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.