Thursday, December 21, 2006

Surge in Iraq! One last push!

John Emerson at Seeing the Forest points out why the Chiefs of Staff are pushing back on the effort to increase the troops in Iraq.
I think that this is what is motivating the generals: there's no way that a 10% increase in forces, with no significant change in strategy, can change anything militarily. I don't know where the slogan "one last push" came from -- from the media or from the administration -- but the word "last" is a dead giveaway. It cues you to ask "And after that, what?" (To my knowledge, no one in the administration has disavowed the "one last push" meme).

We do not have the additional troops to send in, so this means that the troops already in Iraq will be expected to stay longer than their one year tours and the new ones coming in will be expedited as much as possible. This, if attempted, is extremely likely to finally break the Army and Marine Corps. The first news of such an event will be reports of soldiers and Marines being court martialed for refusing to go to Iraq or even deserting. (Since this government does its best to prevent information from being given to the public, this will be hard to get.)

The reason that the increase of forces is so small -- and everyone knows this -- is that we've already committed everything we have. The proposed increases just amount to stretching existing troops farther and pushing them harder, with longer tours and shorter breaks. We have no reserve.
He's right. The proposed "increase" of 15,000 to 20,000 troops to be used in Baghdad will not change anything in our favor. They cannot pacify the city of 5 to 6 million people.

There are currently 6,000 troops working on Baghdad, and the 20,000 "more" makes it 26,000. Assuming only 5,000,000 inhabitants in Baghdad, that makes it 192 Iraqis to each American. Pacifying an area is usually expected to require a minimum of 20 to 1. So there is no pacification being planned.

A second possibility is that the Americans are intended to try to conquer the Shite Sadr brigade belonging to Moqtada al Sadr. It is not likely that the Shiites in government will accept a war against the main supporters of Maliki, the current President of Iraq. There is also the distinct possibility that for Americans to attack the Sadr Brigade will start a second war to go with the current war between Americans and the Sunni insurgents. So that is not a plan that has any real likelihood of success, while it has strong prospects of making the total Iraq situation a lot worse fast.

The war in Iraq is lost. Bush refuses to admit that, so he is proposing a lot more action and casualties so that he can push the date of acceptance of loss into the future as far as possible, hoping that he can pass it off to the next President - who will probably be a Democrat. (Congressional Republicans already hate that, but Bush has the power to decide on foreign policy and no Congressperson is going to vote to cut off funds to the troops in Iraq.)

In short, this "One last Push" or "Surge" proposal cannot lead to "Success" in Iraq. Nor is any military followup possible, because it will use up the last of the resources of the ground forces. Think of Germany's "Battle of the Bulge" effort at the end of WW II.

It is a political effort designed to shift the blame to someone other than George Bush and the Republican White House. For that effort, George Bush and Dick Cheney are perfectly willing to cause a large increase in casualties, both American and Iraqi. The Military Generals know that, and consider the cost too high. So there will be a lot of push-back from the military against this effort.

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