2005 June 13 Monday
US Army Lowers Recruiting Goals As Casualties Mount
Writing for the Washington Post Don Edwards, a retired US Army major general, reports the US Army has lowered recruiting goals and loosened standards and still can't meet the lower goals.
The recruiting problems first became apparent in the late summer of 2003, when the surplus of enlistees disappeared and the Army went into the next fiscal year without any cushion. Since then, recruiting numbers have been declining. An alarming trend -- fewer young people signing up than the Army needs to maintain its strength -- began to develop last fall. Now, the Army has failed to meet its monthly recruiting goals since February. On Friday, it said that in May it reached only 75 percent of a goal it had already reduced from 8,050 to 6,700. The National Guard and Reserve, which provide more than 40 percent of the Army forces in Iraq, are experiencing even more trouble; so far, the National Guard has reached only 76 percent of its recruiting goals for this year.
Historically, recruiters have had to contact more than 100 prospects for every recruit. This year, those numbers are going up daily. The Army added 1,200 recruiters last month, and it has significantly increased its advertising budget and enlistment bonuses, from $6,000 for most recruits to $20,000. At the same time, it has raised the eligible age for the Army National Guard or the Reserve from 35 to 39. Even more telling, the Army is also accepting more recruits who are not high school graduates. This year, the percentage of high school graduates among those enlisting dropped from 92.4 to barely 90 percent, the Army's stated floor for the number of recruits who must have a high school diploma.
Edwards also says that while units get rotated out of Iraq for at least a year that no longer means that individual soldiers get rotated out of Iraq for a year. Some soldiers are transferred to understaffed units and then sent back into Iraq after only a few months back home.
In order to attract a projected 300 more recruits the US Army has raised the maximum age for junior officer recruits to 42.
Some Army officers at the Pentagon who were shown the memo were incredulous that the Army would resort to attracting a 42-year-old to become a second lieutenant, the most junior officer, given the physical requirements to lead troops in the field. The memo said those candidates selected cannot require a "medical waiver" or have a "permanent profile that would prohibit doing push-ups, sit-ups, running and taking the normal" fitness test.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, Jr., a Vietnam War combat veteran and former commandant of the Army War College, said in an interview that he found it "disturbing" that the Army would waive offenses.
Scales also could not recall a time when the Army tried to attract officer candidates so old, other than during the Civil War. "It is unusual to stretch the upper level that far," he said, referring to the age limit.
Long deployments and high casualty rates make recruitment increasingly difficult. 80 US Soldiers died in Iraq in May 2005. This figure has been equalled or exceeded in only 6 months since the war began: 11/03 (82), 4/04 (135), 5/04 (80), 9/04 (80), 11/04 (137), 1/05 (107). Another way to look at this is by daily average death tolls. For the war as a whole the daily average death toll is 2.31. But for May 2005 it was 2.69. The last time the daily average was below 2 was July 2004. For the 17 month period from March 2003 through July 2004 the daily average was below 2 for 12 of those months. Since then the daily average has been above 2.
Total US deaths in Iraq are now over 1700 with at least 1297 due to hostile action.
BAGHDAD, Iraq — The military announced the killing of four more soldiers over the weekend, pushing the American death toll past 1,700 — more than double what it was a year ago.
Since last June 13 — when 825 members of the U.S. military had died in Iraq — the insurgency that took shape with the fall of Saddam Hussein has increased its toll on American forces and Iraqi soldiers and civilians alike.
Because of advances in medical technology the ratio of deaths to total casualties is much lower among US soldiers in Iraq as compared to previous conflicts. Therefore thousands more are missing limbs, jaws, and other body parts. Others have severed spinal cords or other peripheral nerve damage. Still others have brain damage - not all of which has even been diagnosed. So how many permanently damaged soldiers do we have as a result of the Iraq war? And, yes, I know that perhaps decades from now some of these guys will live long enough to be fixed by advances in biotechnology. They and we are still going to pay a heavy price in the meantime.
Update: The US casualty rates might be a poor measure for the overall level of effort of the insurgents. If, as some news reports suggest, the insurgents have shifted more of their attention toward killing Iraqi government officials, police, and Iraqi military then the tempo of insurgent attacks might be considerably higher than the US military casualty statistics suggest.
War Nerd Gary Brecher sees signs that the Iraqi insurgency is shifting tactics toward killing the locals who cooperate with US forces. (and I strongly urge you to read his full article)
Suicide bombers die smart; they blow themselves up and take a dozen of the enemy with them, and lots of times they penetrate the enemy's most secure areas (GI mess halls, the Green Zone), devastating enemy morale. But dying in a burnt-out house in Fallujah, firing an AK against an M-1 tank, is dying stupid. So we managed, after all, to do our job: we zapped a lot of those romantic suckers last November when we took Fallujah -- by leveling the city, Warsaw-style.
Now comes stage two of the insurgency: the flag-waving fools are gone, and it's the survivors in control -- guerrilla evolution, survival of the practical guys who want to win instead of dying gloriously. You see the same pattern with insurgencies in Algeria, Chechnya, Colombia: the martyrs get killed off, and the cold-blooded guerrilla operatives take over.
These guys know that there's only one way to win a guerrilla war: blinding the enemy by killing his spies, his native police force, anybody who cooperates with him. That's what's been happening in Iraq for months now, and nobody understands it. All they notice is that attacks on US troops are down.
