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2009 April 08 Wednesday
Insurgency And Social Networks In Iraq

Noah Shachtman has written a good piece in Wired about war in Iraq entitled How Technology Almost Lost the War: In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social — Not Electronic.

Cebrowski and Garstka wrote about a different kind of power, one that came when connected troops started to share information in ways that circumvented, and bypassed, the Industrial Age military chain of command. But that helps only if troops can connect in the first place. It can take up to a week for them to wrangle their laptops into updating the biometric databases that track who gets in and out of Fallujah. Intelligence reports can take even longer. The people best equipped to win the battle for people's minds — US troops on the ground, local policemen, Iraqi Army officers, tribal leaders — are left out of CPOF's network. It's a bandwidth hog, and the soldiers and marines fighting these counterinsurgencies aren't exactly carrying around T3 lines. Only recently did infantrymen like the ones in Fallujah even get their own radios. The Pentagon's sluggish structure for buying new gear means it can take up to a decade to get soldiers equipped. (Though to be fair, CPOF was purchased and deployed years ahead of schedule.) In Fallujah, the marines of Fox Company, based in an abandoned train station, mostly use their CPOF terminal to generate local maps, which they export to PowerPoint. Their buddies in Fox Company's first platoon, working out of a police precinct, have it even worse. When they want to get online, they have to drive to the station.

The military built an expensive top-down computer network that doesn't address the biggest problem in Iraq: the relationships of the people. The military's network is still useful. But understanding the Iraqis and interacting with them successfully requires a lot more people skills.

The number of people on the military network is far too small for the network to contain useful info about Iraqi social networks.

As for Iraqi access, while CPOF technically isn't classified, all of the data on it is. Locals can't see the information or update any of those databases with their own intelligence. A key tenet of network theory is that a network's power grows with every new node. But that's only if every node gets as good as it gives. In Iraq, the most important nodes in this fight are all but cut off.

The insurgents are using technology with a more bottom-up approach.

Meanwhile, insurgent forces cherry-pick the best US tech: disposable email addresses, anonymous Internet accounts, the latest radios. They do everything online: recruiting, fundraising, trading bomb-building tips, spreading propaganda, even selling T-shirts. And every American-financed move to reinforce Iraq's civilian infrastructure only makes it easier for the insurgents to operate. Every new Internet café is a center for insurgent operations. Every new cell tower means a hundred new nodes on the insurgent network. And, of course, the insurgents know the language and understand the local culture. Which means they plug into Iraq's larger social web more easily than an American ever could. As John Abizaid, Franks' successor at Central Command, told a conference earlier this year, "This enemy is better networked than we are."

Lower tech approaches are more efficacious.

So Colabuno started spoofing the insurgents' posters instead. He put a logo similar to that of the terrorist Islamic Army at the top of a simple black-and-white sheet. "A young boy died while wearing a suicide vest given to him by criminals," one flyer read. "You should remember that whoever makes lies about Allah should reserve his seat in hell." The extremists went nuts — screaming at shopkeepers and locals who posted the flyers, blaming other insurgents for defaming their good names. All the while, Americans watched the action through high-powered surveillance cameras. Consequently the marines knew who to question, and who to capture or kill. "We know where you are and what you are doing," another poster proclaimed. "Who will you trust now?"

The whole article is a good read. It brings to mind US Army captain Stuart Herrington's book about his time in Vietnam: Silence Was A Weapon: The Vietnam War in the Villages. Human relationships are key in an insurgency. Weaponry matters far less.

By Randall Parker    2009 April 08 10:44 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2007 October 30 Tuesday
US Death Rate Down In Iraq

We've turned the clock back to early 2006 in terms of the rate of US soldier deaths.

Washington - US troop losses in Iraq have plummeted in the past few months to levels not seen since early 2006 – an encouraging sign, say analysts and defense officials, that the US strategy is working, at least for now.


The Pentagon reported 23 service members killed in combat this month as of Tuesday, noting that insurgent and other attacks have plunged in violence-prone places like Baghdad. As recently as May, as the Pentagon completed its "surge" of about 30,000 additional US forces and began military operations in more dangerous areas of Iraq, US combat deaths were five times as high, with 120 killed. This month, by contrast, the casualty rate is on par with that of March 2006, when 27 service members were killed. Since the beginning of the war, only a few months have seen fewer fatalities than this month, including February 2004, arguably the predawn of the insurgency in Iraq, when 12 US service members were killed.

A reason for excitement? Well, at some point in 2008 the US military is going to need to lower US troop levels because the US military isn't big enough to sustain the current level of deployment. When US troop levels get back down to 100,000 will the insurgents just come back out of temporary retirement and start shooting up the place again? Could be.

The fundamental conflict between the 3 major ethnic groups in Iraq remains. The Sunnis still do not want to submit to rule by the Shias and the Sunnis want a share of the oil revenue. At the same time, the Kurds effectively have achieved autonomy. If the Shia areas ever become calm will the Shias then turn their attention to bringing the Kurds under control of the Shia-dominated Baghdad government?

What I wonder: Has the violence gone down due to consolidation of power within each of the 3 major ethnic groups? Is there less fighting within each ethnic group? That certainly seems to be the case with the Sunnis. Also, is the ethnic cleansing advancing far enough that fewer Sunnis and Shias are within range of the opposing ethnic group? Are we seeing the result of effective partition and then consolidation of power within each ethnic enclave? If that is the case then we aren't exactly witnessing victory of liberal democracy.

By Randall Parker    2007 October 30 10:47 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2007 July 07 Saturday
More Civilian Contractors Than Soldiers In Iraq

T. Christian Miller of the Los Angeles Times has discovered that the US uses more contractors than US soldiers in Iraq.

The number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government's capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns.

More than 180,000 civilians — including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis — are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Including the recent troop buildup, 160,000 soldiers and a few thousand civilian government employees are stationed in Iraq.

What does this tell us? Even a force of 340,000 is not enough to put down the various insurgencies and fighting factions. Also, supposedly an Iraqi military force is fighting on the same side as the US and supposedly it provides some additional help (though we might just be training Iraqi soldiers to become better insurgents). One qualifier: Some of the contractors are doing reconstruction. So not all are in support of the military mission.

The total number of private contractors, far higher than previously reported, shows how heavily the Bush administration has relied on corporations to carry out the occupation of Iraq — a mission criticized as being undermanned.

"These numbers are big," said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who has written on military contracting. "They illustrate better than anything that we went in without enough troops. This is not the coalition of the willing. It's the coalition of the billing."

The contractors probably do a lot of logistics work and maintenance so that a larger percentage of the American soldiers can put themselves in harm's way.

The US still uses more Americans than non-Americans.

The numbers include at least 21,000 Americans, 43,000 foreign contractors and about 118,000 Iraqis — all employed in Iraq by U.S. tax dollars, according to the most recent government data.

43,000 foreign contractors. They are cheaper than the 21,000 Americans. Outsourcing. Wonder where they are from.

Of course, if the Iraqis really cared about freedom of religion, speech, press, and so on they'd be out en masse hunting down tribal and religious militias. US troops wouldn't need to hunt down insurgents because the Iraqis would kill them all. We are trying to turn the Iraqis into something they aren't. They do not share our relative priorities on values and loyalties. They do not share our ways of looking at life. Their religion and culture are not compatible with our values and beliefs.

By Randall Parker    2007 July 07 09:09 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2007 May 13 Sunday
US Troop Surge Failing To Quell Iraq Violence

Even in Baghdad the violence is rising.

The US military surge in Iraq, designed to turn around the course of the war, appears to be failing as senior US officers admit they need yet more troops and new figures show a sharp increase in the victims of death squads in Baghdad.

In the first 11 days of this month, there have already been 234 bodies - men murdered by death squads - dumped around the capital, a dramatic rise from the 137 found in the same period of April. Improving security in Baghdad and reducing death-squad activity was described as one of the key aims of the US surge of 25,000 additional troops, the final units of whom are due to arrive next month.

The US would need a few hundred thousand more troops to get a handle on Iraq. That's not going to happen.

The insurgents are raising havoc in northern Iraq and the US has too few troops to do anything about it.

The U.S. commander in northern Iraq says he does not have enough manpower to secure the increasingly violent Diyala province. Major General Benjamin Mixon made the remarks to reporters at the Pentagon by videoconference from Iraq.


"I do not have enough soldiers right now in Diyala province to get that security situation moving," he said. "We have plans to put additional forces in that area. I can't discuss the details of that. We have put additional forces in there over the last couple of months, but I am going to need additional forces in Diyala province to get that situation to a more acceptable level so the Iraqi security forces will be able in the future to handle that."

The general says he currently has about 3,500 U.S. troops in Diyala province, with about 10,000 Iraqi soldiers and several thousand Iraqi police.

General Mixon describes the Diyala province government as "nonfunctional".

The US military is much too small to get a handle on the insurgencies (yes, plural) in all parts of Iraq. The transfer of US soldiers into Baghdad depleted other regions and the insurgents demonstrate that when the cat's away the mice play.

One could ask a question like "whatever happened to the Iraqi government's military and US efforts to train it?". We all know that the Iraqi Army isn't about to become a serious fighting force. But our leaders would have us believe that the same sorts of nationalistic loyalties that motivate Americans also motivate consanguineously marrying, low IQ, Muslim Arabs in the Middle East. Our elites have failed us. Even the Democrats who want us to withdraw from Iraq are unwilling to state the reasons why the invasion of Iraq failed since to state those reasons would require an admission that basic tenets of the secular liberal faith are wrong.

By Randall Parker    2007 May 13 09:59 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (15)
Iraqi Insurgents Building Better Bombs

An AP article about whether the Stryker armored combat vehicle is too lightweight for Iraq makes an interesting point: The Iraqi insurgents can build bombs so powerful that they even knock out M1A1 Abrams tanks.

But Antonio said some insurgents had found "the right mix of explosives and IED positioning to inflict severe damage on the vehicle." He also noted that tanks had also proved vulnerable too.

The insurgents are also becoming better at hiding the devices — the IED that killed the six soldiers and the journalist was believed hidden in a sewer line. To add potency, insurgents surrounded the device with cement to channel the blast force up into the tank, according to soldiers familiar with the investigation.

Supporters of the Strykers say all that proves that it's the lethality of bombs in Iraq — not the Strykers themselves — that are the problem: The bombs are now so powerful that even Abrams main battle tanks are vulnerable to some of them.

The Strykers and even the Abrams are getting blown up by custom made bombs. The bomb developers do not have large staffs of engineers and scientists. They do not have the ability to call up lots of machine tool suppliers or electronic motherboard design firms. With tools which are relatively crude they are building and planting bombs that are knocking out multi-million dollar US military armored vehicles. They are also getting better at hiding bombs.

By contrast the US military is not developing more blast resistant vehicles at anywhere near the rate at which the bombers are developing better bombs.

The insurgents are very cheaply damaging and destroying very expensive pieces of equipment. The Stryker costs over $4 million per vehicle.

Estimated total costs for the Stryker vehicle program increased about 22 percent, from the original November 2000 estimate, in then-year dollars, of $7.1 billion to the December 2003 estimate of $8.7 billion. The average acquisition cost per vehicle increased from $3.34 million to $4.13 million during the same time period.

The M1A2 Abrams main battle tank costs about $5.6 million each. Even before the insurgents started building bombs that'll knock out the US Army's main battle tank the Iraq war was wearing out and damaging equipment faster than the US military could repair it. A news story from December 2006 reports that the Iraq war is inflicting $17 billion in equipment damage per year.

ANNISTON, Ala. - Field upon field of more than 1,000 battered M1 tanks, howitzers and other armored vehicles sit amid weeds here at the 15,000-acre Anniston Army Depot -- the idle, hulking formations symbolic of an Army that is wearing out faster than it is being rebuilt.

The Army and Marine Corps have sunk more than 40 percent of their ground combat equipment into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to government data. An estimated $17 billion-plus worth of military equipment is destroyed or worn out each year, blasted by bombs, ground down by desert sand and used up to nine times the rate in times of peace. The gear is piling up at depots such as Anniston, waiting to be repaired.

But since the troop surge the burn rate on equipment has probably risen.

The US military is ill-equipped to cost effectively engage an enemy that is practicing asymmetric warfare. We are wasting precious lives and treasure in a civil war between Sunnis and Shias and between various factions of each.

By Randall Parker    2007 May 13 09:26 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2007 April 29 Sunday
US Officer Criticizes Generals Over Iraq

A US Army Lieutenant Colonel fighting in Iraq says the US officer corps have badly failed the American people.

An active-duty Army officer is publishing a blistering attack on U.S. generals, saying they have botched the war in Iraq and misled Congress about the situation there.

"America's generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq," charges Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, an Iraq veteran who is deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. "The intellectual and moral failures . . . constitute a crisis in American generals."

Yingling's comments are especially striking because his unit's performance in securing the northwestern Iraqi city of Tall Afar was cited by President Bush in a March 2006 speech and provided the model for the new security plan underway in Baghdad.

I am confident of the ability of neoconservatives to spin Lt. Col. Yingling's claims as signs of defeatism and leftist sympathies. Yes, the Lt. Col. is unpatriotic unlike George W. Bush, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, and Paul (giving one's girlfriend a raise is a right and honorable thing) Wolfowitz. Never mind that the neocons should be ashamed of themselves for the Iraq Debacle. They seemingly have an incapacity to feel shame.

The Armed Forces Journal has Yingling's article A failure in generaliship online:

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.

Yes, the estimates of strategic probabilities have been ridiculous. Did the generals who made excessively optimistic statements about the war's progress believe those statements? Or were they just stating what their elected politician commander in chief wanted them to say?

Yingling says that generals must have the moral courage to state their beliefs.

Failing to visualize future battlefields represents a lapse in professional competence, but seeing those fields clearly and saying nothing is an even more serious lapse in professional character. Moral courage is often inversely proportional to popularity and this observation in nowhere more true than in the profession of arms. The history of military innovation is littered with the truncated careers of reformers who saw gathering threats clearly and advocated change boldly. A military professional must possess both the physical courage to face the hazards of battle and the moral courage to withstand the barbs of public scorn. On and off the battlefield, courage is the first characteristic of generalship.

Yingling thinks the US generals refused to fully embrace the necessity to use unconventional warfare in Vietnam.

Having participated in the deception of the American people during the war, the Army chose after the war to deceive itself. In "Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife," John Nagl argued that instead of learning from defeat, the Army after Vietnam focused its energies on the kind of wars it knew how to win — high-technology conventional wars. An essential contribution to this strategy of denial was the publication of "On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War," by Col. Harry Summers. Summers, a faculty member of the U.S. Army War College, argued that the Army had erred by not focusing enough on conventional warfare in Vietnam, a lesson the Army was happy to hear. Despite having been recently defeated by an insurgency, the Army slashed training and resources devoted to counterinsurgency.

I got the same impression of the US officer corps in Vietnam when reading David Hackworth's About Face and Stuart Harrington's Silence Was A Weapon. Now the US officer corps has failed again and the civilian leadership above them has failed again as well.

Yingling says the failure to send the needed troops to Iraq was a moral failure rather than a failure due to lack of knowledge.

Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq's population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.

When Shinseki gave Congress a realistic assessment of troop needs for an Iraq occupation he got slapped down by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The officer corps got the message. They shut up and we went to war based on unrealistic assumptions. Lots of war hawk bloggers then spent years cheering on the statements of Administration officials and generals who were all just following orders and stating the Panglossian party line.

We can't trust what the US military says about the intensity of the conflict.

After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America's general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. The Iraq Study Group concluded that "there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq." The ISG noted that "on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals."

Of course the Bush Administration can't now admit the truth about Iraq because to do so would require admission of the magnitude of past mistakes and deceptions.

As for the failure of the generals: Is it realistic to expect anything better from them? They want to get promoted. So they are going to cater to the whims of their superior officers and civilian bosses. The ones that rise the farthest are going to tend to be more willing to kiss ass. Junior officers are probably tend to have more accurate assessments of wars. The problem is that the American people can't judge the claims of politicians without hearing the real beliefs the officers. We need some better mechanism by which the truth is more likely to get revealed.

By Randall Parker    2007 April 29 09:48 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2006 December 19 Tuesday
Joint Chiefs Split With Bush On Iraq Troop Surge

The US military Joint Chiefs of Staff oppose a several month troop surge in Iraq.

The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.

Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of bigger packages, the officials said.

US officers see the White House's surge gambit as a sign of desperation given the lack of other alternatives that are acceptable given Bush's stated war aims.

But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.

The military believes a US surge will pull in more foreign fighers and present more US targets to kill. The military also believes Shia militias would just lay low and act like civilians until the surge is over. Then they'd pick up their arms again and conditions would return to the current status quo or worse. The US military is correct.

I suspect this information is getting leaked in part because the military doesn't want to get blamed for the inevitable failure of what passes for strategy in the Bush Administration. But they also don't want to throw away American lives and resources for no worthwhile result.

If Bush goes through with the surge plan he's setting himself up for a big political fall once it fails. Therefore the surge plan might well serve the best interests of the United States in the longer run.

The violence in Iraq has soared to a new high.

The Pentagon said yesterday that violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record and acknowledged that anti-U.S. fighters have achieved a "strategic success" by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni and Shiite death squads that threatens Iraq's political institutions.

In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and "little progress" toward political reconciliation.

"The violence has escalated at an unbelievably rapid pace," said Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed journalists on the report. "We have to get ahead of that violent cycle, break that continuous chain of sectarian violence. . . . That is the premier challenge facing us now."

The 50-page Pentagon report, mandated quarterly by Congress, also stated for the first time that the Shiite militia of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has replaced al-Qaeda as "the most dangerous" force propelling Iraq toward civil war, as Shiite militants kill more civilians than do terrorists.

Iraq is getting driven toward civil war? Look, the Sunnis have decided they will not be ruled by a Shia majority. The Sunnis will keep killing Shias as long as the Shias rule them. Shiite cleric and militia leader Sadr's response seems inevitable. "You kill mine and so I kill yours". It makes sense. Plus, it is even constructive. Either the Mahdi Army death squads will kill so many Sunnis that the Sunnis surrender or the Sunnis will flee from Shia-controlled areas and the country will become effectively partitioned. The killings drive events toward some sort of resolution.

Granted, few want to admit the need for killings of human beings in order to solve problems. But realistic alternatives require more honesty and realism than exists in Washington DC or among the Iraqis. Bush won't admit the scale of the Iraq problems and hence won't support less deadly ways to pull the Sunnis and Shias apart. Also, most Sunnis and Shias still want a united Iraq (at least I see no indications to the contrary) but continue to contest over the question of which group will rule the other.

Ivan Eland has an interesting list of 10 things not to do in Iraq. Here are 4 and 5

4. Don’t use any extra U.S. troops to train Iraqi forces. Even if the Iraqi army and police could be made larger and better quickly—which they can’t be—the biggest difficulty is not their competence. The main problem is that they will fight for their religious sect, ethnic group, or tribe, not for their country.

5. Don’t think that training Iraqi security forces is a viable U.S. exit strategy. Because of the fragmented nature of Iraqi society, training such forces is merely enabling one side’s combatants in an accelerating civil war. Many of those already trained are now operating as Shi’ite death squads attacking Sunnis.

A continued Bush Administration fantasy is that an objective Iraqi military force can be created that will be impartial between Shias and Sunnis, between tribes, between factions. Not going to happen.

The Iraqis are going to have to keep ramping up their attacks on each other and on US forces before realistic resolutions to the conflict will become acceptable.

By Randall Parker    2006 December 19 09:43 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2006 December 17 Sunday
100,000 Contractors In Iraq

Add 100,000 contractors to the size of the occupation force in Iraq.

There are about 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq, not counting subcontractors, a total that is approaching the size of the U.S. military force there, according to the military's first census of the growing population of civilians operating in the battlefield.

The survey finding, which includes Americans, Iraqis and third-party nationals hired by companies operating under U.S. government contracts, is significantly higher and wider in scope than the Pentagon's only previous estimate, which said there were 25,000 security contractors in the country.

Those 100,000 contractors do the work that conventional soldiers would otherwise do. Therefore their number belongs in a count of the total forces in Iraq. As of October 2006 over 162 thousand troops from several nations were in Iraq. So the total order of battle - not including Iraqi soldiers - is over a quarter million.

These numbers make me wonder whether even Rand Corp. analysts James Quinlivan and James Dobbins underestimated the number of soldiers needed to occupy Iraq. While pre-invasion Anthony Zinni at Centcom was claiming a need for 350,000 to 380,000 soldiers pre-war Dobbins was claiming a full half million were needed and he said 1 soldier is needed per 50 civilians. But we effectively have half that number now (with another 20,000 or so likely to be sent soon to little effect) and I have a hard time imagining that doubling that number would bring Iraq under control.

The United States can not bring order to Iraq - at least not for a cost that is anywhere near a price the American people would be willing to pay. The conflict will continue while the American people continue to go through a very slow and limited learning process. If our elites were not so fundamentally wrong and dishonest in their public pronouncements about human nature we could go up the learning curve a whole lot quicker. But instead we'll have to lose many more lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

By Randall Parker    2006 December 17 09:35 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2006 September 25 Monday
More National Guard To Iraq After US Elections

The Bush Administration doesn't want to upset the electorate before the election.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 — Strains on the Army from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have become so severe that Army officials say they may be forced to make greater use of the National Guard to provide enough troops for overseas deployments.

Senior Army officers have discussed that analysis — and described the possible need to use more members of the National Guard — with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s senior adviser on personnel, David S. C. Chu, according to Pentagon officials.

While no decision has been made to mobilize more Guard forces, and may not need to be before midterm elections, the prospect presents the Bush administration with a politically vexing problem: how, without expanding the Army, to balance the pressing need for troops in the field against promises to limit overseas deployments for the Guard.

How to balance these needs? Oh, let us see. We could withdraw from Iraq. Or we could withdraw just from parts of Iraq. Or we could institute a draft. Okay, we can't institute a draft because the electorate (at least those adolescent and young adult sons) would become even more angry than they are on immigration.

How's this for an idea? If our President is going to continue to fool enough people to keep the US involved in the Iraq fighting then why not pay a cheap foreign legion to fight for us? We could hire a couple million Third Worlders for a fraction of what the US soldiers cost.

My ultimate modest proposal for solving the Iraq problem? Pay millions of third worlders to immigrate to Iraq and make Arab Muslims a small minority in the country.

By Randall Parker    2006 September 25 10:52 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
Major General John Batiste Denounces Donald Rumsfeld

How can the Panglossian war supporters denounce Major General Batiste? As a pacifist leftist? Doesn't work. As a partisan Democrat? Doesn't work either. As someone without military experience? He's got a great military resume and comes from a multi-generation military family. Batiste wants to win in Iraq but thinks under the current (incompetent) leadership that is impossible.

My name is John Batiste. I left the military on principle on November 1, 2005, after more than 31 years of service. I walked away from promotion and a promising future serving our country. I hung up my uniform because I came to the gut-wrenching realization that I could do more good for my soldiers and their families out of uniform. I am a West Point graduate, the son and son-in-law of veteran career soldiers, a two-time combat veteran with extensive service in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq, and a life-long Republican. Bottom line, our nation is in peril, our Department of Defense’s leadership is extraordinarily bad, and our Congress is only today, more than five years into this war, beginning to exercise its oversight responsibilities. This is all about accountability and setting our nation on the path to victory. There is no substitute for victory and I believe we must complete what we started in Iraq and Afghanistan

Bush, Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz sold us an orders of magnitude easier job in Iraq as compared to what it turned out to be. Either they are incompetent for not foreseeing just how far off they were or they were lying.

Batiste says Rumsfeld's plan has been a disaster.

Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader. He knows everything, except “how to win.” He surrounds himself with like-minded and compliant subordinates who do not grasp the importance of the principles of war, the complexities of Iraq, or the human dimension of warfare. Secretary Rumsfeld ignored 12 years of U.S. Central Command deliberate planning and strategy, dismissed honest dissent, and browbeat subordinates to build “his plan,” which did not address the hard work to crush the insurgency, secure a post-Saddam Iraq, build the peace, and set Iraq up for self-reliance. He refused to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency, which was an absolute certainty. Bottom line, his plan allowed the insurgency to take root and metastasize to where it is today. Our great military lost a critical window of opportunity to secure Iraq because of inadequate troop levels and capability required to impose security, crush a budding insurgency, and set the conditions for the rule of law in Iraq. We were undermanned from the beginning, lost an early opportunity to secure the country, and have yet to regain the initiative. To compensate for the shortage of troops, commanders are routinely forced to manage shortages and shift coalition and Iraqi security forces from one contentious area to another in places like Baghdad, An Najaf, Tal Afar, Samarra, Ramadi, Fallujah, and many others. This shifting of forces is generally successful in the short term, but the minute a mission is complete and troops are redeployed back to the region where they came from, insurgents reoccupy the vacuum and the cycle repeats itself. Troops returning to familiar territory find themselves fighting to reoccupy ground which was once secure. We are all witnessing this in Baghdad and the Al Anbar Province today. I am reminded of the myth of Sisyphus. This is no way to fight a counter-insurgency. Secretary Rumsfeld’s plan did not set our military up for success.

To be fair, Bush appointed Rumsfeld and has failed to go get the force level needed to prevail in Iraq. I happen to think that prevailing in Iraq is not worth the cost. But staying without enough force and with lame strategy is worse than either leaving or changing to a better strategy. But Rumsfeld really is a disaster as a US Secretary of Defense. He's clueless.

Here's another excerpt. It is all good:

Secretary Rumsfeld built his team by systematically removing dissension. America went to war with “his plan” and to say that he listens to his generals is disingenuous. We are fighting with his strategy. He reduced force levels to unacceptable levels, micromanaged the war, and caused delays in the approval of troop requirements and the deployment process, which tied the hands of commanders while our troops were in contact with the enemy. At critical junctures, commanders were forced to focus on managing shortages rather than leading, planning, and anticipating opportunity. Through all of this, our Congressional oversight committees were all but silent and not asking the tough questions, as was done routinely during both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. Our Congress shares responsibility for what is and is not happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yes. Congress has performed miserably. Few of the Democrats know much about the military. Same is true for most of the Republicans. They've also invested too much in defending a fellow Republican in the White House rather than offer sorely needed constructive criticism.

Batiste's making his own mistake though: He thinks Iraq is worth winning. Worth winning for which faction of religious parties and militias? The Prime Minister of Iraq can't manage the religious parties/militias that are in his governing coalition while they raise hell in the streets. Does this mean he doesn't get to be the George Washington of his country?

Four months into his tenure, Mr. Maliki has failed to take aggressive steps to end the country’s sectarian strife because they would alienate fundamentalist Shiite leaders inside his fractious government who have large followings and private armies, senior Iraqi politicians and Western officials say. He is also constrained by the need to woo militant Sunni Arabs connected to the insurgency.

Bush thinks the Prime Minister of Iraq isn't up to the job. Well, such an important shared characteristic could serve as the basis of a friendship between them.

But diplomats who deal with the Bush administration on Iraq issues, and recently departed officials who stay in contact with their colleagues in the government, say the president’s top advisers have a far more pessimistic view.

“The thing you hear the most is that he never makes any decisions,” said a former senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations. “And that drives Bush crazy. He doesn’t take well to anyone who talks about getting something accomplished and then refuses to take the first step.”

But the Iraqi government is a coalition of Shiite religious parties that have their own militias. How can a prime minister rule them?

Mr. Maliki has little obvious leverage over Mr. Sadr, who controls at least 30 seats in Parliament and six ministries, making him one of the most powerful figures in the government. Mr. Sadr has no intention of disbanding the Mahdi Army, because it is now part of the government, said Bahaa al-Aaraji, a senior legislator allied with him.

“They are just volunteers defending their country,” Mr. Aaraji said.

Mr. Maliki is also tiptoeing around other powerful Shiite leaders with militias. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Parliament’s Shiite bloc, has ignited a political firestorm by calling for the legislature to approve a mechanism to create autonomous regions. Many are opposed, and the move threatens to splinter the government. But rather than rein Mr. Hakim in, Mr. Maliki has kept quiet.

Iraq's democracy is a failure.

Retired officers aren't the only ones disgusted with the Bush Administration. Army Chief of Staff General Pete Schoomaker has refused to submit a budget because the Army can't afford to carry out all its assigned tasks.

WASHINGTON — The Army's top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding.

The decision by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, is believed to be unprecedented and signals a widespread belief within the Army that in the absence of significant troop withdrawals from Iraq, funding assumptions must be completely reworked, say current and former Pentagon officials.

Schoomaker wants another $25 billion for the Army. Makes sense. The equipment is wearing out. Forces are too small. But Bush wants to hide the real cost of the war.

Bush does not question his original decision to invade Iraq.

Yet the private Bush comes across differently in the accounts of aides, friends, relatives and military family members who have met with him, including some who do not support him, such as Halley. The first question Bush usually asks national security briefers in the Oval Office each morning is about overnight casualties, aides say, and those who show up for the next round of meetings often find him still stewing about bad news from Iraq.

Bush seems to separate these aspects of war in his mind, advisers say. He expresses no regret even in private for his decision to invade Iraq, they say, while taking seriously the continuing consequences of doing so. "Removing Saddam, he never revisits that in his mind or his heart," said one adviser, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because Bush does not want them to discuss his feelings. "Sending troops into harm's way, that's something that weighs on him."

He apparently also does not question his decision to fight a half-assed war which harms US national interests. Soldiers are dying so that he does not have to admit to himself or to us that he has made massive mistakes.

By Randall Parker    2006 September 25 09:46 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2006 September 22 Friday
US Military Too Small For Iraq

The US military is overstretched in Iraq.

WASHINGTON – In recent days, US military commanders have delivered a bleak message about Iraq: The number of American troops there is not likely to be substantially reduced anytime soon.

Yet the current force may have been strained near the breaking point by frequent deployments to the region, say experts. That means in the months to come, the Pentagon could face increased pressure to expand the size of the active-duty Army, or rely even more heavily on call-ups of National Guard and Reserve units.

