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Levin wants commanders to determine troop levels - well, some of them
Posted by: McQ on Monday, February 26, 2007

If you watch Congress you come to appreciate cognitive dissonance like this. This is Sen. Carl Levin on Meet the Press. First he says:
SEN. LEVIN: Hopefully, we’re going to come up with a resolution which is going to modify, in effect, the previous resolution, which was very broad, told the president that he had authority to do basically whatever he wanted to in Iraq, and to come up with wording which would modify that broad resolution and broad authority so that we would be in a supporting role, rather than a in combat role, in Iraq. Things have changed in Iraq. We don’t believe that it’s going to be possible to remove all of our troops from Iraq because there’s going to be a limited purpose that they’re going to need to serve, including a training, continued training of the Iraqi army, support for logistics in the Iraqi army, a counterterrorism purpose or a mission because there’s about 5,000 al-Qaida in Iraq. So we want to—we want to transform, or we want to modify that earlier resolution to more limited purpose. That is our goal. We hope to pick up some Republicans; we don’t know if we will. But the final drafting is going on this weekend.
Now most of us, reading through Levin's statement, recognize that he's going to try to change the role of the military in Iraq. That's because, as far as he's concerned, "things have changed" sufficiently in Iraq for him to preempt the role of the commander-in-chief in determining both the mission and number of troops necessary to accomplish it.

Great. So he will force the withdrawal of troops by modifying the approval (AUMF) since it is his feeling that a certain number of troops (i.e. the number now there plus the surge) is no longer appropriate or necessary in Iraq.

So Tim Russert then tries to pin him down on how many would be withdrawn:
MR. RUSSERT: Will you set a goal for withdrawing combat troops?

SEN. LEVIN: We would. We would follow basically the pattern which was set or proposed by the Iraq Study Group, which was to set a goal for the removal of combat troops, as you put it correctly, by March of next year.

MR. RUSSERT: So how many troops would that be, of March of next year, would be taken out?

SEN. LEVIN: We don’t have a specific number, nor did the study group. But it would be most, that there would be a limited number of troops that would be left.

MR. RUSSERT: So out of 150,000, we would take out how many?

SEN. LEVIN: I would say most.
I would assume that anyone hearing that (or reading it now) would assume "most" to mean a "majority" of the troops. So, at least 76,000 at the bare minimum, right? So there is an idea of what he wants out of there, he's just not willing to say it outloud.

But Russert keeps pushing:
MR. RUSSERT: What would be left behind?

SEN. LEVIN: It would be a limited number, which would...

MR. RUSSERT: Ten thousand, 20,000?

SEN. LEVIN: I don’t want to put a specific number on it because that really should be left to the commanders who decide how many would be needed to carry out those limited functions.
Really? Suddenly he'd like to let the war fighters decide what they need after telling us earlier he'd decide what the war fighters need. Got that?

Uh, what if the commanders in the field say they need a total of, oh I don't know, 150,000 to support those limited operations Levin has signed on for?

While he's not willing to let the commander-in-chief decide what troops he needs in the field to carry out the mission as he defines it, Levin is more than willing to leave that sort of determination to the commanders in the field if they are doing his bidding. And he doesn't even realize how silly this makes him look or how transparent it makes his motives appear.

What a disingenuous and dangerous political game these people are playing.
 
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There is an interesting post on IntelDump about Diyala. The gist of it is that the counterinsurgency effort there isn’t being successfull because of a lack of support from the Bush adminitration, specifically, not enough troops.