Time for Plan B. Plan B is classic guerrilla doctrine: "the long war," where you attack the invaders' local allies, not the foreign troops themselves. The idea is, if you wipe out Iraqi collaborators, the US is just a blind giant. He'll stick around for a while, stumble over the countryside wrecking stuff, but sooner or later he'll get sick of stubbing his toes and go home.
So the insurgents are ignoring the hunkered-down, heavily fortified American bases and hitting the key, soft targets: the Iraqi police. And damn, are they killing a lot of those boys! On one day, May 9, 80 Iraqi police were killed. On average, five cops a day are dying. It's safer selling Bibles door-to-door in Peshawar than strolling through Baghdad in an Iraqi cop suit.
Will the pool of Iraqi people willing to collaborate with US forces shrink or grow in coming months? That strikes me as a key question.
If anyone comes across a good source of death rates over a period of months or even years for Iraqi police, army, and government officials please post it in the comments or email it to me. Casualty rates of Iraqi army, police, government officials, and civilians are the trends we should be watching.
Don't let the Mainstream media and the politicos on the make get your knickers in a knot over this. The issue is, as the say, a money solvable problem.
See how James Dunnigan put it in two posts over on Strategypage.com:
ATTRITION: Plenty of Warriors, Not Enough Clerks
June 13, 2005: The U.S. Army continues to have problem attracting recruits for its non-combat jobs. All the other services are exceeding their recruiting goals this year, but the army is coming up short. The current fiscal year is eight months gone, and the army is 17 percent short of its annual recruiting goals. But all the other services met or exceeded their goals, putting overall recruiting short eight percent. That’s some 8,000 troops, in a force of 1.4 million. The reserves are doing better, with an overall shortfall of a few thousand recruits in a force of 1.2 million.
In May, the army was 25 percent short in recruits for the active force, and has been short just about every month since January. There’s no shortage of warriors, it’s the 85 percent of the jobs that involved clerical or maintenance tasks that not enough people want. The marines, which put their “combat” role up front when recruiting, are getting all the people they need. Despite the fact that the marines have a higher casualty rate than the army in Iraq, marine recruiters challenge potential recruits to find out if they are good enough to be a marine. But the army has long stressed the “career” aspects of army service. This made sense, as only about 15 percent of army jobs involve combat. Since the 1970s, somewhat to the army’s surprise, there has never been a shortage of recruits for these dangerous jobs. And until recently, there were plenty of recruits for the non-combat jobs. But when Iraq was invaded in 2003, and non-combat troops were attacked frequently, the word got around. Parents, and many of the recruits, no longer saw the army as a safe place to go for a few years, to learn skills, get education benefits, and some good stuff to put on the resume.
While casualties are low in Iraq, the lowest the army has ever suffered in wartime, a disproportionate number of the killed and wounded are non-combat troops. Decades of army recruiting, and training, that played down the danger angle for non-combat troops. This has now become a major recruiting problem. While the army never hid the fact that everyone in the army was, well, in a combat organization, the training and leadership over the last two decades has played down the possibility of combat, and combat injuries, for non-combat troops. As a result, the potential recruits feel, well, deceived. It’s, like,” “hey, dude, you didn’t saying anything about getting shot or blown up.”
The army has added to the shock by hastily revising training for combat support troops. Now non-combat troops get the kind of intense combat training they have not received for over a decade. Back in the early 1990s, the army created a separate basic training systems for combat troops, because political pressure forced them to mix male and female recruits in basic training units. Since the women could not keep up with the men in the standard, very intense, basic, the “non-combat basic” was toned down so the female recruits could handle it. This change has gone unnoticed outside the army, but NCOs and officers know the problem well. The discipline of non-combat troops declined after basic training was watered down. It became pretty easy to tell the difference between combat and non-combat troops, even when they were out of uniform. The combat troops carried themselves like soldiers, while many of the non-combat types appeared to be civilians in uniform. This became a serious problem when many non-combat troops got shot at in 2003, and their lack of discipline and preparation for combat made them more likely to get hurt.
The army is not having any problems getting current troops to stay in, and plans to solve the recruiting problem by keeping the more intense training for non-combat troops, and offering more financial incentives for specific skills it is looking for. Army recruiting ads now stress the fact that we're at war, and its dangerous out there. More non-combat jobs will be replaced with civilians, and, slowly, the army will retool its image to the way it used to be. The new doctrine is that everyone in the army is a soldier, and everyone must be ready to deal with combat. Eventually, army recruiters will have the same kind of success the marines currently have. The marines have always made it clear that every marine must be ready for combat at all times.
June 6, 2005: As the U.S. Army struggles to recruit enough people to maintain its strength, the U.S. Navy has the opposite problem; how to get rid of 50,000 excess sailors. The navy has to lose more people than the army is short. What’s going on here? It’s simple. The army is at war, and the navy isn’t. You get shot at, you don’t like it. Most folks can figure that one out for themselves. But it gets rather more strange. The army recruiting problems are with their non-combat troops. It’s much easier to recruit troops whose primary job is fighting.
