Democrats & Liberals Archives

Levels of Commitment

Republicans should ask themselves the following question: if their president is so committed to winning the war in Iraq, why will we have to begin withdrawing a brigade of troops a month from Iraq starting in April?

I have long criticized the manpower policy of the Iraq war, and for good reason. Most people think of sending soldiers to fight a war in static terms, with troops just sent to the front in one mass, and kept there unitl the war's over. In truth, wars rarely work this way. To keep units functional, equipped, and trained in a time of war, you have to take them away from the front, get them back home.

Scheduling this is a complex matter, but when it comes down to it, to maintain forces, you send forth as many as you draw back. To do this on a regular schedule, according to accepted military doctrine, though, you need a certain amount of troops total. Otherwise, you have to screw around with the scheduling and the means of getting troops to fight the war.

Bush has claimed all throughout the war that he's had enough troops. He hasn't had them, though, and really hasn't done much to gain them. I'm sure that some folks could come up with reasons to accommodate this oversight, but lets be honest about this, and say that the following are facts:

1) The President has ordered Reserves and National Guard Members into theatre. He would not need to do this with sufficient forces. Even today, such forces remain.

2) Forces of all kinds have seen their deployments increased, their arrivals moved up, their time home reduced, etc., all indicating that the president is shuffling around the scheduling to keep more Soldiers in Iraq than would otherwise be possible, under standard doctrine.

However much these measures are rationalized, these stopgap measures have not been temporary, but have been a constant of maintaining manpower in Iraq for some time now. Common sense would say that you would not want to maintain such practices, because of the harmful effect they have on the ability of the troops to fight the war. This harmful effect can be seen in recruiting procedures that have opened up participation in the armed forces to those that the military would have formerly rejected. This would not be necessary if they could keep officers and soldiers necessary to fill the necessary space in the army.

So we come to the question that I started out with: what is the real level of commitment of this President to his own war, the one he expects us to sacrifice to keep going? With forces looking to just plain run out, and with all that the Administration has done to avoid real increases in the number of soldiers, we'd have to say that level of commitment is low.

Republicans treat the war in Iraq as an existential battle in their rhetoric, but they never, when they had the chance, increased the ranks of the army. They kept it as it was, despite the greater strain they planned to put on it, despite the war they expect to continue.

The White House has been running this war on the ragged edge for most of its length, and Americans have paid in lives, paid in humiliation, and paid in the ability to succeed with this war. The unwillingness of the President to ask for the help he needs to keep the war going in effective terms indicates that he is vainly trying to split the political difference between an America that will obviously not support conscriptions, and escalating the war to avoid the political landmines of backing down from continuing it.

A President truly committed to winning the war would not have tarried so long in bringing in the soldiers, and would have made sure that the army could functionally maintain it. Political considerations would have been left secondary, not given prominence. Defeated strategies would be admitted to, so that we could get past them use ones that would win before it was too late for any strategy to bring victory.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at June 27, 2007 6:37 PM
Comment #224238


I have to disagree. Busco is still committed to controlling Iraqi oil.
More manpower would have required a draft,a draft where the deferments for rich kids most likely would not exist for political reasons stemming from Vietnam.Can’t have that!
Another problem with high troop levels is it would suck defense dollars away from stupid,destabilizing.useless,obcenely expensive weapons systems the MIC is so fond of.Can’t have that!

Posted by: BillS at June 27, 2007 9:58 PM
Comment #224252


You left out taking troops from Afghanistan and moving them to Iraq.

You make good points in your article but the unfortunate part of this whole mess is that we are discussing someone who is entirely incompetent to lead a boy scout troop, let alone a nation. We are talking about an ideologue (among other things) that has never been concerned with that fact that he was appointed (2000) and elected (2004) to govern for all Americans not just his select group.

In addition, his war has always been about politics. How else can you make such foolish decisions with such scant “evidence” when one plans to put the lives of American soldiers on the line? Why else would someone continue to plow ahead with something that was not only destined to end up the way it has, but was WRONG from the outset?

