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Thursday, May 04, 2006

On the decision to disband the Iraqi Army, etc... 
I'm elevating this to the main page from a commenter, since I couldn't have put it any better:

"The problem with all this discussion is that it skirts the political and focuses on strictly military issues, which I understand since this is a military blog, but I find the lack of the political discussion along with the military (also a Clausewitz principle) to be naive and, in one case here, extremely misleading.

For instance, commenter above notes that Rumsfeld had the Iraqi Army disbanded. As if, first of all, he had the sole decision making or any decision making in that effort beyond the fact that our military forces rolled them up and large numbers (practically the entire force) simply disappeared. Most commenters act as if there were 300,000 Iraq soldiers who had returned to their bases and were waiting instructions from a new government. They simply did not exist.

Further, Bremer wrote a piece not long ago about the situation which apparently most people ignored. It's interesting that many assume that it was totally a Bush administration decision, part of the plan. Possibly because Wolfowitz and others supported it in noted plans.

Bremer noted that his recommendation to disband came from the Iraqi Interim government who did not want the old army operating in Iraq and not part of their political future. Its not really hard to understand why that was. For MG Eaton or anyone else to dismiss the reality of the Iraqi Army as it existed (or didn't) in relationship to some plan they would have preferred is wearing blinders. Or putting their hands over their eyes and their fingers in their ears yelling "lalalalalala" so it does not impact their view of reality.

Why did the Iraqis not want the Iraq army as it stood at the time of defeat? Officers were political animals. we're not talking about the political minded officers of our own military, we're talking the Nazi version where officers were not promoted based on their ability to lead. They were Ba'ath officers. They routinely abused their own soldiers. They were corrupt, taking money from their own soldiers in extortion scams (all the way from high command to NCOs).
Loyalty was definitely in question. Would you really want to give politically motivated officers with social connections to Sunni/Ba'athists access to tanks, artillery and other weapons without having attempted some vetting first?

Then there was the issue of the army as an arm of the Ba'athist regime. This army had committed atrocities against its own people. Not just simple repression. Murder, sweeps into villages, round up of all citizens (including children), imprisonment and whole sale slaughter. This was going on up to the time of the invasion because Saddam feared the complicity of parts of his population with our invasion. The interim government would have been crazy to try to keep this army and present it as "re-educated" to the masses when the masses were 60% shia who had been oppressed.

In fact, in case you've missed the real war going on there, many old Ba'ath regime army officers have been assassinated as well as other known political leaders. The news was full of it in 2003 and 2004, even 2005 had several killings that continued the culling of these people who the population rightly surmised would not be punished any time soon for their acts (since it took so long to arrest and try Saddam and very few army officers have been arrested and tried for their activities) so they decided to go vigilante. Do you really think the population would have supported such an army or that we would have been able to weed out and retrain these forces in proper military conduct (beyond telling soldiers to shoot at something)?

In regards to the other political situation, maybe some folks missed the fact that this war was being billed as a war of liberation along with the "stop Saddam" war. General Eaton and shinseki, among others, still smarting over the political war fought in Vietnam, bring over a lot of baggage into their ideology of committing war. They want to take out politics all together and fight a straight war, state on state, where they could consider a whole nation to be the enemy and commit war against it in that fashion. That is the only purpose for the number of troops and types of weapons systems they were advocating for.

We could have done that, but, if you think the current outcry against actions there are ugly and caused diplomatic relations issues with our allies, imagine the war you are talking about in relation to that. I still recall the reaction to the Turkey Shoot in Gulf War I when we were destroying huge numbers of retreating Iraqi soldiers and armaments. I recall that we stopped that for political purposes as well. We can debate that in terms of our current war if we wanted to, but it speaks much about how we are viewed in the world. We are the big, ugly stick that is perceived as a giant stomping around without regard to damage and deaths.

that is what Eaton is suggesting. What he likes to pretend is that we would have had this giant force going through Iraq instead of the smaller force and the outcome in deaths for civilians and soldiers would have somehow been the same (or less) with the caveat that afterwards we would have had all of these soldiers to control and patrol Iraq. Nice theory, but highly unlikely. That we would have committed such a war in the face of the political situation is also blind.

warriors do not like to think about politics messing with their war. Warriors still smarting over Vietnam even less so. The fact is, warriors wouldnt have a war to fight if it was not due to political asperations, thus, at given times, the political controls the war and at others war controls the political.

To ignore the political in favor of simply arguing straight military tactics or strategy just seems completely dishonest and that is in fact how I view Eaton's commentary. He is even being extremely dishonest with himself because that is the only way he could have written this op-ed and felt good about it."

Comments:
Disbanding the Iraqi Army was a mistake no matter how you slice it. I fully concede the fact that you had many units that went home rather than fight, and that many of your higher ranking officers had strong personal connects to the Baathist party. However, there was nothing precluding recalling the Army (offering actual paychecks can do wonders), vetting the ranking members, and retraining the units that had been attrited of those with suspect loyalties (after having catalogued them in the BATS database, making it easier to track down those who put their skill set to use as an insurgent).

Additionally, the Iraqi Army was part of the plan for securing Iraq and assisting with reconstruction, and yet we disbanded it while at the same time cancelling the deployment of 1CAV.

If we had the same aggressive plan of vetting and retraining the Iraqi Army in place in May 2003 as we implemented following General Luck's visit back in 2004, I think we'd have a much different situation today than we actually find ourselves in. While the Iraqi Army is only one piece of this, it is an important piece. We chose a route that pissed off and turned of the Sunni wholesale instead of a route that could have achieved some buy-in and kept others on the fence.

As an interesting look back at what the AWC published back prior to the start of OIF, here's a link and excerpt from a piece written by Dr. Crane (who is the lead author for the joint USMC-Army FM on counterinsurgency doctrine) and Dr. Terrill.

http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB182.pdf

A Force for Unity: Dealing with the Iraqi Military. While a struggle for power between civilian and military elites would contribute to Iraqi fragmentation, the military can also serve as a unifying force under certain conditions. In a highly diverse and ragmented society like Iraq, the military (primarily the ground forces) is one of the few national institutions that stresses national unity as an important principle. Conscripts are at least publicly encouraged to rise above parochial loyalties and may be stationed in parts of the country far from their ethnic
kinsmen. To tear apart the Army in the war’s aftermath could lead to the destruction of one of the only forces for unity within the society. Breaking up large elements of the army also raises the possibility that demobilized soldiers could affiliate with ethnic or tribal militias.
The role of the current Iraqi military in a post-Saddam regime is unclear. Some of the elite units with special regime protection functions will clearly have to be disbanded, but it is less certain what to do with the more mainstream units. Officers in the regular army have often resented Saddam’s interference in military activities and been particularly angered by the actions of Baathist political officers in their units. Moreover, regular army units are of low priority for resupply with equipment, spare parts, and other military provisions. Under these
circumstances, at least some underlying discontent is possible, and it is conceivable that the Iraqi Army would be
willing to work with U.S. or coalition forces in a postwar
environment under the proper conditions. U.S. occupation
policy may therefore be well-served by attentiveness to the
potential willingness and capabilities of key elements of the Iraqi military in rebuilding the country.

 
Bremer noted that his recommendation to disband came from the Iraqi Interim government who did not want the old army operating in Iraq and not part of their political future.