The inadequate size of the US military for Iraq isn't new news. Bush does not want to admit he got the US into a war that is a big overstretch. But events are making this fact harder to ignore.

Currently, about 144,000 US troops are in Iraq, said Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, chief US military spokesman in Iraq, at an operational briefing in Baghdad this week.

The US has only one brigade in the US for every brigade deployed. Normally the US military wants 2 in the US for every 1 deployed. Due to the overstretch each brigade is getting only 1 year off from combat for every year in Iraq. All non-deployed brigades are rated as not ready.

Uh, oh. The Iraq invasion might cause more immigration to the United States in the form of foreigner serving as soldiers to get US citizenship.

Short of obligatory national service, moves such as opening the US military to foreigners with no US ties, but who wish to move toward US residence or citizenship, might be necessary for the Army to grow in a reasonable amount of time.

US policy in Iraq might go beyond "Invade the world" and even grow to include the second part of Steve Sailer's formulation "Invite the world". Throw in his "In hock to the world" since Iraq is getting paid for with deficit spending. "Invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world" is increasing the risk of terrorism, lowering the quality of life in the United States, and saddling us with debts that'll harm our living standards even more in the longer run.

All Italian troops have left Iraq.

NASIRIYA, Iraq — Italy, the last major Western European ally of the United States and Britain in Iraq, ended its mission Thursday, handing the province under its control over to Iraqi troops.

So long and thanks for all the pasta.

Even the Brits are cutting down.

Britain may reduce the number of troops in Iraq by around half, after handing over control in Basra to Iraqis within the next nine months, a senior British commander has said.

The Brits are going to about half of the current 7000. By next summer they'll have only 3000 to 4000 troops left in Iraq. The US effectively will be on its own. But maybe the Brits will maintain a token force so that those who wish to delude themselves and others can pretend we still have an ally in Iraq.

The US has now lost more people in Iraq than we lost on 9/11. The Iraqis are losing more than one 9/11 worth of deaths per month due to sectarian violence and insurgency activities.

U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now surpass those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history, the trigger for what came next.

The latest milestone for a country at war came Friday without commemoration. It came without the precision of knowing who was the 2,974th to die in conflict. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Invasion of Iraq did not protect the American people from terrorists. Tough policies on immigration and visas could provide far more protection than anything the US could do militarily in the Middle East.

Aren't we forgetting some military? Who could I be thinking of? It is on the tip of my tongue. Why can't I remember them? Oh, right the Iraqi Army. Tribal Iraqi soldiers do not want to leave their home regions to go to Baghdad.

The U.S. needs 3,000 more Iraqi forces to join the battle in Baghdad, but requests have not been met because Iraqi soldiers are reluctant to leave their home regions, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said Friday.

Maj. Gen. James Thurman said that while the U.S. has 15,000 troops in Baghdad _ which military leaders say is the priority battlefront in Iraq _ only about 9,000 Iraqi soldiers are there. That is just a fraction of the 128,000 Iraqi Army troops that the U.S. says are now trained and equipped.

Okay, our allies are all leaving. The Iraqis? Well, don't be fooled into thinking of "Iraqis" the way we might think of, say, "Dutch" or "Italians" or "Germans". The cousin marrying Iraqis aren't keen to fight away from home and extended tribal family. They focus on more local and family matters. In Bush-speak, the Iraqis have "family values".

One expert thinks the rate of torture in Iraq is now higher than it was under Saddam Hussein.

Manfred Nowak, the UN's chief anti-torture expert, captured the headlines round the world when he suggested that torture could be worse in Iraq now than it was under Saddam Hussein.

Torture is indeed at appalling levels in Iraq. Everyone, it seems, from the Iraqi forces to the militias to the anti-US insurgents, now routinely use torture on the people they kill.

Most bodies brought to the Baghdad morgue show signs of torture.

According to the report, bodies sent to the capital’s morgue habitually bore signs of severe torture, including acid-induced injuries, burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones, backs, hands and legs, missing eyes and teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails.

The Iraqi authorities confirmed that most of the bodies that were found in the past six months bore signs of serious torture.

“Unfortunately, the information released by UNAMI in its report is true and reflects the reality of Iraq today. Most of the bodies found were tortured and were sometimes even impossible to recognise,” said Dr Fa'aq Amin, director of the Institute for Forensic Medicine at the Ministry of Health.

The Sunnis turned against the US in Iraq due to Fallujah.

The US Department of Defense has now provided another measure of the problem it faces. Its latest opinion poll carried out in Iraq indicates that, among the five million Sunni Muslims there, about 75% now support the armed insurgency against the coalition.

This compares with 14% in the first opinion poll the Defense Department carried out back in 2003. It is a catastrophic loss of support, and there is no sign whatever that it can be effectively reversed.

The rise in hostility to the US forces is clearly linked to the onslaught against the town of Falluja in 2004.

This, we are told, was ordered directly by the White House and the Department of Defense after the bodies of four American defence contractors were hung from a bridge in April 2004.

Bush does not ride the clue train.

The shift of US forces into Baghdad has ceased to cut back on the killings. To celebrate the run-up to Muslim Ramadan the Islamic insurgents are killing more people in Baghdad.

"If you historically look at this time period just before and going into Ramadan, there has unfortunately been an increase in violence. That, in fact, is occurring within the city," said U.S. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the senior military spokesman in Iraq.

Pray together and then kill together.

The Shiite side of the civil war is being funded by crime revenues that are about 4 times what the Iranians give Hezbollah every year.

SHIITE militias behind the sectarian killings in Baghdad are earning at least $US1 million ($1.3 million) a day through criminal enterprises, the US military believes.

The groups, which are accused of operating death squads to terrorise the city's Sunni population, are able to spend freely on weapons, pay salaries to the militiamen who carry out the killings and buy the loyalty of the Shiite population by funding social welfare programs.


The money came from "kidnappings, extortion, blackmarketeering and blackmail", Colonel Brown said.

The Mahdi Army control gasoline (petrol) stations and makes big money selling above the regulated price. Deregulating the price would cut back funding of militias.

The Iraqis have responded by going on drugs.

Psychopharmaceuticals, by contrast, are in good supply. Tranquilizers and antidepressants feature on most prescriptions, even for patients with sprained joints. "A large portion of Baghdad's adult population is on tranquilizers. Valium and Lorazepam are the most common," he says. "We lie awake every night, with the same thought running through our minds: no matter how bad today was, tomorrow is sure to be worse."

The Iraqis can no longer turn to alcohol for distraction.

Six months after the American invasion, the last store to sell beer in Amiriya closed its doors. Selling alcohol is a mortal sin - as even the district's warring gangs of Shiites and Sunnis agree. Barbershops have disappeared as well, because cutting hair is considered the ultimate in secular depravity. Some barbers have tried their luck in the cell-phone market. But that, too, is a risky business. Cell phones can play music and music is "haram" - immoral and forbidden according to the militias' religious code.

The American people are on a slow learning curve with Iraq. I really wish they'd get on the clue train.

By Randall Parker    2006 September 22 11:14 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2006 July 31 Monday
Roadside Bombs In Iraq More Than Double

A Washington Post article on Pentagon efforts to better detect roadside bombs (a.k.a. Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs) in Iraq reveals a more than doubling of the roadside bomb attack rate in the last year.

The Pentagon has made some progress. The number of bombs detected before they detonated has increased, according to the Joint IED office. The office did not provide figures to back up that assertion.

Still, the number of attacks continues to rise and roadside bombs remain the deadliest weapon used against troops. There were 11,242 roadside bomb attacks through June of this year, compared with 5,607 in all of 2004 and 10,953 in all of 2005, according to U.S. Central Command. They are the leading cause of U.S. casualties, accounting for about 33 percent of deaths, according to the Brookings Institution.

So the roadside bombing rate doubled from 2004 to 2005 and more than doubled again so far in 2006.

On the bright side, US/UK/allied (all non-Iraqi) military fatalities have declined for 3 months in a row from 82 in April 2006, 79 in May, 63 in June, to 47 in July. The daily average death rate of 1.52 in June is below the war average of 2.28. Though March 2006 was 1.06 per day. So it is too early to declare this a sustainable trend.

While US and allied casualties are down the same can not be said for Iraqi security forces or Iraqi civilians. Iraqi security forces lost 205 in July as compared to 201 in April. Civilian deaths at 1042 in July 2006 are the highest reported since the 1524 figure for August 2005. I suspect that Iraqi civilian deaths are under-reported. Bodies dumped in remote locations may go unfound and uncounted. Ditto for some vaporized by bombs. Plus, burials might take place without a stop at the morgue on the way. Plus, the government simply might lie about the death toll.

A different method of counting the dead in Iraq puts the death toll at 3149 civilians killed in June 2006. Given the general increase in death squad activity that estimate seems more plausible.

The rate of attack against foreign allied forces has risen even as the death toll has fallen.

There has been a steady increase in attacks since January and February to a current level of more than 120 daily against U.S. and other foreign troops, U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces and civilians, said Army Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

Civilians accounted for nearly 70 percent of all casualties, Johnson said.

What accounts for the decline in the death rate then? Better equipment? Better tactics? Are more of the attacks in the form of mortars into now well fortified compounds? Has vehicle quality improved in the last 6 months? Do US soldiers spend less time patrolling and more time in bases?

I've read that instead of patrolling at their own initiative US forces tend to spend more time responding to Iraqi military requests for help. So do they spend more time rather like firemen waiting for the alarm to ring? That might explain the complaints of Sunnis about attacks by death squads into Sunni neighborhoods within hearing distances of US bases with no US help forthcoming. Anyone know what is going on?

My guess (based upon a not-very-nice view of human nature and of Arab nature in particular): The Shia death squads, even though they are arbitrary and capricious in their selection of Sunni victims, might just bring the Sunnis around to a negotiated reduction in hostilities. Brutal unfairness, if sufficiently overwhelming, can work. This could work for the US military except that US domestic opinion would not tolerate it. So if US forces spend less time patrolling and effectively give the Shia militias freeer rein maybe Shia brutality could bring the Sunnis to accept Shia dominance.

Think of the Sunnis as like a horse that needs to broken or a dog that is used to the alpha position in the pack. They either need to be forced to accept a position of submissiveness vis a vis the Shias or they need to break away and form their own country. But the shift of US forces into Baghdad could prevent either of those scenarios from playing out.

The conditions in Baghdad have deteriorated so far that US forces there are going to get boosted by nearly half.

Washington’s decision to send an additional 4,000 troops into the capital itself demonstrates the weakness of the Iraqi government, which is widely despised as an instrument of the occupying powers and which would immediately collapse if the American-led troops were withdrawn. The additional forces will join the 9,000 American soldiers and 8,500 Iraqi troops already stationed in Baghdad.

Whereas a few months ago the Bush Administration was trying to decrease the number of US soldiers in Iraq instead the number is going to go up. I'm reminded of Thomas Hobbes writing in the Leviathan in the year 1651: "Hell is truth seen too late". That's the US story in Iraq.

US troops are not keen to be in Iraq.

"No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do," said Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader. "We were excited, but then it just wears on you -- there's only so much you can take. Like me, personally, I want to fight in a war like World War II. I want to fight an enemy. And this, out here," he said, motioning around the scorched sand-and-gravel base, the rows of Humvees and barracks, toward the trash-strewn streets of Baghdad outside, "there is no enemy, it's a faceless enemy. He's out there, but he's hiding."

"We're trained as an Army to fight and destroy the enemy and then take over," added Dugger, 26, of Reno, Nev. "But I don't think we're trained enough to push along a country, and that's what we're actually doing out here."

My sympathy is with these poorly led soldiers who are dying and suffering permanent bodily damage.

By Randall Parker    2006 July 31 08:24 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (15)
2006 April 23 Sunday
Middle Level Officers Join Iraq Debate

The debate isn't about whether Iraq is a mess and a mistake. The debate is over who to blame: senior officers, Rumsfeld, or Bush. Offered anonymity by the New York Times lots of middle level officers vented on Iraq.

"This is about the moral bankruptcy of general officers who lived through the Vietnam era yet refused to advise our civilian leadership properly," said one Army major in the Special Forces who has served two combat tours. "I can only hope that my generation does better someday."

An Army major who is an intelligence specialist said: "The history I will take away from this is that the current crop of generals failed to stand up and say, 'We cannot do this mission.' They confused the cultural can-do attitude with their responsibilities as leaders to delay the start of the war until we had an adequate force. I think the backlash against the general officers will be seen in the resignation of officers" who might otherwise have stayed in uniform.

In some respects it is Vietnam all over again and the officers know it. The war is very unpopular back home. The civilian leadership made big mistakes and are dishonest about it. The soldiers lack sufficient resources to do the job and Bush isn't about to ask for a draft, tax increases, and spending cuts in other areas to put in enough troops to control the place. Plus, why should the war have been started in the first place?

Condi Rice is such a lightweight. Therefore she's perfect for Bush.

The debates are fueled by the desire to mete out blame for the situation in Iraq, a drawn-out war that has taken many military lives and has no clear end in sight. A midgrade officer who has served two tours in Iraq said a number of his cohorts were angered last month when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "tactical errors, a thousand of them, I am sure," had been made in Iraq.

"We have not lost a single tactical engagement on the ground in Iraq," the officer said, noting that the definition of tactical missions is specific movements against an enemy target. "The mistakes have all been at the strategic and political levels."

But the Bushies do not admit to mistakes.

I love hearing what the officers think because informed expert opinion is invaluable. Before the war the Bush Administration and neocons struck a pose that if we only could see what the secret intelligence showed we'd be convinced that we had to go in and stop Saddam's development of nasty weapons. Well, these officers get to see tons of intelligence information. They have first hand experience in Iraq. They have knowledge and expertise. Plus, they are a pretty conservative bunch of people. Can't fault them for being pacifist lefties. But as Steve Sailer has been reporting the neocons are trying to argue that generals and other officers should either shut up or support the war. One of Steve's readers points out that the neocons are arguing for something strongly reminiscient of the Nazi Fuhrer Principle of blind obedience to leaders.

Do you think that the neocons realize that some of their criticism of the retired generals comes dangerously close to the Nazi's Fuhrer principle? One of the most important steps in the road to disaster for Germany was the requirement that the officer corps swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler instead of to the republic or the nation.

Increasingly, i see the same mistake being made by vocal hawks. Although, in truth, i see the explicit argument made more on warblogs than in newspaper columns. Essentially, they say, retired officers may not voice an opinion that disagrees with the civilian leadership. It is fine, however, for retired officers to support the SecDef, or President. They may even campaign for him.

I do not see why any jerk with a modem is allowed to have an opinion on Iraq or Iran and can even advocate war and more war. But the men who have most knowledge about war, strategy and logistics must be silent. Frankly, I want to hear more from them and less from JPod or Ledeen.

Also see my previous post As Ethnic Cleansing Deaths Escalate In Iraq US Generals Object To War.

