Thursday, June 16, 2005

Debunking the "Not enough troops" meme 
I'm getting pretty tired of this "not enough troops" meme that's been bandied about, by Tom Friedman and others.

All of a sudden, everybody's a military expert, and it's fashionable to claim that A.) Rumsfeld fought the war on the cheap, and B.) Rumsfeld didn't commit enough troops, and that C.) This was the reason there was so much looting. If the U.S. had just had more troops, there wouldn't have been so much looting, and we wouldn't have all these problems.

This is idiotic on a lot of different levels:)

• It ignores the fact that we had only one harbor, and as I wrote before, that harbor had only limited throughput. Could we have used another division? Possibly. But remember, we DID try to put another division, the 4th Infantry Division, in through Turkey, but we were blocked from that course of action by our friends, the saboteurs of liberty in France.

Could we have put another mechanized division in through Kuwait? Possibly. But only if we had started much, much earlier. Which meant we would have had to start the rotation much earlier and then the planning much earlier. And then we would be reading headlines about how the Bush Administration was planning the invasion of Iraq even before 9/11.

• It ignores the fact that the securing of the oil fields was an overwhelming success as it was.

• It places culpability for Iraqi looters on US commanders, rather than where it belongs: on the looters themselves.

• Iraq, fools, is not Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots. (Yes, I was in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots). The time-honored way for armies to control looting is to shoot looters on sight. Only shooting looters on sight would have controlled that looting.

And that would probably have been a violation of international law. I guarantee the left would be screaming about that, in all its glorious, self-righteous, self-indulgent hypercritical naivete.

There was a conscious policy out at the time specifically NOT to shoot looters. It is properly the job of the Iraqi police to enforce the law, and the Iraqi police were not disbanded. Their failure to enforce public order is an Iraqi failure, not an American one. (But any Iraqi cop who hit the streets with an AK 47 would have been shot on sight by American troops, so it's a failure I certainly understand.)

Short of shooting looters on sight, and in the absence of a strong Iraqi police presence, then the only other measure would have been to start using US troops to physically chase looters down, one at a time, wrestle them to the ground, and then arrest them (to be tried in what court? They're not combatants.).

American troops, dear birdbrains on the left, had more important things to worry about. Like establishing local security and consolidating their gains and developing local intel.

And doubling the number of troops on the ground would not have changed that.

• It ignores the principal of economy of force. It wasn't hard to imagine, at the time, a lengthy occupation. If you blow your wad on the first rotation, where are you going to get the troops for OIF II and III?

Related to the principal of economy of force, it would have drained the US's strategic reserves of trained groundpounders. Overcommitting in 2003 would have been a gamble we could not afford to lose. North Korea and China cannot be relied upon to be charitable.

And remember, the 10 division army is just a fraction of the size it was in 1991. We did not have to draw down in North Korea in order to liberate Kuwait. But we would have, severely, in order to provide the 400,000 troops that the SAINTED General Shinseki wanted. (Shinseki was off his rocker.)

If we had committed 400,000 troops, dear leftie bozos, where would we get the troops for OIF II and OIF III?

Are you guys flipping crazy?

• It ignores the law of diminishing returns. The next 100,000 soldiers to have been committed would have accomplished little except their own point-blank defense. But they would consume an equal amount of food, fuel, and most critical in the early weeks, fresh water.

• It ignores the fact that we didn't even have enough body armor plates for the troops that were there during the first year. Committing more troops would have meant giving insurgents more targets. And casualties would be higher, not lower. Again, with little payoff for the United States.

• It ignores the principle of the offensive. "NETties" (Not Enough Troops) are always harping on our failure to control the borders and to secure the power infrastructure and pipelines.

But hear me, o ignorant ones: Anyone who's ever had to man a linear front that extends beyond walking distance will agree--the borders extend for thousands of miles. There additionally are thousands of miles of pipeline and power cables. Any troops assigned to their protection would have been assigned A.) A purely defensive mission (AKA a stupid mission. The ONLY reason to be on defense is as an economy of force, to preserve offensive capability elsewhere. You don't waste troops defending what you don't need to. Those troops are better employed going out and clobbering the enemy)

B.) They would have been targets.

C.) They would, necessarily, have to be spread out beyond small-arms range, so they would be dispersed, with no means of mutual support.

D.) The enemy could choose to mass anywhere along these lines and attack it anywhere, and could overwhelm and destroy any U.S. detachment at will.

E.) This series of border outposts and powerline babysitters - this picket line - this monument to the stupidity of man, would have to be supported. Each individual team out on the picket line, would need their own Humvee, equipped with a radio. (Manpack radios barely work as far as you can see out in the desert, dumbasses.) Actually, over those distances, you'd need to get a Thuraya satellite phone to every platoon headquarters, at least. That's a $5,000 item right there.

Once you gave them the Thuraya phone and the extra radios (at $10,000 each), you'd have to bring them food, fresh water, mail, change shifts, etc. Which means that every day, TWICE A DAY, you'd wind up with a massive string of convoys launching all around the Iraqi frontier, each of which would itself be an (easy) target, each of which would need to be supported. And the roads themselves would need to be patrolled and secured, which would require still more troops, which would themselves need to be supported, and lo and behold we've created the Army planner's nightmare: The self-licking ice-cream cone - an Army whose purpose has become not to kill the enemy, but an Army whose purpose has become merely to sustain itself.

F.) The vulnerable outposts would provide terrorists (and foreign governments) with a steady supply of hostages.

