Monday, August 21, 2006

The tipped point?

a.) No troops.
b.) Stay the course.
c.) More troops.

The latter has been much discussed recently by a Blogger, a Senator, a General, and a Brookings intellectual.

Rick Moran is a fine gauge for intellectual GOP Bloggers. He wrote this weekend:
For as it stands now, we are at a psychological tipping point in Iraq where drastic measures are needed in order to turn the situation around and give the weak Iraqi government a chance to gain control. There are many hands raised against this government and as of right now, they are losing any semblance of legitimacy due to their powerlessness in the face of the massive violence that has been unleashed.
He calls for 50,000 more troops. That's a fanciful number, but his heart is in the right place. Certainly, 50,000 would augment the whack-a-mole antics in Anbar. However, there are now a number of substantial security problems throughout the country.

John McCain called for more troops on Meet the Press:
MR. GREGORY: The president has said repeatedly that he has a strategy to win, that if his commanders want more forces, they will get them. Should more troops be sent?

SEN. McCAIN: Well, I think it’s been well documented now that we didn’t have enough there from the beginning, that we allowed the looting, that we did not have control, particularly, of areas, such—in the Sunni Triangle, which led to us paying a very heavy price. We make mistakes in every war, and serious mistakes were made here. The question is, are we going to be able to bring the situation under control now? I still believe we can. I think part of it has to do with the Mahdi Army and Sadr. Sadr has got to be taken out of this equation and his militia has got to be addressed forcefully.

MR. GREGORY: But to do that, do you need more U.S. soldiers on the ground now?

SEN. McCAIN: I think so. I think so. We took troops from places like Ramadi, which are still not under control, to put them into Baghdad. We’ve had to send in additional troops as they are. All along, we have not had enough troops on the ground to control the situation. Many, many people knew that and it’s—we’re paying a very heavy price for it. But I want to emphasize that we cannot lose this. It will cause chaos in Iraq and in the region, and it’s—I still believe that we, we must prevail.
William Arkin doubts the sincerity of that plan:
This is why I said at the beginning that this is the perfect Washington issue.

Naughty Republicans and muscle-bound Democrats alike can issue the call for more soldiers and lament the war's course without criticizing the troops and without worrying that there call is actually going to be heeded.

Experts can quibble about the nature of the forces deployed, the counter insurgency "strategy" being pursued, and even the need for a draft were more troops decided upon.

Even anti-war activists and Bush bashers can pretend that THEY would have wanted more troops, as if somehow they would have wanted the war in the first place.

In the ways of Washington, we can replay decisions ad nauseam avoiding the basic question as to whether it was wise to attack Iraq in the first place and whether it was really needed.

We don't need more troops in Iraq, any more than we need to throw more of a military effort at the war against terrorism. The fact that McCain argues that we need more troops demonstrates that he is unqualified to be president.
But Arkin's argument is hardly razor sharp. He contends that additional troop calls throughout 2003 - 2006 were designed to sound strong-willed but were masking complaints about the administration. He may be correct that McCain is attempting this deployment jujitsu, but his evidence relies on the politicking of invasion plans and nothing more. I am certain that many who have called for more troops in the past few years were earnest about the request, in particular the battalion commanders who've raised the issue.

General Barry McCaffrey noted our limitations on the same episode of Meet the Press as McCain:
MR. GREGORY: General Barry McCaffrey, we’re doing this in a military way, in large part. Our troops are not trained to referee a civil war. From a military point of view, as you come up with strategies, how do you navigate this current reality in Iraq?

GEN. BARRY McCAFFREY: Well, first of all, I’m not sure I know. You know, we’ve got some terrific leadership on the ground. Khalilzad, the ambassador, is brilliant. George Casey’s a very effective commander. We’ve got 135,000 troops, a lot of power on the ground. Having said that, there’s 27 million people. Dr. Nasr, I think, accurately articulated the political problem we’re facing. It’s not going to be solved—the battle of Baghdad won’t be solved by the United States Army. We’ve had 22,000 killed and wounded, two-thirds of our brigades, the ones that aren’t deployed, in the United States Army National Guard now, are not ready to fight. So the surge capability to deal with this from a military perspective is not there.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think more troops are needed at this point?

GEN. McCAFFREY: I’m not sure it’s the right question. First of all, they’re not available. The National Guard brigades—you know, we just had Lieutenant General Blum testifying, we had the chief staff of the Army testifying. The Army is $23 billion short, our equipment’s coming apart, we’re drafting 42-year-old grandmothers to be privates in the Army. I shouldn’t have said draft, asking for volunteers. So I don’t think the combat power is there in the Army and the Marine Corps to solve this problem militarily. We are a safety valve, we’re a peacekeeping mechanism, but the Iraqi security forces are going to have to pull this one together.
Michael Gordon of the New York Times wrote the following in that daily's magazine:
For all this, Anbar has long been what the military calls an “economy of force” operation, which is a polite way of saying that troop requirements elsewhere in Iraq have led American commanders to employ fewer forces in the province than the situation warrants. As a consequence, counterinsurgency operations have taken on the quality of a whack-a-mole arcade game. Every time the Americans have massed force to put out one fire, they have created a vacuum elsewhere that the insurgents have rushed to fill. When the Marines gathered forces to clear Falluja in 2004, they drew troops from the Haditha area, where the insurgents promptly moved in and executed the defenseless local police near the town’s soccer field. The Marines returned in strength to Haditha and established several forward bases, including the one at Barwana, but then many of the troops were sent to the far west when commanders decided to clear Al Qaim, near the Syrian border. And the insurgents filtered back to Haditha.
Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack wrote in the Washington Post that Iraq is in a civil war and the United States must attempt to prevent a terrible catastrophe for the world (my emphasis):
That point is critical: Ending an all-out civil war typically requires overwhelming military power to nail down a political settlement. It took 30,000 British troops to bring the Irish civil war to an end, 45,000 Syrian troops to conclude the Lebanese civil war, 50,000 NATO troops to stop the Bosnian civil war, and 60,000 to do the job in Kosovo. Considering Iraq's much larger population, it probably would require 450,000 troops to quash an all-out civil war there. Such an effort would require a commitment of enormous military and economic resources, far in excess of what the United States has already put forth.
"Stay the course" will not work. Ken Mehlman's "adapting to win" is disdainful politicking to save 2006 for the GOP (perhaps at the expense of their national security credentials). 450,000 troops in Iraq? That's a draft. That's what George W. Bush has in front of him -- though he probably does not realize it. It's raised taxes and raised conscripts or it's terrible and prolonged bloodshed throughout a volatile and influential region.


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