The surge

In yesterday’s New York Post, John Podhoretz lays out the strongest case for the “surge,” which he says is the only way to save the situation in Iraq.

This is a “heavy footprint.” If we do this, we will be saying we will engage and roust the enemy and then stay put for a while. Show our presence. Make it clear to the Iraqis that we’re not bugging out.

Ironically, it’s only with this kind of time that the “train, train, train” option becomes a viable security measure for Iraq’s future—because training takes time, too.

As Podhoretz describes the surge, it would be a “heavy footprint”—like the battle of Fallujah. No quarter given to the enemy. With what purpose? To stabilize the situation in order to gain time to train the Iraqis to take over the job from us! That’s what it’s all about. So there’s nothing new here. As in the past, and as I’ve said a thousand times in the past, it’s not about defeating the enemy and winning the war. It’s about treading water until (sorry about the mixed metaphor) we can pass the baton to the Iraqis.

Between December 7, 1941, the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, to August 14, 1945, the day Emperor Hirohito announced the Japanese surrender (it was August 14 in the U.S., August 15 in Japan), 1,346 days passed. From April 9, 2003, the day the U.S. forces formally took control of Baghdad, to today, December 20, 2006, 1,351 days have elapsed. We have now been occupying Iraq for five days longer than we fought World War II. And the Iraqi security forces are not yet in a condition to take over the fight? How long will it take, then? Another three and a half years?

And of course it’s not just a matter of technically training them. It’s a matter of their being willing to fight for a national government. The government security forces are already de facto arms of the Shi’ites in the sectarian war with the Sunnis. How is more training, more time, going to change that?

And what about this heavy footprint of ours in Baghdad? Our forces stay put “for a while.” Then what? The same thing all over again. The enemy can, as Randall Parker writes (recommended reading), fade into the civilian population, then return after our men pull out. Or, as in Fallujah, they can leave Baghdad for other parts of the country and continue the insurgency there.

So the only way this surge plan could conceivably work (not as a victory over the enemy, which is not in the cards at all, but as a baton-passing) is if the following conditions occurred: (1) The surged U.S. forces remain in place, in their stepped-up, surged, heavy-footprint mode, in Baghdad and (2) wherever else the enemy appears in force, until (3) the Iraqis are ready to take over the job from us, and (4) the Iraqis replace our forces in the stepped-up, surged, heavy-footprint mode as our forces pull out. But if any of the following conditions occur, (1) if we step down from this extraordinary surge prior to the Iraqi forces being ready to replace us, which would allow the violence to begin again, or (2) if the insurgents move to other cities and transfer the insurgency there, or (3) if the Iraqi forces are never ready to replace us, or (4) if the Iraqis are ready to replace us but not in the stepped-up, surged, heavy-footprint mode that is necessary to keep Iraq from dissolving into chaos, then we would still end up where we are now, holding a wolf by the ears that we can neither let go of nor keep holding.

- end of initial entry -

David H. writes:

I hadn’t realized this insane nation-building “war” had gone on longer than World War II until your entry today; thank you for drawing that to our attention. Instead of a quick war that would have destroyed the power of a dangerous Islamic nation, Bush et al have willingly assumed and attempted (with our soldiers’ blood) to solve the gargantuan problems that should have been exploited and exacerbated by the American administration (what exactly is wrong with a Sunni/Shia internecine war???). And who can possibly trust the different Iraqi military units? At least in Vietnam the south was generally loyal to the American advisors and soldiers fighting alongside them. But in Iraq, with the numerous warring factions (and one overriding hatred—of the infidel), coupled with the core belief of Islam that lying to the infidel is acceptable, how can any U.S. military personnel possibly have faith in the willingness of Iraqi soldiers to support our soldiers (for that matter, how can anyone still have trust in Bush and the “conservatives” who created this non-war?). I certainly would not want to be one of the last group of advisors who will rely on Iraqi forces for protection from the utter sadism of the enemy.

Also, I notice the new Iraq angle for the neocons is one of loyalty and betrayal, i.e. we cannot abandon the Iraqi people now that we have assumed the role of liberator. I ask them, how many more American soldiers need to die for the Iraqi’s right to elect anti-American lunatics? In WWII, massive firepower was often used so that U.S. forces didn’t suffer higher casualties (naval bombardment, for example—which can and did inflict massive damage on surrounding areas). Now that liberal madness has destroyed “conservatism,” and “collateral damage” is to be avoided at all cost, the life of the American soldier is less valuable than the “civilians” of an enemy nation—those same “civilians” who cheer as burned American bodies are hung like grotesque trophies. Your point about the duration of World War II further underlines the point that an all-out war with an enemy is clearly the best way to ensure victory—not democracy—which is after all the one and only legitimate goal in warfare.