The Bush administration has never listened to the commanders on the ground. The current "surge " is being handled exactly the way the Bush administration has handled every other aspect of this war, fronm the creation of a deceptive marketing pitch, to the half-assed way for implimenting the real plan. We are supposed to be having a surge—which implies and ebb after the flow—but no one in the administration will predict when the ebb will happen. That’s because it isn’t really a surge. It’s an escalation in order to carry out a counter insurgency plan that requires more troops for a long time. Which would be fine with me, actually, since an countrer-insurgency plan, carried out in a responisble manner, might actually work. But this is the Republicans which means it isn’t being carried out responisbly.. It is being carried out by people who are not willing to face up to the hard fact that more soldiers for a long time will cost money and require some way to sustain increased troop levels. There is no will to face up to that. So we get an under-staffed counterinsurgency plan that fails because the adminitration isn’t willing, hasn’t go the cojones, to face up to the hard choices reequired for success.

 
Written By: Laura
URL: http://
There is an interesting post on IntelDump about Diyala. The gist of it is that the counterinsurgency effort there isn’t being successfull because of a lack of support from the Bush adminitration, specifically, not enough troops.
Uh huh, and right now the Bush administration is right in the middle of doing something about that at the same time the Democrats in Congress are trying to stop him and his plan.

So where do you come down on that, Laura?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
And Stoller is absolutely hacked off at Levin, for "ratifying right-wing talking points". Sheesh.
 
Written By: Joe Tobacco
URL: http://www.cadillactight.com
We are supposed to be having a surge
Actually the term surge was applied to the change in strategy by those outside the administration, they have pretty much had to adopt the terminology.

As for needing more troops, once the current increase is in place I welcome the Democrats debating whether we should send even more. The problem with the argument is that the Democrats are not arguing for any such thing and will not. The constant contradictory arguments about troop levels from people who are trying to reduce them is getting tiresome. So acting as if the administration is the issue on more troops is at best half the problem. Bush has to deal with what is politically possible as well as what his commanders believe. This is what we have gotten. If you want more try getting the Democrats to signal they might accept that.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
McQ:

If Levin were to cap the troops in order to change their mission in Iraq, and did so while ignoring military suggestions for how many troops were needed to accomplish that altered mission, wouldn’t you and the GOP accuse Levin of gross irresponsibility? Congress has broad powers regulating the Army and Navy and while its wise for them to usually defer those powers to the Executive, the voters and a majority of Congress have pretty much concluded that this Executive has demonstrated incompetence to the point where he should not have unfettered power over strategic deployments anymore. Is it so wrong for Congress to consult experts (i.e. the military) in determining the best way to accomplish military missions determined by Congress?

Where was your outrage about the "listen to the generals in the field" defense when Bush ignored Casey’s recommendation to keep the force levels in Iraq the same, rather than surging?
 
Written By: Badger
URL: http://
If Levin were to cap the troops in order to change their mission in Iraq, and did so while ignoring military suggestions for how many troops were needed to accomplish that altered mission, wouldn’t you and the GOP accuse Levin of gross irresponsibility?
Yes, since he’s not the CiC and thus not the person who, by law, makes those sorts of decisions.

Everyone seems to miss the fact that the CiC is the top of that chain and is the person who makes those final decisions regardless of what others may say or recommend. That’s his job. That’s not Levin’s job.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
We are supposed to be having a surge—which implies and ebb after the flow—but no one in the administration will predict when the ebb will happen. That’s because it isn’t really a surge. It’s an escalation in order to carry out a counter insurgency plan that requires more troops for a long time.
Talk about nonsensical.

You think we should be able to predict when the ebb will happen?? So, there’s like X number of insurgents, and we kill Y per day, so it should take us X/Y days, right Laura...

Of course, that’s not the way it works. Never has been.

That’s why commanders try to avoid saying things like, they’ll be home for Christmas, or we’ll only be there a year.

What would you be saying in 5 months, if the President last month had said, oh yeah, we’ll be done with the counter-offensive in 6 months.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
Laura,

So, as you stated in a previous blog entry, "At least the Democrats in the House aren’t all talk, like most war supporters." How does Levin match your assertion in this case.

Sounds like a whole lot of talk from Levin to me.