By Randall Parker    2006 April 23 06:41 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (9)
2006 March 26 Sunday
Robert Kaplan Reports On Iraq

Robert Kaplan has reported extensively on the US military all over the world. He's spent time with US special forces and other US military units not just in the Middle East but in Latin America, Central Asia, and still other places. He's not one of those who visit for a few weeks and then strike an authoritative pose. After embedding for months with a US military unit in Iraq Kaplan says the old forms of power have more legitimacy in Iraq than the new democratically elected officials.

Judging from your piece, the U.S. military has resorted to working within the tribal Iraqi system, at least for the time being.

Yes, it has. One thing about the U.S. military in Iraq is that it's non-ideological. Making statements in Washington about building democracy is one thing. But on the ground, officers are working with tribal leaders in Mosul and other places. They're going to democratic council meetings but then working behind their backs with the tribal leaders, because it's the only way to make progress. In a crucible of war, you toss out ideas that don't work. Everything is oriented toward what works.

Is it possible that some people are genuinely comfortable living under a hierarchical structure and really don't want democracy at all? One Sunni man you interviewed for this piece asked, "What good is voting if the Shiites and Kurds will vote, too?"? That question has been coming up quite a lot in different forms since the Palestinians elected Hamas.

Everything I've seen in Iraq tells me that tribal sheiks have a lot more legitimacy than newly-elected democratic politicians. The tribal system is something we think of, with our cultural prejudice, as reactionary. But it's a long-standing, venerable tradition in Middle Eastern society. And it is not necessarily repressive. It's a form of order that may not be as enlightened as Western forms of order. But it's a form of order nevertheless, which is still better than chaos.

Tribes are natural to humanity. For most of history, they've been a stabilizing force, a socially organizing force. We shouldn't condemn tribes per se. Tribes form a much more natural means of political development than something like Western democracy, which is very new and has only succeeded in a relatively small geographic portion of the world. We've seen an explosion of democracy around the world since the 1990s. It's not clear yet how well it will succeed.

Note his argument for tribes being basically a part of human nature. If you haven't already read about the very tribal practice of consanguineous (cousin) marriage and the role it plays in Middle Eastern politics then start with my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and click back from there to what Steve Sailer and others have written about it.

Returning to Kaplan's interview, Kaplan says the lower down you go in the ranks of the US military in Iraq the more pessimistic the people become about the prospects for the Iraqi Army.

You write in this piece that sergeants are less optimistic than officers are about the future of the Iraqi Army. Why do you think that's the case?

There has been a debate about the training of Iraqi army and police units. One side of the debate says training is going well. Another side says it's not. The recent disturbances in Iraq, following the blowing up of the Samarra Mosque, showed that the Iraqi army units have a mixed record. Some units performed well; some performed badly.

This story brings the debate down to ground level. While I was in Mosul, I actually went out with individual Iraqi Army units. And what I found was that the only people who really know how well the training is going are the U.S. sergeants who go out with them on a daily basis. As you go up the chain of command, knowledge of this issue gets more abstract and unreal. It's almost as if the higher up you go, the more pressure there is to be optimistic.

The basic impression I got was this: The Iraqi units have made tremendous progress. It's gratifying for us. We really see that we're accomplishing something. But these guys are not there yet. If we left tomorrow, they would desert. We're finally doing things right, but all that means is that now we have to wait a long time. It's kind of like watching the grass grow or the paint dry.

Consider his point that the higher up you go in a chain of command the less anyone knows about how things are going. Well, then at the level of the top civilians in the Defense Department they are clueless at best and in the White House they are in fantasy land. The Iraqi military isn't going to work without loyalty. But Kaplan says "If we left tomorrow, they would desert.". Well, suppose we leave 3 years from now. Will they then be any less likely to desert? I doubt it.

Kaplan found the same pattern with Iraqi military unit quality that I've repeatedly posted about from other reporters: the Kurds make up the best Iraqi Army units. (PDF format)

The platoon undertook a foot patrol with an Iraqi army counterpart. You could not but be impressed with these Iraqi troops. Their TOC was as neat and well organized as 4-23's, with flow charts on the walls and satellite maps under table glass. They had strong-looking noncoms with game faces who flooded out of their white pickups and covered corners and fields of fire almost as well as the Americans.

There was only one problem: these troops were all ethnic Kurds, who at their headquarters had pictures of the Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani. Would this unit stay loyal to something called "Iraq"? in the event of a weakening of the state following an American drawdown? Or were the Americans merely helping along the possibility of what some called "creeping Kurdistan"?? And was the possibility of a creeping Kurdistan actually a means of pressuring Sunni Arabs to constructively participate in the political process?

Kaplan's dreaming if he thinks the Kurdish soldiers have even a chance of remaining loyal to "Iraq". The Kurds are gone already. They have de facto independence. They will help the US deal with the Arabs. They'll pretend to act as "Iraqi" soldiers. But in exchange for helping the US with the Arabs they want independence. Oh, and if the US government has a shred of moral decency the US will let them have it.

I was surprised to learn that this Iraqi army platoon was rated near the bottom by American military training teams in terms of its fighting capability. When I asked for an explanation, I was told that the unit was bureaucratically underdeveloped at the battalion level. Although fighting well as a platoon was more important than "battalion ops"? (because counterinsurgency was about small-unit warfare and developing informants), no nationwide unity of military effort was possible without organized battalions and divisions. If this unit was a bad one, the Iraqi army, at least in terms of professional development, was doing a lot better than many supposed - or so I thought. Later, though, I heard of another platoon whose soldiers stole from the places they searched and, as one American captain told me, "shit in the side rooms."?

A Sunni Arab shopkeeper said to me: "When American troops patrol the streets with the Iraqi army, it is so awful and humiliating for us, because we know those Iraqi soldiers are really Kurds. Your occupation has strengthened our enemies."? This young man, the son of a former general in Saddam Hussein's army, engaged me in conversation for more than half an hour. I liked him. He turned out to be uncannily objective in his own way. He had just come back from Syria, upon which he heaped praise. "Syria now is so much better than Iraq,"? he said. "It is under tight control, so people there feel safe and can go about their lives with dignity. You Americans think you have brought freedom; you have just allowed the thugs from the villages to kill and rob from the educated people whom Saddam had protected."?

Law-abiding Iraqis are now free to be victimized by criminals. By failing to provide them sufficient security we've probably persuaded quite a few of them that freedom is synonymous with anarchy, murder, destruction, and suffering.

I say listen to the noncommissioned officers. They do not see the urge to fight in the Iraqi Army.Why? Because the urge isn't there.

While the colonels I met were confident that the Iraqi army and police could bear the burden given to them in a reduction of American forces, the staff sergeants and other noncoms working every day with the new Iraqi security elements were not. "Trust me, sir,"? one staff sergeant confided about an Iraqi army unit with which his platoon had just completed a three-hour patrol, "if we leave, they won't show up again in this neighborhood. They'll never leave their base." On another occasion, while surveying a school slated to be a polling station, the local Iraqi army commander kept demanding that his men be able to camp out at the school overnight. The American captain kept telling him "no."? One of the noncoms quietly remarked, "It's the same old story: all they want to do is hunker down and play defense, but they will not be able to hold off this insurgency unless they play offense."? As for the Iraqi police, the noncoms expressed even less confidence.

A recurring theme in Kaplan's essay is that the unemployment rate in Iraq is very high and therefore lots of young Iraqi men with nothing better to do with their time find the insurgency attractive. Also, older folks look around and see how little is geting rebuilt and how much is getting destroyed and think the US government has over-promised and under-delivered.

Kaplan's worth reading in full. He tries to be optimistic in part because he so obviously likes the people in the US military and does not want to see all their labor and losses to be in vain. But he relays a lot of raw material you need to get a sense of how things are going in Iraq.

One problem with Kaplan's viewpoint is that it definitely oriented around his experience with the US military. He doesn't flesh out the Iraqis as much as he fleshes out the US soldiers and officers and their viewpoints. But, again, he's seen quite a bit in Iraq and is worth your time to read.

I found the full text of Kaplan's article as a PDF on journalist Michael Yon's website. Also see a battle story from Mosul which Yon wrote in August 2005. Note how in that account Lieutenant Colonel Kurilla got shot by people he'd previously captured who'd been let go. This apparently happens quite often in Iraq. The release of enemy soldiers to let them fight again wasn't something that happened during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, or most other wars the US has fought in.

By Randall Parker    2006 March 26 03:48 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2006 February 28 Tuesday
US Troops Want Out Of Iraq Within Year

John Zogby has found some very interesting views among US soldiers in Iraq.

An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows.

The poll, conducted in conjunction with Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies, showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately,” while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay “as long as they are needed.”

Different branches had quite different sentiments on the question, the poll shows. While 89% of reserves and 82% of those in the National Guard said the U.S. should leave Iraq within a year, 58% of Marines think so. Seven in ten of those in the regular Army thought the U.S. should leave Iraq in the next year. Moreover, about three-quarters of those in National Guard and Reserve units favor withdrawal within six months, just 15% of Marines felt that way. About half of those in the regular Army favored withdrawal from Iraq in the next six months.

I think the US troops should be replaced by neocons and Panglossian bloggers.

Of course, I can imagine why some neocons might argue these soldiers are too ignorant to be listened to about the war. After all, US soldiers in Iraq think the US invasion of Iraq was in retaliation for Saddam's imagined role in the 9/11 attack.

The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

Some people have argued to me that I should show more respect for the first hand knowledge of the soldiers who are in Iraq. Well, these soldiers think Saddam was behind 9/11.

While the Bush Administration has claimed that democratic transformation of the Arab countries is the best way to reduce the risk of terrorism the US soldiers in Iraq do not see establishment of democracy as an important goal.

“Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there,” said Pollster John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International. “Instead, that initial rationale went by the wayside and, in the minds of 68% of the troops, the real mission became to remove Saddam Hussein.” Just 24% said that “establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World" was the main or a major reason for the war. Only small percentages see the mission there as securing oil supplies (11%) or to provide long-term bases for US troops in the region (6%).

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the heads up. Greg thinks the soldiers hold these curious views about the purpose for the Iraq invasion because otherwise the soldiers would have to conclude their national leadership is insane and the costs they are paying in deaths and maiming are an utter waste. In response to this part of it:

"While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

Greg says:

Interesting. A good fraction, although less than a majority, in the US think both those things, even though neither seems to have ever happened, even though as far as I can tell, the Administration doesn't even claim any more that Saddam had anything to do with 9-11. I think this is pretty easy to understand: the alternative for the average Joe is to conclude that we did it for no reason that he can understand at all: i.e. that the government is insane. So, many people make up a reason. because the alternative is too disturbing - more so if they think of the government as being run by _their side_. I had figured that the fraction of our armed forces in Iraq that believed that we were retaliating (for things that Iraq never did) would be higher than at home, because a volunteer army would self-select for such beliefs, and because the idea that friends would have been crippled or killed for no reason that anyone could understand would be hateful. I had guessed about two-thirds of the Army would believe this shit, but it's higher than that.

Human minds try to find cause and effect and meaning in the events around them. Sometimes their explanations are comical, sometimes foolish, other times tragic. These soldiers with their limited knowledge are trying to find purpose in what they are doing. They have my sympathy. Their loyalty to their country should not be so abused by what passes for leaders in the United States of America. Some day we may need these soldiers for a war where US national interests are really at stake. Giving these brave soldiers a sour experience with loyalty to country is not in the long term best interests of the American people.

Update: Some in the Pentagon dismiss this poll as reflecting the negative views one would expect to find among soldiers in combat.

The survey was conducted without the Pentagon's permission, and some military officials privately questioned its validity, since troops in a combat zone are likely to express negative views of their situation.

"The poll's findings certainly aren't reflective of the attitudes we see displayed by the majority of troops, who are performing in a remarkable manner in a combat situation far from home," said Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman.

American soldiers in Iraq, in interviews with Knight Ridder, frequently have expressed discontent with the situation there. They've cited too few soldiers to control the insurgency, a lack of equipment and pessimism about the success of the mission.

The US has too few soldiers to control the insurgency because the Bush Administration doesn't want to spend the amount that would cost and because a draft would be needed to build up the US Army large enough to exercise greater control. So the Bush Administration pretends the US has enough troops in Iraq.

By Randall Parker    2006 February 28 09:39 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (13)
2006 January 25 Wednesday
Two Reports See US Military As Overstretched

Two reports see the US military as overextended by Iraq and Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON - A pair of reports by outside experts in the last two days warn that the Army has been stretched thin by repeated combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and could soon reach the breaking point.

The first, a report on the Iraq war that was commissioned by the Pentagon and made public Tuesday, said defense officials risk "breaking the force" if current troop levels are maintained in both countries without increasing the size of the Army or slowing the pace of deployments.

The second, issued Wednesday by Democrats on Capitol Hill, warned that unless the strain on the Army and Marine Corps is relieved soon, "it will have highly corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force." Over time, it argued, the services would be weakened and the country would be more vulnerable to potential enemies.

One report was done for the Pentagon.

The report's author, retired Lt Col Andrew Krepinevich, a Vietnam veteran and former adviser to three defence secretaries, says the decision to reduce troop numbers in Iraq was an admission that the military was overstretched.

If the 500,000 strong force does not win its "race against time", leaders "risk breaking the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment.

The recruiting slump could turn down even more drastically.

As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army's 2005 recruiting slump -- missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 -- and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives.

"You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue," he said in an interview. He added that the Army is still a highly effective fighting force and is implementing a plan that will expand the number of combat brigades available for rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan.

He wrote that the Army is "in a race against time" to adjust to the demands of war "or risk 'breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment.

The report from the Democrats was done by former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Perry and Albright advocate increasing the size of the deployable force.

The Perry/Albright report specifically recommends enlarging the Army's active-duty force by 30,000 troops and creating 48 combat brigades -- six more than the service now plans. The former officials recognize that, given the Army's failure to meet recruiting goals in 2005, substantially increasing the size of the force will take time.

It would come with a hefty price tag: about $1.5 billion to stand up and equip each new brigade, according to the study. Army leaders have opposed efforts in Congress to authorize a much larger force, arguing that doing so would jeopardize their high-priced plans to transform the service technologically.

But where could the US military get the troops to create new brigades? In an increasingly desperate attempt to find new soldiers the US military is already dipping much lower in the IQ scale (confirming what House Rep. John Murtha claimed) and offeriing bigger bonuses while still failing to recruit enough soldiers. The US military is becoming dumber.

Join the US Army and expect to go on multiple tours to Middle Eastern combat zones.

To support its conclusions, the Democrats' report noted that "every available combat brigade from the active Army has already been to Afghanistan or Iraq at least once" and many units are on a second tour. About 95 percent of the Army National Guard's combat battalions and special operations units have been activated since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, leaving little force available for call up without a new presidential declaration of a national emergency, it said.

Also, all active duty Marine Corps units "are being used on a tight rotation schedule" with less than a year home between seven-month deployments, it said.

The California-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force now is deploying to Iraq for the third time since early 2003. About one third of the enlisted Marines in those units are facing their third combat tour while another third will be going for a second time.

I can't see how the US could attack Iran except with air strikes. The US would first have to withdraw from most of Iraq in order to launch an attack and Iran has three times the population of Iraq. An Iran invasion would be much harder.