Factually wrong. The IGC was formed on 13 July 03- http://www.cpa-iraq.org/government/governing_council.html#. The Iraqi Army was disbanded on 23 May 03 as part of CPA Order #2 (Cobra II, pages 586-590). It was not possible for an Iraqi government to recommend this, even if you are referring to the IGC, one that didn't have a popular mandate. Since you can't search Cobra II online, the best link I could come up with was the following from the CPA website that shows that recruiting for the NIA happening before the appointment of the IGC (notice the size of the NIA and the huge number of former soldiers/officers who couldn't join because of the force cap of 10K in the first year, and 40K at end state - what a large pool of young and probably unemployed people or older people with organizational skills to piss off!) - http://www.iraqcoalition.org/pressreleases/23June03PR6_good_news.pdf
 
General Eaton and shinseki, among others, still smarting over the political war fought in Vietnam, bring over a lot of baggage into their ideology of committing war. They want to take out politics all together and fight a straight war, state on state, where they could consider a whole nation to be the enemy and commit war against it in that fashion. That is the only purpose for the number of troops and types of weapons systems they were advocating for.

While I don't know about General Eaton, you are 100% wrong with your description of General Shinseki's thoughts. Here's the 25 February 2003 Senate Armed Services Committee testimony that created the stir over the troop levels for post-war Iraq in the first place:

"General Eaton and shinseki, among others, still smarting over the political war fought in Vietnam, bring over a lot of baggage into their ideology of committing war. They want to take out politics all together and fight a straight war, state on state, where they could consider a whole nation to be the enemy and commit war against it in that fashion. That is the only purpose for the number of troops and types of weapons systems they were advocating for."
 
Sorry for the cut and paste snafu above. If you can Jason, please delete. Thakns.

General Eaton and shinseki, among others, still smarting over the political war fought in Vietnam, bring over a lot of baggage into their ideology of committing war. They want to take out politics all together and fight a straight war, state on state, where they could consider a whole nation to be the enemy and commit war against it in that fashion. That is the only purpose for the number of troops and types of weapons systems they were advocating for.

While I don't know about General Eaton, you are 100% wrong with your description of General Shinseki's thoughts. Here's the 25 February 2003 Senate Armed Services Committee testimony that created the stir over the troop levels for post-war Iraq in the first place:

"Senator Levin: GEN Shinseki, could you give us some idea as to the magnitude of the Army’s force requirements for an occupation of Iraq following a successful completion of the war?

General Shinseki: In specific numbers, I would have to rely on combatant commanders’ exact requirements. But I think . . .

Senator Levin: How about a range?

General Shinseki: I would say that what’s been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers, are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We’re talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that’s fairly significant with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so, it takes significant ground force presence to maintain [a] safe and secure environment to ensure that the people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this."
 
The reality is that keeping the Iraqi Army in place WAS part of the plan. The plan was simple and to some degree very audacious. My understanding (and this comes from purely internet/email group discussions with the primary author of the plan) was for approximately 50k troops to be used. This low force total was for a simple reason...small foot print. A small foot print means a smaller foot on the Iraqi people.

The 50k were to be used to destroy the center of gravity of the country, ala Baghdad. The 50k would hit the major cities; destroy the major units that were placing themselves in the way...take out the government...then allow the Iraqi Army elements that didn't fight to secure the country.

The plan was seriously light on men and material of course, but Rumsfield went with a slightly modified version...ala 3x the troops. But the major aspects remained the same. The US Military was not going to be in the "reconstruction”/”nation building” effort. Only in the "Quick Reaction Force" support role for the Iraqi Army.

The problem is that when you have a plan such as this but only follow half of it...you set yourself up for failure. And that is the point. The failure is that we neither executed part B of the existing plan, nor did we have a secondary option for part B. Nothing. Just rolled in…killed some bad guys…sent the leadership hiding into holes…and then stopped for the cameras. Not a bad bit of work of course, a lot of hard, dangerous, and very respectful soldiering…but then it was “Mission Accomplished” and we were done. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

And the people who are screaming on both sides of the issue are responding to the part B. Either the Iraqi Army needed to be in place to provide that mission, or we needed more troops to do it. That's pretty much it. Disbanding the Iraqi Army may or may not have been a mistake, but it was not the original plan...which means we changed it mid stream. Which is cool...such is the prerogative of the leadership (who ever they may be), but that still leads to issues. When you have an objective or a mission element that needs to be achieved...you still have to have it done.

That is the issue. The mission suffered because of the decision. The mission required someone to provide over watch on the country. To begin reconstruction efforts. To provide basic security throughout the population. That failed. It failed because we had no one on the job. Neither the Iraqi Army was in place, nor did we have enough troops on the ground to perform the mission ourselves. I use the term “failed” rather strong. Don’t get me wrong, our forces (of which I know you were a part) did an excellent job under the circumstances, but the mission suffered because of the lack of a part B.

I don't much care about which course should have been taken. I don't get caught up in the Iraqi Army shouldn't have been disbanded crowd, or the "we needed more troops crowd". All I know is that the mission suffered. That is the AAR point that needs to be made...not whether or not the Iraqi Army should have been disbanded or we should have had more troops. The fact is that we had a plan...and we did not execute it...and we did not have a Plan B. So the country (not all of it...) feel into disarray and became disorganized, allowing the insurgents a feeding ground. Do I suggest that more troops, a functioning Iraqi Army post invasion, or some other plan would have stop the insurgents from jumping in? Or the criminals from trying their hand? Or the regime elements from fighting? Of course not. But when fail to secure the country, provide for the people, and those other Part B missions…you allow for the feeding of those counter elements. The more food and room to grow they have the more they will…and the more you will have to deal with at a later time.

Well I have babbled long enough. I would like to close with this... You should read John Keegan's "On War". He takes Clausewitz 's war/politics theory to task and pretty much destroys it.

cl
 
I checked out MG Eaton's March op-ed from the NYT, and it appears as if his position was also incorrectly distorted:

"Mr. Rumsfeld has also failed in terms of operations in Iraq. He rejected the so-called Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force and sent just enough tech-enhanced
troops to complete what we called Phase III of the war — ground combat against the uniformed Iraqis. He ignored competent advisers like Gen. Anthony Zinni and others who predicted that the Iraqi Army and security forces might melt away after the state apparatus self-destructed, leading to chaos.
It is all too clear that General Shinseki was right:
several hundred thousand men would have made a big difference then, as we began Phase IV, or country reconstruction. There was
never a question that we would
make quick work of the Iraqi Army."


I won't sit here and defend the generals coming out and calling for the civilian leadership to resign; however, the underlying issue isn't whether these generals crossed an invisible line in the civil-military relationship (that is a separate debate), but whether disbanding the Iraqi Army was the appropriate decision, and whether its execution was done appropriately.
 
Simple question:

How many troops was Shinseki talking about when he said,"...I would say that what’s been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers..."? [Shinseki, Feb. 2003]

Did that mean 200K? 250K? 300K? 400K? 500K? I've seen speculation but no hard numbers. What was "mobilized" as of Feb. 2003?:

We know the total coalition strength in Iraq as of May 2003 was 173K [Brookings]. How many other units were mobilized that were not in Iraq by May 2003? Was 1CAV "mobilized" by Feb. 2003? Let's assume it was. Wiki tells me 1CAV had 17K troops when they finally did deploy to Iraq. Any other units "mobilized"?

My point here is that- while I'm not certain- I think Shinseki meant around 200K "mobilized" coalition troops when he made that statement. And if that is true does the Shinseki "controversy" come down to the 1CAV not being deployed?
 
A bit off-topic, but does anyone here happen to know how many troops GEN Shinseki would have wanted to send into Afghanistan? I've searched a bit, but keep coming up with his statements on Iraq.

I am not being a wise-ass with this question, just looking for some calibration on a point that is raised an awful lot.
 
Well, it wouldn't matter, because that call was not up to GEN Shinseki to make, but up to the CENTCOM Commander, Tommy Franks.