By the way, when are you going to start up the National Guard is broken meme thing again?
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
I don’t think people "miss" the Unitary Executive Theory you apparently subscribe to, they just don’t think its a valid interpretation of the Constitution. That’d include me. I don’t think that the Founding Fathers ever intended the President to have unfettered authority to invade and perpetuate conflicts in foreign countries. Congress is clearly granted the authority to regulate the Army and Navy in Article I and has broad power of the purse authority that can include conditional funding (i.e. benchmarks or timetables). I believe that it makes sense for Congress to have broad powers over foreign wars, since they move too slowly to even hope to micromanage a war for any period of time and have to deal with presidential vetoes for anything other than funding considerations (where they can potentially wait out the clock if they face difficulties getting their way). The current difficulties Democrats face with determining the best way to change US policy in Iraq and getting that enacted into law, just go to show that Congress having the power to override Executive decisionmaking and set US foreign policy is hardly something to worry about being used capriciously or recklessly.

Now, just because Congress has these powers in the Constitution doesn’t automatically mean they should use them. But to say that the only person empowered to make decisions regarding Iraq is the president goes against the principles of divided power enshrined in the Constition. Similarly, Congress is empowered to ask military leaders for their suggestions regarding the military resources needed to accomplish potential missions. For instance, Gen. Shinseki was asked how many troops would be needed for Iraq, and he gave an honest opinion, despite this opinion conflicting with the opinion of DOD.
 
Written By: Badger
URL: http://
Uh, what if the commanders in the field say they need a total of, oh I don’t know, 150,000 to support those limited operations Levin has signed on for?
Then I think the commanders in the field would be marked as political partisans rather than the public servants they are supposed to be. I think this would give Levin and the Democrats enough room to rely on other sources of expertise (retired military or DOD) for their force requirement estimates or to simply back tougher proposals for ending our involvement in Iraq.
 
Written By: Badger
URL: http://
I don’t think people "miss" the Unitary Executive Theory you apparently subscribe to, they just don’t think its a valid interpretation of the Constitution. That’d include me. I don’t think that the Founding Fathers ever intended the President to have unfettered authority to invade and perpetuate conflicts in foreign countries.
What is "unfettered" about the conflict in Iraq? It was authorized by Congress ... overwhelmingly.

And the concept of commander-in-chief isn’t exclusive to the ’Unitary Executive Theory’ by any stretch. The President of the United States has always been the CiC in every war this country has conducted. Pretending it is somehow exclusive to UET is a red herring.

That job has specific duties which aren’t included in the job description of the members of Congress.

As stated previously, Congress authorizes and pays for the war. The CiC fights the war.
Congress is clearly granted the authority to regulate the Army and Navy in Article I and has broad power of the purse authority that can include conditional funding (i.e. benchmarks or timetables).
Fine, let’s grant, arguendo, that they do indeed have the power to set benchmarks or timetables.

Then pass legislation to a) defund the war or b) require full withdrawal by a specific time.

But they won’t, because either gives them ownership of any eventual outcome regardless of how badly managed the war has been up to this point.

So they’re left with what? Attempted end-runs. And they’re at best constitutionally questionable.
I believe that it makes sense for Congress to have broad powers over foreign wars, since they move too slowly to even hope to micromanage a war for any period of time and have to deal with presidential vetoes for anything other than funding considerations (where they can potentially wait out the clock if they face difficulties getting their way). The current difficulties Democrats face with determining the best way to change US policy in Iraq and getting that enacted into law, just go to show that Congress having the power to override Executive decisionmaking and set US foreign policy is hardly something to worry about being used capriciously or recklessly.
They have the power to impeach and remove the President. If the decision making is that bad, why not commit to that?

They won’t because in reality it is a disagreement with how the war is being prosecuted that is at the core here. And that doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment. No one here is worried about the capricious or reckless use of Congress to override Executive decison making because to a man we agree they have no power to do that EXCEPT through the power of the purse (after war has been authorized/declared).

