Iraq: Saigon or Sarajevo?

I think, on the military front … that we have the mix, strategically and tactically. We’re on the right track at this point. … I wouldn’t use the term Iraqization. I think it … reaches back into history. I think we have to look at Iraq as being a unique case in and of itself, and to do less than that would be unfair to the Iraqis and unwise.

Paul Kane on Open Source

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

Iraq through the M-16 prism [Thehomsar / Flickr]

The military strategist Stephen Biddle doesn’t mince his words: Iraq is in the midst of a “communal civil war,” he writes in a recent Foreign Affairs article, and although it’s being fought at “low intensity” right now, “it could easily escalate if Americans and Iraqis make the wrong choices.”

The problem, as he sees it, is that the Bush administration’s main tactics right now — democratization and “Iraqization” — are fueling rather than dousing the fire. Democratization is solidifying ethnic and tribal identities, Biddle says, and Iraqization is inflaming them.

His answer is for the U.S. to play diplomatic and military hardball: to pit Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds off one another — to put the fear of an all-out civil war in their hearts, basically — as a way to force each party to accept a constitutional solution that will enshrine a lasting and fair distribution of power.

Belgium and Switzerland are Old Europe’s examples of the kind of carefully orchestrated federated state Iraq could become. But the real model, the one where the blood has only recently begun to dry, is Bosnia. It’s time we forgot about the Vietnam prism, Biddle argues, and put on our Balkan glasses.

A new model is one thing, but how, exactly, would this arm-twisting work? How do you work the stick, and how big is the carrot? And is Khalilzad the man for the job? If not, who is?

And domestically, how would you begin to swing this? When Iraqization — following the Vietnam model and boiled down to the “when they stand up we’ll stand down” formulation — is the official policy, how do you switch course and forget about training an Iraqi security or police force? And can we imagine this Administration doing that any time soon?

Stephen Biddle

Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

Author, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle

Joost Hiltermann

Middle East Project Director, International Crisis Group

Paul Kane

Research Fellow, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Marine veteran of the Iraq War, currently serving with the reserves

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  • I am not sure that Americans are ready for such a “realistic” solution.

    But I guess that while he is discussing his solution – which is to force the various parties to come together out of either the actual or potential extensive loss of life then the exact opposite should also be discussed.

    Why should we even attempt to “put Humtpy Dumpty back together again” when he never was together in the first place? Why not let it simply break up into 3 seperate countries as it would naturally do without our “foriegn” ideas?

    I would aslo point out the Belgium and Switzerland, even though they are better off than Iraq currently is, are not exactly models of poltical prowess. Belgium barley holds together itseld divided as it is between the Flemish speaking North and French speaking South and because of this I have always found it a bit ironic that the EU picked Brussel as the center of the EU administration – but the multiple silly ironies of the EU often overwhelm me. Then modern Switzerland – if it weren’t for the fact that it sits in the middle of the EU and depends so much for its economy on the EU I don’t think that it would have moved as far as it has to pretend like it wants to join the EU.

    Then, the Blakans, what a “quagmire” that is. EU / European troops are still bogged down there with no end it site and the UN still pretends that it can successfully administer the place while every few years the UN appointed chief there has to be fired for incompency or graft. They know that if the left it to its own means then attrocities like the one in Srebrenica (where I may add, UN troops looked on while > 7,000 mens and boys were executed) would make Iraq look like a vacation spot compared to Iraq.

    But this is what Biddle is suggesting is, in fact, what Senator Biden is suggesting

    Biden: Troops Should Come Home in Summer http://www.lucianne.com/threads2.asp?artnum=264867

  • I think that another aspect of how we would sell this must also be asked.

    Considering the fact that, depsite what MSM media say, Recruitment / Retention are at all time highs and Disertions are at all time lows shouldn’t the affect that this option will have on the US military be considered?

    http://www.mudvillegazette.com/archives/004273.html

    http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2006/03/national_guard_recruiting_boom/

    I mean, if “voting with your feet”, has any value in this analysis then it is obvious that the individual US military members have decided that what they are doing there is worth the risk to their personal safety and they have already sacrificed what for what they beleive was worth getting this far and have built many relaitionships with the people there so what will they think if we tell them of this plan?

    http://www.strategypage.com/gallery/articles/military_photos_20063822.asp

    http://www.strategypage.com/gallery/articles/military_photos_20063522.asp

    http://www.strategypage.com/gallery/articles/military_photos_20062200.asp

  • And lastely but most importantly, Biddle has to answer the question about how he is going to get the MSM to report both this plan and the results accurately – after all, if the prevailing MSM meme is that it will fail no matter the results them why even try it?