By Randall Parker    2006 January 25 08:56 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2005 November 21 Monday
Iraq Battlefield Officers Say More Troops Needed

Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia along with Democratic Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Mark Dayton of Minnesota asked US officers who serve out on the battlefields of Iraq what they think of US troop levels in Iraq. The officers unsurprisingly said that more troops are needed.

"We wanted the view from men who had been on the tip of the spear, and we got it," said John Ullyot, a Warner spokesman who declined to comment on what was said at the meeting but confirmed that some Capitol Hill staff members were also present. According to two sources with knowledge of the meeting, the Army and Marine officers were blunt. In contrast to the Pentagon's stock answer that there are enough troops on the ground in Iraq, the commanders said that they not only needed more manpower but also had repeatedly asked for it. Indeed, military sources told TIME that as recently as August 2005, a senior military official requested more troops but got turned down flat.

These are not the top and highly political officers who normally speak to Congress while sitting alongside Donald Rumsfeld. These are the middle and lower level managers who have to keep their mouths shut while the company lies in public. Surely some of you have been inside of corporations and watched them do such things. Well, same idea.

I do not think the war is worth fighting in the first place. But the position of the war's advocates is undermined by the understaffing of the effort. If it is so important to win then why be so half-assed about fighting it? The only military reason I can see for keeping US troop levels down that is that the more brothers and cousins we kill the more other brothers and cousins will join the resistance to seek revenge. But such an interpretation is hardly an argument for our continued fighting in the first place.

Donald Rumsfeld says he was just following orders.

"I didn't advocate invasion," Rumsfeld told ABC television, when asked if he would have advocated an invasion of Iraq if he had known that no weapons of mass destruction would be found there.

The US Defense chief added: "I wasn't asked," when asked whether he supported the March 2003 invasion.

Asked on ABC television's "This Week" program if he was trying to distance himself after the fact from the controversial US decision to invade Iraq, Rumsfeld replied: "Of course not. Of course not. I completely agreed with the decision to go to war and said that a hundred times. Don't even suggest that."

Rumsfeld denies that officers in the field have ever been turned down in requests for more troops.

"No one has ever been turned down by me. The troops that have been asked for have been given," Rumsfeld told ABC television.

Rumsfeld is a great straight man. He says really absurd things with a totally straight face. He ought to retire from public office and work up a comedy act.

The Bush Administration does not want to admit more troops are needed for a few reasons:

  • An admission of the need for a larger force would be an implicit admission they totally miscalculated and make them look even more incompetent.
  • The financial cost for a larger force would require reversal of Bush tax cuts.
  • A draft to summon up the needed troops would ignite a much larger anti-war movement.
  • The call for more troops would probably not work and could well lead to withdrawal. Surely it would at least awaken Congress into providing some check on the Executive Branch. Well can't have that. An imperial presidency wants to protect its turf.
  • It would be hard to maintain the pretence that Vietnamization was going to imminently reduce the need for US troops in a few months if a large number of US troops were summoned up for training in a draft.

In a nutshell: The Bushies have a large vested interest in lying about Iraq.

Back in August 2005 Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.) and former director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan argued that all the reasons for staying in Iraq have it exactly backward.

Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:

1) We would leave behind a civil war.
2) We would lose credibility on the world stage.
3) It would embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy.
4) Iraq would become a haven for terrorists.
5) Iranian influence in Iraq would increase.
6) Unrest might spread in the region and/or draw in Iraq's neighbors.
7) Shiite-Sunni clashes would worsen.
8) We haven’t fully trained the Iraqi military and police forces yet.
9) Talk of deadlines would undercut the morale of our troops.

But consider this:

1) On civil war. Iraqis are already fighting Iraqis. Insurgents have killed far more Iraqis than Americans. That’s civil war. We created the civil war when we invaded; we can’t prevent a civil war by staying.

For those who really worry about destabilizing the region, the sensible policy is not to stay the course in Iraq. It is rapid withdrawal, re-establishing strong relations with our allies in Europe, showing confidence in the UN Security Council, and trying to knit together a large coalition including the major states of Europe, Japan, South Korea, China, and India to back a strategy for stabilizing the area from the eastern Mediterranean to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until the United States withdraws from Iraq and admits its strategic error, no such coalition can be formed.

Thus those who fear leaving a mess are actually helping make things worse while preventing a new strategic approach with some promise of success.

2) On credibility. If we were Russia or some other insecure nation, we might have to worry about credibility. A hyperpower need not worry about credibility. That’s one of the great advantages of being a hyperpower: When we have made a big strategic mistake, we can reverse it. And it may even enhance our credibility. Staying there damages our credibility more than leaving.

Ask the president if he really worries about US credibility. Or, what will happen to our credibility if the course he is pursuing proves to be a major strategic disaster? Would it not be better for our long-term credibility to withdraw earlier than later in this event?

3) On the insurgency and democracy. There is no question the insurgents and other anti-American parties will take over the government once we leave. But that will happen no matter how long we stay. Any government capable of holding power in Iraq will be anti-American, because the Iraqi people are increasingly becoming anti-American.

Also, the U.S. will not leave behind a liberal, constitutional democracy in Iraq no matter how long it stays. Holding elections is easy. It is impossible to make it a constitutional democracy in a hurry.

President Bush’s statements about progress in Iraq are increasingly resembling LBJ's statements during the Vietnam War. For instance, Johnson’s comments about the 1968 election are very similar to what Bush said in February 2005 after the election of a provisional parliament.

Go read the full article. He takes on every point and says the conventional wisdom is wrong.

More recently Odom has argued that "staying the course" amounts to throwing away resources better used elsewhere.

By contrast, any argument for "staying course," or seeking more stability before we withdraw -- or pointing out tragic consequences that withdrawal will cause -- is bound to be wrong, or at least unpersuasive. Putting it bluntly, those who insist on staying in Iraq longer make the consequences of withdrawal more terrible and make it harder to find an alternative strategy for achieving regional stability.

Once the invasion began in March 2003, all of the ensuing unhappy results became inevitable. The invasion of Iraq may well turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in American history. In any event, the longer we stay, the worse it will be. Until that is understood, we will make no progress with our allies or in devising a promising alternative strategy.

"Staying the course" may make a good sound bite, but it can be disastrous for strategy. Several of Hitler's generals told him that "staying the course" at Stalingrad in 1942 was a strategic mistake, that he should allow the Sixth Army to be withdrawn, saving it to fight defensive actions on reduced frontage against the growing Red Army. He refused, lost the Sixth Army entirely, and left his commanders with fewer forces to defend a wider front. Thus he made the subsequent Soviet offensives westward easier.

To argue, as some do, that we cannot leave Iraq because "we broke it and therefore we own it" is to reason precisely the way Hitler did with his commanders. Of course we broke it! But the Middle East is not a pottery store. It is the site of major military conflict with several different forces that the United States is galvanizing into an alliance against America. To hang on to an untenable position is the height of irresponsibility. Beware of anyone, including the president, who insists that this is "responsible" or "the patriotic" thing to do.

A single month's burn of money in Iraq would pay for a really good wall along the entire US-Mexico border.

By Randall Parker    2005 November 21 09:18 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (17)
2005 June 27 Monday
Armored Vehicle Purchases Lagging For US Troops In Iraq

US Defense Department procurement of better armored vehicles for Iraq is lagging.

When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited Iraq last year to tour the Abu Ghraib prison camp, military officials did not rely on a government-issued Humvee to transport him safely on the ground. Instead, they turned to Halliburton, the oil services contractor, which lent the Pentagon a rolling fortress of steel called the Rhino Runner.

State Department officials traveling in Iraq use armored vehicles that are built with V-shaped hulls to better deflect bullets and bombs. Members of Congress favor another model, called the M1117, which can endure 12-pound explosives and .50-caliber armor-piercing rounds.

Unlike the Humvee, the Pentagon's vehicle of choice for American troops, the others were designed from scratch to withstand attacks in battlefields like Iraq with no safe zones. Last fall, for instance, a Rhino traveling the treacherous airport road in Baghdad endured a bomb that left a six-foot-wide crater. The passengers walked away unscathed. "I have no doubt should I have been in any other vehicle," wrote an Army captain, the lone military passenger, "the results would have been catastrophically different."

The article reports that in May and so far in June at least 73 US soldiers have died on Iraqi roads. Well, 80 US troops died total in May and so approximately half the troops dying in Iraq are dying on the roads. Most and perhaps all of those deaths could have been prevented with better vehicles. About half of US Army soldiers and even more Marines riding around in Humvees are driving in less than fully armored Humvees.

Just before the Iraq invasion one of the vehicles superior to the Humvee was unfunded and one of the superior V-shaped vehicles had a production stop while waiting for a contract.

Among other setbacks, the M1117 lost its Pentagon money just before the invasion, and the manufacturer is now scrambling to fill rush orders from the military. The company making one of the V-shaped vehicles, the Cougar, said it had to lay off highly skilled welders last year as it waited for the contract to be completed. Even then it was paid only enough to fill half the order.

And the Rhino could not get through the Army's testing regime because its manufacturer declined to have one of its $250,000 vehicles blown up. The company said it provided the Army with testing data that demonstrate the Rhino's viability, and is using the defense secretary's visit as a seal of approval in its contract pitches to the Defense Department.

Read the whole article. The Pentagon is too slow. Decades of layering of procurement rules onto it (to be fair much of it at the instigation of Congress) has left the military unable to shift to wartime procurement practices when a real shooting war is in progress. Plus, I suspect the DOD doesn't have enough money to buy what would save the most American lives.

Even some of the most armored Humvees are getting totally destroyed by bombs while many Humvees have yet to get up-armored. But the Humvees are obsolete for a war like Iraq where there are no clearly defined front lines. If Congress and the President were serious about protecting American soldiers they'd pass a law authorizing completely different and highly rapid procurement practices for equipment bound for Iraq.

Aside: This report indirectly might explain why the prices quoted for the ride to the Baghdad airport in news reports were very different last fall and early this year: One of the groups offering rides to the airport is using armored vehicles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. I thought that was what one news report I read had implied. But that seems clear now. Halliburton uses them. The US State Department uses them. Of course some private group will offer to sell rides in them. Those vehicles are much more expensive taxis.

By Randall Parker    2005 June 27 12:32 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2005 June 14 Tuesday
US Officers See No Military Solution In Iraq

Tom Lasseter of the Knight Ridder Newspapers has written an excellent article on the growing number of US officers who do not think the United States can win militarily in Iraq. (same article here and here and here and here)

BAGHDAD, Iraq - (KRT) - A growing number of senior American military officers in Iraq have concluded that there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,300 U.S. troops during the past two years.

Instead, officers say, the only way to end the guerilla war is through Iraqi politics - an arena that so far has been crippled by divisions between Shiite Muslims, whose coalition dominated the January elections, and Sunni Muslims, who are a minority in Iraq but form the base of support for the insurgency.

"I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that ... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week, in a comment that echoes what other senior officers say. "It's going to be settled in the political process."

Think George W. Bush can be convinced to this way of thinking? Wouldn't it mean negotiating with terrorists? Watch for changes in language used by Administration spokesmen. Will the Press Secretary start saying that the insurgents are fighting because they do not understand US aims and that the US wants to hold talks with insurgents to clear up misunderstandings? Yeah, that's the ticket. We won't negotiate with terrorists. We'll negotiate with community leaders and influentials who have contact with the terrorists. If the spin starts going that way you will know that the Bush Administration has decided to negotiate with the insurgency.

Gen. George W. Casey, top US commander in Iraq expresses very similar sentiments in the article. Okay panglossian war camp, how you going to pass this off as just negative spin by the mainstream media?

We can't kill them all.

Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, said the insurgency doesn't seem to be running out of new recruits, a dynamic fueled by tribal members seeking revenge for relatives killed in fighting.

"We can't kill them all," Wellman said. "When I kill one I create three."

Lasseter points out that the Sunnis do not have high religious authorities who are the equivalent of Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani. Also, the insurgency itself does not have a single unified command structure. Both these facts are highly problematic for reaching a negotiated solution because the sheer number of groups that must be negotiated with might make a negotiated solution impossible to achieve.

Howard Fineman quotes from a letter from an officer stationed in Iraq.

I’m sitting here with a gloomy letter from Iraq, written by a high-ranking officer I cannot name in a branch of service I cannot name in a part of the country I cannot name. But trust me, because I trust him. Iraqis, he says, have no feel for or belief in the democracy we want to create, and our occupation is making them less, not more, capable of self-government.

"Our eventual departure,” he worries, “will leave nothing but cosmetic structure here.” “Every mission,” he writes, “requires a conscious escape from the resignation that there is nothing here to win and every occasion to fail.”

Small miracles do happen—a child is saved, a generator is installed. There remain “possibilities.” But sullen eyes along the roadsides give this officer “the feeling that we have stayed too long but can not leave.”

Writing for the New York Times Sabrina Tavernise and John F. Burns report on the poor state of the Iraqi military.

"I just wish they'd start to pull their own weight without us having to come out and baby-sit them all the time," said Sgt. Joshua Lower, a scout in the Third Brigade of the First Armored Division who has worked with the Iraqis. "Some Iraqi special forces really know what they are doing, but there are some units that scatter like cockroaches with the lights on when there's an attack."

The Iraqi troops' story is one of light and dark, American officers say. Especially in regions sympathetic to the insurgents, they have performed woefully, with Sunni Arab soldiers making little secret of their support for Saddam Hussein and their contempt for the Americans.

Projections for when US troop withdrawals will start keep getting delayed.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon suggested that an initial drawdown of the 140,000 American troops in Iraq might begin by the end of this year. Now, American generals are saying it could be two years, perhaps longer.

Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe reports that the insurgency has developed better tactics and remains just as effective in spite of continued casualties. (same article here)

Two years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the Iraq conflict has evolved into a classic guerrilla war, they argue.

The insurgency has not been weakened at all.

Despite U.S. estimates that it kills or captures 1,000 to 3,000 insurgents a month, the number of daily attacks is going back up. Down to about 30 to 40 a day in February, attacks are up to at least 70 per day, according to statistics of U.S. Central Command. The insurgency has demonstrated a keen ability to shift its tactics in the face of persistent U.S. and Iraqi battlefield victories.

An internal Army report in April said that rather than what some saw as a drop in the number of daily attacks earlier this year, the insurgents had simply shifted their focus away from U.S. forces to attacks on more vulnerable targets, which were not being fully tallied at the time.

''The insurgency is still mounting an effort comparable to where they were a year ago," said Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer and specialist on counterinsurgency operations who directs the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent think tank in Washington.

"We do something we think will change things, but a month or two later, casualties and the level of violence are back to where they were," Krepinevich added.

So far this year, nearly 1,000 members of Iraq's police and security forces have been killed in attacks, almost as many as the total for the previous year and a half, according to Pentagon figures.

The insurgency has tripled the rate at which it kills Iraqi soldiers and police. At the same time, the US casuality rate is above the average since the war began. I have recently argued that the death tolls among various types of representatives of the Iraqi government are the more important indicators to watch. Well, here we see the insurgents have greatly increased their kill rate of Iraqi police. The insurgents are doing very well.

