Friday, March 17, 2006

Let's Talk About Troop Withdrawal

I recently watched a slide show about a young Marine who died in Iraq. The boy’s parents made the tribute and set it to the song “A Million Miles Away,” by the Bob Stewart Band (www.bobstewartband.com/mm/augie). Warning: don’t watch it if you don’t want to cry.
The parents are associated with a group called Families of the Fallen for Change (http://fofchange.org/). They’re calling for a bipartisan effort to set real goals for troop withdrawal. G.W. and his buddies need to reexamine the troop levels in Iraq as well as the justifications for the troop levels.

Thousands of excess troops could go home to the United States without any serious affect to our mission in Iraq, whatever that mission is. The vague mission definition drives me crazy sometimes. Was it to stop a homicidal dictator with weapons of mass destruction? Was it to take control of Iraq? Stop an insurgency? Establish a democracy? Train an Army? Get oil? Stop a civil war? Or is our goal here just to occupy? I have no idea.

The president has used several arguments to squash any hope for serious troop withdrawal. Let’s go through some of my favorite arguments against troop withdrawal.

1. Withdrawing now will embolden our enemy.

OK, maybe that’s true, but who cares? Our enemies are willing to blow themselves up to kill us. Who cares if they’re bold when they do it? Are they going to blow themselves up harder? I suppose the administration thinks the insurgents are depressed right now and are only doing a half-hearted attempt to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. I think administration might have a different feeling if they were here.

2. If we leave now, all the sacrifices before have been in vain.

Again, the main problem here is that we don’t know exactly what we are trying to accomplish? Bush says we are going to stay until we “win.” How the hell do you win an occupation? When Bush makes statements like that, it gives me the impression he sees Iraq as a game, like a grown-up version of King of Bunker Hill. In elementary school, to “win” at King of Bunker Hill, you had to be the only one on the hill when the recess bell rang. Is Bush waiting for someone to ring a bell and declare America the winner? Is that it, G.W.? OK, here it goes: We rule, we’re the best nation ever, and we have the strongest, coolest, most articulate president in the history of presidents. Is that good enough? Can we go home now?

3. We have to finish what we started.

Or in other words, we broke it, we bought it. Since we deposed Iraq’s dictatorship, we’re responsible to rebuild their nation to a decent level before leaving. This is the best of all the arguments because it’s true. But it has little to do with troop levels. The U.S. military is designed to kill people. There’s no nice way of saying it. The U.S. military is not designed to build a nation. I think that’s better left to the God, or at least the Marshall Plan. We’ll keep doing what we can, but there needs to be some realistic expectations of what a large military presence in Iraq can do in the reconstruction of a nation. Once again, armies destroy, not build.

4. Now is not the time to weaken the U.S. military in Iraq.

This is the biggest lie. Lowering troop levels is not the same as weakening the U.S. military. That’s a like an obese man saying he doesn’t want to lose any weight because it will make him weak. The insurgency has such small numbers compared to the U.S. military and Iraqi military and police that there is no chance of insurgents overrunning our bases. The insurgents are using guerrilla warfare against us and the main idea of guerrilla warfare is to use your opponent’s strengths against him. The U.S. is numerically and economically superior to the insurgents. So, they’ve found where that becomes a weakness and attack. If you’ve been paying attention, we’re weakest when we’re driving on the roads.

We have such an excessive force here and we’re so rich that we’re constantly shipping in massive amounts of food, fuel, supplies and entertainment items. Convoys miles long roll down the roads of Iraq, making a big fat target for anybody with a cell phone and some explosives.

Improvised explosive devices are the number one killers of U.S. troops in Iraq. We need to cut down the number of convoys we send out and give the insurgents a smaller target to hit. This means going without Baskin Robbins ice cream in the dining facilities and it means sending tens of thousands of excess troops home immediately.

5. We need to stay until Iraq is a safe and secure environment.

Sounds good, but it’s unrealistic. How safe is safe? People murder people every day in the U.S. Do we need to stay until the crime rate is equal to that of the U.S. or until it’s around a nice Singapore level? North Korea has hardly any crime and absolutely no threat of terrorism. Is that the goal?

