vietnam coast, in order to engage in sea-based, heliborne/amphibious operations in the regions to the east of Highway one.
I don’t know if it was worth it, but it was sure great for morale. Not every unit got to participate though.
Yes, we can avoid the specific consequences of being dumb by acting even dumber, and suffering other cosequences. At least we know Iran, al-Qaeda and Israel will be happy with a US escalation in Iraq, even though most Iraqis and US military families won’t be.
Is the object of the exercise the creation of a perfect seemingly pro-US
smiling Iraqi hypocrite?
I can see a nightmare war of Iraqi resistance fighters commuting from Amman and Damascus. If a US camera by chance finds them in daytime, they will know it is time to flash an apparently friendly smile.
And the Iranian agents in al-Dawa and SCIRI can smile at American cameras, too!
Reminds me of a recent obituary I read in TIME, the passing of TIME’s former, ever smiling, top local staffer in Saigon. After the war in Vietnam was over TIME found out he was a colonel in the Viet Cong.
The problem with LtGen. DeLong is not one of incompetence, but of his agenda. He was Tommy Franks’ deputy during the planning/execution of both Afghani/Iraqi Ops. Ergo He was in like Flynn on the deception from the word go. He cannot seem to be traitorous to “Tommy,” so he takes the role of “Lakeitel,” while at the same time sounding foolish.
I don’t quite know if he was responsible for the brilliance behind Tora Bora, or Shahikot Valley debacles though.
I did not know that about training in Okinawa. So far as I know the Army did not try that. pl
Who is the enemy?
Saw Abizaid on 60 Minutes last evening. Lara Logan asked about the enemy and Abizaid started with AQ and then went to Iran being “unhelpful” but refused to say flat-out that Iran is killing American troops (despite Logan’s prodding — that’s a different story).
No mention or reference to what I assume is the main force of people killing U.S. soldiers…indigenous Iraqis led by a mixture of ex-Army and home-grown Islamists.
I find it bizarre that we can fight a war for three years without properly identifying the enemy to the American public.
Perhaps it’s because we know that we’ll have to sign a deal with them in the end.
Also, this distortion is consistent with the “War on Terror” line…”War on Iraqis” might get folks thinkin’ and we can’t have that!
With the greatest of respect, some of these comments make me want to cry. We threw away the chance of winning years ago.
There is only ONE way to win a counterinsurgency that I know of… gain the trust of the population, so that they give themselves permission to support you and your policies and ‘just say no” to insurgency. There is no other way.
We squandered the opportunity to win in Iraq within months, if not weeks, of invading, by destroying any hope the Iraqis had that Americans could produce a secure environment and also demonstrate that they could be trusted.
We squandered these opportunities in Al Ghraib, Fallujah, waterboarding, disbanding the Iraqi army, destroying what was left of the local economy, and of course indiscriminate displays of ferocity everywhere that left friend and foe alike dead.
I thought we were in trouble from the moment I watched a video of a “Thunder run” through Baghdad preceding the final invasion. There was footage on TV of a small toyota utility truck that had the misfortune to be in the same street as the American military. It was cut to to pieces and the occupants killed by some gum chewing, trigger happy, moronic trooper with cannon fire for no good reason at all. There have been many, many similar examples since.
Now the driver of that vehicle was probably a father with kids. The vehicle was his pride and joy, he may have been a tradesman on his way to work. His loss has thrown his family into poverty and despair and his friends and relatives into bitterness and anger.
Multiply this type of mindless stupidity tens of thousands of times and you then perhaps get an understanding why America can never, ever win a counterinsurgency war anywhere.
To put it simply, “collateral damage”, isn’t.
There is no way we can recover in Iraq, short of hanging Bush and Cheney alongside Saadam Hussien in the middle of Baghdad and beginning a massive program of reparations backed by about 600,000 troops we don’t have.
The surest and simplest way to military victory in Iraq is not being discussed, which is just as well because it would be genuinely evil and probably demoralizing for our military as well as harming our standing in the world even more.
But here it is. Withdraw. Now. As expeditiously as possible. Taking with us everyone who helped us in any way (so as to save some shred of our self-respect). Then wait while the Sunnis and Shias kill each other. When most of those who are now trying to kill Americans in Iraq have just about finished killing each other, we come back to bring peace.
I am not saying we should do this. We should not. It would be heinous. But this is the path to victory.
Although I’ve ranted on this topic before (not here), I can’t pretend to be an expert. Still, it strikes me that our “enemies” in Iraq, whoever they may be, first have to become convinced they are defeated before we can claim they are. This doesn’t seem to have happened, indeed seems to have gone in the opposite direction regardless of any strategy or tactic we’ve pursued. My question is, do our current set of leaders and commanders understand how victory in war is achieved? I mean beyond killing people and breaking things which seems not to have worked.