What are you going to believe? The figures and the US officers? Or the obviously wrong Vice President Dick Cheney?

"I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time," Cheney said. "The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Is he so deluded that be believes what he is saying or is he lying?

Thanks to Greg Cochran for tips on the first two articles linked above.

War Nerd Gary Brecher says the insurgency has no single Mr. Big leader.

Which suits the insurgents just fine. That's the most depressing angle of all on Zarqawi: it's not just the Pentagon and Al Q who are happy to keep him in the spotlight. The real bosses of the insurgency must get down on their knees every night and thank Allah for the Z-man, because he keeps the heat off them.

They're not Mr. Big. There is no Mr Big. They're more like a few thousand Mr. Middles, a whole crowd of ex-officers and clan leaders in every Sunni town or village who have some kind of loose control over some of the insurgents. Not all-there are hundreds of insurgent groups fighting, and nobody controls them all.

But it stands to reason that some of the bigger, more professional networks have real leaders. These guys will turn out to be solid, intelligent men, usually young-20s, early 30s-who get respect in the neighborhood. They'll be homegrown Iraqis with real standing in the clan and tribal networks that really run things in Iraq.

To carry out the advice of many top officers in Iraq the US government will have to figure out how many insurgent groups it needs to negotiate with. Just discovering who to try to negotiate with will be difficult at best. But suppose that much can be done. What if most of those groups do not see negotiations as in their best interests?

Nixon and Kissinger famously engaged in a heavy bombing campaign against North Vietnam in order to get the North Vietnamese to sign and respect a deal long enough for US troops to withdraw. But George W. Bush and his neocons lack a lever to use in negotiations and might be unable to bring the relevant Sunni insurgent parties to the negotiating table. A scaling up of US military force in Iraq large enough to apply heavy pressure to the insurgents is simply not in the cards as the American people turn increasingly against the war. So what is Bush going to do? See my post from early May 2004 entitled "Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition?" Time to consider whether to impose a partition in which we support a Kurdish secession or whether to totally bet on funding the Arab Shias in the civil war which will follow a US withdrawal.

I hope top policymakers do not wait too long before lowering their expectations far enough to the point of considering outcomes far less than they initially hoped to achieve. The longer they wait the weaker the cards will be in the hands they have to play. Even the much less ambitious outcomes will eventually fall out of their reach as popular opinion turns further against the war and the insurgency does greater damage to the Iraqi government.

By Randall Parker    2005 June 14 12:49 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (23)
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.

By Randall Parker    2005 June 13 09:29 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (30)
2005 June 03 Friday
Military Service Increasingly Unpopular With Parents

Parents don't want their kids to join the US Army.

A Department of Defense survey last November, the latest, shows that only 25 percent of parents would recommend military service to their children, down from 42 percent in August 2003.

"Parents," said one recruiter in Ohio who insisted on anonymity because the Army ordered all recruiters not to talk to reporters, "are the biggest hurdle we face."

Recruiters who cold call are getting increasing hostility and a lot more parents hang up.

Recruiters, in interviews over the past six months, said that opposition can be fierce. Three years ago, perhaps 1 or 2 of 10 parents would hang up immediately on a cold call to a potential recruit's home, said a recruiter in New York who, like most others interviewed, insisted on anonymity to protect his career. "Now," he said, "in the past year or two, people hang up all the time. "

The No Child Left Behind law includes a clause that gives military recruiters access to students for the purpose of recruiting. Parents have one way to reduce recruiter access: Ask to have their children's names, addresses, and phone numbers taken off of public lists of students attending a high school.

The US Army Major General in charge of recruiting questions whether the US can stay in Iraq given the growing parental resistance to recruiting.

Military officials are clearly concerned. In an interview last month, Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, commander of Army recruiting, said parental resistance could put the all-volunteer force in jeopardy. When parents and other influential adults dissuade young people from enlisting, he said, "it begs the question of what our national staying power might be for what certainly appears to be a long fight."

One General quoted in the article claims the alternative to a volunteer Army to fight in Iraq is a draft. Well, I can think of another really obvious alternative.

The US Army recruiting shortfall in April was a whopping 42%. How can the US military stay in Iraq with current troop levels? At the same time, given the unpopularity of the war the odds of getting a draft through Congress seem slim. But a US troop reduction would open up parts of Iraq to greater insurgent control.

US officers in Iraq have become more pessimistic. The Bush Admnistration's latest gambit appears to be paramilitary forces modelled after paramilitaries the US has supported in Latin America. Basically, the paramilitaries try to be even more menacing and brutal than the insurgents. This might work. Though only if most of the people the paramilitaries kill are really insurgents and only if most of the familiy members they kidnap to extort insurgent relatives really have insurgent relatives. But competency in the anti-insurgent cause is just so hard to come by in Iraq. Sorry in advance to those innocent civilians who get tortured, raped, and killed. To make a democracy omelette you have to break some civilian eggs. Though perhaps there isn't enough time to try the paramilitary gambit. I'm worried rival militias will destroy the government and plunge the place into civil war. I expect the recruitment shortfall to hasten the shift toward the paramilitary gambit.

The Iraq Debacle continues to unfold.

By Randall Parker    2005 June 03 07:23 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (43)
2005 May 19 Thursday
US Officers In Iraq Offer Bleaker Assessment Of War Progress

Eric Schmitt and John Burns of the New York Times say US officers who a few months ago were offering very optimistic assessments of progress in Iraq are now offering much more negative views. (same article here)

In interviews and briefings this week, some of the generals pulled back from recent suggestions, some by the same officers, that positive trends in Iraq could allow a major drawdown in the 138,000 American troops late this year or early in 2006. One officer suggested Wednesday that American military involvement could last "many years."


But the officer said that despite Americans' recent successes in disrupting insurgent cells, which have resulted in the arrest of 1,100 suspects in Baghdad alone in the past 80 days, the success of American goals in Iraq was not assured.

"I think that this could still fail," the officer said at the briefing, referring to the American enterprise in Iraq. "It's much more likely to succeed, but it could still fail."


"I think it's going to succeed in the long run, even if it takes years, many years," he said.


One of starkest revelations by the commanders involved the surge in car bombings, the principal insurgent weapon in attacks over the past three weeks that have killed nearly 500 people across central and northern Iraq, about half of them Iraqi soldiers, police officers and recruits.


The senior officer who met with reporters in Baghdad said there had been 21 car bombings in the capital in May, and 126 in the past 80 days. All last year, he said, there were only about 25 car bombings in Baghdad.

The car bombing rate is up by an order of magnitude. Yet, supposedly the US military is making progress against the insurgency. Also, the 500 Iraqi people killed in the last 3 weeks works out to an annual rate of over 8500. Given that half of them are Iraqi security foces the Iraqi security forces are experiencing a death rate of over 4200 per year. But Iraq's population of 26 million is about an eleventh of the US population. So to scale up that death rate to the US population level imagine that we were experiencing about 47,000 military deaths and an equal number of civilian deaths per year from a civil war or rebellion.

Japan looks set to join Honduras, Italy, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Spain, and Poland (and did I miss any country?) in withdrawing their troops from Iraq.

The police are crucial and the police are lagging.

Iraqi army units have slowly become better trained and disciplined. But the police, who make up one-third of Iraq's security forces, have made fewer gains and are more prone to corruption, said Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command.


"Ultimately the police become more important in the final stages of the insurgency than the military," Abizaid said.

The Bush administration says the Iraqi police are adequately trained and equipped, a view not shared by U.S. commanders in Iraq.

The statements of the political appointees in the White House and Pentagon can not be trusted. The US officers in Iraq see a very tough situation and believe the war will last for years. These officers obviously do not want to fail. But note that their optimistic assessment is a war that lasts for many years which we eventually win.

Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior advisor to the president of the Rand Corporation, says the pattern in the Middle East is easy conquest followed by much more difficult occupation.

''IT IS EASY to conquer an Arab country," observed the general. But drawing on years of experience in the Middle East, he added that the Arabs' ''natural inclination to rebellion makes it difficult for the invader to maintain his control."

This prescient warning came in 1957 from Sir John Glubb, a British general who fought Iraqi insurgents in the 1920s.

Jenkins says we might make progress and gradually bring the insurgency under control. On the other hand, he also says the whole thing could fall apart.

On the other hand, insurgents could carry out spectacular and costly attacks against US forces, undermining claims of progress and strengthening arguments for prompt withdrawal.

Iraq could collapse into fighting between religious and ethnic groups leading to even more disorder and violence. A tragic error in targeting or new revelations of abuse by coalition forces could intensify hostility in Iraq and cause revulsion in the United States.

The police in Iraq are neutralized by bribes, threats, and killings.

"The US needs to reorganise its intelligence system. Most of the resources - platforms, analysts - are at the national and strategic level. We have to decentralise and get the assets down to the tactical level. We rely on technical means but the insurgency disarms technology. It is mainly a human endeavour."

The US is trying to build Iraq's fledgling security forces and new intelligence bodies but, judging from the insurgents' ability to kill police chiefs and kidnap regional governors, there is evidence that the new Iraqi security apparatus is deeply penetrated by insurgent sympathisers.

There are unconfirmed stories of police chiefs being appointed only to be turned against the coalition within months through bribes and threats.

James Atticus Bowden, a former Army officer who served as a company commander, says Rumsfeld is McNamara.

Additionally, the big shock and awe bombing campaign was a bust. It didn’t collapse the regime. It killed civilians and destroyed records that would be very useful for the nationwide intelligence needed to restore security. Clearly, Rumsfeld thought the war meant defeat Hussein and get out. The plans called for a reduction from about 150,000 U.S. troops rapidly down to 30,000. How could the Sec Def not know there would be an Occupation?

The colonels at the Army War College knew it. The Army Chief of Staff, GEN. Eric Shinseki, who was let go, knew it. Just like they knew, and recommended, to keep the Iraqi Army on the payrolls, intact, and selectively weed out the Baathist bad guys.

Rumsfeld didn’t understand the fundamentals of the war, which war, OIF was. Our forces on the ground did well to overcome the failures of understanding and planning. But, it cost us.

Bowden is quite correct about the occupation. Then Army chief of staff General Eric Shinseki did say a few hundred thousand soldiers would be needed for an occupation. The US Army is hard pressed to even maintain current troop levels. Recruitment is declining. Short of instituting a draft can the US military fight in Iraq for years to come? Also, will US public opinion move so far against the war that continuation of the war will become politically impossible? Any predictions?

To those who support continuation of the US fight against the Iraqi insurgents I have a question: How many more years of war do you think it is worth fighting? 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? If you knew it would take 20 years to defeat the insurgency would you still be for keeping over a hundred thousand US soldiers in Iraq for 20 years? Also, what benefits to US national interests do you expect to see from fighting there many years?

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the first link.

By Randall Parker    2005 May 19 08:39 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (19)
2005 May 15 Sunday
US Army Recruiting Shortfalls Are Growing

Lowered standards, increased financial incentives, increased recruiter staffs, and improprieties in recruitment can get only so much milk (sweet or sour) from Bessie the recruiting cow. Opposition to the war in Iraq increasingly takes the form of young men who decide they don't want to risk their lives to fight for George W. Bush and the neoconservatives.

The U.S. Army missed its April recruiting goal by a whopping 42 percent and the Army Reserve fell short by 37 percent, officials said on Tuesday, showing the depth of the military's wartime recruiting woes.

Hard to fight a war without soldiers. More robots are needed.

The gap for April is part of a trend toward larger shortfalls

In March the Army had hoped to sign up 6,800 recruits but fell 32 percent short. That was slightly worse than in February, when a goal of 7,050 was missed by 27 percent.

The Marine Corps are coming up short on recruitment as well.

Recruiters missed their contracting goal for April, marking the fourth month in a row the Corps has fallen short.

The Corps missed its April mission by 260 contracts, meeting 91 percent of its goal to enlist 2,971 recruits, according to Maj. Dave Griesmer, a spokesman for Recruiting Command in Quantico Va.

The US Army will hold a 1 day recruiting halt on May 20 in response to complaints about recruiter excesses.

In Houston, a recruiter allegedly threatened to have a wavering would-be recruit arrested if he backed out, according to Army officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The recruiter has no such authority.

Officials confirmed a second inquiry in Colorado, pointing to news reports about recruiters who allegedly offered information on fake diplomas and ways to get around drug tests and physical fitness requirements.

Recruiters describe systematic circumvention of recruiting rules.

Two hundred miles away, in northern Ohio, another recruiter said the incident hardly surprised him. He has been bending or breaking enlistment rules for months, he said, hiding police records and medical histories of potential recruits. His commanders have encouraged such deception, he said, because they know there is no other way to meet the Army's recruitment quotas.

"The problem is that no one wants to join," the recruiter said. "We have to play fast and loose with the rules just to get by."

In 2004 nearly one in five Army recruiters were involved in substantiated cases of what the Army calls recruitment improprieties. Those were the substantiated cases. What percentage of real violations of recruiting rules are even caught? Half? A tenth?

Check out the rising rate of recruitment improprieties.

Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith said the Army is investigating 480 allegations of improper conduct by Army recruiters in fiscal 2005, which began Oct. 1. The Army looked into 473 such allegations in all of 2000, 643 in 2001, 745 in 2002, 955 in 2003 and 957 in 2004, Smith said.

Recruiter false promises, whether of special training or of being able to avoid going to Iraq, seem most likely to be reported. But when recruiters help recruits cheat on entrance qualifications my guess is few of those cases are caught. So the reported allegations are likely the tip of the iceberg.

The shortfalls are even worse than they appear because the US Army has lowered standards and increased financial incentives for enlistment over the last couple of years. The lowering of standards is causing problems out in the field.

The less qualified people cause a lot more problems for officers and NCOs. More time has to be spent on training and supervising these people, and there are more disciplinary problems as well. The standards have been creeping downward for the last two years, and the complaints about the results are starting to come in from the field.

Even the lowered standards are still high enough that recruiters have to help recruits cheat to pass tests.

Financial incentives for enlistment have been increased substantially.

Without patriotism to rely on, the military has continued to increase the financial incentives. This week it announced that new recruits could get up to $US20,000 ($A26,100) in bonuses for signing on.

It is also doing everything it can to make itself more attractive. It halved the time recruits have to sign up for active duty.

And it is offering up to $US70,000 towards a university degree, or repayment of student loans up to $US65,000, plus all-important health and dental care for recruits and their families.

The recruiting problem looks set to worsen. Standards can only be lowered so far. Financial incentives might work but will make the Iraq war even more expensive. The Army and Marines should remember Ben Franklin and make necessity the mother of invention. This means the US military should embrace automation with a vengeance.

By Randall Parker    2005 May 15 06:15 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (31)
2005 January 20 Thursday
US Officers In Iraq Want More Troops

Writing for the Washington Times (a conservative newspaper) Rowan Scarborough (who also can't be labelled and dismissed by war optimists as a left-liberal) reports on US military officers in Iraq who are telling their colleagues back home that the US needs more soldiers in Iraq.