That is where Congressional power is, exclusively, and your arguments all around the subject aren’t particularly impressive.

Democrats either need to use the power vested in them by the Constitution or not. But this nonsense in which they’re now involved simply makes them look even more terrible on the national security issue (if that’s possible) than they have in the past.

Screw-ball ways to play stupid political tricks with an eye on crippling an effort that, at least for the moment, is going better than expected isn’t particularly smart politically. However, unless you announce it to the world as Murtha did, it is a way to guarantee failure in Iraq without having to take ownership of that failure ... if your tricks work.

Again, Democrats need to step up to the plate and defund the war, as they’re empowered to do if it that imporant to them to stop the war in Iraq. And as I’m pointing out, they won’t do that because it is political suicide.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Then I think the commanders in the field would be marked as political partisans rather than the public servants they are supposed to be.
Oh, I see ... so while their recommendations are gold when it comes to Bush having to heed them, you and Levin would somehow know that such a number automatically marked them as "political partisans" eh?

I think my irony meter just pegged out. You just made my point about Levin.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
McQ:

My understanding in calling the general in your hypotheical situation a "partisan" was based on the following understanding .

1. General says 150,000 troops needed for full scale engagement in Iraq.
2. Democratic Committee Chairman asks general for estimate of number of troops needed for military mission limited to Iraqi Army training and disengagement from civil conflict.
3. General responds that 150,000 troops are needed and gives this estimate so that the original full scale engagement can continue and the Chairman will be prevented from passing deployment-related legislation without breaking pledges to base deployment numbers on General’s assessment.

I should note that I find this scenario extremely unlikely, but it’s your hypothetical (as I understood it anyway) and I’m just answering your question about the consequences.
 
Written By: Badger
URL: http://
1. General says 150,000 troops needed for full scale engagement in Iraq.

2. Democratic Committee Chairman asks general for estimate of number of troops needed for military mission limited to Iraqi Army training and disengagement from civil conflict.

3. General responds that 150,000 troops are needed and gives this estimate so that the original full scale engagement can continue and the Chairman will be prevented from passing deployment-related legislation without breaking pledges to base deployment numbers on General’s assessment.
What Levin outlined was this:
... including a training, continued training of the Iraqi army, support for logistics in the Iraqi army, a counterterrorism purpose or a mission because there’s about 5,000 al-Qaida in Iraq.
Now you tell me, Badger, from your vast military experience, how many troops it would take to do those missions (training the Iraqi army, logistics support for the Iraqi Army and a counterterrorism mission against 5,000 al Qaida?

Please factor in the requirement of a widely dispersed force (training) and one which will require force protection and logistical support other than that which is aimed at the Iraqi army. Also tell me what is required, in terms of a force, to fight 5,000 AQ spread throughout Iraq.

How many troops will be needed for the training mission?

How many troops for the force protection mission that will be required?

How many for the Iraqi logistics mission? Force protection?

How many for the logistics mission in support of both the American trainers and the counterterrorist force. And again, this function will also require force protection assets.

How large must the counterterrorist force be in order to effectively fight 5,000 dispersed fighters? Force protection?

Please include all levels combat service and combat service support elements such as communications requirements, intelligence, medical, transportation, POL, MPs, and aviation required to support each of these functions. Also please lay out the command and control structure at each level and for each function.

Oh, and don’t forget the Air Force role in this either. What sort of force will they require to support those missions? Force protection?

When you can lay all of that out I’ll begin to believe you and Levin can tell the difference between numbers from a "partisan" general and one that isn’t.
I should note that I find this scenario extremely unlikely, but it’s your hypothetical (as I understood it anyway) and I’m just answering your question about the consequences.
It’s not hypothetical at all, which is why I brought it up. If you’ll recall, and Democrats certainly yammered about it long and hard, some generals wanted many more troops than we now have there from the beginning. Given the list I’ve laid out above, I don’t see any thing the least bit unlikely about a general, given Levin’s redefinition of the mission, saying he needed 150,000 troops to do it.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Levin wants to use the power of Congress to force the Bush administratin into a withdrawl stregy. He wants the people on the field to decide how to carry out that policy. There is no contradiction.