To apply intellect, logic, discernment, and the like to a discussion about George W. Bush implies that he (GWB) himself possesses these traits. Most idiots do even know the meaning of such traits much less possess them—and make no mistake GWB is as big an idiot as they come (among other things).

It’s a waiting game for the Constitution to finally limit his ability to continue to put the lives of American military personnel in jeopardy.

Is anyone keeping tally of the casualty rate among the “surged” troops? I am expecting to hear from GWB that even more troops will be sent to make up for loss that has and will be sustained from the “surge and secure” strategy unless this revolting mess in stopped.

Posted by: Kim-Sue at June 28, 2007 12:36 AM
Comment #224255

Stephen, I think you’re right that if Bush and his generals intended to fight the kind of war they chose to fight, they should have expanded the size of the military. It would be hard to do that now, but it would have been fairly easy to put together a major and very succuessful recruitment drive between 2001 and 2003.

But I think the problem is even worse than that: you talk about “accepted military doctrine,” but there’s absolutely nothing about the conduct of this war which conforms to accepted military doctrine or which has successful historical precedents. What’s going on now may or may not work, but they’re really trying to reinvent the wheel here.

Even if there were a million American troops in Iraq, there still wouldn’t be enough to monitor every foot of roadway and prevent the planting of IEDs, or to stand in every living room and make sure that nobody is building a bomb, strapping it to somebody’s chest, and pointing them towards a crowded marketplace filled with civilians. Our military is both incredibly sophisticated and enormously powerful, but it’s being misused. It’s a matter of using the wrong tool for the job. Try as you may, you simply can’t do ornamental woodworking with a sledgehammer.

The military is designed not to build stuff but to break stuff. Our military is the best at doing that that the world has ever seen, but it’s not supposed to be used for nation-building and public relation stunts.

But attacking the conduct of a war, or the military’s preparedness to follow a specific strategy in fighting it, is a completely different question from whether or not fighting is justified in the first place. If the standard for going to war was that success must be guaranteed or that your first tactics prove to have been the correct, America would still be a British colony.

If I had to bet, I’d predict that we’ll probably make an ignominious retreat from Iraq next year, which will allow Democrats to temporarily revel in their political victory over their hated enemy (George Bush, not the forces of radical Islam).

And then George Bush will go back to Texas and spend his afternoons clearing brush and playing X-box (or whatever it is he does) while he’s protected by the Secret Service, and the rest of us will get to taste in blood within a few year’s time the result of our cowardly retreat from the field of battle. After the retreat and surrender, Democrats won’t actually use the words “Peace in our Time,” but that will be the gist of their gloating, and those who have failed to learn history will be condemned to repeat it.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at June 28, 2007 1:17 AM
Comment #224259

I hate being right behind you in posts, you make almsot all my points before I can.

Loyal is right, this war does not conform in any way to standard war policies. You can thank the PC movement and the constant undermining of the value of the mission in the mainstream video media for that.

I laugh when I think back and remember shock and awe. Ooooooh. We went in there like a body builder on a little league field, whacked it right out of the park, and now we’re standing there while 50 little kids pelt us with rocks.
It’s insane.

Standard war doctrine would dictate we (A)rial leaflet the SUNI triangle with warnings to get out - give the radicals 3 days to give themselves up, and enough time for the women and children to leave if their “family captors” would let them, and then turn the whole region into a parking lot.

Then leave a few troops to guard an embassy, maybe build a base or two, and get the hell out of dodge.

Then, if need be, repeat step A in a decade when the jihad gets proud enough to try something again.

LO is right. Democrats hate the president more than the people who would literally saw their heads off with a steak knife for the things they do after work.

If I had to make a bet, I’d extend and compound the prediction and say that the gloating will lead to apathy about security until something happens on a massive scale, whereby this country will finally have the stomach for step (A).