The Chief of Staff's role isn't to decide on the troop level needed. The Chief of Staff's role is to work with other commands - especially FORSCOM, to facilitate CENTCOM's needs.

Not incidentally, a close reading of Shinseki's statement implies to me that Shinseki was not advocating significant additional mobilizations, but that he thought that "what's been mobilized to this point" would be sufficient.

"Several" to me usually implies more than two. But remember, when we say we invaded with 173,000, that's only the tip of the iceberg. At the 4 star level, you also consider the 400,000 or so troops working in support of that effort at mobilization centers, at ports, at railway centers, on ships at sea, at CENTCOM's forward CP in Qatar, in the UAE, and at airfields in Guam and Diego Garcia.
 
Why did we disband the German and Japanese armed forces after WW II? Because they were politicized and represented a danger.

Just imagine that we had kept the Iraqi forces intact. We'd have to slowly vet them and in the meantime these are organized units that could go out and attack our smaller outposts, etc. Just imagine the PR coup when say a battallion "defected" to the insurgents?

And if their officers would truly be swayed by a mere paycheck, well, we can get them to re-enter the new army, no? (That happened in many cases.) And if they are motivated Baathists they might never be swayed by money to help the Shia.

I think the BIGGEST missed opportunity would have been the establishment of an oil trust fund with monthly checks sent to each Iraqi. What a great carrot and proof that the USA is not there for the oil. I'd guess it would have stopped a lot of the mercenary IED types, and lowered attacks on oil facilities. Best of all, we could deny checks to areas that were not in government control, i.e. a stick...better tell your husband to stop his mortaring and turn in your neighbor or the checks won't come.
 
1. Well Webster doesn't help much...

"Several"
a : more than one [several pleas] b : more than two but fewer than many [moved several inches] c chiefly dialect : being a great many.

2. Frontline interview with Former Army Secretary Thomas White:

Frontline: When Gen. Shinseki testifies, he's uncomfortable answering the question, "What's the number? How many do we need?" He doesn't want to answer it, and then he kind of does a math problem, and then he answers it. I think it's two days later Wolfowitz comes in.

White: Oh, yeah. First of all, it's the Senate Armed Services Committee, and it's Sen. Carl Levin. And Levin wants a number, which is not an unreasonable thing for Sen. Levin to be asking for -- "What's going to happen when the war's over? How many people?" -- right? That's a reasonable question to ask.

And so Shinseki tells him, "Maybe as many as 200,000," or some words to that effect. But the number 200,000 was out there. I thought that was perfectly reasonable. So the next morning, I get a call from Wolfowitz, who is upset that Shinseki would give this number. And I forget exactly what I said, but I said: "Well, he's an expert. He was asked. He has a fundamental responsibility to answer the questions and offer his professional opinion, which he did. And there was some basis to the opinion because he is a relative expert on the subject ."... They go public shortly thereafter to discredit Shinseki. And [Wolfowitz] says "wildly off the mark," and he gives this little speech about he "couldn't conceive of how you would have a case where it takes more people to secure the peace than it does to win the war." Well, you can look over the past 50 years in stability operations, and it's quite clear that that's precisely how the equation normally comes out, that Shinseki has a basis for this view. And Rumsfeld says something about it as well at the time.


http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/pentagon/interviews/white.html


3. So what does this all mean?

Maybe:
a. Shinseki believed there should be around 200K coalition troops in the post war occupation.
b. When the administration heard the ambiguous "several thousand" they got made mad because the Centcom plan approved by the JCS including Shinseki called for less [173K].
c. They were loathe to make this a "heavy" occupation for understandable domestic and international opinion [mostly Iraqi].
d. the administration wanted to reduce the post war occuaption quickly.
e. If anyone believes Shinseki wanted more than 200K troops I which they would post their evidence.
f. If not I believe that this Shinseki "controversy" is way over blown. Would the 1CAV changed that much? Anything's possible. Likely, no.
 
Regarding "disbanding" Saddam's Army and de-Baathification here's a Frontline interview with Walter Slocombe who was the lead defense official with the CPA.

Frontline:There are two central moments that everybody talks about and everybody writes about and everybody reads about: disbanding the army and de-Baathification. Let's start with disbanding the army. Tell me about the theory behind that.

Slocombe: We didn't disband the army. The army disbanded itself. ... There was no army to disband. We were not sending people home who were doing useful work or failing to put them to work cleaning streets or whatever. ... What we did do was to formally dissolve all of the institutions of Saddam's security system. The intelligence, his military, his party structure, his information and propaganda structure were formally disbanded and the property turned over to the Coalition Provisional Authority. And in addition, former and formal military ranks were abolished. But we also said at the time that we would make payments to former officers or to former military personnel, and we actually set up that system within about six weeks and have, in fact, continued to pay the former officers. And we even made a one-time payment to the conscripts. That's the story on the so-called disbanding.

So the issue was not whether you were going to send them home or keep them; it was were you going to try to pull them back. And I think and continue to believe that there would have been very serious problems even if it had been a good idea. And if you want, I'll explain why it might not have been a good idea. But even if it had been a good idea, there were very, very serious practical problems.

First of all, remember it was a conscript army with overwhelmingly Shia conscripts and overwhelmingly Sunni officers. So the troops were not going to come rushing back with colors because the officers who'd been beating them and shaking them down two weeks ago had asked them to come. I'm not sure who would have shown up for this enterprise. You certainly could have got a lot of officers. The Iraqi army had 11,000 general officers. The American Army, which is approximately the size of the Iraqi army -- not all American armed forces, but the American Army, approximately the same size, has 300 general officers. You could have gotten a lot of officers. It would have been very hard to get any privates or sergeants.

Furthermore, even if they had come back, as I said, all the facilities were trashed. And you can't run an army without places for the troops to sleep and eat and take care of bodily functions, much less without equipment so you can move them and train them and communicate with them, all those sorts of things. ... In order to have an army that can do anything, you've got to have a structure; you've got to have facilities for them; you've got to have arms; you've got to have a leadership that they will follow.

And then there is the problem that using a badly trained, ethnically unacceptable army with very dubious, politically loyal leadership to do a critical security job is a formula for disaster. ...

When we began to train the Iraqi army, we used old, reconditioned Iraqi bases. But it cost a substantial amount of money and took a substantial amount of time using Iraqi contractors to reconstitute the facilities. ... We began the training in August, but I'm not sure that we could have done it any faster. ... You know, we've been a year at this, and we're just beginning to get competent units. One of the real traps was you get guys, you'd recruit them locally, you'd put them in uniforms, and kind of give them a pep talk. And they looked cool; their uniforms were quite sharp. Give them a new AK-47 and they look like soldiers, but they weren't soldiers. I mean, you could take this guy, cut his hair, put him in a uniform, make him learn, and he would have already learned how to drill and shoot because everybody in Iraq knows how to do that. And he would look sharp, but he wouldn't be a soldier for six weeks or eight weeks.

Those are the practical problems. So I think it's a practical matter that it was never an option of calling back the Iraqi army. I think also there would have been very serious political problems, because in practice, what you would have gotten would have been Sunni units. ... I think it would have been a political disaster in terms of how it would have been responded to by the population.



Frontline: Take me into the meetings at the Pentagon before you went over about this. Was this a controversial topic at all?

Slocombe: Not particularly. The issue was, we have a situation where the army has disappeared as an institution you can do anything useful with. One of the things which is hard to remember now is that there was real fear in Iraq at the beginning that Saddam was coming back. The Iraqis had very strong memories of 1991, when the Americans had been there, pulled back, [and] there had been an uprising. ... It was very important to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that whatever else was going to happen, Saddam and his cronies were not coming back, and so taking formal action to dissolve this whole infrastructure and make clear that whereas we were going to take, say, the old Ministry of Health, the old Ministry of Education, the old Ministry of Finance, the old Ministry of Irrigation and try to reconstruct them, build them back using basically the same people except at the very top levels, we were not going to do that with the army, and we were certainly not going to do it with the Republican Guard.