    All bad news, all the time

    In covering Iraq, mainstream media give terrorists a boost

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06071/668574.stm

    MEDIA INFLUENCE NOTED

    http://timblair.net/ee/index.php/weblog/media_influence_noted/

    http://www.dailypundit.com/2006/03/the_way_things_work_in_the_fif.php

  • Nikos

    Winston, I’m beginning to doubt that you are who you claim to be.

    I increasingly suspect you’re actually a left-wing comedian posing as a rightwing blogger whose intent is to represent the Right as a bunch of arrogant and ignorant American bumpkins! (I can’t honestly believe you’re such a hopeless xenophobe!)

    Why didn’t you go whole-hog and add a jingoistic quip like: “Without its secretive national banks that hold the ill-gotten riches of every criminal worth a damn in the world, the Swiss would have to migrate to New York and hawk their cuckoo-clocks and watches on Manhattan’s street-corners – but we won’t let those lazy welfare-lovers in!�?

    Or (and better), “Belgium: the Germans’ favorite panzer-highway between the Rhine and Paris�?

    Geez. I’m so very lad to be an American, and to learn that the big bad EU is so awful.

    (I bet they’re nuthin’ but gay commies, huh?)

    Thanks for the chuckles!

    😉

  • Nikos

    oops! ‘lad’ somehow lost its ‘g’: ‘glad to be an American…’

  • Nikos – I am serious and I wonder how anyone can propose that a polical model like Switzerland’s can work for Iraq. Here is a portion of the Economist’s description of the politcal structure of Switzardland

    “Although a confederation by name, Switzerland has all the attributes of a federation. . . . .. . The fiscal powers of the cantons and communes are far-reaching, whereas the powers of the federal government to levy taxes are relatively restricted. In addition to the federal and the cantonal level, there is the level of local authorities, which enjoy a high degree of autonomy compared with those in other European countries.”

    http://www.economist.com/countries/Switzerland/profile.cfm?folder=Profile%2DPolitical%20Forces

    And here is portion of the decription of Begium “Devolution – The process of devolution began in 1970 and led Belgium to become a federal state in 1995, as a result of changes agreed in 1993. The regions and communities, which have their own parliaments and governments, have powers over education, vocational training, healthcare, local economic policy, agriculture, research, various public works and many aspects of environmental protection. The 2001 Lambermont accords improved the funding of the communities and reinforced the regions by transferring power to legislate over provincial and local administrations and increasing their taxation powers. The reforms were strongly opposed by the CD&V on the grounds that they favoured the francophones.

    http://www.economist.com/countries/Belgium/profile.cfm?folder=Profile%2DPolitical%20Force

  • Nikos

    Okay WSD, I promise to read your links tomorrow. I’m too tired tonight, partly because I’ve been working up (an overly) long reply to your nicely honest post in the ‘Insta-giant’ thread. (I wish I had Jon Garfunkel to help me edit it — and I’m not being sarcastic! I’m gonna have to break it into chapters!)

    But tell me please: did the ‘panzer highway’ line at least afford you a smile?

    🙂

    (I hope so)

  • Nikos – so once again I ask who is naive here and who is a comdedian? Begium – haas been falling apart, politcally, as a nation since 1970. The Flemish speakers want to join Holland and the French speakers want to join France and the Germans to Germany.

    And Switzarland is only a country / politcal entity in name only – and if I am not mistaken it is only a “partial” member of the EU because it couldn’t get all of it’s Cantons to agree to the treaty to join. Many would not agree to the immigation status required.

    And, the facts presented above show that I don’t have to say that they are “gay commies” to show that they are not models for any kind of unified politcal model for Iraq.

    Also, didn’t the EU just (or at least parts of it) just particiapte in the biggest, most spectacular, publically diplayed politcal flop in history – the failure of the EU Constitution? I think Msr Chirac (now at ~ 2% approval ratings) can explain it to you forgot about that.

    No, I don’t have to make anything up to illustrate the failures of Europe / EU, they admit that much themselves.