Here’s hopin’ anyway.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at June 28, 2007 2:07 AM
Comment #224263

It is difficult to conduct a dishonorable war successfully, just look at Viet Nam. Cheney/Bush went into this with their eyes wide shut…

The problem has never been the conduct of the war, but the war itself.

Posted by: Marysdude at June 28, 2007 8:12 AM
Comment #224265

Terrorists are criminals, and should be treated as such.

Wars are for nations, and should be conducted as such.

Posted by: Marysdude at June 28, 2007 8:14 AM
Comment #224282

The key in an occupation is not perfect control, but implicit authority. If people in our cities really wanted to, they could decide to just stop following the law, to start clashing with the police. The reasons that we don’t typically see this happen go along these lines:

1)Most of the time people feel little motivation to make that kind of trouble.

2)The police tend to clamp down on riots and breaches of the peace before they escalate to a complete loss of control.

3)The populace accepts the authority of the police, and of the law, inhibiting their own behavior before somebody else has to inhibit it for them.

With this Analysis, our problems in Iraq become clear. We went in with too few soldiers to secure Iraq with our own forces. We left ourselves in a position where we did not have the monopoly on force. Our opponents took advantage of that. Because we let things go out of control, we both lost the chance to easily nip things in the bud, and the belief of the populace in our ability to impose law and order. The violence itself, including the bombing of the mosque, became an accelerant to the the breach of the peace, motivating people to engage in fights both against us and each other.

Our problem is not that we cannot monitor every square inch of Iraq, but that we went in unprepared to do the things that would make that impossible feat unnecessary.

One part of this is that the Bush administration did in fact try to reinvent the wheel on nation building and occupation. They tried to substitute our technological advantage for numbers and mobility. Sounded good on paper, but occupations aren’t effective when forces are here one minute, gone the next.

They made things worse by enacting policies that gutted the ranks of native peacekeepers in the police and army, and put those people and others out on the streets with nothing much to do- except perhaps undermine our authority and attack our forces.

There’s nothing wrong with our nation building. In fact, if we had fully committed to it, and brought the resources to bear to secure and govern Iraq correctly, we might have been able to do it. Hell, we did it before with Japan and Germany. It was not out of the question that this could work.

Trouble was, despite all the big talk from your side of the fence about going all out to win, they never let America put its full talents, forces, and economic power to work to get it done. Bush tied our hands, and not because going all out would have started WWIII. He tied our hands first by trying to reinvent the wheel on military doctrine, both in why we go to war and how, and then tied them again by not acknowledge the failures of his initial strategy when doing so would avail him of better resources and opportunities to take care of business. He was too concerned with trying to ensure his reelection to take the risks of admitting his mistakes and fixing the problems.

You talk about retreating, implying that we’re interrupting your dedicated efforts to win this war. But your people never went all out, and still won’t do that, even if they win everything in November 2008. What we’ll get is continued mediocrity.

If Iraq comes back to haunt us, it will not be because the Democrats withdrew the country from the war. It will be because of Bush’s poor judgment in both battlefield and the conduct of the war. It’s funny you bring up that allusion to Munich, because that’s how folks justified going into Iraq in the first place. But that didn’t mean a damn thing in terms of what kind of capabilities Bush’s plan for war left us with.

That’s the big problem. As much as you people like to motivate us to go to war, to stay in a war that’s going poorly, you hardly concern yourself with the basics of military doctrine. The Right Wing pays lip service to the necessity to win, the necessity to support the soldiers, and then goes into complete denial any time there is an apparent setback. You folks have so bought into the mythology of Liberal backstabbing and a traitorous press than you never dealt with reports of insufficient soldiers, armor, strategy, or anything else as a serious concern that had to be taken care of by your leaders.

Instead, you bought their excuses, bought their rationalizations, and bought into their scapegoating. You took the official line, and never considered that even your politicians would lie about how well things were going to make themselves look good.

Do I blame you? No, your leaders are at fault. Problem is, they might have listened if Republicans started dissenting on the conduct of the war, started demanding better. Unfortunately, it has been a matter of Republican political doctrine that the leaders are not expendable in a fight, and that the best way to support the soldiers would be to support the politicians, regardless of whether the politicians took care of important issues.