Frontline: And de-Baathification?

Slocombe: The Baath Party, like any totalitarian party, had a rank structure distinct from other ranks, distinct from your military rank or your bureaucratic rank. And they were things like division leader and cell leader and front leader, and they corresponded to military ranks. The only people who were disqualified because of having been in the Baath Party were people who were in the Baath Party at the top four ranks. Out of a Baath Party membership of well over a million, maybe more, only about 40,000 people were in this category.

Now, people say, "Well, you had to be in the Baath Party in order to have a professional job," which is probably true. But you didn't have to be at the top levels. Remember, there were 11,000 generals. Of the 11,000 generals, only about 10 percent of the brigadier generals were in these top four ranks. It means you could get to be a general in the Iraqi army without having to be that active in the Party.

So those people were excluded from public life. And in addition, anybody who was at the top three levels in the Ministry -- the minister, the deputy minister or the director general -- [anyone] who was in the Baath Party at all, [was] removed. And I've got to say that for the most part, that was also a decision which was greeted with enthusiasm by the people lower down, because as you can imagine, even in relatively technical areas, most of the people who Saddam put in charge were not necessarily the best engineers or the best teachers or the best doctors. They were the ones who were the most politically loyal.

There was a lot of controversy about all these high school teachers who were fired because they'd been in the Baath Party. I like to say that it seems like there were 40,000 people at the top four ranks in the Baath Party, 50,000 of whom are high school teachers. I mean, that doesn't compute. It may well be that at the local level people wanted to get rid of them for good reasons, maybe wanted to get rid of them for bad reasons and use their Baath Party affiliation as an excuse, but that was not part of the policy. And relatively, in general, the sentiment from the Iraqi population was that the Coalition Provisional Authority was too generous to former Baathists, not that we were too hard on them. Obviously the former Baathists didn't agree with this. But that's a different issue.



Frontline: So why is it that a lot of people we talked to, including your friend John Hamre, say that disbanding the army, de-Baathification, was the single biggest problem?

Slocombe: I hate to sound like a broken record: [W]e didn't disband the army. The de-Baathification was, if anything, regarded by the population as too mild, not too severe. These are people whom I respect. I think on this one they just are trying to find a simple silverbullet-type problem that just doesn't correspond to the facts.
 
GEN Keane USA (ret): On More Troops

1. April, 2004: House Armed Services Committee

Mr. SPRATT.
In your view, and I put this question to the whole panel, could today's chaotic situation have been foreseeable and avoidable? Would more troops have made a difference in establishing security immediately, preventing the looting in the immediate aftermath of the war? Did we put too much reliance on the assurance of the expatriates that this would be a cake-walk, an easy objective? Was our prewar planning for the postwar period adequate? And had it been, could we have avoided this, or would this have likely happened in any event?

[…]

Gen. KEANE [Former Vice Chief of Staff USA retired]
Yes. Thank you. In terms of the level of violence that we encountered, I don't think that anything we possibly could have done would have prevented that level of violence. I do believe that the prewar planning to deal with post-regime, you know, the depth of that planning, was nowhere in comparison to what it was to take the regime down. I mean, that is the simple truth of it. So in that sense, we could probably conclude more could have been done in the prewar planning for post-regime operations. And, again, you have to understand, intellectually I think where most of us were, we were not anticipating that level of violence. So that is fair criticism. In terms of troop size, I mean it is so conventional to talk about more troops every time we have another violent act in Iraq. And I don't think there is a person in Washington who—or anybody else in this country that can really make that reasoned judgment, whether they be military or civilian. And when I was the Acting Chief of Staff during the summer, the first thing I asked John Abizaid when he took over from Franks [July, 2003] was, John, do you have enough troops to do the mission? And I said, if you need more troops, don't even think about where the administration is or what your perception is on this; put it on the table, and I am absolutely convinced Secretary Rumsfeld and others will give you the troops you have, and don't think about what the impact will be on the stress of the Army. John had looked at it very closely himself. He is a thoughtful person. He came to the same conclusion that General Franks did; that they really had enough troops to deal with the actions they had. What they were desperately in need of was more targeted, focused intelligence upon which to use those troops against. It becomes a balance here. You know, the more troops you put into Iraq, the more targets you actually create, the more you have to take care of them logistically and move convoys up the road. And what these commanders are doing is drawing that balance. So where I come out on this thing, unless we collectively have lost confidence in Abizaid and Sanchez and their leaders, I think we should support the conclusions that they are coming to, because they have the facts and they have the capacity to make that analysis. And it can't be done here. That is the reality of it. And there is no easy solutions to the challenges we are facing.


2. March, 2006: New York Times
Instead of sending additional troops to impose order after the fall of Baghdad, Mr. Rumsfeld and General Franks canceled the deployment of the First Cavalry Division; General McKiernan was unhappy with the decision, which was made at a time when ground forces were needed to deal with the chaos in Iraq.
[…]
With the tide in the United States' favor, he began to raise the issue of canceling the deployment of the First Cavalry Division — some 16,000 soldiers. General Franks eventually went along. Though the general insisted he was not pressured to agree, he later acknowledged that the defense secretary had put the issue on the table. "Don Rumsfeld did in fact make the decision to off-ramp the First Cavalry Division," General Franks said in an earlier interview with The New York Times. General McKiernan, the senior United States general in Iraq at the time, was not happy about the decision but did not protest. Three years later, with thousands of lives lost in the tumult of Iraq, senior officers say that canceling the division was a mistake, one that reduced the number of American forces just as the Fedayeen, former soldiers and Arab jihadists were beginning to organize in what would become an insurgency.
"The Baathist insurgency surprised us and we had not developed a comprehensive option for dealing with this possibility, one that would have included more military police, civil affairs units, interrogators, interpreters and Special Operations forces," said Gen. Jack Keane of the Army, who is now retired and served as the acting chief of staff during the summer of 2003.

"If we had planned for an insurgency, we probably would have deployed the First Cavalry Division and it would have assisted greatly with the initial occupation. "This was not just an intelligence community failure, but also our failure as senior military leaders."

3. Clear Now?
 
Saying what was a mistake or not is partially important. What is more important is no so much how bad of a mistake it was, but what we can learn about it (if possible) to deal with the situation now. I think all Iraqi military officers major and below were asked back, so part of that mistake has been mitigated.

I think it would be a good idea to call back all of the OLD Iraqi army now and evaluate them as we are creating a new one. I wouldn't be suprpised that the new Army are the same Soldiers as in the old one. That would explain how their numbers never seem to grow past 200,000. We should have the Generals get accountability of all of their men. Those that do not report need to be put on wanted lists: they have either been murdered or joined the insurgency. Have a ceremony of the Old Army turning over command to the new Army.

The Old Army knows where all the Artillery Shells that are used for IED's are stored. One comment said we could not have "dismissed" the Old Army because they were not there to be dismissed. Or that they would never have listened to us. I used to agree with this. However, it must be clear that elements of the Old Army (maybe the Fedayeen Saddam) are running the Inusrgency and aren't listening to us anyways.

I still think that Abu Ghraib, shutting down Al-Sadr's newspaper, and the bombings that chased out the UN and Spain were bigger contributors than dissolving the old army.
 
Very frustrating to read these excellent comments, and Jason's excellent column. Why? Because I recall the very first time I heard the "disbanding" of the Iraqi Army called a mistake.