The other problem with this is that a large U.S. presence is most likely exacerbating the violence here. I spoke to a Sunni man during the Dec. 15 elections who said that he couldn’t wait for the U.S. to leave so the fighting would stop. He had some loose ties to the insurgency, and he claimed they would stop as soon as the U.S. leaves. It was just one man’s opinion, but it deserves some thought. The best way to calm down a hornet’s nest is to take your hand out of it.

So, what do you say, G.W. Can we go home yet?

Photo caption: A soldier considers his many options at a dessert tray at Camp Anaconda. Would you believe this is a very modest spread compared to the other major dining facilities in Iraq?

4 Comments:

Blogger Abhinav Aima said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Abhinav Aima said...

I think you have addressed all the concerns from the U.S. military point of view. I just wanted to dismiss a couple of other geopolitical and strategic myths that are being perpetuated by the Bush administration (or Bushiites):

1. U.S. withdrawal will lead to Iraq becoming a haven for terrorists:
This is plain wrong and shows how little the people stating this understand Iraq's internal politics (unless they are knowledgeable of the facts but are deliberately lying to scare people into supporting the war). The Sunnis who are involved in the insurgency are currently tolerating Al Qaeda activities and foreign jihadis ONLY because it helps deflect constant U.S. military attention from the insurgency. Once the U.S. leaves, the nationalist Iraqi insurgents will wipe out the foreign elements who do not lay down their arms. The official U.S. military figures for foreign jihadis in Iraq are about 7% of the total number of insurgents – it is hard to imagine how 7% of the fighters will take over the whole country.

2. U.S. withdrawal will lead to a civil war: Wrong.
The major Iraqi militia (about half dozen Sunni, three Shia and two Kurdish) will have to hammer out a compromise once they understand that no great power is around to do the heavy lifting. Fighting with IEDs, RPGs and small arms in an urban setting is particularly bloody (as you well know), and the sheer rate of attrition will force the militias to negotiate within a few months. In fact, the U.S. should be working hard RIGHT NOW to get some regional moneybags, like the Saudis, to organize a retreat in Taif (as they did to end the Lebanese civil war) and throw millions of dollars at all these militia leaders to get them to sit down and hash out a compromise deal.

Lebanon, a country of 16 different faiths, and more than 20 major militias, was able to reach an uneasy compromise and end its civil war. There is no reason why Iraq can not do the same AFTER the major foreign powers withdraw from active combat.

As long as foreign powers remain in Iraq and provide high-tech mechanized infantry, armored cavalry and air warfare capabilities, the militia tacitly allied to the U.S. have no reason to stop expanding their regions of influence and control, and the militia opposed to the U.S. have no choice but to keep fighting and surviving this expansion.

Also, as long as the U.S. is in Iraq, it is acting as a recruiter for various elements seeking to build Arab-nationalist and Islamist militia. These in-and-out militias are using Iraq as a short-term training base (much like Lebanon), and the longer the U.S. stays in Iraq, the greater will be the number of recruits in such militia who get live training in Iraq, get some combat experience under their belt, and then move out into other countries – the same training model was used by global socialist/nationalist militias in Lebanon., and many Islamist militias in Afghanistan.

Under U.S. occupation, Iraq is not a haven for terrorists – it is more like a graduate school, with the U.S.-led occupation acting as guinea pigs for terror recruits to hone their kill skills.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Spencer Case said...

Thompson,

It's good to see you've finally updated your blog. You make some good points here, though I found it odious to read through all that Bush bashing in one sitting. For me, the best argument for reducing troops is the fact that MiTT teams that actually train the Iraqi army are very small and clearly do not require massive LSAs to support. So where is all that support going?
On the opposing side, who wants to get deployed to a base that has no Baskin Robbins ice cream?

12:00 AM  
Blogger Abhinav Aima said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:16 AM  

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