Thursday, October 26, 2006
The Best of the Web reproduced an e mail from an American soldier in Iraq, who analyzed the situation. The letter as a whole is extremely interesting. Two of his remarks bear special comment.
First, he explains:
In Germany after World War II, we controlled our sector with approximately 500,000 troops, directly administering the area for 10 years while we rebuilt the country and rebuilt the social and political infrastructure needed to run it. In Iraq, we've got one-third that number of troops dealing with three times the population on a much faster timetable, and we're attempting to unify three distinct ethnic groups with no national interest and at least three outside influences (Saudi Arabian Wahhabists, Iranian mullahs and Syrian Baathists)each eagerly funding various groups in an attempt to see us fail. And we are.
One of the big questions is why reconstruction in Germany (and Japan) worked and why it is not working very well in Iraq. According to this letter, it is because we have been reconstructing on the cheap. I find this very persuasive. Depressing, but persuasive.
Second, he writes:
We need to backtrack. We need to publicly admit we're backtracking. This is the opening battle of the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose it because of political inconveniences. Reassert direct administration, put 400,000 to 500,000 American troops on the ground, disband most of the current Iraqi police and retrain and reindoctrinate the Iraqi army until it becomes a military that's fighting for a nation, not simply some sect or faction. Reassure the Iraqi people that we're going to provide them security and then follow through. Disarm the nation: Sunnis, Shias, militia groups, everyone. Issue national ID cards to everyone and control the movement of the population.
Well, I favor adding troops to Iraq, but adding this amount is simply not going to happen. I don't know if this number of troops was needed initially, but certainly the US could have had many more troops in Iraq during the previous couple of years. Sadly, Bush and Rumsfeld have wasted the time when large numbers of additional troops could have been supplied.
Of course, even twice the number of troops might not have solved the problem either, but at least we would have given it our best shot.
In the end, an enterprise like Iraq turns on as much about the willingness of the American people to make the sacrifice and stay the (or some) course as anything else. At the end of the first Gulf War, I reluctantly agreed with Bush I's decision not to go to Bagdad. The reason was that I simply did not believe the American people would support the efforts needed to pacify and control Iraq. In 2003, I concluded that it was worth it to invade Iraq, because the American people would provide the requisite support, since they understood it involved issues of Islamic terrorism. I still think that judgement might have been correct, depending on how many troops were needed and how long it would have required to pacify Iraq. But given the failures to take adequate action until now, it does seem pretty clear that the American people will not provide the requisite support needed to do the job now.