For Once I Hope Rich Lowry Is Wrong

But I Think He Is Right

By Erick Posted in Comments (51) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

The editor of my favorite magazine has turned pessimistic on Iraq. Rich Lowry writes

In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we face a vicious insurgency that has worn down the will of the American public. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have failed to cut off the enemy from re-supply. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have had ever-shifting military strategies. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have had trouble building effective, clean governmental institutions in the soil of an alien culture. Most importantly, in Iraq, as in Vietnam, we face the prospect of defeat. . . .

But what is that strategy? President Bush sometimes seems not to realize that having a fierce determination to see things through is only the precondition for a winning strategy. For too long, his administration has seemed content to do the bare minimum in Iraq, hoping to hold things together just enough to allow troop drawdowns that justify the administration’s assurances of progress. This hasn’t worked, since the violence in Iraq has belied the rhetoric of progress and prevented any reduction in troops. Bush would be much better served by forthrightly acknowledging Iraq’s distressing circumstances and backing an all-out push to secure Baghdad even if it takes thousands more American troops in the country.

I think Rich is right. I have picked up, more and more from families and friends supportive of the war, a general frustration that we are pulling punches, failing to engage, and trying to just get by. The country almost seems split down the middle between those who want to retreat and those who want to fight like hell. Meanwhile the administration wants to stay the course, er . . . "adapt and win."

We do, in fact, need to adapt and win. We need to fight. It does us very little good to coddle or otherwise allow people like Moqtada Al Sadr to be coddled. And it does us very little good to win hearts and minds when we and friendly Iraqis are being blown up.

I agree with Rich Lowry that we could lose Iraq. I think the best way for us to win is to make sure the Democrats do not win in November and undercut the war effort. But I also think there is no point in continuing the fight in Iraq unless we are actually going to fight.

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Lowry is possibly right that large swaths of the Administration simply aren't willing to do what they need to do to be successful.

I think his line about more troops is a tossaway as they clearly have little to nothing to do with a lot of the longer term issues, like efficient -- or at least only minimally corrupt -- government, the building of institutions, etc.

Barry McCaffery has spoken to this before on the folly of sending very junior civil service staffers to Iraq of 90 day assignments and expecting anything productive to come out of it (here on Redstate, for instance). one aspect...not to actually fight the insurgents up close and personal - the Iraqis mostly have to do that, I'd agree - but we could surely use more troops in country to cut off the terrorist/insurgent resupply routes from Iran, Syria, Jordan and Saudiland...we've done this dance before in SE Asia and it didn't work there either. Interdict enough of the resupply, then the Iraqi army/security forces might actually have a fighting chance of winning this thing.

And, that's not even getting into the weeds about us still not having a large enough active duty force - amazingly after 5 years of war - and the fact that the defense budget - while we're still in the middle of a war (W keeps saying we are, but sure doesn't act like even he believes it) - is likely going to take a hefty cut in next year's budget.

Quite frankly, most of this administration - especially the guy at the top - acts like it has lost its stomach for this whole war on terror thing, but doesn't quite know how to go ahead and get out of Iraq without looking horrible politically, so we get this sorta slow motion, half-hearted "hold on and hope for the best" situation that Lowry accurately describes in his column. W still talks a good game in his speeches, but action is pathetically and sadly missing. (I don't count chatting up the UN as action, btw.) The phrase "all hat and no cattle" comes to mind.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this is the best we're going to get out of this administration...I just hope the last 2+ years of Bush don't do so much damage that it makes it politically impossible for the next president of whichever party to continue fighting the war (or rather, to begin fighting it again).

I'd have agreed but border security isn't the problem after the campaign of fall/winter 2005 that it was.

I do agree about the Administration losing the stomach for the fight.

that's how I see it as well, regrettably.

Lowry is possibly right that large swaths of the Administration simply aren't willing to do what they need to do to be successful.

After 3+ years one has to wonder if they ever were willing to do what needed to be done - post 'major combat'. They've tried to do it on the cheap from day one and as is often the case, ended up spending way more than had they paid up to start. Internal office politics hurt as well.

And while today attention is on the capital, Basra is getting uglier as well. This latesest Baghdad campaign is likely the last big push, if one can call it that. If things don't improve by year end, its time to hit the road - perhaps leaving 10K or so outside the urban area but but close enough to act on inteligence about foreign jihadists. But in the end, there is little we can do if the Iraqi's want to kill each other to settle old scores and tribal issues.

A "vicious insurgency" has not worn down the will of the American people. The lame stream media and lame duck politicians have.

The American people want to take the gloves off and finish this thing now. We are tired of fighting half-heartedly. This thing is only going to get worse the longer we allow it to fester. What the American people definitely do not want is to pass off a much worse situation to the next generation, like so many Bill Clintons.

As Thomas Paine wrote, "If there must be trouble, let it be in my time. So that my children can live free."

