Thursday, September 27, 2007

The terrible arithmetic of the Iraq war

In March 1864 [Ulysses S.] Grant was appointed General-in-Chief commanding all armies of the U.S. Throughout the War, President Lincoln had bemoaned the fact that although the North outnumbered the South in population, resources and finances, he could find no Union general to take advantage of this disparity. Lincoln had found his general who "knew how to do the arithmetic."
Mason-Dixon Chat Forum

We don't have to go back to the Civil War to find another U.S. general who knew how to do the arithmetic of war, only to February 2003.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee then Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki coyly stated, "...something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required." The figures Shinseki would not openly state are estimated to be on the order of 300,000 to 500,000 "boots on the ground" to pacify a country of 25 million people in a territory as large a California. And since the United States military, at that time had, and continues to have, significant force commitments in Afghanistan, Bosnia, South Korea and Germany, as well as the U.S. Marine Corps la la-land of Okinawa and smaller numbers of U.S. troops scattered in the Central Asian "Stans" and Central and South American, there just was not enough volunteers in the All Volunteer Force to go around.

But as we know older but not much wiser heads in the Pentagon poo-pooed Shinseki's alarmist rhetoric and bit him a fond farewell into a well deserved retirement. Heck, "Big Daddy" Don Rumseld and Paul "Wolfie" Wolfowitz figured, America will only need 100,000 troops to secure Iraq, 150,000 tops!

Well, were did Rummy and Wolfie come up with their figures? Did they just pull them out of their asses? Could be? But I don't think so. They had to arrive at that number somewhere, somehow. According to a Global essay titled "Where are the Legions? [SPQR] Global Deployments of U.S. Forces"

As of January 2005, there are some 250,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen deployed in support of combat, peacekeeping, and deterrence operations. This figure does not include those forces normally present in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom or Japan unless bases at those locations are actively supporting a combat operation. Furthermore, tours of duty in these locations are routine and not considered hardship tours. If one were to include these forces the number of deployed troops worldwide would be around 350,000.

O.K. ask yourself, why do we need forces stationed in Germany? Japan? World War II has been over for 62 years now. Neither Germany or Japan has made any moves threatening world peace. Yet the United States still maintains troops in those two nations, as it does in the Axis Powers' little partner Italy. The rationale, I guess, is that troops in these nations serve as a first line of defense in case the Soviets get any ideas. Well, the Soviet Union went the way of the dodo fifteen years ago, so there you go. But I forget Bosnia. Again, why does the U.S. need military bases in Germany, Italy and Japan, since the U.S. military's established bases in Bosnia? I have read the absurd argument that if the United States shuts its bases in Germany and Japan, those two robust economies will greatly suffer!

So what I figure, and I am no expert, is, if the United States administration of George W. Bush, the Republican-dominated Congress and the Rumsfeld-led Pentagon were ever serious about a long-range occupation of Iraq why did they not do any pre-invasion groundwork, close some bases NATO bases in Europe, bases in Japan and cancel some of the Army's smaller worldwide "training" missions? I mean if Bush, the Republican Congress and the Rumsfeld Defense Department had not intended on a long term occupation why did it fire, first post-invasion administrator, Jay Garner? Why not follow George H.W. "Poppy" Bush's model of "regime change" ? Why did they let L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer carry out the de-Ba'athification of Iraq, thereby demobilizing both the Iraqi army and national and local police forces, the only native agencies of stability until a new civilian government could be constituted? And did Bremer act on his own or on orders from high up?

Stupidity? Hubris? There are two popular explanations for the Bush administration's post-invasion actions in Iraq. However, let us backtrack to the beginning for a second shall we.

In the run-up to invasion was it merely a speech writer's hyperbole that transformed two minor irritants to U.S. global hegemony into an axis-of-evil with Saddam's Iraq in the 2002 State of the Union Address? After all, Iran's leaders at that time wanted to be rid of Saddam as much as our boy king. And North Korea needed only one more famine before the skeletal masses toppled Kim Jong-Il off his elevator shoes.

Yet in that one speech Bush transformed "dear leader's" pompadour into a deadly nuclear mushroom cloud and the Iranian ayatollahs into Saddam's drinking buddies.