    And as far as jingosit hype I would sugest a little more data might be of service t o you. I think that you have heard of the US Current Account deficit haven’t you? Well, I can send you the link from the EU Report that says ~ 70% of the Direct Foreign Investment that leaves Europe each year is capital going to be invested in the US. And, the EU has a funded / structured program to try and keep the 15,000 or so highly trained PhDs from departing Europe each year and heading to the US – Germany reckons there are 400,000 people with PhDs earned there who live and work here and when the German Govt polled them, less than half said that they would ever consider returning.

    Do you remember Perrott’s famous line about the “big sucking sound” well that is what you hear as smart money and smart people exit Europe for the US each year.

  • Yes, the joke did make me smile but I ahve to try and be PC as I have to many that I can get myself into trouble.

    As, “Do you know why the French plant trees along the sides of their roads? – because German soldiers like the march in the shade”.

    And also, since you got me in the flow I will give a quick one but please don’t be offended by it or we will ahve to set up a meeting sometime where I can buy you an Ouzo as an appology since I think that you wrote about being Greek.

    But, in the threads related to Brown and Katrina when Brendan challenged me say something about Greek Dramas my first impulse was to say “The only thing that I know about ‘Greek Dramas’ is that it is a phrase that can be aptly used to describe the event when Greek girls first teach thier younger brothers how to shave!”

    But, Greek women are beautiful so that isn’t really so!

  • Nikos

    LOL!

  • Nikos

    PS to WSD: you’d never even think to make that Greek joke if you’d ever seen my sister! She visited our family’s island only once in our teens, and yet six years later, I, in my several return visits, was still known mostly as ‘Anna’s little brother’! 😉 Kinda tells you which sibling got the better genetic endowment, huh?

    Anyway, back to the real topic: even this country had a constitutional crisis and centrifugal trauma called a ‘Civil War’. I don’t seem to recall any such equivalent traumas in recent Belgian or Swiss history.

    So, I’m questioning the validity of your comparisons – but after I finish my several-thousand word reply to you (jeez, I hope it’s not really that long!) in the Insta-giant thread, I’ll give your comparisons due consideration.

    See ya.

  • Potter

    here is a shorter version of the Biddle article. I read both.

    http://www.iht.com/bin/print_ipub.php?file=/articles/2006/03/02/opinion/edbiddle.php

    I have very mixed feelings. This analysis sounds right but I have no faith in our ability to pull anything like this off. I also feel more and more that it’s too late and that this country wants to break apart.

    I also happen to be reading Riverbendblog.blogspot.com. Baghdad Burning The post called “The Raid” ( February 11th) was recommended to me and then I kept reading on up ( “Tensions” of Feb 23) and down to “Election Results” (February 2,)which was for it’s insight and wisdom an excellent post.

  • Potter

    Sorry: here is the link to the Baghdad Burning entries– again, read the Feb 02 entry especially:

    http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/2006_02_01_riverbendblog_archive.html#1140

  • loki

    Let’s let Dick Cheney be Dick Cheney and send him to Bagdad!

  • John

    Whether we call it an insurgency or a civil war, all the sides are killing each other. I don’t see that as an impetus for the US to push Iraqis toward unity. If anything all the fissures are in the open–bloody, hate-filled. Now what?

  • Nikos

    Another tantalizing historical parallel might be the Thirty Years War: fought in the politically unglued Holy Roman Empire (think Iraq) between Protestant northern Germans (Sunnis) and Hapsburg-backed Catholic southern Germans (Shiites).

    In this parallel, the two outside powers (representing Austria on the one hand and, on the other, equally Catholic but entirely opportunistic France, who supported the Protestants) vying for supremacy in Iraq are Iran and the Wahabist Sunni Saudis.

    I wonder how others, or the show’s guests, evaluate the aptness of this parallel?

  • John, your comment:

    Whether we call it an insurgency or a civil war, all the sides are killing each other. I don’t see that as an impetus for the US to push Iraqis toward unity. If anything all the fissures are in the open–bloody, hate-filled. Now what?

    Is inaccurate to the degree that, in fact “all the sides” are not “killing each other.” Even in the quagmire of Iraq, there are still “civilians” or “non-combatants.”

    Unfortunately these individuals are more and more marginalized, and are more and more often the only voices of reason and non-violence existing in Iraq.