And the ultimate symptom of that, is the shortfall that I mentioned in the first paragraph of my entry. If you folks had been less passive about running your war, if you folks hadn’t simply submitted and deferred to them regarding your concerns, you could have made it politically untenable for him to continue underfighting this war. Instead, Bush and others like him just stayed the course, knowing that you folks would remain satisfied.

You should not talk to us about retreating in cowardice, if you never had the courage to challenge the dysfunctional and insufficient conduct of this war when it mattered. We’re not running away, we’re cutting the losses, and putting this war out of its misery.

Yukon Jake-
Shock and Awe was a light show. Historically, Aerial bombardments by themselves have rarely broken the will of the people. Often, it’s steeled their spines. The military operation didn’t have enough soldiers to take full control of the cities.

In fact, if you remember, our strategy during the invasion was to encircle cities as we rushed past them towards Baghdad. That was fine for running interference for a small, mobile invasion force, but it was insufficient for taking control of those cities. A telling moment in the Early war was when we allowed the looting to go on in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam. That never should have happened. To lose control visibly in a manner like that made America look weak.

As for standing there while fifty kids pelt us with rocks? First, if you’re going to take control of a place, take control. Firing at fifty kids and making martyrs of them hardly serves the purposes of an occupation. What you want is the parents sheepishly coming to get their kids, with a good spanking to follow at home.

Standard military doctrine would not have us turn the Sunni triangle into a parking lot. First, our leaflets would hardly be a secret from the enemy. Second, the forced expulsion of people from their lands would hardly contribute to the peace- just look at Palestine.

Military operations are policy extended into the realm of lethal force. Though some try to wield it as if it was the universal foreign policy solution, it’s applications are limited. Problem here is, you think the problem is insufficient force, insufficient body counts. You’re not thinking in terms of what our goals are: a free, Democratic, peaceful, stable Iraq. Rather tricky to do just by piling up body counts.

It’s a peacekeeping war by its nature. Unfortunately, we never brought the military muscle to bear to manage that. Bush and the Republicans never even recruited the forces necessary to keep this war going indefinitely, as they wished. Instead, they’re running our military into the ground trying to avoid admitting they need to expand the military to suit their purposes. As a person who actually looks up to the military, who sympathizes with them, and with a strong military policy, I find this a horrifying state of affairs.

If you guys are really committed to these things, why the failure to expand the numbers? Why commit in such strong words to this war, when you won’t bring the soldiers to the battlefield necessary to make the difference?

It seems like the right in this country is more interested in winning the political battle to continue the war, than to take care of the logistical business of keeping it going, much less bringing the force necessary into things.

For me, that is the ultimate statement on the hollowness of the Republican and conservative approach to defense. What are we paying the big bucks for, with all these fancy military gadgets and vehicles that can’t win these kinds of wars? The enemies we have around the world know they can’t stand toe to to with us as we are. They are looking at the failure that the Republicans have produced in Iraq, and they are taking notes.

How badly do you want to compromise our nation’s defense, before you give up Iraq as lost?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 28, 2007 10:56 AM
Comment #224291

Speaking of ‘shock & awe’, what happened to Great Britton during the huge airial bombardment by Germany? What happened to Viet Nam when our B-52s shook the entire North for eight years?

Bomboing is a tactic, not a strategy…

Posted by: Marysdude at June 28, 2007 12:53 PM
Comment #224314


Bombing is a tactic, not a strategy…

I’m not trying to start an argument here, but that really depends on the nature of the target, type of munitions, area of bombardment, etc.

The bombing of specific targets is tactical.
However, the carpet-bombing of cities in Germany and the nuking of cities in Japan were more strategic and had a strategic effect.
I think the examples you gave were meant to be strategic, but were simply ineffective.

Bombings by terrorists, on the other hand, can arguably be both tactical and strategic, especially when that’s their primary form of attack.

