Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Why this "surge" is such a bad idea

Press reports concerning a "surge" in United States combat power in Iraq continue to surface. Most reports estimate about 20,000 additional troops, however, some reports state numbers closer to 40,000 or 50,000 troops. There are numerous reasons why this is a bad idea, which makes me think that the president is likely to order this surge.

1. The United States military has a tremendous amount of damaged equipment. (Washington Post, 12/05/2006)

2. This surge would require numerous units in Iraq to remain in the country long after their announced withdrawals. This is likely to impact recruiting and further stretch a troubled force. That having been said, our American military personnel are beyond amazing, and this is why it's number two on my list compared to the state of the equipment.

3. The numbers available in this "surge" are not sufficient to actually secure the country. Perhaps 20,000 more troops are available in the force and can be applied to Baghdad. They would, perhaps, have a benefit for the next few months. Then, the United States would have to withdraw a sizeable amount of its forces in Iraq, leaving something closer to the number of troops we have today. What would happen then?

4. This relates to the previous point. Any commitment of additional combat power should only happen if a political solution is near within the Iraqi government. If there is no progress toward a political solution, than any military exercise will only produce short term gains that will quickly erode.

5. After the American military has further extended itself in this effort, what is done next? If this "hail mary" pass does not produce a political deal, and it is likely that it will not, what will be left for our country? We would find ourselves in a situation exactly like today, only with more casualties and less punch left in the military. Since 2004, we have seen challenges arise throughout the globe: Iran, North Korea, Syria, Hezbollah, the Horn of Africa. We have seen trouble in our own country, most importantly in the city of New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. Can we realistically expect anything less than a repeat of these woes with our military so abused? It might be reasonable to expect something worse.

6. If we conduct this surge and the situation does not improve, we will revisit the same set of decisions: chaos and religious war throughout the resource rich Middle East, or another "surge".

The Washington Post:
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.

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 chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.

At regular interagency meetings and in briefing President Bush last week, the Pentagon has warned that any short-term mission may only set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends. The service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq -- including al-Qaeda's foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias -- without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.

The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

The informal but well-armed Shiite militias, the Joint Chiefs have also warned, may simply melt back into society during a U.S. surge and wait until the troops are withdrawn -- then reemerge and retake the streets of Baghdad and other cities.

Even the announcement of a time frame and mission -- such as for six months to try to secure volatile Baghdad -- could play to armed factions by allowing them to game out the new U.S. strategy, the chiefs have warned the White House.

The idea of a much larger military deployment for a longer mission is virtually off the table, at least so far, mainly for logistics reasons, say officials familiar with the debate. Any deployment of 40,000 to 50,000 would force the Pentagon to redeploy troops who were scheduled to go home.
Eugene Robinson, also with the Post, assails the president:
Here's an idea: Let's send more U.S. troops to Iraq. The generals say it's way too late to even think about resurrecting Colin Powell's "overwhelming force" doctrine, so let's send over a modest "surge" in troop strength that has almost no chance of making any difference -- except in the casualty count. Oh, and let's not give these soldiers and Marines any sort of well-defined mission. Let's just send them out into the bloody chaos of Baghdad and the deadly badlands of Anbar province with orders not to come back until they "get the job done."

I don't know about you, but that strikes me as a terrible idea, arguably the worst imaginable "way forward" in Iraq. So of course this seems to be where George W. Bush is headed.


It is unconscionable to think about dispatching more young men and women to Iraq without the realistic expectation that their presence will make a difference in a war that is no longer in our control. Here in Washington, proponents of a troop "surge" speak of giving the whole Iraq adventure one last try. But they sound as if they're more concerned about projecting an image of American resolve than anything else. Does anyone think a symbolic troop increase is going to have the likes of Moqtada al-Sadr or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tossing and turning through sleepless nights?

Doubling the number of American troops in Iraq would be wrong -- we need to get out, now, before we set the whole Middle East on fire -- but at least a surge of that scale would have a purpose. The modest increase now on the table would be purposeless and wrong. What could be more immoral than sacrificing American blood and treasure to save face in a lost war?
The American military can degrade the most violent insurgent and militia organizations and buy the Iraqi government time to settle the political troubles in Iraq. This does not require a surge. It requires more intelligence assets and a more narrow set of goals for our military. Only when there is an internal, political solution to the sectarian war can external, foreign forces apply effective pressure to eliminate the rejectionist fringe.

When this plan surfaced in the Los Angeles Times (12/13/2006) last week, the analogy was a gambling term: "double down". We've lost valuable chips in Iraq with a bad strategy, all military and not enough politics. When you continue to gamble with a bad plan, you'll only find yourself in a worse financial predicament.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't dispute anything in your post. However, the cold-hearted, snark-meister in me says: Send 'em and you hand the Democrats the presidency in 2008! The polls don't lie. Bush's approval has dropped another 3 - 6 percentage points since the mid-term drubbing all on the public's perception that he's gonna continue the war in the face of overwhelming disapproval.

11:40 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

People's lives are at stake. I'd endure continuous Republican administrations if the country's well-being improved and if lives were preserved, not just American lives but also Iraqi lives.

I know you are looking for the silver lining in the stupidity-cloud of this president, but I can't stomach that brand of optimism.

We need less troops, in specialized mixed-battalions proposed by some military men.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Chuck said...

... all military and not enough politics...

I think the opposite is true. Politics here at home are the major problem in Iraq. Our half assed politicians are doing to our troops in Iraq exactly what they did to us in Vietnam.

The politicians need to butt out and let the military win but that ain't gonna happen and we will leave Iraq with our tail between our legs.

4:26 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I agree that our politicians in America do our troops a disservice. We need some constructive movement in Iraq's political class as well.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People's lives are at stake.

Uhh...I wasn't really advocating sending them...like the cold-hearted bastard that I play on TV. :-) I was just trying to point what happens if Bush does. More in a "he can't that stupid, can he?" way.

Anywho I posted this observation over at Blognonymous and gave your excellent post a reference.

5:25 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I understood your point. My frustration levels are just very high with this administration.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Excellent post.

When madmen run the asylum, you’re bound to hear insane metaphors inspired from poker and pornography: this whole business about doubling up, going big and long would be laughable if it were not for the thousands of American kids sent to die in the deserts of Arabia and the steppes of Central Asia… All that carnage to further the cause of foreign country, Israel, a wicked Shemitic nation whose leaders hate us and despise our gentile culture probably more than the Iranians do!

5:45 AM  

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