Officers in Iraq are telling colleagues back in the United States that they disagree with the official Pentagon position and think they need more troops on the ground.

Retired and active-duty personnel who have received such e-mails say they are not couched as gripes. Rather, the shortfall is explained in terms of, "If we had more soldiers, we could be in two places at once," said a retired four-star Army general. This source said he has received such unofficial communications from a crosssection of commanders in the Army.


He said the most-often repeated figure is six to eight more brigades, or more than 50,000 more troops.

The official US military position is that the number of soldiers in Iraq is sufficient. This would be fortunate if it was true since there are no extra soldiers available to send. The official position is that the Iraqi military is going to be built up to do the job that the US military is incapable of doing. That build-up looks to be about 45% complete, at least on paper.

The U.S. goal is for a nationwide security force of 273,000 Iraqis. About 122,000 are now in the field.

But then there are the not so small problems that A) the Iraqi soldiers have to not desert when faced with a real battle and B) that they have to fight for the side of the US and the Iraqi government when the battles come. If anyone comes across statements of US officers on when exactly the Iraqis are supposed to have 273,000 soldiers fieldable please let me know either here in the comments or by email. We should keep track of these projections to see how (un)realistic the official statements turn out to be.

Something I'd like to see: Iraqi National Guard units killing more insurgents/rebels/resistance fighters (and what is the best name for those people?) than the US military does in some substantial sized engagement. Not expecting that to happen this year. Will it ever?

By Randall Parker    2005 January 20 12:00 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (27)
2004 December 24 Friday
Colin Powell Recently Argued For More Troops In Iraq

In a videoconference on November 12, 2004 between George W. Bush and Tony Blair and their top advisors Colin Powell belatedly argued for at least a weak version of the Powell Doctrine.

Accounts differ about the details of Powell's remarks. One U.S. official said that Powell flatly stated: "We don't have enough troops. We don't control the terrain."

Some State Department official in the article tries to argue that Powell wasn't that blunt. But it sounds highly plausible Powell said this privately. After all, it is true and Powell knows enough about military matters to know it is true. Oh, and he turned in his resignation right after saying it. So he was certainly in a position where he could afford to be honest to his boss.

But problem with Powell's advice is that the US does not have enough troops to fight the insurgency properly. The result is that lots of American boys are dying in a futile effort.

Former civilian top administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer also says there are not enough troops in Iraq and there never have been enough.

"The single most important change -- the one thing that would have improved the situation -- would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout" the occupation, Bremer said in September, according to the Banner-Graphic in Greencastle, Ind.

Bush's strategy in Iraq is flawed in its assumptions. He does not have the guts to either withdraw or ask Congress for hundreds of billions more to scale up size of the US Army to do a proper occupation. How long will this state of affairs continue?.

Perhaps it is best we continue along without enough soldiers. We may withdraw from Iraq quicker this way. The learning curve for the American public may progress more rapidly if Bush continues along his current course.

By Randall Parker    2004 December 24 04:49 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2004 November 17 Wednesday
Forces In Iraq Need More Armor And Maintenance

The Army doesn't have enough armored Humvees and needs to armor trucks.

AM General responded by increasing production of "up-armored" Humvees (as opposed to "thin skin" Humvees) from 150 to 450 a month.

By this fall, the Army had put 5,000 in Iraq, only to learn a few weeks ago that commanders had upped the need to 8,000.


"I'm not sure anybody in the Army ever thought we would start armoring our truck fleet," Mr. Brownlee said. "But that's what we're doing."

There is no front line when battling an insurgency. Or the front line is everywhere.

The official Army statistics show that the supply situation has improved.

Army officials say they are improving their ability to stock parts and equipment, have boosted the readiness rates of tanks and helicopters, and have shortened waits for new supplies. Yet, in some categories, they still fall short of their own goals.

The share of items Army supply depots list as "zero balance" -- or absent from supply shelves -- has dropped from between 25 percent and 40 percent last year, depending on the depot, to an average of 14 percent this year, just above the peacetime goal of 10 percent.

But from the standpoint of the grunts the supply situation looks poor.

Across the country, the brutal conditions can be seen on the Humvees on patrol with smashed or cracked front windshields or punctured doors and fenders where chunks of shrapnel have blown through. Worse, dozens of vehicles have been lost in attacks. Video clips of burning Humvees have become a staple of Iraqi insurgent propaganda DVDs.

In the western town of Qaim, a U.S. Marine complained that his unit lacked vehicles and protection as well as troops to replace those killed and destroyed by roadside bombings, ambushes and anti-tank mine blasts.

"We need more vehicles, more armor, more bodies," said Cpl. Cody King, 20, of Phoenix, Ariz., of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

Curiously, those reservists in Iraq who refused to go on a resupply mission because their equipment was in such poor shape are going to have safer equipment as a result of their insubordination.

On Sunday, the commanding officer of the 13th Corps Support Command, Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers, ordered the South Carolina Reserve unit that refused the supply run to undergo a two-week "safety-maintenance stand down," during which it will conduct no missions as its vehicles are refurbished and armored.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

The US military now has provisions to refund money spent by soldiers to buy some types of needed equipment.

The current American defense budget provides a provision for reimbursing troops (mainly soldiers and marines) who buy needed military equipment with their own money. Up to $1,100 a year per soldier will be provided, if they can make a case that their expenditure was needed for “protective, safety, or health equipment.”

The US military doesn't have enough soldiers to properly occupy Iraq and it doesn't even have enough armor and other supplies to equip the soldiers who are currently fighting over there.

By Randall Parker    2004 November 17 01:39 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2004 November 12 Friday
7 Retired US Generals And Admirals Speak On Iraq

Rolling Stone has an article with comments by 7 US Generals and Admirals on what they think of the situation in Iraq. I'm including excerpts from just two of them below. Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, Air Force chief of staff, 1990-94, says our force in Iraq is too small.

We have a force in Iraq that's much too small to stabilize the situation. It's about half the size, or maybe even a third, of what we need. As a consequence, the insurgency seems to be gathering momentum. We are losing people at a fairly steady rate of about two a day; wounded, about four or five times that, and perhaps half of these wounds are very serious. And we are also sustaining gunshot wounds, when, before, we'd mostly been seeing massive trauma from remotely detonated charges. This means the other side is standing and fighting in a way that describes a more dangerous phase of the conflict.

The people in control in the Pentagon and the White House live in a fantasy world. They actually thought everyone would just line up and vote for a new democracy and you would have a sort of Denmark with oil. I blame Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the people behind him -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary Douglas Feith. The vice president himself should probably be included; certainly his wife. These so-called neocons: These people have no real experience in life. They are utopian thinkers, idealists, very smart, and they have the courage of their convictions, so it makes them doubly dangerous.

Former CENTCOM commander General Anthony Zinni says of course our forces in Iraq have been too small from the start and the US military always knew it would need much larger forces to assert firm control of Iraq after an invasion.

When I was commander of CENTCOM, we had a plan for an invasion of Iraq, and it had specific numbers in it. We wanted to go in there with 350,000 to 380,000 troops. You didn't need that many people to defeat the Republican Guard, but you needed them for the aftermath. We knew that we would find ourselves in a situation where we had completely uprooted an authoritarian government and would need to freeze the situation: retain control, retain order, provide security, seal the borders to keep terrorists from coming in.

When I left in 2000, General Franks took over. Franks was my ground-component commander, so he was well aware of the plan. He had participated in it; those were the numbers he wanted. So what happened between him and Rumsfeld and why those numbers got altered, I don't know, because when we went in we used only 140,000 troops, even though General Eric Shinseki, the army commander, asked for the original number.

Some serving officers are also critical of the conduct of the war. See my post US Military Officers Increasingly Critical Of US Strategy In Iraq. The need for a larger invasion force was foreseen in advance by military analysts and officers. From a previous post of mine here are some pointers to research work that shows how many troops are needed for peacekeeping operations.

There were people (eg James Quinlivan) who in advance of the invasion of Iraq said that previous occupations showed that we needed a few times the number of troops to occupy Iraq than the Bush Administration was sending. US Army General Eric Shinseki got a lot of abuse from Rumsfeld for telling a Congressional committee estimates for troop needs for an Iraq occupation that were similar to what you'd expect from Quinlivan's analysis. Other think tank analysts made similar calculations and published similar numbers.

Quinliven's writings on this go back to the 1990s. So these numbers were available before the invasion. See, for example, James T. Quinlivan, “Force Requirements in Stability Operations,” Parameters, 25 (Winter 1995-96), 59-69 which this article references. Rand has that article available here for order if you are interested. Quinliven was delivering briefings around at Washington DC think tanks on troop needs for occupation before the Iraq invasion. See his Summer 2003 Rand article Burden of Victory: The Painful Arithmetic of Stability Operations for an accessible summary of his research.

Also see the report by Rand Corporation researcher James Dobbins and colleagues: America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq. Laura Rozen has excerpted from that study:

THERE HAVE never been more than 160,000 coalition soldiers to control a population of 25 million Iraqis. Even adding in 20,000 private security contractors, that still amounts to only one soldier for every 139 Iraqis. According to a study conducted by James Dobbins and his colleagues at RAND, in most successful occupations, ranging from post-1945 Germany to post-1999 Kosovo, the figure has never been lower than one soldier per 50 people. In Iraq, that would mean 500,000 troops, or three times the number the coalition has today

The Bush Administration's dream for how to get around the problem of a too small American force is to create an Iraqi force that will do the work of putting down the insurgency. The DefenseTech blog has a post on the only Iraqi Batallion that has managed to become a disciplined and motivated fighting force: the Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion's effective fighters are almost all Kurds..

"The 36th was originally known as the 'political battalion,'" he said. That's because it was formed from the militias of five major political groups in Iraq: Iyad Alwai's Iraq National Accord (INA), Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which backs Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and the two main Kurdish groups, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). About 110 soldiers were originally culled from each group.

Because of the group's diverse roots, it's supposed to be the "most reliable" of the Iraqi forces. But, in reality, only a segment of the 36th has really been trustworthy – the Kurdish fighters known as pesh merga. In an early operation, the U.S. Army officer recalls, about 60 of SCIRI's soldiers fled; so did 30-40 each from the INA and INC. But between the two Kurdish groups, only 11 dropped out, total.

In the recent fighting in Fallujah other battalions experienced high desertion rates. Also, US Marines have claimed that some of the allied Iraqi forces have deliberately fired upon them knowing who they were.

These Iraqi soldiers were fleeing small arms fire from insurgents that was strafing both sides of the road as they approached.

Sergeant Richard Harkleroad waved his unit's flag to signal the Iraqis not to shoot, to no avail.

Finally, the Iraqis drove on, but not before many of the American soldiers took cover. Bullets had smashed the television and shredded a miniature Koran.

Sergeant Sam Kilpatrick, a combat cameraman, swore the Iraqis were looking right at him and the Bradley parked in front of the observation post when they opened fire.

"That crap was deliberate," he said.

The war is not going well.

Note: Thanks to Greg Cochran for pointing to the Rolling Stone article.

By Randall Parker    2004 November 12 02:41 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (15)
2004 May 10 Monday
US Military Officers Increasingly Critical Of US Strategy In Iraq

Writing for the Washington Post Thomas E. Ricks an important article about increasing opposition among US military officers against the way Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of the Bush team are conducting the war in Iraq.

Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."

Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view and noted that a pattern of winning battles while losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in Vietnam. "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we will lose strategically," he said in an interview Friday.

There are lots more quotes where those come from. Click through and read the whole thing.

Lots of officers interviewed by Rick refused to be quoted by name.

Like several other officers interviewed for this report, this general spoke only on the condition that his name not be used. One reason for this is that some of these officers deal frequently with the senior Pentagon civilian officials they are criticizing, and some remain dependent on top officials to approve their current efforts and future promotions. Also, some say they believe that Rumsfeld and other top civilians punish public dissent.

Think about that for a second. These officers could, for the good of their country, resign their commissions and then publically state what they see as wrong with the conduct of the war. Or they could remain in the service, publically state their views, and then lose out on promotions. But in spite of what they see as major flaws in US strategy the bulk of them are putting their own careers ahead of what they see as the best interests of the country. This is very disappointing. They could have much greater impact if they were willing to publically go on record with their views.

On the political Right there are far too many people (including many bloggers) who tend to see all criticism of Bush Administration strategy as based on Lefist political assumptions. Therefore the debate on strategy tends too much to be a partisan debate aimed at winning points. The result is that there are not enough hawkish proponents of aggressive protection of American interests offering constructive criticisms of Administration policy. This is unfortunate because substantial American interests have been harmed by a long series of Bush Administration mistakes and the Bushies continue to rack up yet more big blunders.

The insurgent forces in Iraq have begun to sense that they can scare the US into withdrawing and this is emboldening them. The United States either needs to greatly increase its forces in Iraq or hang it up.

"There are several million young men in Iraq who are now seeing us in a whole new light," says Pat Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst. "We have something like 130,000 troops in Iraq.We probably do not have more than 60 thousand or 70 thousand fighters in that force. They are spread across a vast area." In Lang’s view, the United States must either shift that tipping point by bringing in more troops, or we withdraw. "To back away from the hostiles will enormously encourage our enemies. We have no choice but to fight it out and defeat the growing revolt in Iraq,” he says. "Once you drive your car off the cliff, there's not much you can do to affect the outcome."

The article reports that General Abizaid has decided to increase forces in Iraq by another division. This strkes me as too little too late. Better increase by about 3 divisions and ruthlessly and rapidly defeat the insurgency than to just up our forces while their own forces increase in number. The Bush Administration is probably unwilling to do that in part because it is unwilling to admit to the scale of its miscalculation both to itself and to the American people.

A French correspondent who has lived in Arab countries offers some insights into Arab mindsets.

Arabs follow winners. Al Quaeda is recruiting a lot by now, not because there is the war in Irak (its recruitment had been reduced as soon as Afghanistan fell), but because Arab street is persuaded, from what they can see in West Press, that the west will lose. When you live in a dictature, the most important is to be on the right side, if not you lose your life. Their survival tactic is therefore to try to guess who will win, and to be part of the winners.

Tit for Tat (T4T) and other cooperative strategies in a IDP do not exist in Arab countries, outside the tribe (extended family) : that's the main reason why these countries are so poor (despite the oil). Any cooperation is perceived as a avowal of weakness, which will be rewarded by treason. To survive in Arabic countries, you HAVE TO know that. The most surprising in Tunisia, where this is very known, is that even Tunisians criticize this behavior, and it's an important reason why they want to leave the country.

In short, IF european and american newspapers did just tell the opposite of what they write, announcing a huge success of coalition struggle, then the "Arab street" would im-me-dia-tly change its mind, and would be pro US. Do not tell me it's against the "ethic" of the profession: it wouldn't be a bigger lie than what they write now, just the opposite.

The United States has changed so much since World War II that it is unrealistic to expect the press to spin a positive message for the home front. So while this French correspondent is probably correct it is a piece of advice that is probably impossible to implement. This puts us in a difficult position. A simple total withdrawal of US forces from Iraq at this point would embolden Arabs hostile to the US and probably lead to a huge surge in recruitment of Muslims into Al Qaeda. We need an exit strategy that will not seem like a simple retreat in the face of Jihadist opposition.