It’s not like being a sailor is risk free. If you work on the deck crew of a carrier, or fly a carrier aircraft, your risk of death or injury is higher than for most civilian jobs. Also, living on a ship for six months at a time, and this is what happens to most sailors several times during a typical four year enlistment, is not the most pleasant experience. But if you’re in the army, and sent to Iraq, you have a 2.5 percent chance of getting killed or wounded. Actually, only about 15 percent of those who get hurt die, and most of those who are injured are back at work in days, or weeks at most. But it's still more risk than you face back in the United States. It’s the stress, the expectation of getting hurt, that most troops in Iraq remember the most. You spend a lot more time dealing with the expectation of getting hurt, than in actually being attacked.
The army has responded to this situation by increasing the stress and intensity of training for non-combat troops. For about a decade, the army offered two types of combat training. For the non-combat troops (who comprise about 85 percent of the army), there was rather low stress training, and not a whole lot of it. For the combat troops, life was much more intense. But that’s what combat troops were there for, why they enlisted, and they ate it up. The army finally realized, after decades of seeing marine recruiters take the best prospects for combat jobs, that there are a lot of young guys out there looking for a challenge. The marines always deliberately offered this, now the army does too. “Are you tough enough?” is a recruiting pitch that works. But not for non-combat troops, who make up the vast majority of troops. These folks are looking for a job, and fringe benefits (particularly the tuition aid for college later on.) All the services have been successful at selling recruits on the idea that, “it’s a job.” The pay is competitive, and fringes are abundant, and you get to travel. But the downside is that, if there’s a war, there is danger for some.
There are many people who seek out dangerous situations. You don’t have to pay them to do it, they get off on the risk and stress. Look at the large number of people who, at their own expense, engage in dangerous sports. However, these enthusiasts are civilians, they can stop any time they want. And many do, after they get banged up a bit. In the army, you face the threat of legal prosecution, and prison, if you refuse to go into harm’s way when ordered to.
The army generals are not in a panic over this situation. They have a solution that works, but will cause a big stink in Congress. No, it’s not the draft. The last thing the generals want are reluctant conscripts. The way you get more volunteers is to offer more money. There is no shortage of volunteers, usually men with military experience, to take civilian security jobs in Iraq. These volunteers get paid at least three times what the troops get, and that makes a big difference. The army is already moving in that direction, one small step at a time. Special pay for those serving in combat zones has been increased several times already, and will probably go up again. This sort of approach is not new. During World War II, a lot of men who volunteered for parachute units said a major reason for taking on that dangerous job was the extra pay (about $500 a month, in current dollars). It turned out that being a paratrooper was safer as well, as the parachute divisions had lower casualties than the regular infantry divisions. This demonstrates another reason why people are reluctant to sign up for non-combat jobs. They know they will be less well trained for combat situations, and will be out there waiting to get hit, while the combat troops go looking for fights. This makes a difference when it comes to stress. To be in control of a situation is a lot less stressful.
So the army plans to solve their recruiting problem with more training, more money, and turning a lot of non-combat troops into stress-proof fighters. This is not the kind of “transformation” the army was expecting before September 11, 2001. But wars always bring unexpected change, and there it is.
If you read my previous post "US Army Recruiting Shortfalls Are Growing" you will see the US Marines are missing their quotas as well. According to the Marine Corps Times they missed their quota by 9% in April and that was the 4th month in a row where they didn't meet their quota.
Also see my post "Military Service Increasingly Unpopular With Parents".
Also, since many of the non-combat jobs are dangerous the shortfall really is for jobs that put people in danger.
Yes, Dunnigan says all sorts of things. But in the end the shortfall is large and growing. The total numbers are not so large yet. But they are cumulative.
Point in fact we are looking at a terrorist invasion of Iraq that has local support from Ba'athist Party dead enders. The rest of the Sunni have yet to totally commit to resistance. They don't want Americans or to be ruled by Kurds and Shia in a Democratic state, but they know they can't win.
Iraq is part of a regional war between America and the Islamists. The Islamists control the Iranian regime and a significant fraction of the Al-Saud regime. Their access to oil funds allows them to bribe the Syrians to support the so-called insurgency in Iraq.
Iraq will not be secure until the regimes in Tehran, Syria and Riyhad are changed.
Syria will likely fall of its own accord with Iran taken out via a US military ground invasion.
Saudi Arabia was tagged by the CIA has having a 50-50 chance of surviving the next five years in 2004.
My bud Tom Holsinger put the Iraqi Arab Sunni's plight this way in a post over on Winds:
>Tom Holsinger on June 13, 2005 06:15 AM
>About two years ago, Armed Liberal asked how
>we'd know we were winning the occupation
>campaign. Trent and I replied that this would
>be determined by our relations with Iraq's
>Shia. I said they were the center of gravity of
>the occupation campaign.
>Now the Sunni Arab aka Baathist holdouts have
>the choice of becoming reconciled, becoming
>gone, or becoming dead. And it is starting to
>look like a civil war is starting among the
>Sunni Baathists. Some want reconciliation with
>the Shia majority and some don't. They have not
>agreed to disagree.
These two posts of Dunnigan's over on strategypage.com support's Tom and my contention on the Iraq situation:
IRAQ: How the Cops Took Back the Streets
June 12, 2005: Tensions between the "Accomodationists" and "Rejectionist" factions of the pro-Saddam Baathist movement seem to be leading to the possibility of a violent confrontation. The "Accomodationists" support cooperation with the Iraqi government, and support participation in the political process. Given that the Baath Party seems to have stashed away an enormous amount of money, and that Baathists are really the only experienced managers and administrators in the country, following the Accomodationists line could arguably result in a return of the Baathists to power eventually. The Rejectionists are violently opposed to any accommodation with the government, and seek a return to power by force, sooner rather than later.