    It is important ot understand that, under Saddam, not all Sunnis were privileged, nor were all Shi’is oppressed. It is certainly true that there were fewer privileged Shi’is, however there were many many working and low-income Sunnis who were repressed by Saddam, and the contention of the MSM that “all Sunnis are fighting the new government because they are angry at losing power” is over-simplified to the point of falsity.

    check out http://www.aliveinbaghdad.org for a centralized dissemination of Iraqi blogs and additional commentary on the Iraq situation.

  • Nikos

    My Thirty Years War idea was pretty obviously an example of ‘thinking out loud’, but the more I think about it the more I find it a potentially useful comparison.

    It’s worth mentioning that early in the War the French Bourbons used Protestant proxies – including the Brandenburgers who would a century later become the Prussians – and the Swedes, whose militarily brilliant King Gustavus Adolphus fielded a crack army whose organization was subsequently copied first by the French and then by all of Europe. (Its contemporary descendants include: battalion, regiment, brigade, corps, sergeant, lieutenant, and colonel, to name but a few.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty_Years_War

    Most importantly, the Thirty Years War was appallingly barbaric, riven with atrocity, and…it lasted thirty years.

    Whither Iraq?

  • Potter

    What would happen if we pulled out?

  • Potter

    It seems that we do not have the power to do what “we” imagined we could do there.

    It does not seem that we can discharge our responsibility either.

  • The Iraqi General that was assasinated last week was a Sunni and he commanded, very successfully a Shia dominated National Army.

    And the Germans and Japanese still think of Americans as occupiers.

  • I think that Chris’ insistence that the US must have a strategy to “get out”. Why?

  • Why is a Civil War there bad?

  • It is a sectarian battle between Iraqis because the attacks on and casualities in US sources are WAY down.

  • A larger % of Iraq is now controlled by Iraqi military than by US’s.

  • The premise of this show is based on the fact that we ARE suceeding in building up the Iraqi military and that is a bad thing.

  • What Biddle is saying is, in effect, what Biden and Krauthammer are saying. I linked to it above.

  • What Biddle is saying now is that the threat of leaving is what we use for leverage.

  • RobCunningham

    There’s this sense from the radio conversation that Bush’s policy has always been “Iraqification”. I disagree. The US built the largest American embassy in the world as the neocon headquarters for Middle-East oil control/military central presence. Having realized that Iraq is now a failing operation, Iraqification is the more palatible Bush euphemism for “Get out before it’s a total disaster”. In Vietnam, a similar approach was then deemed: “Declare victory and leave”.

    It was a grievous mistake to get in; and now I assume that every backchannel discussion in Iraq is about a US departure under the most achievable face-saving posture.

  • If many people who are listening to this show do not get the bigger point that EVERY expert on this show has decided that the stated US goal of standing up an effective Iraqi Military that has reduced the risk to US soliders is a given – it has and is happening.

    So the old tired meme that we have “lost the war militarily” is dead – this is what almost the entire US military has been saying for over a year!!!!!! The MSM has missed all of this because like Chris, they are releived when it comes back to the subject of “its a deperate situation”.

  • Rob – I don’t see how you see anything in the current situation that says that Bush wants to get out.

    And the building of the largest embassy in the world is a statement of the fact and, as I have said before, we will have tens of thousands troops there for decades.

    And Chris is just wrong – the 3rd Armored Div will be training there when my sons are in it.

  • h wally

    Maybe if you reduce this to simpler terms it can be understood. I see it as a tribal conflict. Throughout the world you see examples of tribal peoples held together under a central government that was imposed on them. Those types of governments “work” as long as there is some sort of an oppressive leader in charge. When you remove the oppression things disintegrate into tribal units again. Look at Africa. You basically had western european central governments imposed on tribal groups. Now that the europeans have gone you have different tribal units running the governments of theses countries and whoever isn’t in the tribe running the country is not only out but in some cases dead.. You can see similar things in Eastern Europe following the disbanding of the USSR. Check out the leadersahip in Iran right now.

  • And I love Rob’s comment that it is “like Vietnam” in a show where every expert on show says that is isn;t.

  • If there are similarites between Bosnia and Iraq then all I ahve to say is that it is over 10 years and “we” are still there.

  • I don’t understand why it is so “desparate”?

  • Wow, please see my posts above. What this Marine is saying IS COMMON among almost all US Military personell.

    Yes he is Chris!

  • Chris – you are well read bit I submit that you haven’t read enough of the material that yhou need to understand the actual situation in Iraq.