They never give a breakdown whne they say "60% of the country feels we have the wrong strategy in Iraq". The implication is that 60% say we should get out, but what if some big chunk of that 60% feels the strategy is wrong because it's too soft?

Does the recent counterinsurency/counterchaos operation in Baghdad ( gives daily updates) count as a step in the right direction, too little too late, or same ol' same ol'?
What is needed. More troops? Declaration of War on al-Sadr(pretty please!)? Or, as many point out in Lebanon, is it time to go after the source of poison in Iran and Syria?

The administration seems stuck between the rock (not wanting to coddle the Iraqis and make them too reliant) and the hard place (pushing them out of the nest too early and watching them crash). Throwing november elections in the mix makes it worse. Do you back off and show signs of a pullout OR go full bore and hope you get all the fires out by october. I think they are waiting for stronger hint which way to jump. Perhaps thinking Isreal would provide one-and that fizzled.

Huh by r0cket

So, wait, Iraq is like Vietnam now?

drop in, sling a one-liner, leave. Next time substitute "gone" for "leave".

The Iraq campaign is not unlike Okinawa. And like Okinawa, the presence of enemy and conflict outside our bases doesn't reduce it's logistical importance. Iraq is the island in a sea of enemies that gives us the logistical capability to strike those enemies as we choose. Without the logistical capabilities the Iraqi campaign has provided, we would not be in the position to challenge Persia or Saudi Arabia.

We do not need to win or loose Iraq. Iraq as an entity is only important to people who didn't support our invasion that Iraq remain one country. Iraq is nothing more than a convenient administrative division created by a British empire of an earlier time. It is of little importance if Iraq where to dissolve into three countries. And the democrats should support this, since after all it was point twelve of Wilson's fourteen points

The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development

Support the Mission - Honor the troops
Exsolvo Orbis Terrarum

As I said in a previous comment, NR is threatening to become the John Birch Society of the 21st Century. Pessimism gets us nowhere in this fight.

Internet member since 1987
Member of the Surreality-Based Community

Lowry and the NRO crowd bailed on the Iraq war at least a year ago. Remember about 6 months ago (I'm pretty sure it was posted on RedState) when Buckley came out against the war and the MSM played it up because they used it to bash Bush?

NRO is the poster child for conservatives who have given up on Iraq. When Iraq wasn't done in 6 months they became antsy and gave up. They have an isolationist streak reflecting the part of the conservative movement that Buckley came from. They also apparently, based on their writings, do not believe that democracy is possible in the Middle East so they don't buy that aspect of the war. And of course there is Derbyshire and Stuttaford's let em rot attitude toward the Middle East.

Only guest poster Hanson seems to understand what is going on.

NRO also has the infuriating habit of ripping the MSM but then turning around and using MSM slanted articles when it serves their purpose.

Is Iraq perfect? No. Were mistakes made? Yes. But some progress appears to be happening so let's see where it goes.

"I'm kind of old-fashioned. I like to engage my brain before my mouth." Donald Rumsfeld

National Review came out in opposition to WFB's vacuous pair of columns, in which he sat back and criticized without actually proposing anything of substance.

And you also are in danger of making the mistake of confusing active writers on the The Corner of being representative of the NR Editorship.

Now Lowry is sitting in WFB's old job, so what he says means something, unlike what Derbyshire writes on his own. His writing here, though, isn't anything like what WFB wrote. WFB objected to Operation Iraqi Freedom on principle. Lowry is just saying the administration has made mistakes since in executing the right idea.

To equate the two shows that you're not really reading what they're writing.
"In this day and age, you're not going to get a fair shake in the media" -- Lance Armstrong

The senior editors at NR have a lot of sway. It's not unusual for a single senior editor to write most everything on certain topics with little to no influence from others or the "Editor." David Frum single-handedly drove NR on the Miers nomination until the herd turned.
Senior editors writing on The Corner are expressing their own opinions but those opinions may also be the opinion of the magazine. Other writers, unaffiliated such as John Podhoretz (JPod), are expressing only their opinions.
Rich Lowry is typical of NR personnel - very clever though actually quite limited in his experience. His whole existence is in the northeast, Catholic bubble around NR World Headquarters. They tend to be wholly unfamiliar with much of the country and Evangelical conservatives.
It looks like he woke up this morning and said, "I'm tired of hearing about frickin' Iraq..."
His column, it was his newspaper column, I believe, was wholly lacking in specifics. He looks to be one of those people who has just been so beaten down by the negative MSM news that they just want the problem to go away.
He certainly seems very unaware of any actual ground troops who return. So many of them see the MSM stories and say, "What the f*&^?" This is a war of propaganda and we are losing it - Lowry might be the latest victim.
NR has its ups and downs. I don't think it is as sharp as it once was though its overall quality of writing might be better than it used to be.
Buckley seems to be doing a Barry Goldwater - losing focus in his old age. But then he often took positions seemingly on the measure of how much consternation they could generate.
The best conservative magazine these days, IMO, is the American Enterprise (Karl Zinsmeister).
Full disclosure, I produced radio programs for NR back in the 1980s and 1990s. Full disclosure, I worked with Karl Zinsmeister in the 1980s.