Spencer Warren writes:

President Bush said in yesterday’s Washington Post interview: “You know, I think an interesting construct that General Pace uses is, ‘We’re not winning, we’re not losing.’”

It is a fundamental precept of guerrilla war, noted by Henry Kissinger and others, that the guerrilla wins if he doesn’t lose; the government loses if it doesn’t win. This is due in part to the time factor—the longer such a war goes on, the more it favors the guerrilla. Thus, Bush is really stating (though he doesn’t realize it) that we are losing.

His decision almost four years after launching the war finally to increase the size of the military is yet another stunning confession of incompetence. Imagine if President Roosevelt had waited for three years after Pearl Harbor before announcing that we needed to increase the size of the military.

And we know the military had wanted double or triple the number of troops that went into Iraq. For saying this at a Senate hearing (before the war), Army Chief of Staff Shinseki was forced into retirement and oblivion. And the civilian who contradicted him at the Senate hearing, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz, later was promoted to head the World Bank. (Interestingly his and Rumsfeld’s predecessor in gross incompetence at the Pentagon, Robert McNamara, also was kicked upstairs to head the World Bank, during the Vietnam War.) I have read that Rumsfeld blocked any increase in the size of the military because it contradicted his dogma of a “smaller, leaner” force.

These men have done incalculable damage, making the U.S. weaker than at any time since the late 1970s.

LA adds:

The claim about Shinseki has been denied by the administration, which said that Shinseki was due for retirement and was not prematurely fired.
Larry G. writes:

You didn’t say it this time, but the idea that we can turn over duties to the Iraqis depends on the liberal assumption that all people are the same and want the same things we want. It would only be useful to turn over duties to an Iraqi army that has the same civil goals as the American army. That requires them to adopt our agenda of democratization and liberalism, which isn’t happening and isn’t going to happen. Turning over the fight to a Shiite army that wants to kill Sunnis, or a multi-sectarian army that sets death squads against each other’s tribe, is hardly going to achieve our goals, unless our goal is chaos and genocide.

The other bug in the program is that the only way to stop the violence is to start brutally killing people. Our troops could do that if the PC rules of engagement were scrapped, but they won’t be. Yet that is the only way any Iraqi replacement force will be able to stop the insurgency and keep the peace. We avert our eyes from that reality. Iraqi forces will not achieve peace by building schools and passing out candy to the kids, they will achieve peace through extreme violence and ethnic cleansing. In the end, the situation will only stabilize when the Iraqis find themselves once more under the boot of a new Saddam, which, unfortunately, seems to be the kind of government they deserve.

Paul K.writes:

The president’s faith in “training” as the solution to Iraq’s military problems is as optimistic and meaningless as his faith in elections as the solution to its political problems. It’s another iteration of his theory of Universal Americanism. I think he believes that training will produce Iraqi soldiers who act like American soldiers—that is, that they will not only fight well, but will absorb our military culture of professionalism, code of conduct, and deference to civilian political authority. This is extraordinarily implausible.

Funny how the Iraqis that are fighting about things they care about—their factions—fight ferociously, while the ones who are supposed to uphold the young republic have proven themselves utterly feckless. We had the same experience in Vietnam, where our troops developed a contempt for the fighting abilities of ARVN forces on whom Nixon’s plans for Vietnamization relied.

As far as the Surge is concerned, I think it appeals to Bush as a double-or-nothing bet that he has been right all along. Maybe he’s just screened “Casino Royale.”

LA writes:

There are other ways of calculating the length of America’s involvement in World War II. If instead of considering as the end of the war the Emperor’s surrender announcement and the surrender message sent to the Americans on August 14, we take the formal signing of the surrender instruments in Tokyo Bay on September 2 as the end of the war, then the war lasted 1,365 days. Also, Alan Levine says that technically U.S. involvement in the European war began on September 11, 1941, with the shoot-on-sight order in the Atlantic. From September 11, 1941 to September 2, 1945 is 1,452 days.

However, it seems counterintuitive to think of anything other than V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day), August 14, 1945, as the real, as distinct from the formal, end of the war, even though some hostilities occurred after August 14. The same goes for Pearl Harbor. For Americans, December 7, 1941 is when the war began.

LA writes:

Jonathan L. has a comment relevant to this discussion that I placed in its own entry.

M. Jose writes:

While Shinseki was not fired, I believed that Bush announced that he would not be re-appointed to his position at the end of his term shortly after he made the statement disagreeing with the administration. I believe that the announcement was made much earlier on than normal, rendering Shinseki a lame duck. So while the administration did not “fire” him, it seems that they knee-capped him.

LA writes:

Worth reading is Wikipedia’s account of Shinseki’s role in the administration debates prior to the war.