  • All I can say is that if you don’t beleive that the US is successfully handing over military ops to Iraqis then you are simply uninformed.

  • Biddle is saying that we are “too effective” and Paul is saying that it is “just right”.

    This is great, Chis and ROS listeners confronted with ideas from people who really understand what is going on.

  • The key to the arguement is how amny are there in 19 years? There are still ~ 30k troops in Korea

  • h wally

    I don’t see the Viet Nam connection. There we were fighting a unified front with a strong national identity.

  • Well, what a “stretch” for all. I’m going to have a glass of wine and read a good book.

    Once again, I enjoyed this more that should be allowed.

    And I commend Chris, et al for the show.

  • Nikos – I am glad that my attempt at “low humor” didn’t offend you or your sister and hearing about yoru home / Greece and that Island makes me wonder if, somehow, I have been “misplaced”.

  • Nikos

    On PRI’s “The World� – March 13th edition – Lisa Mullins interviewed John Burns in Baghdad. The segment, titled “Many Iraqis want US troops to stay� is worth a close listen @ http://theworld.org/latesteditions/03/20060313.shtml

    Burns concludes that the American intervention was horribly mistake-ridden, but even without the glaring blunders, the goal might inevitably have been ‘mission impossible’.

    And he paraphrases dozens of American military officers in saying that it’s now universally agreed that the mission never had the necessary amount of troops for the task.

    PS to Winston. Humor is humor, and humor, even when ‘low’, can be a binding force for good will.

    Luckily, having been to Greece five times and for lengthy stays in each instance, I can aver that the joke was funny — but baseless! (My sister may be an exceptionally lovely woman, but that’s pretty standard fare over there.)

    And besides, the French tree planting joke was funnier by far!

  • Nikos

    Once again, KRCW’s To The Point aired today a terrific segment, and this time on the Iraq troubles: http://www.kcrw.org/cgi-bin/db/kcrw.pl?tmplt_type=program&show_code=tp

    Consider it a nice supplement to ROS’s excellent and unflagging dedication to the issue.

    (Also and interestingly, the Iraq segment is followed by a discreet, smaller one on the direction and fate of the media.)

  • Nikos

    oops! ‘discrete’, not ‘discreet’!

    (inattentive typing…)

  • Nikos – One developement / idea that I found really interesting was the interplay between the guests and thier expert opinions and what people believe that they know.

    The example is when Brendan gave my point to the guests that basically said that “the US will still be in Iraq in 20 years”. And I think that I could here the gasps of people, especially Chris, when one answered yes and the other no (but the no was really a “no not at today’s numbers”) because they simply have never thought that anyone can seriously consider that possility. Well they do, and are and I contend that it is more likely than not. And that is simply because thier biases don’t allow them to accept information and facts to build another model of the situation in thier mind.

    And that brings up your comments above regarding the NYTs Burns and comments from military officers that the “mission never had the necessary amount of troops for the task”.

    The problem with that is that, from a military point of view, the statement is abiguous and thus not useful.

    I don’t know of any US military task statement (and they are as precise as legal docs) that would say “the mission is to conquer Iraq with no civilian casualities, no US casualities, no turmoil, etc etc”

    Every one in the military knew, going in that there wasn’t enough troops to do what you and others want. There never is.

    If you read the military press releases before the war the esitmates of time and US casualities ranged from 6 weeks and 5,000 to 6 months and 20,000. And guess what it was much less than both of those.

    So when someone says “mission” I ask “what mission”?

    If the mission was “to prevent all post war looting and seal all borders” then 500,000 to 700,000 would be about right. Anyone who says less is simply saying that they are willing to accept more looting and more porus borders.

    The minute of how many where and what and how things would have been different is all in the same catagory of what would have happend in WWII if Eisenhower hadn’t taken a chance and got lucky with good weather for the Normandy Invasion of why the US was so stupid and lost so many men on Anzio Beach in Italy. There are litterally hundreds of website and military strategy games dedicated to re-fighting old battles and under “counter-factual” scenarios. Some people like it, I think that it is a waste of time but for all a I know these expert guests play them.

    And, as my links above show that vast majority of people who know this war the best, the US military people don’t think that it is “mission impossible” becasue that think that it is a success so far and think that it will continue to be. And, don’t be shocked and try and argue back and forth becasue it is just like the case above – before this show many would never have guessed that the idea of the US being in Iraq in 20 plus years would be an idea seriously discussed by anyone other than crazy neo-con Winston. Yet is is, as the guests showed and they are not alone.