My reaction: what army? It self-disbanded. And beyond that, common sense analysis paints an even starker picture than Jason and others have here.

First, there was simply no alternative to disbanding the Ba'athist security institutions, including the military. This was an absolute, mandatory no-brainer from a political standpoint (political meaning our strategic position in the country would have taken an instant, enormous hit - not a PR hit, a body blow). Moreover, this is/was obvious to any intelligent observer. I believe this is what Jason is referring to by politics - not the somewhat ethereal and conceptual stuff from Clausewitz.

Second, even assuming the army hadn't self-disbanded (a gigantic counterfactual assumption illustrating how poor the critics' analysis is), what would you do with it? It was - famously, one would think, having just shown once again its true colors - an ineffective, brutal, corrupt organization. And that's leaving aside its unavoidable internal disintegration, post-Saddam (Sunni officers, Shi'a cannon fodder)!

So - I suppose this "force", if it had been somehow magically wished back into existence (along with its non-functioning or missing equipment and unusable facilities), was somehow to have .... done what, exactly? Pacify Anbar? A preposterous concept. Yet this is the logical extension - it's really a reductio ad absurdum - of the critics' silly and vague assertion that somehow a non-disbanded army would have made any difference.

The only thing I would have done differently would have been to re-assemble as much of the Sunni officer corps as I could - that is, behind wire, sleeping on cots, being variously interrogated, recruited, coerced, isolated, and in all cases kept out of circulation.

Which brings us to the great mystery of Iraq war criticism. None of it makes the slightest sense - and at the same time, no one ever seems to actually deal with the very real problems and possible alternative approaches that continue to this day.

The great critical question is not why was an already self-disbanded useless army that had to be formally disbanded for imperative political reasons in fact formally disbanded - the question is why weren't preventive measures taken to ensure that some elements of it did not lend their expertise and knowledge to a possible (then non-existent) insurgency? At the least, why weren't the officer payrolls systematically mined for info on potential enemy leadership, and those people detained or questioned?

Yet stupefyingly silly questions still get "debated" (even in the comments above). So what about the 1stCav? What, exactly, would it have been doing if it had deployed to Iraq in the entire year following the capture of Baghdad? What were the other units already here doing? That's right - digging wells, painting schools, helping local communities set up councils, etc.

In fact, even assuming there were 150,000 more appropriate troops sitting around and available, and had been sent to Iraq in the first year, what would THEY have been doing? It's as though the "debate" over Iraq is conducted without any basis in the actual facts of the case.

The "insurgency" wasn't a serious issue for a long time after the fall of Baghdad. Remember, Fallujah Round One was April 2004, not April 2003. Even quite a while after April 2004, there were still large parts of the country with no serious security problem (that is, security problem apart from the criminal one - which is in some ways still the main problem in Iraq).

So, "more troops" would have very likely been withdrawn long before the security problems picked up momentum. And until then, what would our corps of Monday morning QBs have had them do?

This is just one example of the other-worldly, fictional atmosphere of Iraq "debates". They simply aren't serious, or based on the actual facts of the case.

I've been in Baghdad for over a year, as a civilian, but living/working with military officers who without exception find the execution of the war for the last year at least to be unacceptable. The question for all the "more troops" crowd, and for Gen. Casey and the DOD leadership today as well, is "what will you do with them?".

There are no easy, magical solutions (then, or now). But the strangle-hold of force-protection mentality, the delusion of "hearts and minds" or multi-dimensional COIN tactics, and the general lack of seriousness in our military efforts here are the things that thoughtful "critics" should be talking about.

It's really astounding. I haven't seen two sentences devoted to the actual, ongoing problem with our military operation here, yet we have oodles of baseless discussion (even books, like the latest glass-is-one-tenth-of-one-percent empty second-guessing conventional-wisdom pap from Gordon and Trainor) about non-mistakes and non-problems from 3 years ago.

It's so bad that the MNC-I commander is now being publicly challenged by civlians here regarding some COIN warfare assumptions. Yet all I see/hear in the public square (this space being one of the several meritorious exceptions) are mostly illiterate, backward-looking dissections of unimportant non-issues .....
 
IceCold,
A few questions.

1. If the Iraqi Army was such a Baathist stronghold, then why were only 8K out of the 140K officers and NCOs committed Baathists? Also, why was the Special Republican Guard the only unit allowed inside Baghdad. If they were such an instrument of Baathist power, then why should Saddam fear any possible coup from them?

2. If there was no possible way to reassemble the Iraqi Army, then how did they mysteriously show up to the designated locations to collect their termination pay checks?

3. How do you explain that the decision to disband the Iraqi Army came as a surprise to the JCS and division commanders on the ground in Iraq in May 2003? How do you explain their non-support for the decision?

4. You seem to believe in your narration that the insurgency came out of nowhere during Fallujah I. What do you make of the huge upswing in attacks during Ramadan 2003, which followed the steady increase of attacks and growing sophistication of the IEDs that were encountered prior to Ramadan? Was that criminal in nature? Is your hypothesis that additional troops could not have provided any additional security to have prevented the growth of the insurgency because it just came out of nowhere? Why do you think that General Abizaid specifically mentioned a guerilla campaign in his very first news event as the CENTCOM commander?

5. Do you think that the decision to completely disband the Iraqi military encouraged or discouraged Sunni buy-in into the nascent political process being dictated by the CPA? What second and third order effects do you think this had? How did Sunni outreach programs fare? Were they well funded and effective?

6. What do you make of John Sawers memos? On target or completely off base? For a summary of them, you can read this article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1730427,00.html

If you want the primary source, you can look in the appendices in your favorite book Cobra II.

7. You wanted to incarcerate tens of thousands of Iraqi officers after reassembling them. Why do you even pose this question since you make an argument earlier in your narration that you couldn't reassemble the self-disbanded army? Furthermore, what troops would you have used to secure all of these individuals? The 800th MP BDE obviously showed that it wouldn't have been up to the task of additional longer-term prisoners that would have required multiple screenings from HUMINT teams that wouldn't have been available in enough numbers to have made the process timely in any fashion.

Those are just a few questions since you seem to claim that you know how to discuss the issue on the basis of facts that others are lacking. I'm looking forward to the answers.
 
Actually it's the analysis of facts, as well as the absence of many pertinent facts, that I find so wanting in almost all of these "what if" festivals.

1. Saddam's approach to security was extreme - perhaps with good reason - but his playing the odds the way he did on internal regime security says nothing about the military's status among the populace. And among the bulk of the populace, the army of old was not a respected or trusted institution. It, and the Ba'ath Party (and some sub-set of its leadership) had to go. Ignore that reality in 2003 and you'd buy all sorts of trouble, with little benefit.

2. Assembling former soldiers (who'd almost all made themselves "former" on their own initiative) to get money isn't surprising. The point is the former force was neither capable nor trustworthy (nor is it easy to imagine how an abusive Sunni-officered force with Shi'a troops would function after the collapse of the regime - I see the problems of even new institutions and their internal sectarian and class dysfunctionality every day). Even today, the new force - not so mysteriously - manages to administer immunization shots and hand out paychecks on the same day.

3. I have no idea. I'd be interested in their "non-support" for the decision, especially how they dealt with the political reality that drove it. Again, they were in favor of RE-assembling the former army? As before, the questions would be how, and to what end. Recall the performance of the first "new" army units during the festivities of April 2004. Understandable, probably - but if even the new army had such problems, what would some sort of partially reassembled old army hve been capable of bringing to the situation?

