No. No, General. Strength is Supposed to be going up!

According to George Casey, General, US Army, commander of US Forces in Iraq, Iraqi forces are declining (at the moment) in terms of combat ready battalions of infantry:

In June, the Pentagon told lawmakers that three Iraqi battalions were fully trained, equipped and capable of operating independently. On Thursday, Casey said only one battalion is ready.

"It doesn’t feel like progress," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Despite the drop, Casey hailed significant progress in training Iraqi security forces and noted that U.S. troops are embedded with more Iraqi units in mentoring roles than before. "Have we lost ground? Absolutely not," Casey said.

Casey said the Pentagon’s standard for what constitutes a fully capable Iraqi battalion is high and that it’s been difficult to ensure logistical support for Iraqi units. "I understand how it could be perceived as disappointing," he told Collins.  Associate Press

It doesn’t feel like progress, Senator, because it is not progress.  The Army loves to do matrix type measurement of various things with lots of little boxes on spread sheets, and numerical values assigned to things that often are not measurable with numbers.  Rumsfeld loves this. (metrics)

A proclivity to do this is bred deep into the officer corps and probably has something to do with the engineering school nature of West Point.  When I taught there, I once watched them pick a civilian professor for a tenured job using this method.  Interestingly, all the little numbers in the boxes indicated that this was the best person.  They picked him.  We all knew at the time that this man would be a terrible teacher, and he was, but the numbers came out that way and so they picked him.

Therefore, I am not altogether sure that Casey’s NUMBER means a lot.  It may just be a NUMBERS drill, perhaps by one of my former eleves.  But, neveretheless, it is not good news.

Pat Lang

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17 Responses to No. No, General. Strength is Supposed to be going up!

  1. Pat Lang says:

    Class of ’42? pl

  2. Michael Murry says:

    Back in 1967, I served for a year aboard the submarine tender U.S.S. Sperry moored at Balast Point near San Diego. A shipmate of mine had rented a shabby houseboat at a nearby marina and some of us sailors would go over there after knocking off ship’s work one or two evenings a week. We’d sit around, drink beer, listen to some music on the stereo and even watch a little TV news.
    Whenever President Lyndon Johnson came on the tube, though, things got nasty. One of my shipmates would turn down the TV volume and put a raucous rock-and-roll record on the turntable with the sound turned way up to maximum. Then, while Johnson’s mournful, hounddog face silently mouthed more inane platitudes about “progress” in Vietnam, we drunken swabbies would chant along with the refrain from the scurrilous, skeptical song:

  3. Alvord says:

    All right. That does it. I have officially lost confidence in the Administration’s claims of progress in the war.

  4. Pat Lang says:

    Progress? The troops will still have to fight on. pl

  5. Pat Lang says:

    Sounds like a good tour. We listened to him from VN on AFN.
    Would have been glad to have your company. pl

  6. Eric says:

    Shame on all you naysayers.
    In a thousand years they will have a brigade, and the insurgency will be so old and decrepit that they can just sneak up on them.

  7. Eric says:

    In all seriousness, this failure to develop a functioning Iraqi army has really bugged me since fall 2003.
    Pat, you got any ideas why no one was able to do this in 21/2 years, other than Neoclown civilian nincompoops at the Pentagon? And of course we got all the lick spittle brass careerists, to enable the former.

  8. Pat Lang says:

    Yah. For starters we should have used the existing structure and re-built it. This would have been much easier than starting from scratch. Some of these units were worth keeping. We could have picked some of the officers to retain and had them call the men back to the colors.
    Then we have let the “mainstream” guys take over the job of dealing with third worlders. They are no good at that.
    They are mainly good at sucking up for promotion.
    The despised French dealt with this by having two armies, one for “sucking up” (L’Armee Metropolitaine), and the other one which was filled with those who fought, (l’armee coloniale) pl

  9. Michael Murry says:

    I never had the luxury of believing in The Cause. Still, joining the Navy in 1966 (after a year of college) seemed preferable to getting drafted or having my government throw me in jail. Some choice.
    One thing leads to another, as you know; and so I went to basic training, then to specialist Electrician’s School, then to a ship for a year’s dirty work, then to Nuclear Power School, then to Defense Language School, then to Counter Insurgency School, then to Vietnam. How one thing led to another I won’t go into here since it all seems too depressing upon reflection. Suffice it to say that I had lost all confidence in the U.S. military and its attached American government long before I ever touched down at Tan Son Nhut Airport outside Saigon in June of 1970.
    As you recall, the Tet Offensive of 1968 finished off President Johnson and got Nixon elected promising to “end” the war. “So why,” we used to joke at DLI while studying Vietnamese (southern dialect), “do we have to go to Vietnam when Nixon promised to withdraw the troops?” Came the sardonic reply: “You fool! You know Tricky Dick can’t possibly withdraw you unless he sends you there first!” More lies. More lies.
    I can really sympathize with the GIs in Iraq who can’t “stand up” those ARVN — I mean, SKA (Shiite-Kurdish Alliance) — troops. When I got to Vietnam to train (i.e., “stand up”) the Vietnamese navy, we “advisors” hardly ever saw our erstwhile trainees unless they had loaded guns pointed at us demanding that we feed them. We couldn’t keep them out of the weapons lockers, since they had to steal boxes of hand grenades with which to go fishing. Their officers stole their food rations and salaries. Their families starved. So one day a hungry and desperate grenade fisherman drops a live one back into the box of grenades instead of in the water. BOOM! Twenty-five little men on an overcrowded boat gone in an instant. Mud, blood, and body parts all over the place. And we went on preaching “democracy” and the “better red than dead” fear of Monolithic World Communism. Blah. Blah. Blah. What a farce.
    I don’t believe one damn thing that anyone in the U.S. military or its attached American government says about Iraq. If any of them knew what to do, they’d have done it already. The troops need to redeploy elsewhere until such a time as the “commander in chief,” his Secretary of War, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff can get their collective heads out of thier collective asses.
    I’ve already seen this horrorshow movie. I don’t want to see it again.

  10. Pat Lang says:

    Sounds right to me. My only cause was the army into which I was born. pl

  11. dan says:

    Just as an interesting tid bit the Britsh seem to have abandoned Basra proper and moved to a base some distance

  12. Susan says:

    Last night on Charlie Rose (PBS) — Jim Hoagland, the reporter for the Washington Post, talked a lot about this Senate armed services hearing.
    Hoagland said, first of all, that it was very confusing testimony … he repeated the word confusing several times.
    He also discussed the difference between having three battalions and having only one battalion that could be self-functioning.
    He also said that the administration may HAVE some good news coming out of Iraq, but if it does it sure doesn’t know how to highlight it.
    P.S. Another reader at BoomanTribune wants to know how many people make up a battalion. (Hey, some of us don’t know this stuff.)

  13. Pat Lang says:

    In most armies:
    Squad = 9 men
    Platoon = 45 men
    Company = 150 men
    Battalion = 650 men
    Brigade = 3500 men
    Division = 15000 men

  14. Susan says:

    Thank you, Pat!
    Are you watching Rummie on your teevee?
    He just said that “by every MEASURE the enemy is losing!”
    I’ll be danged.

  15. Dan says:

    By every “measure” except the most important one.

  16. Harrow says:

    Well, it’s the answer to Casey’s number. RJJ’s making a reference to “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, which may sound goofy but bear with me while I quickly explain.
    Super-powerful aliens constructed a giant computer to provide the Ultimate Answer About Life, the Universe and Everything. After calculating for a few million years, the computer provided its answer: “42”. The aliens were of course furious at the apparent nonsense and demanded an explanation. The computer replied:
    “I checked it very thoroughly, and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”
    It’s not just aliens who don’t know how to ask the right questions.

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