There is a huge contraciction in claiming to suport a war without being willling to support it with more than words.

I never said the National Guard WAS broken. I sited a National Guard Officer who said that it will be broken soon. You aren’t supporting the war if you can’t face facts about it.
 
Written By: laura
URL: http://
"You aren’t supporting the war if you can’t face facts about it."

WHAT? You mean "facts" like this: "I sited (sic) a National Guard Officer who said that it will be broken soon." So he knows for sure? Did you read anything McQ wrote in his response to Badger, anything at all? Can you acknowledge the experience behind it, or will you express your customary cognitive dissonance?

Sorry, Laura. When it comes to "facts" I’ll go with someone who actually has some kind of idea what he’s talking about. Hey, I guess that means I’m not supporting the war. As opposed to your support, which appears to be absolutely stellar.

"There is a huge contraciction in claiming to suport a war without being willling to support it with more than words." Wow, yet another variation on the chickenhawk meme. Classy.
 
Written By: cjd
URL: http://
McQ:

I really hate to see you spend so much time addressing points I’m not really trying to raise or dispute. I’m not in the military and I have no background in military planning. If you’d like to explain to me how a mission consisting of forward deployment and patrols in addition to troop training could require the same number of troops than a mission just involving troop training (which wouldn’t even have to take place in Iraq necessarily) I’m all ears. It seems, almost by definition, impossible to me, but if someone in a position of expertise can convincingly explain otherwise, I’m open to changing my mind. It’s also established as a premise in the hypothetical (whether or not a situtation is likely or unlikely has no bearing on whether or not it’s a hypothetical, btw) that the General is intentionally giving an inflated estimate in order to prevent the Chairman from implementing legislation changing the nature of the mission in Iraq. If this was not an assumption you were implying in your original hypothetical, that’s fine, however that’s why I explicitly described my understanding of the premises involved, in case I was misunderstanding something.
 
Written By: Badger
URL: http://
If you’d like to explain to me how a mission consisting of forward deployment and patrols in addition to troop training could require the same number of troops than a mission just involving troop training (which wouldn’t even have to take place in Iraq necessarily) I’m all ears.
How do you know it only consists of "patrols?" Fighting AQ wouldn’t just be "patrol" action.

Do you know what force protection means much less what it entails?

Do you know the ratio of "teeth to tail" in any deployment of troops?

Just an example. If we were to agree, arguendo, that it would take 20,000 troops to train the ISF, 20,000 troops to fight AQ, the "tail" for that is 80,000 troops, for a total of 120,000 (arguments range from a ratio of 1.6:1 to 2:1. In Iraq it’s been more around the 2:1 ratio).

So if instead it takes 25,000 each (training, fighting, each with its force protection layer), a mere 5,000 more doing each mission, well we’re right there at 150,000 aren’t we?

I can promise both will take more than that when you factor in the type of force protection necessary for both a widely dispersed training mission and counterterrorism mission and the logistics support necessary for both.

So, 150,000 wouldn’t at all be out of bounds if one was planning such missions.

But your immediate reaction to that number was to brand any general who might put that number to such a mission as partisan. As is obvious, you did so out of ignorance, but it certainly didn’t stop you from reaching a conclusion, did it?
It’s also established as a premise in the hypothetical (whether or not a situtation is likely or unlikely has no bearing on whether or not it’s a hypothetical, btw) that the General is intentionally giving an inflated estimate in order to prevent the Chairman from implementing legislation changing the nature of the mission in Iraq. If this was not an assumption you were implying in your original hypothetical, that’s fine, however that’s why I explicitly described my understanding of the premises involved, in case I was misunderstanding something.
It isn’t at all established the general is giving an inflated estimate unless you can lay out a plan which addresses the missions the Chairman cited within the context of the environment in which they have to be accomplished and show me how it can be done with fewer troops. Your objection is simply to a number, and has no basis in knowledge or fact.

