Military Options In Iraq Posted by: Dale Franks
on Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Max Boot, in his LA Times column, discusses the range of options available in Iraq.
To restore order in the capital, I suggested adding at least 35,000 U.S. troops — in line with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez's comment in 2004 that he needed two divisions to control Baghdad. But that's not what Bush is sending. To bolster the 9,000 U.S. troops already in the capital, he is sending another brigade from northern Iraq, for a total of 13,000 U.S. troops, or less than one division. There will be an equal number of Iraqi troops — along with 35,000 Iraqi police officers, who are so sectarian and corrupt that they are more part of the problem than the solution.
If Bush thinks that a force this size can secure a city of more than 6 million people, he's not listening to the best professional military advice. An additional problem is that moving troops around Iraq, instead of sending extra units, may improve the situation in one spot but worsen the environment elsewhere. As a "senior American military official" in Iraq told McClatchy News Service, "You can't do clear-and-hold with the force structure we have"...
If the present strategy doesn't work, what's the alternative? The most radical course would be a total U.S. withdrawal. The likely result would be an all-out civil war in which Iraqi casualties could easily soar to 1,000 a day and the price of oil could go above $100 a barrel. Proposals to carve up Iraq into three separate states — Sunni, Shiite and Kurd — would not ameliorate the violence because major cities such as Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk are full of different religious and ethnic groups that would fight for control...
But there's another course short of withdrawal: reducing U.S. forces from today's level of 130,000 to under 50,000 and changing their focus from conducting combat operations to assisting Iraqi forces. The money saved from downsizing the U.S. presence could be used to better train and equip more Iraqi units. A smaller U.S. commitment also would be more sustainable over the long term. This is the option favored within the U.S. Special Forces community, in which the dominant view is that most American soldiers in Iraq, with their scant knowledge of the local language and customs, are more of a hindrance than a help to the counterinsurgency effort.
Make no mistake: This is a high-risk strategy. The drawdown of U.S. troops could catalyze the Iraqis into getting their own house in order, or it could lead to a more rapid and violent disintegration of the rickety structure that now exists.
That’s essentially what I’ve been proposing for quite some time now. Draw down and draw back, but not out. Support from afar as the Iraqis feel the burden of responsibility and either accept it...or don’t. And if they choose to fight, we’ll be over the horizon, able to help when things settle down...or, alternately, to dictate terms to the side that needs our help to win.
That’s essentially what I’ve been proposing for quite some time now. Draw down and draw back, but not out.
And he’s still trying to sell BS puree as foie gras.
He’s criticized the goals and metrics of the Bush administration—even claimed they don’t exist—when their successful implementation is all that could permit us to proceed to "Draw down and draw back, but not out." That means steady as she goes.
Without a demonstrated committment to the elected government of Iraq and success in helping them stand up while we stand down, what you’re talking about is unconditional withdrawal, leaving a vacuum others will exploit.
Well, I’ve always likened our efforts to teaching a kid to ride a bike.
At what point do you take the training wheels off.
If we can work with the Iraqis and qwell the violence in Baghdad (where over 1/2 of it occurs) then we’ll be on our way to taking those training wheels off, in a large way. With the Iraqi forces 1/2 way to the goal, I would think 60-70% would be about the time we could start drawing down.
Up till then, it will be like taking the wheels off, and shoving the kid down a hill into traffic.
Keith, it’s a nice metaphor, but the problem is that teaching a nation to govern itself is not like teaching a kid to ride a bike.
Our superior, but not annihilative military force paralyses the conlict indefinitely. The correct analogy is expecting the kid to learn to ride the bike with your hands clenched over his wrists, sitting behind him, making the turns for him.
We cannot quell the violence. We are not capable of it, at least under any force configuration on the table. So we will never get to 70-80%. In fact, we might have already passed peak functionality by a nascent Iraqi government and may only slide down from there.
Similarly, we could have waited 50 years in Vietnam for the South Vietnamese junta to get their stuff together, and it wouldn’t have happened.