4. I don't believe that "additional troops could not have provided any additional security to have prevented the growth of the insurgency because it just came out of nowhere". Then again, I don't know HOW "additional" troops could have done so, and I have yet to hear any suggestions as to how. The "controversy" over numbers is quite empty absent a detailed explanation of exactly how additional troops would be used in a way that would produce a different outcome over a given time period. I don't think any realistic level of troops could have "prevented" the violence - and absent very different methods of operation, I don't see how any likely level could have dealt with it more successfully than has been the case so far. I do think that in the largely quiet months following the quick victory in spring '03, "more" troops might have been withdrawn.

5. I'd guess it didn't much matter. Sunni fear/resentment/active opposition to the new order is probably based on lots of different things, but I can't imagine much "buy-in" back in 2003 regardless of whether the ineffective untrustworthy and absentee officer corps was formally dismissed or not. I think you greatly exaggerate the importance of the formality of disbanding the old army. It was the whole loss of dominant status, and the (justified) fear of a rough future at the hands of the Shi'a majority, that mattered, and matters. The buy-in that's occurred so far, starting with the October const. referendum, seems based on the realization that armed rebellion had failed and in some cases on the pleas of Sunni leaders who had read the writing on the wall and also succumbed to the blandishments of our energetic ambassador. I think the whole Sunni outreach effort was launched prematurely - or perhaps that it should have followed a crushing of armed resistance that has simply never been attempted - but so far at least the results have been acceptable in terms of further weakening Sunni opposition by splitting it. Retaining ineffective and untrustworthy officers who wouldn't be obeyed by their Shi'a troops in some inactive limbo status would have had zero effect on Sunni perceptions that they were the losers in the new order.

6. I haven't seem 'em, but if I have time I'll follow the link you provide. I couldn't force myself through Gordon/Trainor's '91 war book, so I doubt I'll try on their current one either. I'll just try to come up with my own ways in which a war that was prosecuted at an historically low cost in blood and so quickly that a major challenge was sleep deprivation among our troops could have been won more cheaply and faster, if only ....

7. At the least I would have liked to see preventive detention on an experimental basis. Agreed that any mass preventive detention scheme would have required substantial personnel and facilities, though depending on how you did it, not neccessarily huge amounts of both. But this is at least one real example of WHAT one might do with additional troops. Applying various screens and judgment at each stage of the process, one could filter out many of these people before long-term detention was reached. There would be whole areas where not much if any of this were needed - it would all be linked to insurgent activity in a given area. And it's hard to believe that our intelligence awareness under such a system would not be significantly better than it has been most of the time to date (we're now seeing the fruits of Iraqi security forces being available, so in some cases the intel is much improved, if still not adequate). "Timely" would only be defined by need - I'd have wanted lots of screening right away in Ramadi and Adhamiya and parts of Baquba, none at all in Karbala and Nasariyah and Kut.

I don't start with what I consider the very dubious and often breezy assumption that there was or is a set of simple alternatives that would have/would produce substantially different outcomes here. Therefore none of my suggestions for alternatives carry the implication that things today would be dramatically different, "if only".

Most of these discussions I've observed so far have been enlightening, but only regarding the lack of rigor among some participants, not regarding persuasive alternative approaches that take account of the facts.
 
Great blogging and comments from all for me a first timer; some serious stuff here. When I think about all the 2020 hindsight comments made about the mistakes that were made (and will continue to be made 'cause after all it is a friggin' no sh...ing war!); ones that stick in my mind and don't see any ink are the following:
-didn't Shinseki, Zinni, and the growing host of book peddlars and media experts who used to wear stars and bars come to leadership roles during the 90s when roughly 300k active duty Army troops were downsized/rightsized out of existence by so called Cold War peace dividends inherited by their civilian CINC of the 90s, Boy Scout in Chief Bill Clinton? Does anyone remember the quickie trip the junior senator from New York, Hillary made in Thanksgiving 2003 to counter President Bush and Rumsfeld's trips to the troops? Her comments were something like "gee, it sure would have been nice to have a bigger footprint here..."; all the while when during her "co-dependency presidency" the active duty forces were being cut and deprioritized while fighting the series of Crises in Crime and Education which called for the increases of 100s of thousands of new cops in the street and new teachers in the classroom(those footprints never made it either!). What the emboldened stars and bars set and we others should concentrate on instead of yearning for past glory and proper decision had we been in charge, is what to do now. Unless we want it happening in the streets here on a regular basis, the terrs out there have to be kept out there, and the sleepers here have to be discovered and neutralized. That should give everybody enough to keep busy with the next couple of decades all the while trying to maintain our level of civil liberties and security; good luck, it is doable, but not while fighting over mistakes which are OBE. Smitty, ltusnrpcv
 
PS. Victor Davis Hanson's piece on historical hindsight is totally relevant and a heck of a lot better than what I have tried to say. Link to him for a mindful.
 
1. Saddam's approach to security was extreme - perhaps with good reason - but his playing the odds the way he did on internal regime security says nothing about the military's status among the populace. And among the bulk of the populace, the army of old was not a respected or trusted institution. It, and the Ba'ath Party (and some sub-set of its leadership) had to go. Ignore that reality in 2003 and you'd buy all sorts of trouble, with little benefit.

Once again, 8K of 140K of the officers and NCOs fit the description of de-Baathification to the fourth level (which is what the de-Baathification decree looked at). So, you had a force that was not part and parcel with Saddam, and once you disband the SRG and RG, and you are left with a force that is defanged of Baathist ties.

As far as being a not respected, not trusted institution, can you point to some sources that back that up? That’s an opposing conclusion to the AWC paper that I linked to earlier, and a conclusion that I’ve only seen forwarded by the person responsible for drafting the decision to disband the Iraqi Army. I’m sure that there are others out there that will claim the opposite, but I have yet to see compelling evidence that far outweighs the other side. I know that Chalabi favored disbanding and starting from scratch, but he also said that we would be greeted as liberators en masse and would find WMD, something that rarely happened.

So, I see a vetting process capable of flushing the Baathists from the military (remember, many of the Sunni officers weren’t pricks, but had the Baathist equivalent of commissars breathing over them and being the enforcer) as well as capable of building the link diagrams and database of biometrics, addresses, etc. that we are having to collect now the hard way. I’d certainly agree that there would be those that would not be happy with a decision to completely disband, but I don’t see it as something that had to happen – de-Saddamization is what I see as being the requirement, and so a vetting process along with a very public display of advancing Shia into leadership positions should have met the mark in a sufficient manner.

2. Assembling former soldiers (who'd almost all made themselves "former" on their own initiative) to get money isn't surprising. The point is the former force was neither capable nor trustworthy (nor is it easy to imagine how an abusive Sunni-officered force with Shi'a troops would function after the collapse of the regime - I see the problems of even new institutions and their internal sectarian and class dysfunctionality every day). Even today, the new force - not so mysteriously - manages to administer immunization shots and hand out paychecks on the same day.

Yet, these same incapable and untrustworthy forces are being trained and showing some levels of proficiency. The argument that the Army was worthless is a non-starter in many respects – if the argument is that they weren’t prepared to fight an insurgency of the size and intensity of Fallujah circa 2004 at the beginning of 2003, then I’d agree. However, you didn’t have an insurgency of the size and intensity of Fallujah circa 2004 until 2004. Furthermore, some of the reasons, but certainly not all, you had an insurgency of the size and intensity of Fallujah circa 2004 is that the insurgency drew from disgruntled former members of the military that was disbanded in May 2003. So, even though I find some validity to this argument, it has lots of circularity to it.