And no, I wasn’t implying the general was inflating anything. I was pointing out that given the missions Levin laid out it is entirely possible that a general would say 150,000 and I wondered what Levin’s reaction would be then?

Probably much like yours.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
McQ:

Again you seem to be finding disagreements where none exist. It’s clear that I misunderstood the direction of your hypothetical and my characterization of the General acting out of partisan motivations was based on that misunderstanding.
Your objection is simply to a number, and has no basis in knowledge or fact.
This is not true. My objection was never to the the number, it was to the motivations of the General providing the estimate. This is completely clear from my previous comments.

So, to answer you actual question, which is basically what happens if a General gives an honest estimate of the troop numbers needed for the Congressional mission that’s still in the six-figure range: I suppose that the answer would be that Levin would ask the General to provide the calculations that estimate is based on and compare it to estimates from retired military or DOD with comparable expertise in war planning. And if the numbers checked out he’d proceed with the mission change anyway, since he, like most Democrats and the ISG panel, believe that it is our and Iraq’s best interest to decrease involvement in their civil war, not increase it.

 
Written By: Badger
URL: http://
"You aren’t supporting the war if you can’t face facts about it."

Laura, did you really write that? Don’t you realize that is the very thing you accuse supporters of the war of doing?

You yourself said in a previous post, "The so-called support is only slogan deep and does nothing to help the troops or the war effort."

And how about this goodie: "Instead of facing unwelcome facts, too many war suporters rely on namecallinng, misrepresentations, and attacks on the motivations of people they diagree with."

And then when you say, "I never said the National Guard WAS broken." you had better be careful because someone might go back to a previous post and see where you wrote, "The people who are serious about winning in Iraq are the ones that are willing discuss how to get more troops so the Army and National Guard aren’t broken, as the officers sited above fear they will be, and how to pay for it."

No, you’re right, you did not say the National Guard was broken. You just want us to discuss "how to get more troops so the Army and National Guard aren’t broken."

Laura, consistent you are not! You need to refresh yourself with the "talking points" because every time you have deviate, you fall flat on your face.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Again you seem to be finding disagreements where none exist. It’s clear that I misunderstood the direction of your hypothetical and my characterization of the General acting out of partisan motivations was based on that misunderstanding.
Misunderstanding? I said:
Uh, what if the commanders in the field say they need a total of, oh I don’t know, 150,000 to support those limited operations Levin has signed on for?
From where did all you infer from that statement come? It’s pretty straight forward. What if the general, looking at those limited operations from Levin, came up with 150,000? Sounds like a reasonable estimate when you understand how those things are calculated.

But you immediately said (after singling out only that particular line):
Then I think the commanders in the field would be marked as political partisans rather than the public servants they are supposed to be. I think this would give Levin and the Democrats enough room to rely on other sources of expertise (retired military or DOD) for their force requirement estimates or to simply back tougher proposals for ending our involvement in Iraq.
What in my question was to be "misunderstood" enough to reach that conclusion?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
McQ:

I took your "oh, I don’t know" to be an aside indicating that it was not a coincidence that the General was citing a troop level identical to the current troop level with the implication that it was done for cynnical purposes in order to block Senator Levin’s efforts. That may not be the most logical reading but I just read your weblog in furtive glances while pretending to work, so such misreadings are bound to occur. Shouldn’t my word that I mispoke be evidence enough or are you just so eager to write me off so you don’t have to take what I say seriously anymore that it doesn’t matter what I say?
 
Written By: badger
URL: http://
Too bad we can’t just replace Carl Levin with Mark Levin.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog

 
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