John Derbyshire isn't a senior editor. Andrew Stuttaford isn't an NR editor at all. The Senior Editors are Brookhiser, Hart, Ponnuru, and Pryce-Jones.

Neither Lowry nor any of those for guys, to my knowledge, has written anything remotely like what WFB wrote:

I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes — it is America." The New York Times reporter is quoting the complaint of a clothing merchant in a Sunni stronghold in Iraq. "Everything that is going on between Sunni and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America."

One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. The same edition of the paper quotes a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samara and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that “The bombing has completely demolished” what was being attempted — to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries

Quoting the New York Times in an anti-War message, how much more silly can one get? And also note that a few weeks later, WFB also came out implicitly in favor of campaign finance restrictions on the basis of suspicion and innuendo.

But anyway, if you can't see the difference between saying "We failed," "We're going to fail unless we get back on the offense," and "I'm just tired of hearing about this," well then I suspect you have your own prejudices at work here.

What does Catholicism have to do with it anyway? That was a weird little throwaway comment.
"In this day and age, you're not going to get a fair shake in the media" -- Lance Armstrong

Neil - I want to make sure I understand you correctly and you understand me. I was contradicting you on the power of the NR editor, Rich Lowry and the workflow of the magazine.
I, like most everyone posting, saw Lowry's turn against the Iraq policy as being negative. He looks to have given up. Do you agree with that interpretation?
If you don't then we disagree. I think it was negative. Most sorry if that doesn't meet with your approval. Looks like a bunch of posters didn't meet with your approval.
But my bad overall, I should have written something much longer and more detailed.
Technically Derb and Stuttaford aren't Senior Editors. The SR designation is kind of a legacy that doesn't carry the weight it used to. Jeff Hart rarely contributes these days, Ponnuru spends a great deal of time on independent research (as does Brookhiser at times). But the magazine is more of a group effort than you understand.
Hell, I'll be straight - I worked with (not for) the magazine for around seven years so I know how it's put together. Unless you've been working there the last 10 years and they've changed I probably know more about it than you do.
You might have noticed that Derbyshire is a regular columnist and NRO has gone to the trouble of building "Derb Radio" for him. That would seem to be a lot of effort and expense for someone with so little influence in your eyes.
Also, I think you must have missed many of Derb's "Why waste our efforts in Iraq for a bunch of Arabs who only want to kill each other" (I'm paraphrasing) postings.
Stuttaford is also greatly involved in the direction of the magazine. I suspect that he is a legacy holdover from John O'Sullivan's reign. O'Sullivan was a truly great editor and he is responsible for so much of the British influence that filled NR in over the last 20 years (incl. Pryce-Jones, a recent recruit). He is a genius (and best off-the-cuff speaker I ever met). I'm sorry, I wandered.
I mistakenly assumed you understood the "Catholic" angle of NR. Guess not. I shall explain. Firstly, understand that large parts of America are not Catholic. Then understand that many (possibly most) of NR's staff past and present are very Catholic (that's a good thing in my eyes though I am not Catholic). This influences that magazine greatly - probably on a level that's not as obvious as I think it is. Their back of the book section often features reviews of books about people such as Reinhold Neibuhr or someone like that. Now outside of a very limited market many of these books are obscure even to conservatives yet NR loves them. Conservatives in say, Georgia, Texas, Nebraska, Arizona, Idaho etc aren't going to have a clue as to what a lot of this stuff is.
I'll spare you the whole Brent Bozell and Mustard Seeds saga. Suffice to say if you don't know what I'm referring to you really don't know NR history at all.
"Catholic" conservatives often have a guilty, slightly more pessimistic view of things while the Evangelicals often often have a more sunshiney approach. That's a huge generalization, of course, and there are exceptions. (I think I just explained Moby Dick by simply saying, 'It's about a guy and a whale').
It's possible I make too much of this but my point is that the magazine's crew, all very good at what they do, have a very limited exposure and this influences the magazine. I might be wrong but I don't think they have ever had an Evangelical conservative in any position of consequence. Jay Nordlinger (maybe he's one?), from Michigan, has brought in a great deal of fresh air. Jonah Goldberg also travels and comments on other parts of the country. But most of the rest tend to stay in New York and the length of their travels are to Washington, DC. Even their sports postings in The Corner often concern only New York ball teams.
I've lived in the DC area for 25 of the last 30 years though I'm originally from Texas. I can see the difference that I speak of. But maybe I'm in way too deep.
And I do believe that I pointed out that Buckley was doing a Barry Goldwater in his old age. Maybe I should clarify that one too. Barry Goldwater became much more liberal in the last decade of his life. I worked for a few years in a Captiol Hill office building down the hall from the offices of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship Fund - financed wholly by the US taxpayer via some Congressional pork courtesy of Sen. Goldwater.
Oh, NR will quote the NYT anytime it's convenient. Don't be surprised by that. If Buckley starts agreeing with Maureen Dowd though then you will have a story!
And yes, we all have our prejudices, even you! That's why you post!