Posted by: TheTraveler at June 28, 2007 3:33 PM
Comment #224318

“Loyal is right, this war does not conform in any way to standard war policies. You can thank the PC movement and the constant undermining of the value of the mission in the mainstream video media for that”

You can’t blame PC or undermining for what is going on.
No matter how ridiculous the PC movement is and no matter how harmful all this undermining for political gain has been, President Bush is still the one who is running the war.

It is President Bush who decided to run this war in a PC way and it is President Bush who is responsible for all the political undermining to have such an effect.

Posted by: kctim at June 28, 2007 4:31 PM
Comment #224365

I don’t think PC describes his approach to the war well. Abu Ghraib certainly demonstrates that all by itself. In a PC war, what are we doing electrocuting people in prisons?

The real problem is, we don’t have the strategy well laid out enough to where our soldiers have the room to let loose against the enemy without hurting friendly interests- like the people of Iraq.

As for the political undermining, he did most of that himself. He had the advantage, and instead of being magnanimous and conciliatory, allowing the kinds of compromises and accountability that keep people positive about the political leadership, he instead decided to beat up on Democrats, and try to sideline the party, it’s greivances, and its constituents permanently.

Result? The political blowback of all time. You can’t really change people working like that. Folks who take that approach end up alienating and angering the people they’re trying to beat down, and that can get long dormant minorities and majorities to gather to oppose you.

It doesn’t help either if your policy is so wrong on so many levels that it ends up disquieting your friends, and it certainly doesn’t help it when you attack those same people for being troubled.

In the end Bush wanted to be the boss. Unfortunately for him, he forgot that he had a few hundred million bosses himself, and that pissing most of them off was not an act of arbitrary consequences.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 29, 2007 12:05 AM
Comment #224392

Bush was not at Abu G. All Abu G. demonstrated was that some bad soldiers will abuse their power if given the chance and that some people will take one thing and make it out to be something a whole lot worse.

The real problem is that Bush tried to run a PC styled postwar.

And I don’t disagree about the undermining, I just know there are two sides that are playing.
Dems also could have allowed compromises and aid to help keep the people positive about their leadership, but instead, they decided to beat up on Republicans and try to sideline the party for the upcoming elections.

In the end, Bush IS the boss. Unfortunately for us, Bush and the Dems believe staying in power is more important than doing what is best for the country.

Posted by: kctim at June 29, 2007 10:13 AM
Comment #224514

Abu Ghraib is hardly an isolated incident. If it were, why did Bush feel it necessary to make a signing statement asserting his authority to ignore an anti-torture law when it suited him? What is that guy in that infamous photo doing on top of that box wired in a torture method right out of the Army’s military intelligence textbook? (It even has a name: The Vietnam)

Why are people like John Yoo and Alberto Gonzalez writing up lengthy memos trying to justify breaches and repudiations of the Geneva Convention, if it’s just a small group of soldiers getting out of hand?

Calling it political correctness is just another way to blame it on the Liberals, pretending that along the entire length of this war that Bush has actually listened to us at all, and has been compromised in that way.

Bush’s weakness was in thinking that he could win this war by exorcising the demons of Vietnam.

Why else was their such a fight over denying that things were going wrong, such an emphasis placed on “supporting the troops” by not buying into reports that would cast a negative light on the war. Why else was the opposition at home so relentlessly bashed? Why else did Bush and the others go into such serious denial about shortfalls and shortchanges in the war? And why else are people still pushing the domino theory in this case?

The Republicans took the opportunity with this war to revive all the Cold War divisiveness concerning the left, all the charges of treason and disloyalty.

This war is not being lost because we were held back by political correctness. It’s being lost because nothing held back those who came up with the policy. They got what they wished for, at least at the start. They just couldn’t make things change the way they wanted to, with the means and plan they employed. Unfortunately, they turned to scapegoating everybody else, rather than reform their efforts to better fit the actual responses of the situation to them.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 30, 2007 7:31 PM
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