Tuesday, December 5

Small Wonder He Features So Prominently in The Waste Land

It's Mistah Stanley Kurtz, the incredible human linkage-feedback loop, via Roy, and if there's a Presidential Medal of Freedom awaiting the to-this-point badly misused neck of John Bolton, shouldn't there be one for a man who has made it possible for thousands of his fellow citizens to avoid reading Kathryn Jean Lopez? I ask as a humble, tax-paying citizen.

I already took up too much space in Roy's comments, but I still have more to say about this:
Take the congressional example I gave (an example Marshall has not addressed): Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel’s plan to restart the draft. Rangel’s plan is making news right now, but he first introduced it about a year before the last presidential election. Rangel and the Democrats hoped to raise the specter of a draft as a way of undercutting public support for the war, for the Republicans, and for President Bush....

My point is that this kind of political strategy, and the larger dovish sensibility behind it, puts constraints on our military policy in Iraq and beyond. That, in fact, is the purpose of these proposals. They are a kind of political shot across the bow, designed to warn Republicans that the war on terror is going to have to be fought without a larger military. Even if the president had tried to expand the military on a strictly volunteer basis, Rangel would have pointed to the danger that enough recruits might not be found. So just by raising the prospect of a larger military, the Republicans would have fed dovish claims that a draft was on the way.

Okay, okay, this is so counter-rational that even responding to it on its own terms would risk what scientists call "Brain bubbles", so I'd like to jump right to the basis of the argument that Kurtz earlier linked to himself making, namely, that the administration--for whatever reason, Rumsfeld Doctrine or Dirty-Hippie-Based Panic Attack--stinted on the number of troops sent to Iraq.

Let us suppose, reader, that you are in charge of the invasion of Iraq set for March, 2003, and it is the early stages of the planning, say June of 1999. Okay, that was unfair; I don't think the invasion was set much before August. To avoid arguments let's make it January, 2002. And let's say you sincerely believe, as everyone did back then, that Saddam Hussein has a WMD program wish-list planning event scheduled at which he's finally going to decide on a napkin and dinner mint color scheme, which makes it something like an imminent threat without the imminence. You have decided that this linchpin of the Clash of Civilizations requires such a commitment that the US must abandon its treaty commitments, forsake its standing in the international community, and, frankly, its common sense the last vestiges of its common sense the pretense of Bush administration competence and mental stability. Throwing caution to the breezes you decide to call every last US serviceman home from Bosnia, Germany, Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Italy, Great Britain, and elsewhere. Keenly ignoring the fact (you are a Republican, remember) that most of the personnel thus obtained are winguts and data reduction clerks* and not trained and equipped combat forces, you add every last boot to your Planned Invasion Force Tote Board.

Congratulations! You now have a force of roughly 380,000 mostly untrained and unequipped men and women, many of them belonging to branches of the service which do not, as a rule, do much on solid ground except decompress. This motley gets you to approximately 1.09 times the generally accepted minimum amount required to actively occupy the country for, say, one year, assuming you had a plan to do so, which you don't because somebody's dog ate it.

Oh, by the way, on the off chance that that little hairdresser who runs North Korea, Kim Something, decides he wants to invade the South while you're otherwise occupied, you now have a Reserve Readiness force of 100,000. This is, in fact, an actual combat-ready force (at least it was in 2002). Its two major drawbacks are 1) its location is the US of A, not Korea, and 2) current military thinking, dating at least to the perfection of the internal combustion engine, holds that we need at least four times that number to respond adequately.

As we have mentioned here, and could, were we Professor Kurtz, link to again and again and again, there is one reason we invaded Iraq with 150,000 troops, and that reason has nothing whatever to do with any Rumsfeld Doctrine. We invaded on a political timetable, period, and we did so with what troops were available. We could not have developed a sufficient occupying force in less than two years' time, minimum, assuming a vigorous conscription program begun at the very time Rangel was proposing one. And that assumes that, alongside all the other problems a conscription army presents, we could have trained people that fast. Five years is probably more like it. Five years would be enough time to try to raise the levels of an all-volunteer army as well. Of course, both of these programs would have suffered from a big problem, bigger even than not facing Saddam's imminent threat imminently, bigger perhaps even than having to wait out the election cycle the whole thing was designed to influence in the first place:

We would have had to pay for it ahead of time.

What's the answer to that, Professor Kurtz? What Democratic dirty trick or Woodstock Nation hangover caused the administration to try to run the war off the books? Was there a danger that Democratic operatives would spread the ugly rumor that we had to pay for the thing? (Let's remember, reader--oh, I forgot, you're no longer in charge of the planning. Relax. The Big Idea was to keep the war off budget until the return from summer recess in '03, by which time it was supposed to be over.) For that matter, why'd we wait until October 2002 to get Congressional authorization, when we knew all along that he had those WMDs (since we kept the receipts. Wish I knew who said that.)?

Hey, while we're at it, Stan, let's remember that at the same time your bunch were making rumbling noises about Syria and Iran.

Our only real options were to invade with 150,000 troops, a level sustainable only until the winter of 2004 under optimal conditions, and that by an unprecedented use of the Reserve and National Guard, or to obtain the necessary 200,000-300,000 troops by forming a broad international coalition, which would have meant giving UN sanctions another twelve months to create doubt in a misled US public's mind of the imminence of (We Never Said "imminent") that imminent threat. And it would have meant waiting until spring 2004 at least, dissipating the time alloted to $30 million victory parades back home before the elections.

So, bullshit, Professor Kurtz. It was neither the Bush Wehrmacht's blitzkrieg theories (Guderian, at least, had the good sense to have territory-securing infantry following the tanks), nor the defeat-loving Democrats, nor any combination which resulted in our Iraq fiasco. It was the incompetence and the hubris of small men, and the larger hubris of a larger party, and their political wet dreams, which includes--and still does, somehow, in some quarters--that it could reverse the outcome of Vietnam and silence its critics forever. So much so that it couldn't be bothered to look at any inconvenient facts, before, during, or after.

*Frank Zappa, Billy the Mountain, August, 1971


Anonymous said...

Counter-logical is the best term for this essay.

I think Captain Kirk kept copies of this piece around in case he needed to befuddle/destroy any evil computers.

Anonymous said...

Just a reminder - there were 500,000 on the ground to push Saddam out of Kuwait (combat + support) in 1990. Look at a map of Iraq - that tiny bit of real estate in the lower right - needed half a million to accomplish the mission.

Who in their right mind thought/believed/hoped for a second that 200K could take and control the entire country was crazy then and crazier now.