The fact is, anyone on the Internet can claim he's an ex-employee of NR and start bashing people there.

In fact, depending on what kind of ex-employee we're talking about, we might EXPECT some bashing to go on. After all, when NR purged the evilcons, they made some enemies...

But whatever, I don't feel like carrying water for NR all day. I've done enough of that work today for Condi Rice and George Bush. It's fun for a while, but... you know.
"In this day and age, you're not going to get a fair shake in the media" -- Lance Armstrong

Neil - I was trying to clarify an overly complex post. You don't seem to like it when anyone debates or questions you.
I said at the top that I "worked with" not "for" NR. I produced radio programming with them (for awhile on a daily basis) in the late 1980s - mid 1990s. I'm not an ex-employee. I love the magazine. I've been a subscriber for 30 straight years. And I've seen ups and downs and drifts and shifts in the magazine.
I don't get the "evilcons" reference.
I was offering my experience as possible help into analyzing the magazine. You can take it or leave it but casting suspicions is a bit disappointing.
People with a few decades of experience in Washington conservative media can figure out who I am (or used to be) by the descriptions I've left. You should be a bit nicer and a show a little more respect for people you just met.
I shall make it a point to give you a wide berth in the future.

It's not personal; I hope you understand that we get people every day who come in here, misrepresent themselves to establish a position of right-wing credibility, and then proceed to bash the stars of the right.

It's a limitation of this medium really. But sure, give me a wide berth because I don't take people at face value on here.
"In this day and age, you're not going to get a fair shake in the media" -- Lance Armstrong

Chillin' in his back yard? Well, why didn't he SAY so?!

I'd like Rich, or any of the other fire-ready-aim commenters at the Corner, to show us HOW the US could send a significant number of additional troops to Iraq. (After the logistics resupply advice one Corner commenter gave during Hurricane Katrina--send more water to the Superdome by having C-130s drop crates of water on it*--I can't wait to hear the Corner J1's [Personnel Officer] solution for our manning problem in Iraq)

WHAT units should we send? What Army divisions or Marine Expeditionary Units are kickin' it somewhere, with time on their hands, and no other competing missions (e.g., serving as America's strategic reserve or [in the case of the USMC] its on-duty 911 force)? I'll complicate his task by stipulating that the xtra troops we send should be competent, not likely to commit wide-scale human rights violations, and capable of successfully fighting a modern counterinsurgency. Any other troops would end up being part of the problem, not the solution.

Those who call for "thousands of extra troops" make it sound as if thousands of extra (and decent) troops are available, ready to be sent. America's soldiers are tied up, and other nations with decent troops have no interest in sending enough of them to make a difference in Iraq.

We'll probably have to fight this fight with the resources we have. In that case, the planners have to devise plans that can succeed with the troops we have, not the ones we wished we had.

Let Mr. Lowry spell out how he'd resource a significant expansion of US troop presence in Iraq. Call up more Guard and Reserve units? Sorry, but pretty much all of the Guard and Reserve's top-line combat brigades are either finishing tours in Iraq , or have already been there. Extend Army tours in Iraq to 18 months, and USMC to one year? Mmmmmm...that would be great for the morale of our full-time military and their families. Cut the amount of time devoted to reconstitution/pre-deployment training before a unit goes BACK to Iraq/Afghanistan? Again, not good for morale, and not really good for unit readiness, either.

All of the options I listed are doable, but carry risk. Risk to the readiness, morale, and thus long-term health of our military. (A Vietnam legacy Lowry fails to mention--a badly damaged Army, which took a long time to repair).

I submit that Rich Lowry's argument would be stronger if he'd go on record and specify WHICH of these painful steps, if he were President, he'd endorse. Because, in order to find the "thousands more American troops" Rich Lowry wants, the President (or, in this case, US commander-in-chief) will have to make painful decisions, with real implications for the long-term health of our military.

So, step up, Mr. Lowry. Place yourself on record. In your article you chide the Democrats for refusing to make "positive prescriptions" or take potentially unpopular policy stands re. how they'd succeed in Iraq. Well then, shouldn't you avoid doing the same thing?

What harsh steps do you recommend the President take, in order to raise your "thousands more American troops?" Or, if you think we can find those extra troops with a minimum of pain, please speak up, and tell us how.

* The proper military term for such an airdrop is "bombing run."

"Who will stand/On either hand/And guard this bridge with me?" (Macaulay)

...but what you avoid addressing is *why* there aren't any to send without doing all those hard/currently impossible things that you mention in your post (I'd mostly agree with all of those assessments, btw)...

smager wrote: <<...>> "We'll probably have to fight this fight with the resources we have. In that case, the planners have to devise plans that can succeed with the troops we have, not the ones we wished we had.<<...>>

So, why are we in such a tight spot regarding military manpower? Well, because this administration has been derelict in asking for and pushing for an increase in the size of the active duty force, because it's never been realistic about the number of soldiers (real war fighters, not paper pushers...we have plenty of those) needed in the active duty force to fight and win this war (especially when large scale nation building may well be a part of it in more places than just Iraq and Afghanistan...btw, I'm becoming less and less a fan of nation building, but W sure seems to believe in it).

Instead of asking for a larger active duty force...which would have breezed thru Congress, IMHO, anytime W had asked for it in the first 2-3 years following 9/11, we've got a lot of hooey about transformation (which we do need to do, but not at the expense of losing *this* war), and the sacrifices he's asked for (I seem to remember something about defeating terrorists by "loving your neighbor" and "going shopping" being in a speech or two back then) would be laughable if our brave men and women in uniform weren't paying the price in blood and broken families for being overused and overstretched. But, gosh, I guess he had other tax cuts and more tax cuts and the Department of Homeland Security's "A New Pickup Truck to Every Local Government Agency in the USA" welfare plan...oh, and let's not forget the triumphant "More Free Viagra For Old Geezers" prescription drugs bill that he happily signed.

That's where those extra troops *could* have come from (yes, of course it's too late now for this administration, or any other probably, until we get a city or three vaporized and wake up again).

And, you know what? The fact that we don't have the proper resources to fight - and win - this war, well, yeah, that's W's fault. It's not the fault of his critics.

Accusing critics of how the administration is running the war (half-heartedly at best) of wanting to give up is a typical White House defense. (Just like the typical response of this WH to everyone who wants our immigration laws enforced is to call them a racist.) What most of the critics - at least of the NRO variety and it's certainly what *I* want - want is for us to actually fight the war - in Iraq and in the rest of the War on Terror - and *fight it to win*. This administration seems to be too busy campaigning for open borders and doing PR for the Religion of Peace [tm] to be bothered with doing the hard stuff required to win the war.

And, this administration's next great idea about winning the war? Well, last I looked it was planning on cutting ~$10 billion from the defense budget next year. I guess W has some new tax cut ideas, or else we don't have quite enough free viagra floating around just yet.

discussion of the manpower issue.

The GAO estimates increasing the Army by 30K results in $6.7 billion in additional outlays each year which no one really believes is sustainable.

Anyone who was alive to see the Army to from 732K in 1990 to 479K in 1999 doesn't want to go through that again, so the bias within the military is against increasing end strength that probably will be cut as soon as the Iraq war winds down. Hence the use of mobilized Guard and Reserve units to take up this slack.

Thanks, I was in the middle of a rambling diatribe as a response. Yours was clearer and more concise!

"The Road To Freedom Is Seldom Traveled By The Multitude" fact, I know it wouldn't be, but one of the huge opportunities missed by this president was the chance he had to use the upswell in patriotism and willingness by the American public to sacrifice in the aftermath of 9/11 to get us ready to fight and win this thing...he squandered all that on all sorts of silly domestic stuff (and just didn't use it at all to some degree).

And, I'd agree that coventional wisdom doesn't hold that such a thing would be possible (increasing defense spending and the size of active duty force significantly)...and that's why none of our gutless wonder political leaders even try to change the conventional wisdom. But, if W - or whoever the president happens to be - isn't willing to fight that political fight, then he needs to get a much better grip on reality and on what an active duty force that's the size he's willing to live with is actually capable of doing (without wearing it down to a nub) when he's making up his to-do lists and getting big, overblown, unattainable promises written into his speeches. That's all I'm saying...W's priorities have been elsewhere (everywhere else seems like) and it shows.

As far as the military bias against increasing the active duty force is concerned, that's entirely understandable given how they were treated by Bush I and Clinton, but the Pentagon brass would resist having the sun come up every morning if it clashed with whatever the current groupthink that was operable there at any given time.

All of that sort of thing is what leadership is for fixing/changing...and it's not like W even tried and failed...he never bothered trying any of this. He wants to transform the Middle East, but he wants to do it on the cheap so he can afford all the other domestic goodies he wants passed. It's not so much about crunching numbers (although that's important), as it is about attitude and priorities (or lack thereof).

of the situation.

I don't want to try to dissuade you from your own bloggyhorse here of Bush=incompetent. I might even agree with some points.