With threats such as these the United States could not redeploy out of Korea, Germany or Japan. The long suffering citizens of Okinawa would have to put up with 20,000 swaggering, arrogant U.S. Marines for a little longer. One never knew when the spectral, starving hoards of the diminutive North Korean dictator would stream down to engulf the well-fed, Brobdingnagian forces of our enfeebled, ally South Korea. And the Iranian ayatollahs, in support of their bosom friend Saddam, might try a flanking movement, sweep through the "Stans," gobble up Turkey and slide into Greece!

The architects of the Iraq invasion and occupation, with the exception of the president, had all been in and out of the higher echelons of federal governmental service for the better parts of thirty years, either in a White House staff, the Department of Defense and the CIA. So before the Iraq invasion they had to know the exact location, strength and readiness disposition of every American military unit on land and sea.

It was while watching the testimony of General David Betray-usPetraeus, overall commander of the MultiNational Force-Iraq (MNF-I), before the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services joint committees, that this political general was laying the groundwork for a protracted U.S. stay in Iraq. After all, he only promised troop "re deployments" "...until we reach the pre-surge level of 15 brigade combat teams by mid-July 2008." Beyond that, "I do not believe it is reasonable to have an adequate appreciation for the pace of further reductions and mission adjustments beyond the summer of 2008 until about mid-March of next year." In other words from a "surge" high of 172,000 soldiers and marines in Iraq to around 140,000 to 150,000 combat troops. A great withdrawal indeed.

That's when I turned to my friend, with whom I was watching this televised dog-and-pony show, and said, "You know how Lincoln said Grant knew the terrible arithmetic of war? I think these guys know that they can keep this thing going without pissing off a significant portion of the American public. I think they know that the America public will put up with 100,000 to 150,000 troops in Iraq for a long time without massive protest."

"Aw, c'mon, Ernie, you don't think they'd be that cynical, do you?"

I arched an eyebrow, "Look that this administration's record."

My buddy turned reflexive, "Remember, I said at the beginning of this thing that the America people would turn against it once America deaths hit twenty a day. This last week 19 killed in Iraq, one of the worst weeks, but still not to a level that'll piss a lot of people off."

"Yeah, just enough boys coming home in boxes, " I said, "so certain segments of society can "honor" our fallen "heroes" on the local news but not enough that it really ramps up an anti-war movement."

"That makes sense, why else do we have all these bourgie funeral processions and sends offs and stuff." He added, "Ya can't go wrong playing on the American public's appetite for sentimentality!"

The terrible arithmetic the Bush administration has calculated is that anything greater than present troop levels in Iraq may tip the majority of the American people into the anti-war column. As it is combat deaths are low enough that the small segment who yet support the war are featured, at least once a month, on local television newscasts performing the rite of "welcoming the fallen hero home." These overtly sentimental funeral services always have a requisite avenue of American flags and, thanks in large part to Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps, for the fallen hero, motorcycle riding "honor guard" to drive away protesters. I'm sure this includes those who truly want an end to America's occupation of Iraq.

Yet, on the other hand, there are not enough young men and women serving in Iraq to activate those, who while opposed, have no personal investment in seeing the occupation end. All those who serve in Iraq are volunteers and they are there because they want to be there. Perhaps Richard Nixon's biggest mistake in his conduct of the Vietnam War was acquiescing to the anti-war movement's criticism of the Selective Service System, being too selective, and instituting a military draft lottery. When white, suburban college students were pulled out of class to train for combat in Vietnam that's when the shit really hit the fan.

The Bush administration knows this. As do the cowardly anti-warriors who resist any and all calls for a national service draft.

And so do the top three Democratic candidates for president. As witnessed in the recent debate of September 25, John Edwards, Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton,"...refused on Wednesday night to promise that they would withdraw all American troops from Iraq by the end of their first term, saying in a televised debate here that they could not predict the future challenges in Iraq."(New York

As long as there is an All Volunteer Force. And as long as troop levels remain constantly around a 100,000 to 150,000 the American public will put up with the continued occupation of Iraq and subjugation of its people. This is the cynical and terrible arithmetic of Iraq.

No comments: