Carronade The Yankee Sailor Carronade

The Sea is a choosy mistress. She takes the men that come to her and weighs them and measures them. The ones she adores, she keeps; the ones she hates, she destroys. The rest she casts back to land. I count myself among the adored, for I am Her willing Captive.

I've relocated to a new Yankee Sailor.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Flawed Assumptions About Iraq

Kevin Drum, in the Washington Monthly contemplates the ramifications of an early American withdrawl from Iraq, and comes to some reasonable conclusions...based on flawed assumptions. For instance, on the argument that America needs to double the number of troops on the ground in Iraq, Kevin asserts...
These arguments are absurd. There are no more troops. Period. What's more, there's no way we can get more in either the near or medium term. We could start up a draft tomorrow and it would still be a year before we had any additional combat brigades available. If you discount the draft and consider only realistic scenarios, it would take us at least two years to bring a significant number of new troops online. Suggesting otherwise is just wishful thinking.
Perhaps not merely wishful thinking. At the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States had a minimal, peacetime force, and managed to initiate two major offensives within a year from a standing start - at Guadalcanal and North Africa. This is not really an issue, because the number of troops on the ground isn't the problem, as you will soon see.
The problem, as Niall Ferguson and others persuasively argue, is that our current troop strength isn't nearly enough to defeat an apparently well armed and highly motivated insurgency. Without more troops we're doomed to failure.
Doomed to failure? Perhaps if we misunderstand the purpose of the American presence in Iraq. Mr Ferguson seems to assume that America intends to colonize Iraq, since his example is from nearly a century ago. The goal of America is diametrically opposed to the British force Mr. Niall references, which was to subjugate Iraq and dominate it indefinitely. Only when Britain realized that the economic benefit assumed from the Mandate wouldn't materialize did they contemplate departure.

America's goal from the outset was to depose the Hussein regime and assist Iraq in building a representative government. If we manufacture an artifical and unrealistic timeline calling for withdrawl to satisfy people who expect such a task to last no longer than commercial breaks we're doomed, but the goals are realistic if we're committed to finishing the job.

Kevin then goes on to describe a scenario, that once again sounds resonable, but doesn't fit with the facts. The important consequences he posits from this scenario is:
As virtually all observers fear, Iraq...falls into bloody civil war. Hundreds of thousands die. Neighboring countries are pulled in. Eventually, a new dictator, perhaps a Shiite ayatollah, takes control and forms a passionately anti-American government.
Not likely. First, part of what's going on in Iraq can already be described as civil war. The other part of it is a geurilla war of conquest by the religious idealouges that are there to help install a government that is compatible with their ideology and attempt to force an American withdrawl under conditions that are unfavorable to the long-term success and stability of Iraq.

Second, the end result of an American pullout would much more likely be the fragmentation of Iraq into de facto Shi'ite, Kurdish and Sunni states. The odds of one dictator or party being able to control all of Iraq again is infinitessimal. At this point, it's multiparty democracy or fragmentation.

Finally, Kevin spends several paragraphs contemplating whether Republicans or Democrats would get blamed for the failure. In response to this I ask, who cares? Internally we may be able to debate the who's who of the guilty in American politics, but the rest of the world will simply blame America. In addition, the Islamists will once again be able to claim that if they stick to it long enough, America can be chased from the battlefield. Neither of these consequences should be acceptable, so the only possible course of action is to keep the pressure on with the force we have, continue to build and train Iraq's security forces, and ensure that Iraqis build a representative government that allows for the substantial participation of all factions in government and equal protection for every Iraqi under the law.

Update: a reader pointed out an error in my timing on the first campaigns in WWII. He is correct that the draft and the expansion of the Army started well before the war. The analogy to WWII is, admitedly, imperfect because in that conflict we were trying to defeat two very large standing armies, and that is not the case in Iraq. The insurgency in Iraq is not the Wehrmacht and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is not Erwin Rommel!

Thanks to Mudville Gazette and Outside the Beltway for open posts.