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Friday, June 17, 2005

That's why he still has a job.

So, we have a decent strategy for turning Iraq into an island of happy plebs. The problem, many say, is that we didn't send enough troops. While partially true, the number of soldiers sent was carefully considered and, I believe, close to correct.

The administration first invaded with a sort of Blitzkrieg, using the minimum force necessary to capture Iraq. This is a great strategy for simply ending a military threat, as has been done successfully in Germany (WWII, see V Day) and unsuccessfully by Robert E. Lee (American Civil War I).

We did not, however, send enough troops to garrison every population center and pick off insurgents as they popped up. Our soldiers were and have been stretched thin, preventing a total lockdown to end the violence. Although I'm sure this was an attempt by Bush and Co. to save 100000000000$US or so, it may also have been the right decision strategically.

If we had doubled the number of combat arms in Iraq at the outset, there would have been a much larger American presence and many more strikes against insurgents. The kid gloves used early on, culminating in the standoff at Fallujah, would still have been an encumbrance, but actionable situations would have been dealt with more swiftly. More importantly, the borders could have been patrolled more effectively, reducing the influx of assorted fundamentalist nuts. We would be clamping down much more, proportionately, on Baathists.

The Iraqi people are currently unifying, slowly, under the constant threat of violence from extremists. Even the Sunnis have recently become victims, and are beginning to decrease support for the fundamentalists. This is in addition to a Sunni reversal that now favors participation in the political process.

If US forces were overwhelming, this could not take place. The Sunnis would become more defiant, not less. The Kurds would be less willing to join the US-dominated south, perhaps tipping the close balance away from integration. The overall number of Islamonuts killed would be less, while border incidents with Libya [Update: I like, totally meant Syria, but if you want you can assume I was being funny...] and Iran would be more common. It is likely that Iraqis would turn against the obvious occupying force of the US, since the threat of fundamentalists would be less serious. Pressure for the US to withdraw would be much higher, as more Americans would be deployed, the military would be much more strained, and the situation in Iraq would appear superficially more stable.

The dialogue thus far has been between those who say Iraq is going, uh, fine... and those who say that the administration should have sent more troops. There hasn't been much of an argument in favor of limiting the number of soldiers, but the disadvantages to a larger occupying force would be huge. The monetary cost would be considerable, but the strategic issues outlined above would be more costly if they materialised. The strain on the military would also limit us to defensive actions, encouraging the sides of every cold conflict in the world- Korea, Taiwan, Kashmir, et cetera- to reevaluate the balance of power. One might decide it was in their favor.

A small increase in force levels now would not have such drastic consequences, although the political effects would have to be considered. Would it send a message of resolve to the Iraqis? Would it demoralise the insurgency? Would it prompt Syria to a nuclear test?

Unlike tax dollars, our supply of troops to throw at problems is not infinite.

[And hello, Sullivan readers. If you like inane babbling, you'll love The Adventures of Johnny American]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iraq border incident with Libya? I don't think so.


7:40 AM  
Anonymous JG said...

Let's retitle the above post. Why not call it "One More Way for Right Wingers to Rationalize the Complete Screw-Up by Bush & Co."

10:11 AM  
Blogger Baron Violent said...

So it was good to have a smaller army and less security, because then the Shiites and Kurds would be terrified and brutalized and run to us for help, while if there were more troops that wouldn't have happened? That's what your argument sounds like. You also ignore the point that more troops in the beginning may have allowed the pacification of the Sunni triangle, which was basically ignored by having a small force invade from the South. The fact that the Triangle was basically allowed free-reign for so long is how the insurgents got bases and set up their operation.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous wisedup said...

rather a large pack of unsubstatiated claims.
"the Kurds would be less willing"
the Kurds want Kirkuk and death to the rest.
We protected them for several years against Saddam and the Turks -- and suddenly, because we are in overwhelming numbers they are less willing?
this dog wont hunt and neither will the rest of the pack.
The invasion did not end the military threat -- there was none to destroy as they just melted away.
A much larger initial presence would have allowed rebuilding to proceed immediately.
Given electricity, water, sewerage, and a lot more jobs, the insurgents would be just the Sunnis. The Kurds and shia have their own militia and taking the arms depots off the looters list would allowed the Iraqis to settle things themselves.

The administration knew the negative side of the small invasion force and still went ahead -- entirely their responsibility.

1:23 AM  
Blogger ManiaC Provost said...

So it was good to have a smaller army and less security, because then the Shiites and Kurds would be terrified and brutalized and run to us for help, while if there were more troops that wouldn't have happened?

Yes. Rather Machiavellian, and it's much more difficult to predict human behaviour than the outcome of a coin toss.

I do agree with wisedup, actually. The administration knew the downside of a small force, and the outcome is on their shoulders. I'm only suggesting that sending a larger force would have been difficult and of dubious effectiveness.

The reason I think the Kurds would be less likely to assimilate if we had a larger presence is that they had relatively minor security problems. A larger force couldn't have improved Kurdistan much. The Kurds' larger concern is their political autonomy, which would be much more threatened by a large American presence than by a local coalition.

2:41 AM  
Blogger TallDave said...

This makes at least one very good point about why the number was correct (that Iraqis are unifying against insurgents). There are others at my blog and here http://iraqnow.blogspot.com/2005/06/debunking-not-enough-troops-meme.html

It's telling that leftists can't really marshal any serious arguments beyond "Bush lied!" or "They screwed up!" This Iraq invasion and the GWOT have been incredibly successful by the metrics of five years ago. Who would have predicted in Oct 2001 then that not only would Iraq and Afghanistan have freely elected gov'ts by 2005, but there would have been zero attacks on American soil? You'd have been called deliriously optimistic.

5:55 AM  

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