Thursday, October 26, 2006

Getting the Job Done in Iraq
Mike Rappaport

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.

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Mike Rappaport


A bloody, rash, foolish adventure, and obviously so, from before it began. I've yet to see any of the people who have lately started to wring their hands about Iraq adduce one difficulty that was unforeseeable.

Posted by: dearieme | Oct 27, 2006 2:35:37 AM

One of the big questions is why reconstruction in Germany (and Japan) worked and why it is not working very well in Iraq.

Maybe because Germany and Japan had civilisations older than 1000 years at the time of Reconstruction, while Iraq was cobbled together of disparate groups a hundred years ago?

- Josh

Posted by: Wild Pegasus | Oct 28, 2006 11:52:21 PM

This is all very nice, but exactly when did you decide and publicly acknowledge that that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield strategy was flawed and not likely to work?

It seems to me that the rats are diving off the shipo in increasing numbers (see Noonan's laughable column in today's WSJ).

Posted by: Atlantic2006 | Oct 30, 2006 3:14:30 PM

Also, "Japan" and "Germany" were not in the situation where one iron fist that neither side sufficiently hated or feared to cause civil war kept the nation from said war. The US is not that iron fist, nor does it desire (if it had the capacity) to be that iron fist indefinitely.

That, you know, might also be a factor.

Posted by: Justin | Oct 30, 2006 3:41:49 PM

Reconstructing on the cheap is exactly right. It was amazing to me in iraq when we couldn't get funds for equipment we needed, couldn't get folks to pay for proper program support to expand intelligence projects that had already proven effective, could only get armor a week after Rummy got called out by a soldier's question back in '04*, had training cancelled for lack of funds, had TDY reimbursments cancelled ex post facto for lack of funds...

And money is only one way in which they've skimped. They certainly haven't spared any high level officials to fall on their swords. Pushed a few low-level interrogators onto the block, yes, but axed any of the people at the top? Wolfowitz, who expressed his concern for the troops in the form of apparently never thinking about them at all, gets the Presidency of the World Bank. Rummy hasn't been touched...

Am I bitter? Heck yeah I am. We could have done this thing, could have given the Iraqis new lives and new hope. Instead we've embarrassed ourselves, possibly doomed the Iraqis, and inspired a new generation of terrorists. Somebody sober needs to be in the driver's seat.

Are the Dems going to fix it? I don't see any signs that they have any good ideas, but I don't see how they could make it much worse, either. If nothing else, at least voting out the chuckleheads who screwed this whole thing up might show that we as a nation aren't completely insane.

*We had no orders to get armor at all until that week, then suddenly we did, and by the end of the month, the whole unit was up-armored. Lying bastard.

Posted by: Nato | Oct 31, 2006 2:31:58 PM

And GEN Shinseki freakin' SAID that it would take hundreds of thousands of troops, but he got disavowal and shoulder-tapping for his trouble. I'm no major fan of GEN Shinseki, but he was at least willing to say things his superiors didn't want to hear. Now it appears even GEN Schoomacher isn't willing to toe the line anymore. Thank goodness.

Posted by: Nato | Oct 31, 2006 2:39:02 PM