There have been an increasing number of violent attacks on Accomodationists, or people who appear to be Accomodationists. Until recently, most of the incidents were in the form of attacks on property, threats, and occasional kidnappings for the purpose of intimidation. But lately there have been several killings. The possibility of a serious violent confrontation between the two wings of the Baath movement is increasing.
One reason for the despair within the Baath Party is the improved performance of the Iraqi police. This is no accident. Late last year, two changes were made to how the United States recruited and deployed the Iraqi police. First, standards for recruitment were increased, and training made longer and more intense. As expected, this did not reduce the number of new recruits coming in, because being a cop was still one of the better paying, and available, jobs in the other country. But firing poorly performing cops and police commanders did wonders for the morale and performance of the good cops. The other change was to deploy trained police battalions to areas the cops were not native to. This was a technique even Saddam had to use. If you recruit all the cops from the area they will be working in, too many of those policemen will be corrupted by local criminals and bureaucrats. The corruption wasn’t always in the from of cash or favors. Threats against a cops family would work as well. This was what was happening to so many of the police recruited from areas where they were working, particularly in Sunni Arab areas. So the U.S. formed special police battalions, trained them a bit more, screened their commanders more thoroughly, and paid them a bonus to work away from home. These were mainly Kurdish and Shia Arab cops being sent to work in Sunni Arab areas.
Sunni Arab cops needed all the help they could get. The Baath Party, and the most vicious criminal gangs were dominated by Sunni Arabs. Al Qaeda was also a Sunni Arab outfit. It was hard to get Sunni Arab police to come down hard on misbehaving Sunni Arabs. But Kurdish and Shia Arab cops saw cracking down on Sunni Arabs as a rare combination of business and pleasure.
Meanwhile, al Qaeda continues to be its own worst enemy. Unable to make other types of combat work, Al Qaeda has bet everything on the use of car bombs, driven by suicidal foreign volunteers. For all of 2004, there were under 30 car bombs used in Baghdad. But in the last four months, there have been over 130 in Baghdad. Nearly as many have been used in other parts of Iraq in that time period. Even Iraqis who support al Qaeda cannot understand this reliance on car bombs, which kill many innocent bystanders, and generate much hatred against al Qaeda, and Sunni Arabs in general. But it makes sense if you ignore al Qaeda’s English language pronouncements, and look at what they say in Arabic. There, al Qaeda denounces Shia Moslems as heretics and miscreants who must be converted to the true Islam (Sunni Islam), or slaughtered. In Iraq, al Qaeda is mainly sending its car bombs against Shias. It’s a matter of practicing what you preach.
June 9, 2005: More towns in Iraqi's "wild west" are making peace with the government. The usual drill is not another Fallujah, but a government official meeting with local tribal and religious leaders, where an offer is made. It is pointed out that Iraqi and American troops are coming. Neighborhoods that support the government will see little or no fighting, as a search is made for weapons, bombs and the like. Neighborhoods that wish to resist will be hit hard. By now, everyone knows how smart bombs work.
Increasingly, Sunni Arab leaders are being told, by their followers, that all this violence is not worth it. After Saddam fell, Sunni Arabs continued to believe in fantasies. For the last two years, the collective delusion was that the Americans had no stomach for guerilla war, and the Kurds and Shia Arabs could never get a government together. Today, Sunni Arabs who can get away on a little vacation, go north to the Kurdish north, or south to Shia Basra. In both places you can sit in an outdoor cafe without fear of a suicide bomb going off down the street. The Kurds and Shia have more jobs, more reconstruction and less crime. The Sunni Arabs don't want to live in their own mess any more.
They don't want to live in a combat zone, especially while the Kurds and Shia are not.
For Sunni Arabs to support the government, it often means fighting with the terrorist groups, and sometimes the criminal gangs they are allied with. The government offer includes help in building up local security. It has not gone unnoticed that Iraqi police are a lot more effective than they were a year ago. The government also has police commandoes who can go into any area, no matter how well defended, and take out terrorists or other heavily armed enemies. No longer does the government have to depend on the Americans for this sort of thing.
The bad news is that over a million Sunni Arabs are still hostile to the government, and any foreign troops in Iraq. Many are propelled by religious beliefs, as well as the "we are superior and should be running the place" attitude that Sunni Arabs have been cultivating for centuries. These guys are willing to keep fighting. The government doesn't want a blood bath, and they know that millions of Shia Arabs and Kurds would be willing to carry out a general massacre of Sunni Arabs, as payback for past sins. So the government goes to each town and neighborhood, gets the local leaders together, and makes the offer. Those who refuse are free to go home and get their guns and followers together for their last stand. Some of the leaders who refuse the government offer, do so because they know most of their followers want to fight on. But more and more, Sunni Arabs are deciding that there's no future in all this violence. You fight the Americans, you die. And, increasingly, the odds aren't much better against government troops or police.