Rumsfeld had this idea about a leaner, meaner army, and resisted his generals’ statements that the occupation would take several hundreds of thousands. The generals, including Shinseki, knew that Rumseld was wrong, that he was thinking of his own issues of military re-organization, he was not focusing on the ineluctable needs of an occupying army in Iraq. But, as comes through Wikipedia’s account, Shinseki and the other generals did not insist on their points. They just yielded quietly to Rumsfeld, not seeking to persuade him even though such persuasion was vitally important. Wikipedia reports: “It is, however, unclear how strongly Shinseki communicated to the DOD head views which diverged from those which Rumsfeld had forcefully communicated to the military command structure.” Shinseki himself, who sounds like a very recessive character, is quoted saying that he did not pound on the table. He and others did not put themselves out and make the effort to show Rumsfeld why he was wrong and why 150,000 soldiers would not be enough.

It’s somewhat the same problem that I wrote the other day with regard to Daniel Pipes. He knew democratization was a flawed idea, and he was certainly in a position to influence public opinion against it, and he did register his opinions frequently, but he never made his arguments forcefully. He made them quietly, and then would go on to the next subject. So he had no real effect on the debate.

A correspondent writes:

And have you noticed that no sooner do we learn about one of these military guys than we hear that he’s on the verge of retiring? Our country is full of these youngish retired military men whose careers were either undistinguished or catastrophic for the country and for whom we have to pay pensions for the next fifty years.

Ah, for men like the great MacArthur and Patton, willing to stick their necks out and take the brunt in order to make a stand and clarify things for the American public.

Regarding new thinking, though, Rumsfeld was borne out by the original invasion and taking of Baghdad. That worked with not many troops and not many casualties and all that. But in some ways it turned out to be an illusion, like the way the tsunami sucks the water from a beach for as much as a mile, leaving empty land and exposing fish and such, and all the people go running to see the phenomenon, and meanwhile, the tsunami is on the way, even greater for the additional water it has absorbed.

LA replies:

But the key issue that was being discussed here was not the number needed to topple Hussein, but the number needed to control the country afterward. I think it’s a fair question whether Rumsfeld’s attention was ever adequately focussed on the latter as distinct from the former. The generals needed to get his attention. They did not do it. They are bureaucratic wimps.

Spencer Warren writes:

On the subject of troop size for Iraq, I have heard Gen. Zinni, who headed Central Command before the Iraq War, state that their extensive, long-standing war plans called for a large force like the one proposed by Shinseki. Rumsfeld rejected these plans and Gen. Franks went along with him.

It is not proper for the civilian head of the department to overturn military judgment on such an issue. During WWII Churchill and his War Cabinet did not act as if they had authority to override the military views of the Chiefs of Staff on a purely military matter. Further, Churchill chose General Sir Alan Brooke to be the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (“CIGS”) early in 1942 in part because he knew Brooke would stand up to him. Churchill had his own determined views on military matters and at times made reckless proposals, but in Brooke he had a man who gave as good as he got and who as a result saved Churchill and his country from several potentially bad decisions. Brooke wrote in his copious diary (published in full only a few years ago) how taxing it was to stand up to Churchill, but he stood like a rock when he thought it necessary.

Although not well known in our country, Brooke was the most outstanding British soldier of the Second World War, the man most responsible for the North Africa-Italy-Normandy strategy that made D-Day a success and won the war in Europe. After our entry into the war in 1941, it was Brooke and Churchill who persuaded President Roosevelt that the U.S. military’s plan to invade France directly, first in 1942 and then in 1943, would have led to disaster, and to adopt their more indirect approach. This gave us time to build up our strength and gain combat experience, and required the Germans to disperse their forces, thus weakening their defenses in France. It also gave the RAF and U.S. Army Air Forces time to weaken Germany through relentless bombing.

Are there any soldiers or sailors of the caliber of Brooke (or MacArthur or Patton, among many outstanding figures) in today’s U.S. military?

LA replies:

We have these sneaky-faced bureaucrats like Abizaid and Sanchez, and Peter Pace who seems always depressed. It’s the James Kalstrom school of leadership, named after the FBI agent who led the investigation into the crash of TWA flight 800. For months I saw this guy daily on tv giving press conferences, and his whole demeanor conveyed discouragement, depression, and sneakiness. But this manner of leadership fits liberal society. Liberalism is (formally) against leadership, against power, against manhood. It wants leaders who seem insecure and never take a firm stand. It elects a president who bites his lip when he speaks, it elects another president who tells airlines to be on the serious lookout for Muslim terrorists, then calls the airlines racists and sues them when anyone complains that the airlines were doing what the president told them to do.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 20, 2006 08:44 AM | Send

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