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August 04, 2007

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Nato

I hope ITM is right. I doubt it, but I really, really do. If Iraq turns out okay, I'll never complain about losing two years with my girl; it's worth it for the redemption of the time I spent there, the friends I left there, and the more or less innocent Iraqis I killed under the idea that it would mean life for others. It's possible that the Baghdad-first gambit will actually set up some virtuous cycle that will somehow propagate to the rest of Iraq despite how thin we are on the ground. This seems like a fantasy to me, but I have enough doubt to allow a very small sliver of hope.

Of course, I'm also trying to reconcile myself to the probability that the woman whom I'd expected to be able to see in the flesh every day by now won't be setting foot in California until the middle of 2009. It would be nice to tell myself that she was there doing something good, that it isn't all a bitter waste. It would also be nice if her unit leadership was less self-impressed and motivated to correct the ways in which it failed the soldiers and the Iraqis in the unit's ignominious last deployment. From what I can tell, they have not taken the appropriate steps to prepare for a successful deployment. That said, perhaps they are trying their hardest but simply cannot get the resources they need. Either is ominous.

I've now spent some time with National Guard combat units, and while I was favorably impressed with the motivation and personal aptitude of ARNG personnel, I was also impressed with how little equipment they have left, how strained their personnel situation has become, and how utterly unprepared the organization as a whole is for combat contingencies.

Our current engagement in Iraq is expensive and risky and I wonder that more active generals don't admit publicly how close to the bone we are, if for no other reason than to get the resources they need to mitigate the cracks appearing in the military's infrastructure. Apparently active high command has not generalized the lessons of H R McMasters' "Dereliction of Duty".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dereliction_of_Duty_%281998_book%29

I'd have more hope if I saw signs of us really facing reality, of real admission that *real* reconstruction in Iraq will require radically more resources than those for which leadership has thus far asked.

Nathan Smith

According to the Wikipedia article, McMasters has consulted with the Bush administration on Iraq and is credited with influencing policy. The Wikipedia article says the following about the book itself: "In [McMasters'] opinion, the military, particularly The Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered little to no help in charting a successful plan of action to pacify a Viet Cong insurgency in the south, nor did they provide a coherent set of military objectives to be attained against the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), Viet Cong (VC), or any of the military and political infrastructure north of the 19th parallel... In [McMasters'] opinion, the military is not a political or diplomatic tool, but force to be used appropriately to inflict massive casualties and cause maximized damage to enemy forces in order to meet objective military targets and goals."

I'm not sure I agree with McMasters here. The task of the military is to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, as pursued by the best judgment of our elected leadership. "Inflicting massive casualties and causing maximized damage to enemy forces" is not necessarily always the best way of doing that. Elected leaders should, perhaps, bear in mind that that's what the military is especially good at. But it might be more strategically useful, at any given time, to engage in targeted strikes or peacekeeping or patrolling cities, etc.

Nato's argument about the overstretchedness of the US military seems to contradict the call for more resources. Well, it doesn't if he just means they need more equipment. Let them have it! But if we also have a problem of personnel shortage-- we do, don't we?-- then that's not so easy to take care of. It's been the problem all along: the military wants more troops in Iraq for reconstruction, but we don't have those troops.

Nato

I should have been clearer: McMasters' generalized lesson has to do with high command's failure to push back against political leadership directing missions for which the military is not equipped/prepared/appropriate. Gen. Shinseki did so, but it would seem many others failed that trust, after watching what happened to Shinseki. That said, Gen. Franks resolutely refused to do any reconstruction planning - a possibly appropriate stance, from this perspective. The problem *there* was that no one with any power to bring plans into execution was doing any reconstruction planning, dooming the military into improvising one up at the lowest levels.

As for the lack of troops, I don't understand why we're in this position. Four to six years is plenty of time to anticipate a need for more dramatically troops, but the rate of growth has been low.

Nato

Incidentally, the failure to grow the military is Congress' as well as the White House's. The White House cannot unilaterally expand the military, it can only push Congress to authorize and fund it. That said, only late last year did the WH start talking about adding another 30k troops (which is about enough to add one division). A little late, considering the GWOT had already been going on for five years and OIF for three and a half. Of course, Congress was free to do it without prodding from the Executive Branch, and did not do so.

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