However, there are other dangers in Iraq, and the most common are the tribal, ethnic and religious militias. The government has not cracked down on these private armies, or the warlords that control them. Being a tribal chief still means something in Iraq, a country with over a hundred tribes. Americans, who saw similar private militias disappear in the United States several generations ago, cannot understand why Iraq clings to this ancient concept. But to Iraqis, a warlord and his tough guys, is the last refuge in an uncertain world.
While the concept of democracy is appealing to many Iraqis, the concept of getting together and forming an armed gang to impose your ideas, is an ancient one in the region.
Meanwhile, as in Afghanistan, al Qaeda is relying more and more on foreign fighters. Creating its own "foreign legion" militia. The local al Qaeda supporters are melting away. Using foreigners as enforcers has not made al Qaeda any more popular. Terror doesn't engender trust and enthusiasm, only fear. The al Qaeda approach didn't work in Afghanistan, and it's not working in Iraq. And the hundreds of Iraqi warlords and their gangs will still be sorting it all out for years to come.
Again, Dunnigan asserts things are going our way. But what metrics can you cite that support this argument?
I proposed in my post that we watch death rates of government officials, police, and other Iraqis. Well, what data is there on trends for those death rates? I want to find such data. Feel good articles that pronounce things are going our way do not make me feel good.
Have the police took back the streets? If so, by what measure(s)?
Perhaps there's another reason?
I found this article very illuminating.
Iraq will not be secure until the regimes in Tehran, Syria and Riyhad are changed.
The money funding these guys is not government money, rather they're funded by private donations. Changing 'regimes' won't help.
Israel was in Lebanon for something like 18 years and left with their tail between their legs and a highly unstable neighbor. Israel had a much smaller area to control, much better intelligence about the country and much more motivation to secure the area.
What would give you the idea that we can secure the ridiculously larger area and population comprised of Iraq, Iran and Syria without any of these advatanges?
All historical evidence says we can't secure this region with anything close to the resources we have using. Also the track record of the "we are almost there crowd is crap". Before we heard that Iraq would be a piece of cake. Now you are saying we need to secure Iran and Syria too.
You make used car salesmen look good!
And this assumes it is in the interest of the US to secure this area in the first place, a premise I strongly disagree with.
This is the type of snake oil the war party crowd is trying to sell us.
"Create new networks of overseas bases," which is explained as a "semipermanent ring of 'frontier forts' along the American security perimeter from West Africa to East Asia." Plus, as Donnelly explained in his verbal comments, the US "homeland" (not to be confused with the above mentioned "American security perimeter" from Morocco to Japan) includes the area defined in the Monroe Doctrine, i.e. the Caribbean and Central America.
It's always fascinating when people talk about "casualties mounting." Their eyes often bulge when they say things like that. As if casualties could "dismount." Casualty counts are cumulative so of course they mount. Jeeeesh!
Braddock, did you ever think of casualties staying the same, as in no additional deaths becuase everyone is back home?
Good one. There are a lot of people who probably do think that casualty counts can run backwards, like a clock in reverse. I'll repeat my main reservation toward the Iraq mission, which is that I don't think arabs are intelligent enough to run a modern, democratic country. It's been my experience that most muslims are not very intelligent to begin with. Arabs, on top of low intelligence, are burdened with one of the most dysfuncional cultures in history.
I agree about the IQ problem. All the Arab countries score low in average IQ and also not coincidentally have terrible governments, Wth the exception of those lucky to have lots of oil, they also have low per capita GDPs.
Democracy always fails in low per capita GDP countries. Iraq has low per capita GDP which can only be boosted by increasing oil production and an average level of intelligence too low to sustain a healthy democracy. There are plenty of other reasons why democracy isn't going to work in Iraq.
The United States should stop immigration from Muslim countries, deport all Muslim illegal immigrants, and develop energy technologies that will render Middle Eastern oil worthless. We should also institute far more effective border control and visa policies to keep out potential threats. Doing all that would be a far better use of our money than fighting in Iraq to establish a form of government that the people there do not understand or particularly want.
Uh-huh. You go girl.
More like the broken clock that sees itself as being right twice a day. You go, cross dresser!
The so-called senior officers' assertion that Uncle Sam can't win in Iraq is simply laughable. The reality is the reverse - the US cannot *lose*, unless we decides we don't want to pay the price. Most guerrilla wars are won by the government. It's a fact. We hear about Nicaragua and Cuba. But most of Latin America crushed their communist movements. Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos turned communist. But the rest of Southeast Asia defeated their Chinese-funded communists. When European imperialists went forth and conquered much of the developing world, they fought guerrillas *all* the time. In the end, the local Nana Sahibs and bin Ladens went into hiding and never mounted any significant actions against their conquerors after being gradually bled dry. Note that many of these anti-guerrilla actions went on for decades.
Now, we can say that defeating the Iraqi guerrillas isn't worth 3,000 or 5,000 American lives - and I can go along with that assmption. But to say that Iraqi guerrillas cannot be beaten is so absurd, it's comical.
warnerd: Time for Plan B. Plan B is classic guerrilla doctrine: "the long war," where you attack the invaders' local allies, not the foreign troops themselves. The idea is, if you wipe out Iraqi collaborators, the US is just a blind giant. He'll stick around for a while, stumble over the countryside wrecking stuff, but sooner or later he'll get sick of stubbing his toes and go home.