A friend who was originally opposed to the US invasion of Iraq offers a rather hard-nosed Machiavellian realpolitik analysis and an excellent formula for how to handle Iraq:

I've been convinced it was losing for about 6 months. Prior to that I expected a long drawn out dismal failure but not outright military defeat in the sense of being forced to leave an actively hostile power behind. But as it became clear that the local powers have moved into the vacuum, that they are smart enough to understand this is their one opportunity, and that they have mastered the arts of rumor and terror to the point the US will never get a grip, then it dawned on me the result would be even worse.

I'm sure the military figured this out a while ago, if they are willing to talk to the press about it now.

Beyond the problems of having no way to get a grip, we don't have leverage either. This is because the occupation is styled as a liberation, and the USA is at some level genuinely too moral to annexe the place regardless of the locals. So we wander around mouthing how we are encouraging democracy while the would be despots run their local operations to blow up soldiers, aid workers, reconstruction, and any locals who seem to be helping, while simultaneously letting the populace have a story about how incompetent the US is at maintaining security. There really isn't any solution, because the guys we are up against have been raised on a culture of ruthless power and manipulate a people accustomed to keeping their heads down if they are not one of those willing to play the power game.

Of course the result for Iraq is going to be grotesque but those guys don't care, the various cliques are in a winner takes all game, which will not happen again, so now is their chance and they know it. Even the groups that might have bided their time will have realized that events are being forced and they need to choose a side, and none of those sides are "friends of USA".

And this talk of bringing the UN in to fix it is hysterically funny. Firstly, the UN will be even less effective, and they know it. Secondly, why would they want to? The US ignored the UN, this is their chance to say "we told you so" and from a safe, uninvolved distance. Help the US get out? Not a chance.

If it was me looking at this, I'd cut my losses. I'd partition the country into three areas, Kurd, Sunni, Shia. I'd draw those lines in the middle of nowhere and put my troops there so the troops would be out of the cities. I'd then take the strongest group in each area and say "its yours, but don't dare mess with our guard lines". Leave the country formally a single republic and give them each representation on a council to talk to each other about things they will have in common (assuming they do). Then tell each of them that they are personally responsible for the safety of the aid organizations and reconstruction, and expend lots of propoganda broadcast time interviewing their leader, their chief of police/militia, and their local ministers of health, education etc. on what their plans are and how they invite foreigners to work on their projects. Let them direct the projects (behind the scenes, insist on some proportion of schools, roads, etc) but not handle the budget (but pay them ample salaries and perks, so their graft is tolerable and formally legal). Any project not successfully kept safe by the militia (not a US soldier in sight) is irrevocably cancelled along with the salaries of the administration. Let them figure out how to keep the hotheads from spoiling the gravy train. Divvy up oil revenues from a national corporation proportional to population, distributed at as low a level (heck, per family checks) as possible. Form a small national army and train it with the occupying troops, out in the middle of nowhere, in desegregated regiments. Build nice barracks facilities they won't want to dismantle, and dismantle the old ones in cities. After a year or two, as projects wind up, reduce the border US forces to observer levels and invite the UN in to share the familiar peacekeeping role. Arrange national elections on a federation style constitution. Invite the neighbors to the party (who in the meantime, you have been as constructive with as possible). Let the resulting governement kick the peacekeepers out, which they will, and see what unfolds. Don't pretend you ever had a chance of controlling it anyway.

This partitioning with lines that are drawn through desert regions would get US soldiers out of the cities where they are much easier to kill. This would also give each ethnic group less a reason to fight to avoid dominance by the other groups. Plus, it would provide plenty of incentive for better behavior. Positive incentives for preferred behavior are incredibly important and are missing in current US handling of Iraq. This plan has a lot to recommend for itself. I would tend to favor pursuing a variation on this approach with the goal of keeping Iraq permanently broken up into 3 pieces. The US could play "balance the power" games of helping whichever group looks like it might be overrun by one of the other two.

A Pollyanna outlook on what is possible to achieve in Iraq and how easily goals can be achieved has so far led to an ever increasing debacle. It is time to take off the rose-colored glasses and abandon foolish illusions about how easily Iraq can be politically transformed. The price of the illusions has gotten far too high and threatens to escalate still higher. I've collected together a list of reasons why conditions in Iraq are unfavorable for the establishment of a successful federal liberal democracy not hostile to the United States. The Bush Administration's mishandling of Iraq has made conditions there even less favorable to the achievement of that goal. The longer we wait to acknowledge the deterioration our position the worse the outcome will ultimately be for our interests.

By Randall Parker    2004 May 10 01:11 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (35)
2003 September 15 Monday
Robert Kagan: Situation In Iraq Dire, US Military Too Small

Robert Kagan has a very gloomy view of what is going on in Iraq.

There are good reasons why the administration is not sending more troops to Iraq, of course. But they are not the reasons outlined by U.S. commanders. Those generals are saying we have enough troops in Iraq chiefly because they know full well they dare not ask for more. The price of putting another division or more of American troops into Iraq will be high. It means mobilizing more reserves and using more National Guard forces. It either means pushing the Army to the breaking point or making the very expensive but necessary decision to increase the overall size of the American military, and fast. Right now administration officials don't want to think the unthinkable. Unfortunately, they may be forced to in a month or two. And, unfortunately, by then it may be too late.

Many opponents of the war are now crowing "I told you so" in light of the continuing attacks in Iraq. Well, the anti-war camp seems not to notice this but not all us hawks expected Iraq to be easy to handle post-war. While Kagan was an advocate of the war it is worth noting that back in July 2002 he cleared showed that he saw the post-war challenge of ruling Iraq as difficult.

But Iraq is no "window." It is a historical pivot. Whether a post-Hussein Iraq succeeds or fails will shape the course of Middle Eastern politics, and therefore world politics, both now and for the remainder of this century.

Europeans worry about that, and they're right to do so. If it's true that an invasion may be only six months off, this would be a good time to start thinking about D-Day plus 1. Not only Europeans but Americans, too, ought to know the kind of task they're about to undertake. For if the Bush administration is serious, then the United States is on the verge of making a huge commitment in Iraq and the Middle East, not unlike the commitment it made in Japan more than a half-century ago.

These are not the words of a triumphalist.

I'm firmly in the ranks of those who are pessimists on Muslim democracy and back in October 2002 was already arguing a pessimistic post-war view on Iraq in the post Hardest Part Of Iraq War Is Reconstruction.

By Randall Parker    2003 September 15 11:42 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2003 June 20 Friday
Sergeants More Pessimistic Than Generals In Iraq

The Washington Post has an article by Daniel Williams and Rajiv Chandrasekaran entitled U.S. Troops Frustrated With Role In Iraq.

"The way it seemed is, once Iraqis got over being grateful for getting rid of Saddam, they found out quickly they don't want the Americans, either," said Sgt. Nestor Torres, a military policeman with the 3rd Infantry Division in the restive town of Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad. "Everyone is blending in with everyone else, so you can't tell the friendly ones from the hostile."

Torres is a bodyguard for the division commander, Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III. "When I look around, I've got to wonder who wants to shoot my boss," Torres said.

Contrast the views of the various sergeants quoted in that article with those of Generals McKiernan and Odierno:

Army Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, commander of Coalition Joint Task Force Seven, has a more optimistic view of the progress in hunting down the remaining resistance in Iraq.

In the central part of Iraq, we have currently two what I would call hot spots that you're well aware of: one is to the west of Baghdad, out of the Fallujah-Ar Ramadi corridor. We have, over the last couple of weeks, moved forces from the 3rd Infantry Division into that area and are aggressively conducting patrols and raids and developing intelligence. And over the last few days, that area has quieted significantly. We're also continue (sic) to make contact with tribal sheiks and local interim governance to try to bring security to that area.

The other hot spot is north of Baghdad, and that's an area we call the peninsula, which is slightly northeast of the city of Balad, where we've been conducting an operation under Fifth Corps and the 4th Infantry Division over the last two or three days called Operation Peninsula Strike. And based on some confirmed intelligence, we've gone in and conducted some search and cordon operations and some raids, which we've detained over 400 Iraqis -- many of them, though, we've released in short order because they did not have any intelligence value, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But we do have over 50 Iraqis that we still have in our hands that we are moving over to our confinement facility here in Baghdad, and we'll do some further interrogations on.


Q: Hi, General. Eric Westervelt, National Public Radio. Can you talk about the security situation in Fallujah? And has the deployment of the Spartan Brigade of the 3rd ID had any demonstrable impact on the security situation there? And what remains your biggest security challenges in that area?

McKiernan: Well, I think it has had a large impact. When you have presence of coalition forces in that size, I think it's going to have a very positive impact. Now, the difficulty with all these situations is, in many cases you have those that don't actually live in that area that will come in and use that as a base of operations or use it as an area to conduct attacks or snipings at coalition forces. So you have to be very careful and very methodical how you go through that area, to separate out the bad guys from those that are innocent and just live in that area. But I would tell you that the impact of that brigade combat team has been felt out in Fallujah. It's been fairly quiet the last couple of days. I would hesitate to predict it will stay that way forever, but it's been quiet for the last couple of days, and it's been a success.

Major General Ray Odierno, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division sees the Iraqi resistance as militarily insignificant.

Q: Martha Raddatz from ABC News. Could you give us more information on the resistance you're facing? You're saying you're facing almost daily contact with paramilitaries, Fedayeen Saddam. How big a problem is this? If you can quantify it in any way about how much resistance you're getting; how many more people are out there who you believe are resisting? And also, if you could give us more detail about these new groups -- I believe you said Snake Party and New Return -- how they formed, and how big they are and where they are?

Odierno: We are seeing military activity throughout our zone. But I really qualify it as militarily insignificant. They are very small, they are very random, they are very ineffective. I believe there's three groups out there right now. Basically, there is a group of ex-Saddam Ba'ath Party loyalists. In addition, there are some Islamic fundamentalists. And then there are just some plain Iraqis who are poor and are being paid to attack U.S. forces. All of these attacks are uncoordinated. They are very ineffective and, in my mind, really do not have much effect on U.S. forces.

And if you are -- on a daily basis, you will see that 99 percent of the area is free, clear, and the citizens go about every day, doing their business, without interruption.

Q: If I could, the military insignificance -- I believe 11 soldiers have been killed in the last three weeks. So clearly they're having a rather profound effect.

And also, you talk about them not being organized, and yet you say they're just plain Iraqis who are being paid. Who's paying them, if they're not organized?

Odierno: My guess is, they're being paid by ex-Ba'ath Party loyalists, who are paying people to kill Americans.

And I want to make sure -- first, I want to comment on the 11 individuals that have been killed. I will never downplay Americans being killed in combat. It is a very significant sacrifice, especially for their families. And that is significant to an individual's family, and I would never say anything different from that.

But from a military perspective, it is insignificant. They're having no impact on the way we conduct business on a day-to-day basis in Iraq.

Odierno says the Baath Party loyalists are attacking out of desperation because US forces are bringing so much pressure to bear on them.

Q: General, Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse. These attacks appear to have escalated or increased in number just in the past few weeks. Is that associated in any way with the decision to ban the Ba'ath Party and to disband the Army? And is there a risk with these raids of increasing opposition to the U.S. forces?

Odierno: I have a little different view of it. I think the raids that we're conducting, we have put a lot of pressure on them, and I think they're feeling the pressure. And I think we're having a significant effect on their ability, which is causing them to come out and maybe increase their attacks even though they have been ineffective. So I think they're desperate. I think they're becoming less and less organized. The more money we seize, the more individuals we take into custody, we continue to really, I think, have an impact on the medium to senior level of the individuals that remain. So I think we are, in fact, having a significant impact on them. I think that's causing them, then, to come out and be a little more desperate in their attacks on U.S. forces.

The Baathists are having their money depleted by US military operations that capture their cash stores. Eventually this should lead to a reduction in attacks.

Whose assessment is more accurate? The NCOs down in the ground making the day-to-day operations happen? Or the generals who have data flowing up to them to give them the big picture?

Meanwhile, some of the Mullahs are doing what they can to stir up trouble.

''The Jews are buying real estate, homes, shops and agricultural fields, using fake names, to do to us what they did with Palestine,'' said the preacher at the Mother of All Battles Mosque in Baghdad, Thaer Ibrahim al-Shomari. ''Be careful, and don't rush to sell. The country is dear and the land is dear.''

By Randall Parker    2003 June 20 05:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 June 04 Wednesday
Thomas White Says Pentagon Continues To Underestimate Iraq Occupation Task

Saying that the Pentagon "are unwilling to come to grips" with the size of the task involved in occupying and ruling Iraq recently dismissed civilian chief of the US Army Thomas White says the Pentagon is not willing to admit to the needed length or size of the occupation.

"This is not what they were selling (before the war)," White said, describing how senior Defense officials downplayed the need for a large occupation force. "It's almost a question of people not wanting to 'fess up to the notion that we will be there a long time and they might have to set up a rotation and sustain it for the long term."

Rumsfeld fired White in part because White tried to rally Congressional support for the Crusader artillery weapon after Rumsfeld announced it would be cancelled. Therefore it is possible White's comments are motivated at least in part by animosity toward Rumsfeld. On the other hand, what White is saying is probably true. Certainly the DOD did not plan well for the occupation of Iraq and certainly it has underestimated the occupation job. Does it continue to underestimate the scale of the job? It sure looks that way.

By Randall Parker    2003 June 04 12:56 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 May 30 Friday
Regime Change Policy Requires More Troops Post-War

Sometimes people have to learn the hard way. The Bush Administration is currently learning the hard way that the number of troops needed to hold a captured country is greater than the number needed to invade it in the first place.

There is a deeper lesson here, however, and one that has important implications for the Bush administration's foreign policy and its program to remake the American military. The nub of the issue is this: If the administration is committed to a foreign policy of pre-emptive strikes and occasionally "regime change," it must be prepared to cope with the power vacuums that may follow.

Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan says "the war has not ended".

BAGHDAD, May 29 -- After another attack that killed a U.S. soldier, the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq declared today that "the war has not ended" and signaled the start of a new military phase to root out what he described as die-hard supporters of fallen president Saddam Hussein.

With 4 out of 10 US Army divisions currently tied up in Iraq the United States is in no position to fight a ground war in either Iran or North Korea. It has additional divisions and parts of divisions tied down in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and South Korea. The United States effectively has only 2 divisions available for new operations.

North Korea would be easier than Iran to manage post-war because the South Korean Army could do that. Also, the North Koreans are being brainwashed in a secular ideology which is far more easy to be proved wrong because secular ideologies can be disproved using the empirical evidence of this world. Once North Korea's regime fell the task of getting the North Korean people to abandon support for the regime's supporting ideology would be far easier to accomplish (e.g. set up televisions tied to satellite dishes in a public building in every town and village and provide small generators and fuel for electricity) than would be the case with Iran. Proving that a religiously-based political ideology is wrong is much harder because the people who believe it think the justification for their beliefs comes from the supernatural realm.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 30 11:47 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
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