I wrote about this subject a while back, but 30K new troops don't just appear. Where do you get the recruiters, the drill sergeants, the range staffing, the barracks, the training areas. Why would you want to do this knowing you can't keep that 30K long term?

Bush = incompetent is not what I said...I think he's made an active choice re: his priorities, and that he's dead wrong about what it'll take to actually win this war. I think he's got a lot of faults like everyone else who has ever been president, but incompetence wasn't on my list. If he has a fatal leadership flaw, it's probably that he expects far better/rational behavior out of people/nations than he has any right to expect from them. IOW, not just hoping for the best, but in many ways planning as if he's certain that's what he'll get...and then he's too stubborn to change course to meet the reality the real world tosses at him.

re: the 30K additional active duty troops...well, for one thing, you don't try adding 30K all at once or expect to have them appear overnight just because you decide you want them (there's nothing in any of my posts that suggests that I think such a thing is possible btw...I know training soldiers takes time, effort and least to produce soldiers worth having)...that's why the endstrength increases should have started shortly after 9/11...we could have, if we had decided as we went along that we needed them, a heckuva lot more than 30K extra ready to go by now (and many of them would already be experienced in combat by now, most likely, had everything else played out as it has) if the ingathering/training process had started back when Bush had the political capital to do such a thing...but, as I said in another place or two, I think it's too late now for this president to get anything like that thru Congress. That's the problem with making bad choices way back when and then being too stubborn to reassess and make changes when necessary...and that's another big problem this WH has.

And we'll just have to disagree on whether we could hold onto any additional end strength or might be right about that, but even if you are, it still doesn't mean that we don't need them desperately in the meantime.

to them then it is silly to recruit and train them when you can federalize Guard units and activate Reserve units. You can use the extra money you are getting for the war to get health in the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) accounts where the Army had been cannibalizing warstocks for parts for most of a decade.

...I'll shut up on this, I promise:

You're 100% right about the military (just like in the bad old days under Clinton and Bush I) having to cannibalize all sorts of things to pay for a far higher operational tempo than it has the resources for...see, I think we can pay for fixing that sort of thing *and* enlarging the active duty force. I think it borders on ridiculous when people claim (not you, but this WH and lots of Congress critters and economists) that we can't afford to spend, say, something a bit north of 4% of GDP on defense...especially while we're actually in a shooting war where the deployments aren't as optional as they were during the Clinton or Bush I years. There's plenty of money to do that with room to's just that the money is being spent on a lot of other stuff that ought to be way down the priorities list. (Has Bush found *anything* - other than the military - that he's not happy to spend money on yet?) And, lest we forget, had al Qaeda waited another year or so to do its major attack, we'd have started this war with an even smaller active duty force...that was the plan when Bush first got elected.

However much what you're talking about needs doing, that won't provide boots on the ground in places we may need them. Yes, I know the Guard and Reserve are there to be used, but not like they're having to be used in this war. Having more active duty forces to use would cause a lot less societal displacement than having to use Guard and Reserve over and over ways that system was not designed to be used...and besides, aren't their resources even more strained/cannibalized than the regular army's is?

close to 10K a year thanks to that drawdown (VSI recipient).

It wasn't supposed to be for me as I had a pretty good career going, but the timing for me was right and I've got 9 more payments coming.

But your right about one thing (OK lots of things), it took ten years to draw the Army down to under 500K, the idea that you can double it in a quarter of that time with a volunteer force is superficial.

Put something cool here later

what is the actual combat strength of the army now? ie, boots on the ground, not paper pushers or supporting cast.

1-- don't malign "paper pushers or supporting cast" one of the most popular guys in a rifle platoon is the medic and if you don't have someone requesting chow, fuel, bullets, and spare parts and pushing those to the front it can get mightly lonely up there.

2-- Take an infantry brigade of about 3,000 troops. Typically this will have three battalions. Each battalion will have three lettered rifle companies. A company has 9 squads of, notionally, 10 men each. So adding platoon headquarters and machinegunners a company has a fighting strength of about 100 or so. Roll that up and add battalion scouts, mortars and anti-tank gunners and you have somewhere in the neighborhood of 360 line troops in a battalion. Three of those gives you not quite 1100 out of a brigade of over 3000. When you view this in the context of traditional division of 15,000 troops you can see that the rifle strength is about 3300 of that 15,000. And, of course, there is the argument over whether or not combat engineers, aviators, and artillerymen count. I did't count them here, not because you don't need them but because I they aren't traditionally considered front line strength.

wasn't meant to malign, just was trying to get a handle on the numbers.

Thanks for the run down - so of the regular Army (non-reserve/non-nat.guard) reported at just shy of 500K, there are 10 divisions of approx. 150K troops and 33K rifle strength?

Probably a lot tougher than most thought when we started. Iran is having a lot to do with the instability, first thing I would do is neutralize the Mahdi army and Sadr. I would bet things quite down after that.