There's nothing new or particularly original about this. Every guerrilla movement in history has done this. And most guerrilla movements are wiped out. Because the government has more guns and more men (and access to one of the biggest pools of oil in the Middle East to fund its efforts). This is especially the case in a country where 80% of the population is not Sunni Arab.
Having said this, I can't really say I oppose an American withdrawal. If we pull out, the Iraqi government will stop fighting the rich man's war we've foisted upon them, where human rights are respected, more or less, and terrorists are coddled. Shiites and Kurds will settle down to wiping out entire families of Sunni Arabs whose relatives are involved in the guerrilla movement. Think of it as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but on an up close and personal basis - a war to exterminate enough of the enemy and his dependents until he begs to surrender unconditionally, lest his bloodline is extinguished for eternity.
ZF: If we pull out, the Iraqi government will stop fighting the rich man's war we've foisted upon them, where human rights are respected, more or less, and terrorists are coddled.
One example of this is Fallujah, where we spent tens of millions of dollars on smart munitions and lost dozens of men trying to avoid killing civilians unnecessarily. The traditional Middle Eastern solution would have been to burn Fallujah to the ground and kill anyone trying to leave. The greater the body count, the bigger the demonstration effect to Sunni Arabs who want to fight the government. Note that even a warrior society like Japan submitted after two atomic bombs. The extermination of Fallujah by the Shiites and the Kurds would see Sunni Arabs prostrating themselves in their race to surrender their guerrilla brethren. Imposing collective punishment worked for Saddam, and it would work for the new Iraqi government.
If the Bush Administration could get a draft passed by Congress and send about 600,000 soldiers to Iraq for a few years and if the US military could train tens of thousands of soldiers to speak Arabic and if the soldiers were sent over to stay there until the war was won and if the US military could follow the sort of rules that Saddam would use to put down an insurgency (holding families hostage, torture, killing families, etc) then, yes, we could probably put down the insurgency. But given the rules and resources that the US military has available and is likely to have available the officers are right.
What Thomas Friedman labelled as "Hama Rules" (where Hafez Assad flattened Hama while it was full of civilians) are what dictators in the Middle East play by. But we are the United States and we won't play by those rules unless our survival is threatened. Faced with a real threat we'll nuke cities. But Iraq is not a real threat.
Which government is the government fighting against the guerillas in this case? The US government or the Iraqi government? In case you haven't noticed, the Iraqi government's forces are doing little of the total fighting.
RP: Which government is the government fighting against the guerillas in this case? The US government or the Iraqi government? In case you haven't noticed, the Iraqi government's forces are doing little of the total fighting.
The Iraqi government is doing a great deal of the fighting - they are manning road blocks instead of hunkering down at base camps and are losing about 200 dead a month, which would be about four days worth of losses for the ARVN (South Vietnamese military) during the Vietnam War.* In the former British colonies, British forces killed most of the guerrillas and were instrumental in wiping them out. On average, they were pretty popular with the natives, because like Americans, they were more solicitous of the locals' welfare, unlike the native troops, who were brusque and brutal. Unlike Uncle Sam, the British never used the politically-correct expedient of posting native troops to their home provinces. This would make them susceptible to blackmail and their families vulnerable to political murder.
But your baseline claim is not that they're not making enough of a contribution - it's that we can't win. And that's absurd on its face. We have more men and we have more money. We not only can win - we can't lose. We took ten years to win in the Philippines. But we won. We can fight until every last guerrilla is dead. The question isn't whether we can win - it's whether we want to pay the price. The unwinnable guerrilla war is a silly idea. We cannot lose. The question is what we're willing to sacrifice to achieve victory. I am willing to say that we should get out tomorrow, because Iraq isn't worth the bones of a single additional GI, but not that we can't win. The two concepts are completely separate.
* Note that unlike US troops, Iraqi troops have to worry about their families getting slaughtered by the Iraqi guerrillas and leaving behind orphans and widows in dire financial straits if they are killed in battle, given the much more limited survivor benefits in the Iraqi security forces. I wouldn't be so quick to say they are a bunch of gutless wonders.
Losing 200 dead a month does not equal fighting. So they are out at roadblocks where they can get blown up. That does not translate automatically into effectiveness. Few of the Iraqi units are worth anything. Read the articles. They are pathetic. They are lackadaisical and lazy and unenthused. The insurgents are enthused.
We can't win if it is politically impossible to mobilize enough troops to win. Well, it is politically impossible to institute a draft. The volunteer army is failing to meet recruitment goals and the gap is widening.
If the US public turns so far against the war that the US military withdraws then we will have lost. You can claim that we were not defeated by superior forces and that we had the material with which to continue the war. Yet we still will have lost.
Well, the US soldiers think the Iraqi soldiers are gutless wonders.
BTW, Lots of the soldiers hide their membership in the Iraqi military so as to protect their families.
RP: If the Bush Administration could get a draft passed by Congress and send about 600,000 soldiers to Iraq for a few years and if the US military could train tens of thousands of soldiers to speak Arabic and if the soldiers were sent over to stay there until the war was won and if the US military could follow the sort of rules that Saddam would use to put down an insurgency (holding families hostage, torture, killing families, etc) then, yes, we could probably put down the insurgency. But given the rules and resources that the US military has available and is likely to have available the officers are right.