    As I have told Brendan in the past and I will submit an idea for a show is that, the only real debate within the military community is the tradeoff between staffing the war with what everyone knows would / could be our max and having “just enough” to get the mission done while at the same time purseuing Rummy’s transformation.

    As the cliche goes, the current effort to transform the US military while fighting to wars almost simultaneously is like trying the change the tires on your car while driving down the freeway.

    Rumsfeld et al (most Neo-Cons are in this boat, including me) say that we must follow the 2nd option and use only the minimum amount of troops that anyone can hope will allow the end state to occur while simultaneously transforming. This option is risky in that it does not use all available resources to reach the end state, it endangers more US military lives as well as Iraqi civilians and it has with it, the greater rish that the end state will not be reached successfully. But the calculation is that it will be but we will “sacrifice” more in the short term to reach the long term goal of winning both current wars and then have the US military to fight the “Long War”.

    The other side, led by McCain, is that we should sacrifice the “long term” and concentrate on short term goals. In order to do this you would ahve to increase the end strength of the US military and commit more numbers to Iraq.

    What this does though is slow down or stop the transformation, build into the baseline end strength a larger number and makes it more expensive to transform later.

    And it is a hard case to make. The strategy the Rummy has (and I reluctantly support) is to make the trade-off in the short run and build for the long term. That jepardizes both US military lives and possbly the mission but sets us up for the rest of the first half of the 20th century.

    Just to tell you how much this kind of thinking is used, and I know that this is ancedotal but it illustrates the point, I was talking with a good friend of mine and someone that I shared a stateroom with in the 1st Gulf War, who is now a Commanding Officer of a Marine Helocpter Squadron in Hawaii. He has been to Iraq twice and just returned from his 2nd where he was CO.

    After we talked for a few hours and he was finished explaining to me the many missions I replied “Wow, it sounds like you could have used 3 squadrons worth off assets to get the missions done”. And he said “No, we could have used 5 but we can only use 1 because we all knew that those other 4 will probably be needed sometime soon somewhere else and if they are not then they can be used in training until they are”.

    You know the cliche that “some people play checkers while other play chess”?

    Well, the prevailing thought in the US military is to play chess and when you here others talk about troop numbers you know that they are talking checkers.

    Many, even taking into account Burns’ account above, feel that the end state will be accomplished, not with a minimum amount of lives lost / money spent, but with an acceptable amount lost and spent – its all about trade-offs.

    If you want, we can go back to the Surviving the cold war thread and I can fill it with links to serious discussions on this subject – and not by amatuers like me an you. As the guests on this show illustrated there are poeple’s whose entire career and acedemic backgrounds are spent studying this. My first CO in a helo squadron was a Columbia PhD Lawyer who now works on simulation projects at a think tank that uses programs like SimCity to predict the breakdowns of societies under stresses like Iraq. He gave me a quick overview of some papers on the simulation of the current structure of the US military, the war and the transformation process.

    If you listen to Rummy et al they keep talking about the Army’s transformation to the Brigade Structure and then there is this new bill to reorganize the Army and Guard. Well, as it turns out he/ the Pentagon are using these simulations to make sure that they can supply the needed troop strenght to Iraq. You hear many military pundits talk about how, at the end of 2006 the 40% of the troops in Iraq who are Reserve / Guardsmen will ahve to come home and that we will ahve to drasically reduce numbers? Well, that is based on a static model of the US military and the transformation is providing enough effeiciancies / flexibiltiy for them to be able to keep up to ~ 120k there ad infinitum. Not that anyone wants to be jsut the fact that we can gives us more options.

    But the downside is that they can pull it off – jsut barely. According to the models , the transformation is running jsut barely ahaed of the requirements so any glithces and things no workee.

    So also as I have said before, we can all ahve fun talking about this but it will all be decided in circles that we don’t run in and the election will not really matter except on the margins. Jimmy Carter made campaign promises to pull US troops out of Korea and once he got in he saw the realities and didn’t.

    And no body that you and I will vote for that has a hope of winning in Pres or other elections, will change things much.

  • Winston, isn’t the US planning on being in Iraq and anywhere it can set up a base–by invitation or imposition–as long as it’s a place strategically important for US emperial interests? Why would anyone be surprised if the troops are still there in 20 years, that is, unless the oil runs out before then.