When you consider how much time it took to calm other countries, I doubt Iraq is much worse.

Leaving before the job is done, that will be a disaster.

Rich Lowry has written three major editorials on the Iraq war. The first was called "What went wrong". Then right after the successful Iraqi elections he felt the need to cover his tracks so he penned "What went right". Now this is the third of his installments which, in my opinion, epitomizes his equivocal opinions. Where is the courage of his conviction? He bends when there is pressure and upbeat when there is a lull in violence. National Review used to be irreverent and ground breaking. If you read the "Corner" it is a who's who of inside jokes and frankly uninspiring writing. Rich Lowry follows the lead of the old man (Buckley). In my opinion George Will, Rich Lowry, William F Buckley and the rest of the Elite Right do not speak for us anymore. I believe Talk radio, Redstae, Freerepublic, LittleGreenFootballs, Captainsquarters & Powerline (and every other right wing blog) do.
War is hell. There are good days and bad days. We shouldn't get discouraged if an uptight metrosexual in Manhattan such as Lowry writes a piece questioning the war. This is not just about Iraq. It is a broad spectrum that will end when the Iranian and Syrian regimes fall. As Michael Ledeen says "Faster please".

"Convictions?" That series of articles is a statement of observed fact. It's not a flip-flop to take stock of a situation, and find a list of things that were right along with a list of things that went wrong.

Why do you assume that a principled person must find that the Iraq mission has been either executed entirely right or entirely wrong?
"In this day and age, you're not going to get a fair shake in the media" -- Lance Armstrong

The problem is not the American military, the problem is the American leftists. They will do whatever is necessary to defeat America. On 22 Apr 1971, John F Kerry stood before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and accused every American who had served in Vietnam of war crimes. He proudly stated he had been to Paris and met with the representatives of America's enemies. We know from statements made by leaders of the Communist forces in Vietnam, that they depended on the American leftist to help them win in Vietnam.
The Senator leading one of two political parties in the USA, shouts "we killed the Patriot Act"
A Senator who served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence admitted on TV-Fox Sunday on Nov 14,2005 ""I took a trip by myself in Jan 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and told them that it was my view that George Bush had already decided to go to war with Iraq." Syria was on America's list of terrorist regimes, and an American
Senator decides it his duty to warn them of the coming hostilities.
On 17 May 2006, an American congressman announced that
""Our troops overreacted and killed innocent civilians in cold blood"". No trial, no defense witnesses, just a guilty verdict by news conference.
gives you a 16 page article from the Communist Party of America on how to defeat America, by using the Democrats,
the American Labor Unions and every defeatist in America.
Unless America decides to defeat the American Left, Iraq will end just like Vietnam.

On 1 thing I hope Rich lowry is right and that is rephrasing the Iraq policy from 'stay the course' to 'adapt and win'. There is a big, big need to make a point that we are fighting 1 war against terrorists. The Dem's and media and enemies are all trying to make the point that they are 2 totally different wars. This is wrong. We are fighting terrorists in Iraq. I think we made some mistakes after we toppled Saddam's regime in not adapting to win the fight against the terrorists who saw the defeat of Saddam as an opportunity to fill the power vacuum. We should have adapted and moved smarter, but to leave now is a terrible idea. I do worry that the propaganda war is being won by the Dem's and the world will be much more dangerous because of this.

I refuse to play Goldilocks and pretend I know how many troops are needed for "Just Right." Where the tough questions come in are:

1. Have we really and truly defeated Zarqawi's movement? The destruction of Al Qaeda in Iraq is essential before we leave.

2. If so, is stemming sectarian violence really our problem? I'm not sure it is, unless we see the hand of Iran, Syria or Al Qaeda at work. I hate to see us leave Iraq without securing the physical environment, but at some point, purely internal Iraqi problems are not ours to solve. Especially if - repeat after me - we have not clearly and unambiguously identified an enemy and taken sides.

"No compromise with the main purpose, no peace till victory, no pact with unrepentant wrong." - Winston Churchill

I agree with one regular on the Military Roundtable feature that perhaps we have too large a footprint in Iraq and that large numbers of conventional forces need to give way to smaller numbers of advisors backed up by several brigades... not deployed over the horizon.

Sectarian violence isn't our problem, agreed. But we need to do some of the real fighting so the government can begin focusing on disarming and disbanding militias and deathsquads.

I think right now we are at a juncture where the insurgency has nearly burned itself out and AQIZ has been routed. Now we are seeing various armed factions which had put aside their differences when faced with the insurgency beginning to jockey for de facto power.

So is this a time to watch and wait so you go after the winning faction(which is going to look messy and indecisive to the casual observer) OR to wade in and take out factions one by one(slow and potentially bloody)? I imagine it is also a time when a solid police force is as helpful as a well trained army. Or is good intelligence the key-which factions can be approached and brought into the fold?