G.) 400,000 troops STILL would not have been nearly enough to simultaneously secure the borders and the powerlines and defeat the Ba'athist insurgency in the cities.

Ach, the argument goes on and on and on.

Remember: Amateurs talk tactics. Rank amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.

Splash, out


I usually agree with your analysis, but I differ with you here. More troops would have been beneficial once we had made the decision that we would be occupying powers. 400,000 total is more than we could sustain long-term, but what we had wasn't enough to maintain a sufficient presence. How many times have we taken control of differing cities (e.g. Samarra) only to have to return because we didn't have enough forces to maintain control? It would have taken months to get these forces deployed as you properly stated, so it wouldn't have had an immediate impact, but it would have had a sustained impact.

However, to reopen this debate at this point isn't feasible. Once the TOS timeline was set in motion in the spring of '04, it wasn't politically feasible in Iraq to deploy a higher level of troops.
What I cannot understand is how a NETtie can simultaneously talk about 'Vietnam-style quagmire', Rumsfeld=McNamara, Franks=Westmoreland.
AFAIK McNamara and Westmoreland did exactly what NETties propose: pushed the number of troops to half-million. Doing that, they got to 10 KIA a day without prospect of victory. Is that what NETties want? Some, maybe, but not Friedman, surely not Joe Galloway, nor most of the others.

A neocon alternative, promoted by Wolfowitz et al., has at least a good precedent. Had Roosevelt and Churchill had to occupy France instead of 'liberating' that Nazi ally, they, too, probably, would have needed to commit about a million troops to occupy it properly. But they let de Gaulle take Paris with his symbolic Army, let him pronounce himself a president, and eventually instead of spending American and British troops to occupy France got French troops to occupy Germany. Maybe, had USA trained enough Iraqi exiles to 'take' Baghdad and had USA given power to Iraqis immediately (however limited their real power would be), the need for troops would have been reduced. As of various Iraqi leaders' alleged perfidy, well, de Gaulle wasn't an epitome of integrity, either.
You really do not get it. The issue is that we have to have enought troops to sustain a rotation of forces that will allow troops not to have to spend 1 year or more in country.

The Powell doctrine was right, if you have to go in, go in with overwhelming military force. Rumsfeld, is a worthless man who thinks you can fight a war of occupation on the cheap. He's wrong and Shinseki was right.
Clod. We did go in with overwhelming military force. Did you even watch the war?

Jason's right, logistics, especially here in Iraq, is king. Doubling the troop levels means quadruple the support and security, perhaps even more, for less than a quarter of the gain.
Great points, thanks for sharing.

I've seen a lot comparisons to the 1920s British occupation and the WW II Japan and Germany occupations as justifications for needing more troops.

Force multipliers like LRAS, body armor, night vision, precision munitions, and close air support make 100,000 modern U.S. troops able to do more than a million WW II soldiers could dream of. Also, the size force Niall contemplates would require such massive logistical support that it would further burden the strained local infrastructure, generate massive local resentment, create a lot more targets for suicide bombers, and it's hard to see what more they could really do than is being done now. It's not like we're being overrun by vast numbers of insurgents; our main problem with defeating the insurgency isn't manpower, it's finding the insurgents, because they won't come out and fight (they've learned they always lose a straight fight regardless of numbers). A nonsectarian native Iraqi force, loyal to democratically elected leaders, that can better gather intel and dig insurgents out, is probably the best solution available in an imperfect situation.

Also, unlike the 1920s, we're trying to democratize, not conquer Iraq; a million American soldiers would breed massive resentment and not help our goals one bit.

The number of troops appears to be about right for the tasks they're doing, which increasingly are training-related. Iraqis are now providing half the forces in 90% of operations, and are begining to take responsibility for entire AOs.

I think there is a terrible lack of perpective among the chattering class on what it takes to win a counterinsurgency, esp. how much time, probably partly driven by how easy the war to remove the regime was by comparison. By this time next year, it seems likely pro-democracy Iraqis will have most of the country pretty well in hand and U.S. troops levels will actually begin to drop significantly.

You argue that there weren't enough troups to support a larger initial deployment, therefore the number used was correct.

A counter to that argument is: if you didn't have enough troups, you shouldn't have invaded at all. This was
an optional war; we could have waited if we wanted to (even if there were WMDs).
We had enough troops to liberate Iraq which was our goal. Bush never had any desire to occupy Iraq (i.e. turn it into a colony). As liberators it's duty to destroy the Tyrant's army and secret police, which we’re still in the process of doing. The rest is up to the Iraqis although we'll help as much as we can.
I think a small footprint brings advantages and disadvantages - just as the post says.

To the poster who wants faster rotations, that would defeat the purpose of having troops get used to the area, terrain, people, etc. That's how you win counter-insurgency.

I'm sorry for being intrusive in to your blog. But I am Melissa and I am a mother of two that is just trying to get out of an incredible financial debt. See my hubby is away in Iraq trying to protect this great country that we live in, and I am at home with our two kids telling bill collectors please be patiant. When my husband returns from war we will beable to catch up on our payments. We have already had are 2001 Ford repossessed from the bank, and are now down to a 83 buick that is rusted from front to back and the heater don't work, and tire tax is due in November.

I'm not asking for your pitty because we got our ownselfs into this mess but we would love you and thank you in our prayers if you would just keep this link on your blog for others to view.

God Bless You.

Melissa K. W.
To see my family view this page. My Family

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