The officers are wrong. We cannot lose. All we have to do is stick around long enough. They haven't been able to kill enough of our men to make a difference. Someone once said that guerrillas win by not losing - i.e. by simply continuing to exist. Not true. Guerrillas throughout Latin America and Southeast Asia continued existing for decades, but they became progressively weaker and either died out or were killed off. For guerrilla movements, mundane things like getting new recruits, funding and weaponry become more difficult as time stretches on. Even the most generous of donors get impatient at the small return they have seen for their money - it's a financial burden, since they also have to pay taxes to the government. Guerrilla recruits get discouraged as the horizon for victory stretches on even as their numbers are continually whittled down and their sanctuaries routinely raided. Weaponry becomes more and more difficult to acquire as war fatigue grinds down the morale of guerrilla collaborators who help smuggle the goods.
RP: What Thomas Friedman labelled as "Hama Rules" (where Hafez Assad flattened Hama while it was full of civilians) are what dictators in the Middle East play by. But we are the United States and we won't play by those rules unless our survival is threatened. Faced with a real threat we'll nuke cities. But Iraq is not a real threat.
What Friedman mincingly described as Hama Rules are relatively tame by Middle Eastern standards. Besides, destroying entire cities is wasteful. Just kill the people and leave the buildings standing. Cut off the water and food supplies and they'll eventually come streaming out, won't they? The US won't use these tactics. But the Iraqi government will, if the US withdraws. Because the survival of Iraqi's Shias and Kurds will be threatened.
The irony of what Sunni Arabs are doing is that they don't know how good they have it under American occupation. We are the ultimate honest broker, guaranteeing the Sunnis their basic rights as long as we stick around. If we leave without pacifying the Sunni Arabs using our methods, the Shias and the Kurds will pacify them using traditional Middle Eastern methods. It is not only the case that we can't lose - the Iraqi government can't lose either - but it will win using its methods, not ours, if we withdraw.
RP: Losing 200 dead a month does not equal fighting. So they are out at roadblocks where they can get blown up. That does not translate automatically into effectiveness. Few of the Iraqi units are worth anything. Read the articles. They are pathetic. They are lackadaisical and lazy and unenthused. The insurgents are enthused.
Actually, killing 80 Americans a month doesn't equal fighting either. The Vietnamese Communists used to kill an average of 750 Americans a month, together with several thousand South Vietnamese troops. The reason so few Iraqi troops are dying is because so few guerrilla attacks are being made against them. (Note that Americans are hunkered down in their firebases, while Iraqi units expose themselves to car bombs at road blocks). The guerrillas are deliberately targeting civilians.
*Anyone* can target civilians. The biggest guerrilla attack against civilians we have ever seen was 9/11. Despite our military might and the fact that they were foreigners who stuck out like sore thumbs, they got through.
RP: We can't win if it is politically impossible to mobilize enough troops to win. Well, it is politically impossible to institute a draft. The volunteer army is failing to meet recruitment goals and the gap is widening.
If the US public turns so far against the war that the US military withdraws then we will have lost. You can claim that we were not defeated by superior forces and that we had the material with which to continue the war. Yet we still will have lost.
That's not what these officers said - they did not say anything about politics - they said that it was physically impossible to kill the guerrilla movement off. And I think they're full of it.
RP: Well, the US soldiers think the Iraqi soldiers are gutless wonders.
BTW, Lots of the soldiers hide their membership in the Iraqi military so as to protect their families.
You can only make a valid comparison if GI's brought their extended families into Iraq to live among Iraqis and dropped their military (survivor and pension) benefits just so they can share the experience of their Iraqi counterparts. The press thinks Iraqi government troops are collaborators *and* gutless wonders. I think the guerrillas are a bunch of glorified mine-layers and serial killers who won't go anywhere near a soldier, Iraqi or American, if they can help it. And that, in the end, is why they will lose, whether in a benign way to the Iraqi government under US tutelage or in a bloodbath after an American pullout.
I think an American pullout won't lead to too many bad things, but it will dent our prestige badly around the world*, at a time when we can win without too much additional cost. That could lead to bigger problems against enemies that can inflict much bigger casualties against us. I think it is better to finish this war so that we don't have to fight those conflicts. Still, a massacre of Sunni Arabs may help the Sunnis in Iraq to acknowledge, once and for all (like the Japanese), that they have been beaten.
* China, North Korea and Iran will take note, and be more likely to make trouble.
You are defining warfare very narrowly. War is pursued for political objectives. The 80 dead a month is enough to turn the American people against the war. They are achieving their political objective.
Also, the US is not achieving the objective of turning the fighting over to the Iraqis.
As for Americans hunkered down in bases: We are losing more soldiers than we were last summer. So our troops are still plenty exposed.
"Glorified minelayers"? If you can achieve your objective without getting killed then you are a smart guerrilla. Why should the guerillas expose themselves to direct American fire when they can kill without doing that?
We can not win "without too much additional cost".
And this is a laugher:
We are the ultimate honest broker, guaranteeing the Sunnis their basic rights as long as we stick around.
Well gosh, if we defeat the insurgency or they quit fighting of their own accord then we will leave. What happens to their basic rights then? Then they'll live under a Shia democratic dictatorship.
You are just passing along the standard neocon talking points. Those talking points are a myth. The insurgents haven't shifted from US soldiers to Iraqi solders to Iraqi police to civilians. They have kept up their US soldiers death rate while they have added an even larger Iraqi soldiers death rate and tripled their Iraqi police death rate and they are killing goverment officials (to the point that some towns have no government officials at all) and they are killing civilians. No, US soldiers are not "hunkered down". They are getting killed every day and their death rate is still above the average rate for the war.