If "pro" is the opposite of "con", what is the opposite of "progress"?

- streiff linked the GAO study that says adding 30k to the regular armed forces would cost 6.7 bil/year. That's 2 more divisions for roughly half a percent of GDP. Considering that the holiday from history is over, that's a fair price to pay. The base defense expenditures have been 3-3.5% of GDP (plus another one percent for action in Iraq), which is significantly less than the 6-6.5% we were doing in the 80's, and a far cry from the 10-11% that Vietnam was costing us.

- Germany. Why on earth do we still have troops there? To keep the Russians out? To prevent Polish death squads from launching reprisals over ancient hatreds? Why aren't they being used to prevent actual death squads from launching actual reprisals?

- Police training. The Iraqi regular armed forces are apparently coming along alright, but the police forces are in crummy shape. Well, right now we have the army doing the training, so that's not a terribly suprising result. Why don't we get actual police to train the Iraqis? LA's going to run William Bratton out of town sooner or later (if they haven't already), so why not give him a blank check to set up a training system for Iraqi cops? I bet if you asked Rudi Giuliani to troll around for recruits from police forces around the country, you'd get a good response, too.

My goof.... 6.7 bil is more like one twentieth of a percent of GDP. I was high by an order of magnitude. This only reinforces my point- we can certainly afford a bigger military.


Why don't we get actual police to train the Iraqis?

Maybe we can get the NOLA police out there to give the Baghdad PD some instruction. I don't know that we have a lot of model police departments in major urban areas. Certainly the brass in those areas and the policies they come up with is nothing to emulate.

... then at least not scoff when they do.

OK, fine. We can agree that NOLA cops suck, but I still think my idea is a good one. There are plenty of very good cops, and more to the point, plenty of good police academy instructors around the country. Obviously, a training regimen for Iraqi cops would be heavier on crowd control and lighter properly administering a roadside DUI test than a course for an American cop. Give William Bratton a big budet, send him and a bunch of police academy instructors on a tour of Iraq, and have them set up an Iraqi police academy. Considering the current state of the Iraqi police, it sure couldn't hurt. And my second suggestion, if volunteers aren't easily found, send Giuliani on a recruiting trip to major cities with good police forces. It puts him to good service, and additionally gives him a great excuse to travel around the country and do his politicking on the side.

The integrity of the Iraqi police force remains a consistent concern in all possible ending scenarios. This problem is not to be taken lightly. The situation is dire, and an aggravating factor in the escalating Iraqi civil conflict.

Bad enough that many in the current crop are corrupt and compromised: earnest new recruits face a death-defying gauntlet in even applying for service.

I recall hearing an interview by a contracted LE consultant in which he estimated it would take 10 to 15 years to purge the forces and clean up this mess.

I guess my point is that, yeah - we need more advisors on the ground. And less of, well - you know...

Just sayin'

When a thing defies physical law, there's usually politics involved - P.J. O'Rourke

I believe that we will see one of two things happen--either we will abandon Iraq too soon, and the blood letting that will follow will make Rwanda seem like a soccer hooligan riot. Or we will have a substantial number of troops in Iraq (20-40k, maybe more) for at least 40 years. That latter figure is optimistic, based on experiences in post WWII Europe and Japan and in post Korean War Korea. It takes about 2 generations to fully implement a regime transition. We'll also want those troops there to prevent opportunistic invasions from either Iran or Syria, to protect the Kurds, and so forth. One can hope that these troops will not be involved in active combat and counter-insurgency operations during most of that time, otherwise, all bets are off. I do wish someone would be straight with the American people about what it will to ultimately succeed in Iraq.

I am in no position to make any informed point about what went wrong with the occupation of Iraq, though I believe that there were massive miscalculations, and that if the administration did not anticipate the chaos that followed the toppling of Saddam they were fantastically incompetent--a first year poli sci undergraduate should have been able to figure out what happens when angry people lose their sovereign and are placed back into a state of nature with a lot of weapons.

If we have 50,000 troops in Iraq for along time, it won't be just to help the Iraqis within. It'll also be to ward off foreign threats.

That's why we've kept 50k troops EACH in Japan and South Korea. And I wouldn't call that a bad thing.

And if you think war is messy under Republicans, just remember how well things went under the Democrats. See Haiti and Somalia for two disasters.
"In this day and age, you're not going to get a fair shake in the media" -- Lance Armstrong

There are foreign threats, and Iraq will need protection from them. I suspect the other part of the mission will be to maintain a de facto partition.

As far as the political implications of all this, I don't think anyone, neither Dem. nor Rep. is being honest or realistic about what will happen in Iraq. I fault the Bush administration for allowing short-term political calculations to drive the planning of this war, ridiculously underestimating its cost.

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