If the argument is that the Army couldn’t have been used to run checkpoints and be moved to the border to stop the flow foreigners (who while small in number, provided a large boost of capability in terms of funding and some expertise), then I’d have to disagree. Would they be 100% effective? No. Would they provide a deterrent, be capable of some interdiction operations, and give some sense of presence and security? Yes. Would they be receiving pay checks that could feed their family and keep them busy, meaning that they wouldn’t have become part of the 60% that were unemployed in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, making them less susceptible to recruitment into the insurgency in order to put food on the table? Yes.

As far as the sectarian divide, while certainly part of the landscape back in 2003, it is unsurprisingly more pronounced today for several reasons. The same occurred back in the Balkans, when the fault lines became more pronounced following the violence of the 1990s. So, to look at the fault lines today as the appropriate lens to use paints the wrong picture. This doesn’t mean the problem goes away, but it does mean that it wouldn’t have been the obstacle that it is seen as today.

3. I have no idea. I'd be interested in their "non-support" for the decision, especially how they dealt with the political reality that drove it. Again, they were in favor of RE-assembling the former army? As before, the questions would be how, and to what end. Recall the performance of the first "new" army units during the festivities of April 2004. Understandable, probably - but if even the new army had such problems, what would some sort of partially reassembled old army hve been capable of bringing to the situation?

I’ll start with the performance in April 2004 – the context is that the training of the NIA was a low priority that wasn’t properly resourced and contracted out (i.e. not important enough to dedicate troops to). This woefully resourced effort isn’t surprising given that the decision to disband the Army came out of nowhere (i.e. CENTCOM had used the Iraqi Army as part of their occupation troop to task planning) and was very unambitious in its numbers (only 12K trained in the first year). So, you’re back to using an argument where the problem was more a lack of emphasis and resourcing and comparing two very different time periods, which is a faulty construction.

Now, as far as those who did not support the disbanding decision, and I’m using Cobra II as my source here, MG Petraeus was fully against the decision, and told Bremer of the sh!tstorm he created up in Mosul. Given the success that he had in navigating the ethnic divides of Mosul and Ninevah Province, I’d certainly give lots of weight and credence to his thoughts. LTG McKiernan had wanted to reform the Iraqi Army and had pitched his plan to Slocombe when he arrived in Baghdad. GEN Abizaid was also in favor of reforming the Iraqi Army. So, you had numerous members of the senior command in Iraq who opposed the idea, but had to salute and march when the decision was made.

Lastly, as far as the political reality, it still goes back to de-Baathification/de-Saddamization or a complete clean sweep. Do you cut the tumor off or remove the whole organ instead? A tough balancing act, indeed, but certainly not an obviously choice with only one option as you portray it to be.

4. I don't believe that "additional troops could not have provided any additional security to have prevented the growth of the insurgency because it just came out of nowhere". Then again, I don't know HOW "additional" troops could have done so, and I have yet to hear any suggestions as to how. The "controversy" over numbers is quite empty absent a detailed explanation of exactly how additional troops would be used in a way that would produce a different outcome over a given time period. I don't think any realistic level of troops could have "prevented" the violence - and absent very different methods of operation, I don't see how any likely level could have dealt with it more successfully than has been the case so far. I do think that in the largely quiet months following the quick victory in spring '03, "more" troops might have been withdrawn.

So you believe that force levels in Al Anbar province were entirely adequate, ranging from an ACR + in the beginning to an immobile Airborne Brigade by the end of 2003, and that this force level had nothing to do with Al Anbar becoming the major stronghold with multiple jihadist rat lines that it did?

Now, I’d agree that there is both a quantity and a quality component here, and while this is not an attempt to slight those serving in OIF I and even beyond, but we were certainly lacking in quality in terms of using the most appropriate COIN strategies in numerous instances (this is a slight on the professional development of officers and NCOs, where COIN was never a topic except for a few who pursued it on their own accord, and Vietnam was studied through a conventional lens with Ia Drang being a focus, for example). So, fixing quantity doesn’t solve the whole COIN problem. However, just looking at the fact that Anbar was an economy of force mission cannot be ignored as some innocuous scenario, and so there was also a corresponding quantity issue.

I also find the argument that withdrawing more troops in Spring ’03 to be completely void of validity. The shadow of fear from the regime still existed and loomed large when I got into country at the end of 2003, as it was always the “fedayeen” that people were scared of (and this was after Saddam was captured, although many still didn’t know whether or not to believe even that). Withdrawing would have meant even more chaos, and empowered the former regime even more to regain control. This alternative is a pipe dream.

5. I'd guess it didn't much matter. Sunni fear/resentment/active opposition to the new order is probably based on lots of different things, but I can't imagine much "buy-in" back in 2003 regardless of whether the ineffective untrustworthy and absentee officer corps was formally dismissed or not. I think you greatly exaggerate the importance of the formality of disbanding the old army. It was the whole loss of dominant status, and the (justified) fear of a rough future at the hands of the Shi'a majority, that mattered, and matters. The buy-in that's occurred so far, starting with the October const. referendum, seems based on the realization that armed rebellion had failed and in some cases on the pleas of Sunni leaders who had read the writing on the wall and also succumbed to the blandishments of our energetic ambassador. I think the whole Sunni outreach effort was launched prematurely - or perhaps that it should have followed a crushing of armed resistance that has simply never been attempted - but so far at least the results have been acceptable in terms of further weakening Sunni opposition by splitting it. Retaining ineffective and untrustworthy officers who wouldn't be obeyed by their Shi'a troops in some inactive limbo status would have had zero effect on Sunni perceptions that they were the losers in the new order.

The Sunni outreach program in 2003 had tons of tribes from the Sunni triangle coming to the meetings; however, the lack of funding to provide carrots delegitimized this effort quickly. The disbanding of the Army certainly didn’t help. While you wouldn’t have gotten a complete Sunni buy-in, there were enough non-Baathist and non-Islamist Sunni tribes to have gained a significant buy-in and an even more significant portion of tribes who wouldn’t have “cashed out” from the ongoing occupation/reconstruction process. I reject any notion that looks at the issue as an either all or nothing proposition in terms of the Sunni. Heck, you still don’t have 100% Sunni buy-in today.

In any event, an insurgency needs local support to operate and provide sanctuary. The Euphrates campaign took over a year and is still ongoing with respect to Ramadi. Would you have seen such an entrenched insurgency and an ability for AQ to run ratlines through Anbar had say 1/3-2/3 of the tribes denied AQ access at a minimum and if that many had openly supported an American political process as a maximum? IMO, such a result would have severely crippled the ability of the nascent insurgency to grow and develop the contacts required to grow to the levels it did. Furthermore, this buy-in/non cash-out would have resulted in getting Sunni into uniform quicker (given a decision to disband the Army), putting a Sunni face on operations in the Sunni triangle, and relieving some of the sectarian pressures that you see from the highly segregated ISF that emerged in the Sunni boycott.

6. I haven't seem 'em, but if I have time I'll follow the link you provide. I couldn't force myself through Gordon/Trainor's '91 war book, so I doubt I'll try on their current one either. I'll just try to come up with my own ways in which a war that was prosecuted at an historically low cost in blood and so quickly that a major challenge was sleep deprivation among our troops could have been won more cheaply and faster, if only ....

I didn’t get a chance to read the entire article – they certainly pulled out many of the quotations correctly, and so focus on those. Being a UK paper, which tend to be negative towards OIF, it’s quite possible that there may be some tenuous conclusions, so I’ll just put in my disclaimer that I’m not necessarily endorsing the entire article.

As far as the ’91 book, I haven’t read that. I wasn’t sure if I was going to read Cobra II, but having read some excerpts in the book store, I decided to give it a shot. Certainly a bit on the bah humbug side, and so there are some sections where I think that they stretch the conclusions a bit too far, but all in all, I think they provide some excellent factual information and raise some very valid questions, the most basic of which is the fact that Phase IV operations required the full deployment of 275K troops AND the Iraqi Army. However, the Iraqi Army was disbanded and troop deployments were “off-ramped” so that they didn’t even reach the 275K.