  • Nikos

    Winston: thanks for a very thoughtful and relevant reply. That’s a fine post.

    Of course, I have major quibbles (surprise!) – not with your details – but with the premise underlying your sentiments. Your details are spot on, even though they strike me as an attempt to rationalize away the increasingly evident failure of the Iraq war’s initial goals.

    It might surprise you to learn that military history has been one of my frequent fields of study – and of horrified fascination. (My undeceived awareness of its hideous realities informs my humanistic pacifism.)

    My conclusion is that no matter how noble the cause, military force is only moral as a defense or, and better, as a deterrent, not as a tool for geopolitical manipulation.

    Applying the rubric ‘national defense’ to the Iraq adventure is a shameful hoax, and an abuse of the military. (So much so that it damns the war-policy-makers to eventual legal action, in my opinion.)

    But wait!

    Applying the same rubric to the intervention in Afghanistan is not a hoax.

    Afghanistan hosted an enemy that attacked this country.

    Iraq did not.

    Iraq was confined, and slowly (too slowly, but nevertheless) strangling under sanctions.

    I dearly wished we’d dedicated our attentions to rebuilding and finishing the job in Afghanistan instead of toadying up to the Halliburtons and Exxons of today’s military-and-transnational-industrial-complex by sending our willing and patriotic children into Iraq. (Like sidewalker, you’ll never convince me that replacing Saddam with a de-Baathified republic was more important to the war-planners than the oil reserves underfoot. Oil, mind you, that the lack of enough troops has made damned difficult to ship abroad! Which adds an unmistakable layer of sadly hilarious incompetence to the moralistic folly of the whole tragic adventure!)

    I’d love to know what John Keegan thinks of this. He’s the military historian I trust the most: dispassionately analyzing and explaining, while never excusing military activity or military establishments, and never glorifying. He’s very even-handed. He’s less well known in the USA since he’s a Brit.

    I’m sure you know him, though, so if you have any links to his thoughts on American and British actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, please share them here.

    Thanks.

  • Nikos

    A quick revision: “Applying the rubric ‘national defense’ to the Iraq adventure is a shameful hoax, and an abuse of the military. (So much so that it damns the war-policy-makers to historical condemnation, if not to eventual international legal sanction, in my opinion.)�

    (I haven’t been awake yet today long enough to be lucid.)

  • Nikos

    Two relevant left-coast radio programs from this morning (3/17/06) that others in the country might wish to give a listen:

    To The Point “Iraq Insurgency Still Strong Three Years after US Invasion� @ http://www.kcrw.org/cgi-bin/db/kcrw.pl?tmplt_type=program&show_code=tp

    and KUOW’s Weekday “Eman Ahmad Khammas – What is it live in Iraq right now? Eman Ahmad Khammas knows. She is an Iraqi journalist and women’s advocate visiting Seattle to share her first hand experience. What is her vision for the future of her country? What is it like to be a Iraqi citizen in the midst of war? Do Iraqi women have a different experience than the men? Is there way for peace to come to the region?â€?

    @ http://www.kuow.org/weekday.asp

    (After today, look for the ‘Recent Shows’ ‘Choose a date’ drop-down box option)

  • Potter

    The military industrial complex is so entrenched that we are still building weapons systems to compete with the Soviet Union as if they were still there and threatening us. Rumfeld cannot/ could not transform the military with or without Iraq..

    As Winston says, nobody that you or I will vote for can change things much in that area and that is why WHO we elect as Commander in Chief is most important. And that is why the flaws in our electoral system is so serious.

    My fear is that we are gravitating more and more towards such sophisticated weaponry that we can and will fight wars from above that the public can tune out of completely because there will be few casualities on our side. In addition this and other military advantages inspire retaliation in the form of terror making us less safe and secure everywhere.

    We already see promise of an inexhauistible supply of suicide bombers that even a beefed up “homeland security” that deprives us of our liberties and freedom of movement/ congregation cannot prevent. Twenty years of Iraqi occupation will be very uncomfortable indeed.

    Nikos is absolutely right about the wrongful, unwise and indiscriminate use of military power.

  • Potter

    Hey dig this!

    For days we have been hearing about this operation going on in Samarra but there have been no independent reports until now:

    How Operation Swarmer Fizzled

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1174448,00.html