Randall Parker: You are just passing along the standard neocon talking points. Those talking points are a myth. The insurgents haven't shifted from US soldiers to Iraqi solders to Iraqi police to civilians. They have kept up their US soldiers death rate while they have added an even larger Iraqi soldiers death rate and tripled their Iraqi police death rate and they are killing goverment officials (to the point that some towns have no government officials at all) and they are killing civilians. No, US soldiers are not "hunkered down". They are getting killed every day and their death rate is still above the average rate for the war.
And you are just passing on the standard mythical leftist talking points. We are losing a fraction of the men we lost in Vietnam on a daily basis. And in Vietnam, we stomped the Communists right up to the point we withdrew in 1972. As to the term "neocon", that's just a label that liberals have found handy to describe people who are old line conservatives. To be quite honest, it wouldn't bother me if the entire Muslim world were herded into a giant mass grave. Neo conservatives want to bring democracy to the benighted. I just want potential threats to America's security removed before they get to our shores. Conservatives also believe in deterrence, and that just won't be helped by a military withdrawal from Iraq.
Again, Parapundit keeps on avoiding the issue - he says that Uncle Sam is heading for a military defeat, whereas it is perfectly obvious that the only way we are going to be defeated is politically - if we give up. If we stay the course, the guerrillas will lose. You can say that the price is too high, but you can't say that we are losing militarily. That is just crazy.
The fact that these guys are killing more Iraqi security forces is a sign that Iraqis are getting more involved in fighting the guerrillas. Green Iraqi troops are fighting seasoned veterans from Saddam's army. It'll take some time for them to get up to speed. During the post-colonial era, in every instance that native troops took over the war against indigenous Communist movements from European troops, native troops took more casualties than their Western counterparts. But in the end, the vast majority of governments prevailed against guerrilla movements.
Why are Americans in Iraq if the natives can win on their own? So as to prevent a Shiite Saddam from springing up. We did not invest thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to replace an anti-American Sunni dictatorship with a Shiite anti-American dictatorship. Iraq's democracy is fragile. We cannot let the Iraqi Shiites turn Iraq into a Shiite Saudi Arabia. To leftists like Parapundit, this would, of course, be the ideal outcome, since in his view, anything that hurts American interests is by definition a good thing.
Zhang Fei/Robert Rosenthal,
And you are just passing on the standard mythical leftist talking points.
No, your problem is that the neocons screwed up big time in Iraq and the Lefists are not the only ones who have figured that out. I'm not of the Left and I think the neocons have severely damaged US interests.
No, the neocons are a clearly defined political faction. One of the founders of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol is quite clear that neocons are a distinct group.
WHAT EXACTLY IS NEOCONSERVATISM? Journalists, and now even presidential candidates, speak with an enviable confidence on who or what is "neoconservative," and seem to assume the meaning is fully revealed in the name. Those of us who are designated as "neocons" are amused, flattered, or dismissive, depending on the context. It is reasonable to wonder: Is there any "there" there?
Even I, frequently referred to as the "godfather" of all those neocons, have had my moments of wonderment. A few years ago I said (and, alas, wrote) that neoconservatism had had its own distinctive qualities in its early years, but by now had been absorbed into the mainstream of American conservatism. I was wrong, and the reason I was wrong is that, ever since its origin among disillusioned liberal intellectuals in the 1970s, what we call neoconservatism has been one of those intellectual undercurrents that surface only intermittently. It is not a "movement," as the conspiratorial critics would have it. Neoconservatism is what the late historian of Jacksonian America, Marvin Meyers, called a "persuasion," one that manifests itself over time, but erratically, and one whose meaning we clearly glimpse only in retrospect.
Until the war in Iraq started going so terribly wrong the neocons did not run away from the label that they previously had embraced. When the name "neocon" came to be associated with a bunch of discredited policies then the necons tried to drop the "neo" part of their name. But they are not regular conservatives by any stretch of the imagination. They are friendlier to big government. They think they can radically change foreign societies. Michael Ledeen advocates for Rightists as radicals. This is not Burkean conservatism. Most of them want open borders (Frank Gaffney excepted).
To leftists like Parapundit, this would, of course, be the ideal outcome, since in his view, anything that hurts American interests is by definition a good thing.
So then when I attack Bush for his Open Borders policy am I being a Leftist? When I attack Bush for spending money by adding the Medicare drug benefit am I being a Leftist? When I criticise him for gutting Theodore Olsen's U Mich racial preferences legal brief to the Supreme Court am I being a Leftist? I'm to the Right of you and I'm attacking neocons from the Right, not the Left you moron.
Randall is the first person from whose lips I ever heard the name Ayn Rand. He is the first person who ever mentioned The Federalist Papers to me. Explained to me who Hayek is. He is smart enough to have noted the difference between a philosophical predisposition or principle like conservatism and an ideology like objectivism or libertarianism.
When I read you accuse Randall of leftism, I can only think: "Oh my God! What blind, unthinking stupidity!"
I just wanted to say I'm in support of war against terrorism and would like to be a part of the platoon that's ggoing to kick Iraq's butt. I'm up to be recruited.