Lastly, to look at OIF as two distinct conflicts, a kinetic phase with a clean break to Phase IV ops is to provide an opportunity to focus too much on the “success” of the kinetic phase so as to ignore the hard lessons that we’ve been having to learn from our COIN ops and the transition. You have to look at what the endstate of the mission was at the beginning of OIF, and if the kinetic phase didn’t provide the proper assets for transition into a Phase IV, then there are issues with the kinetic phase as well. What is amazing to me is how much time was spent on planning the march to Baghdad in comparison to how little time was spent on planning for the aftermath (although GEN Franks contention was that it would only take two weeks to get to Baghdad), and I would find it tough to argue that we had the proper assets on the ground on April 7 to deal with what we faced. In fact, do you think that we had enough assets on the ground to prevent the exfiltration of WMD to Syria if they had existed in large numbers? You can call it a catastrophic success if you’d like, but it still doesn’t make up for the fact that we weren’t prepared for what we had in our hands.

7. At the least I would have liked to see preventive detention on an experimental basis. Agreed that any mass preventive detention scheme would have required substantial personnel and facilities, though depending on how you did it, not neccessarily huge amounts of both. But this is at least one real example of WHAT one might do with additional troops. Applying various screens and judgment at each stage of the process, one could filter out many of these people before long-term detention was reached. There would be whole areas where not much if any of this were needed - it would all be linked to insurgent activity in a given area. And it's hard to believe that our intelligence awareness under such a system would not be significantly better than it has been most of the time to date (we're now seeing the fruits of Iraqi security forces being available, so in some cases the intel is much improved, if still not adequate). "Timely" would only be defined by need - I'd have wanted lots of screening right away in Ramadi and Adhamiya and parts of Baquba, none at all in Karbala and Nasariyah and Kut.

I see these preventative detentions as being only fuel for the fire in creating the insurgency. The mass detentions that occurred in 2003 have been cited quite often as one of the deciding factors for driving Iraqis to the insurgents. These mass detentions would work in the same manner. However, you could have achieved many of the same benefits by screening and vetting a recalled Army; however, by not detaining the individuals for the screening, you don’t insult and impugn the honor of the officers/soldiers, and so you won’t drive those who would have otherwise been wrongly detained to join an insurgent group.

I don't start with what I consider the very dubious and often breezy assumption that there was or is a set of simple alternatives that would have/would produce substantially different outcomes here. Therefore none of my suggestions for alternatives carry the implication that things today would be dramatically different, "if only".

Most of these discussions I've observed so far have been enlightening, but only regarding the lack of rigor among some participants, not regarding persuasive alternative approaches that take account of the facts.


I’d agree that there is no single course of action that would have been flawless; however, I find your approach to be lacking a foundation based on successful counterinsurgency principles that have been proven to work in the 20th Century and ignores the fact that the “less is more” approach runs counter what has succeeded in the past. In fact, the less is more approach even undercut the CENTCOM plan for total force levels in Iraq, and we have been paying the price.
 
Smitty,

Powell, Wolfowitz, and Cheney approved the Base Force concept which resulted in the drawdown of the US Army active endstrength from 18 divisions to 12 divisions (plus numerous separate brigades). This began almost immediately following ODS, with the VII Corps redeploying home to the US and demobilizing.

https://www.afa.org/magazine/Dec2000/1200base.asp

The Bottom Up Review, which was completed in 1993, made the decision to drawdown from 12 to 10 divisions.

http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1387/MR1387.ch3.pdf

As far as the BUR, Shinseki was an ADC(M) with 3ID when the BUR began and then was a Director of Training with ODCS Ops Plans, and Zinni was DCG USMC Combat Development Command at Quantico.

I couldn’t find any information on what the services’ positions were on the BUR, but considering that most Clinton proposals were opposed (e.g. the open rebellion of the JCS that resulted in “don’t ask, don’t tell”) and that the services had opposed the Base Force drawdowns for the longest, I think that it would be a safe assumption that the services most likely opposed the BUR as well. So, while I think that the Army and USMC most likely opposed the BUR reductions, even if they didn’t, while Shinseki and Zinni may have had a chance to put in a recommendation, they weren’t wearing 4-stars, and so to implicate them as potential architects of the BUR decision is a large stretch in any sense.
 
1. Shek's biggest problem is a grasp of history: if he was in command in post-war Germany, he would have re-constituted the SS to patrol the areas around places such as Buchenwald so that the "disenfranchised" Germans could be "brought-in"

2. 8k out of 140k... how do you cite this number? That's like saying only 10% of the officer corp was loyal to hitler, yet they drove on to paris, up into nordic mountains, in the deserts of africa, steps of russia, etc., with only a few conspirators willing to stand up to hitler... BTW I can't cite that 10% just as you can't cite 8k out of 140k, but I can cite that 100% of saddam's officers led troops against either their own people, other middle east countries, or the US

3. You keep talking about an army that could be re-constituted by essentially kidnapping at paycheck stands and pressing into service. So, comrade, after you conscript everyone back, what kind of loyalty does a COMMUNIST ARMY have to you or it's own people, especially after you pressed them into military service. Oh, and your "old Iraqi Army" that could be unify the country and "buy-off" the sunnis? Remember the Fallujah Brigade? According to you, I guess that saddam-loyal, communist-style-runned force just needed more "training"

4. You've got to stop with your obsession with Shinsiki and Zinni. That shrine in your closet to them scares me shek. These guys are loyal to the concepts of their own, and their own period. They believe their branch can do anything in the world and to try otherwise is blasphemy. Part of the reasoning behind Shinsiki taking away the Ranger's Black Beret and giving it to the regular army was just that- to make cooks and clerks seem elite. The clintonian generals found themselves being shoved to the side when Rumsfeld came in, with junior general-grade officers being promoted over the old dogs because of "jointness", ie the ultimate "force multiplier"

5. I have to question if you truely know thy enemy: "insurgent": a person who rises against political party or government, vying for support of the local populace. In the Iraq Campaign, there are the former ba'athist (which you want to bring into the fold so they can beat more civilians or throw them off buildings), there are sunni miltias, there are shi'ite militias, and finally Al Qa'eda organization (or more precise, affliates). Shi'ite miltias like sadr have taken a beaten and, while strong enough in the media, are being neutralized by politics and US carrots. Sunni militias were never controlled even under saddam. Ironically it is the next 2 groups which keep bring them into politics and trying to win US favor, for they slowly coming around to recognize US as the best chance to not get what saddam gave out to kurds and shi'ites. Al Qa'eda, first with the affliate Ansar al-Islam, had as more documents coming out show, a deep understanding, and infact alliance, with the ba'athist. Nowadays, foreign fighters keep dropping from the ranks of AQ, meaning that more and more ba'athist which had allied and tried to stay out of AQ areana have to pick up the slack instead of financing or the hit-and-run IED style fedayeen attacks. That was an alliance carried onto the so-called "insurgency", which is resulting in attacks against Iraqi Army standing up right now and civlians. Quite an "insurgency". I guess they are going on the oppression ticket, hoping people want more torture to help garner public support.

P.S. you link an article shek in AFA.org in hopes of smacking down your opponent and defending the original "cut-and-run" dem, bill "draft dodging bubba" clinton, yet fail to name facts such as him getting rid of 300,000 soldiers, 150 more navy ships, and, imho the greatest hurt to "force mulitpier", 6 USAF Air Wings
 
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