Sunday, December 18, 2005
Those damn details.........
The news is interesting to say the least. First and foremost is the Iraqi election, hailed as a triumph for democracy in Iraq and further proof that Administration policy in Iraq is on the right track. Even some of the so-called liberal main stream media are reporting it as such. You'll forgive me if I restrain my enthusiasm for a while longer. Yes the Iraqis have voted, however we still do not know the results of said election, and whether the forces of Islamic moderation or extremism have been enabled in
There comes a point when all you can feel about Iraq is cynicism and pessimism. It will take more than a feel-good photo-op to turn that around, especially after we've seen so many in the past few years. Remember the big "handover," which so many were touting as the dawn
of a new day for Iraq? Remember the ecstasy over the last election, when the photos of the purple-fingered Iraqis were touted as prof of some sort of triumph? Remember how many times we were told victory was "around the corner," freedom was "on the march" and the "backbone of the insurgency" was broken? (Hell, anyone remember the Mission Accomplished banner?).
Each cause for buoyant optimism was soon (very soon) quashed by more death and more mayhem. Today it might be different; perhaps today really is the moment we've all been waiting for, the dawn of a new day. But remember, this whole exercise was not about giving people the right to vote. It was about protecting America from terrorism. Every step of the way, we've been lied to and disappointed, made increasingly cynical and skeptical. The cause for the war morphed from protection against imaginary mushroom clouds and looming stockpiles to one of liberty and freedom. Those are lofty ideals and beautiful things, but America doesn't go to war to give people the right to vote. If we did, we'd have invaded China and North Korea and Saudi Arabia long ago.This, of course, violates the mil-blogger party line and I am sure I will be pounced on by other folks, but Richard's sentiments are also very close to mine. I only care about success in Iraq in the context of how it gets American troops out of an occupation that was, in the words of a colleague, the wrong war at the wrong time. I just want to get this little adventure over and done with . I'm glad that John Murtha spoke out because he is at least provoking the correct debate, and I believe he simply took a position that was 180 degrees opposed to Bush to get that discussion out in the open. For that he is derided as a surrender monkey and a "cut and run opportunist". Based on the latest polling data, his actual stated position (vice what people say he said) is in line with the American people:
In the poll, when people were asked in an open-ended question the main reason the U.S. should keep troops in Iraq, 32 percent said to stabilize the country and 26 percent said to finish the rebuilding job under way. Only one in 10 said they wanted to stay in Iraq to fight terrorism; just 3 percent said to protect U.S. national security. "You've got to finish the job," said Terry Waterman, a store manager from Superior, Wis. The whole world is looking to us for leadership. We can't have another Vietnam."
Other recent polling has found that when given additional options, many people favor a step somewhere in between having troops leave immediately and staying until the country is stabilized.
Some 49 percent of Americans now say the war with Iraq was a mistake, according to the poll of 1,006 adults conducted Tuesday through Thursday. That compares with 53 percent in August. Two years ago, only 34 percent of those surveyed said the war was a mistake.
"Whether the war is a mistake is less relevant than what we should do now," said John McAdams, a political scientist at Marquette University in Milwaukee. "A fair number of people may think it's a mistake, but still don't want to lose."
Which, if you carefully parse what Murtha said, is the point he was making. He also did not want the malevolent CEO's running DOD to use up America's greatest asset, its military, by mortgaging its future. Troop rotations at the current rate will burn the folks out, despite Rummy's denials to the contrary, or his continuing refusal to acknowledge that they are doing more with less and will have to make do with even less in the future ( at least if they are in any service but the Army.........). Murtha is hearing that from his Constituents and from sources inside DOD. His only crime was believing them, and not Rumsfeld.
What about the soldiers on the ground? The repeated disconnect between what they believe and what is reported in the press? That's a legitimate question and one the the Commander of Central Command has taken on board. He points out:
He is amazed as he goes around the country and testifies before the Congress how many of our countrymen do not know or understand what we are doing or how we are doing. There are very few members of Congress who have ever worn the uniform (of our Armed Forces). He said that the questions he gets from some in Congress convince him that they have the idea hat we are about to pushed out of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no relation between this and the reality on the ground. As he goes around the region and talks to troops and junior officers he is very impressed by their morale and their achievements. They are confident that they are capable of defeating the enemy. You will never see a headline in this country about a school opening or a power station being built and coming on line, or a community doing well. Only the negative things will get coverage in the media.
He told the mid-grade/senior officers to go to their local Lions Clubs when they go home and tell the people what they are doing. If they don't get the word out, the American people will not know what is really happening.The insurgency is in four of 18 provinces in Iraq, not all 18. You do not hear about the 14 provinces where there is no insurgency and where things are going well. The insurgency in Afghanistan is primarily in Kandahar province (home of the Taliban) and in the mountain region on the Pakistani border. The rest of the country is doing well.Iraq now has 200,000 soldiers/police under arms and growing. They are starting to eclipse the US/coalition forces. Their casualty rate is more than double that of the US. There are more than 70,000 soldiers under the moderate government in Afghanistan and growing.
He predicted that the insurgencies in the four Sunni provinces in northern/central Iraq and in Southwestern Afghanistan will be there for the foreseeable future, but they will be stabilized and become small enough so the moderate governments will be able to keep them under control. 2006 will be a transition year in Iraq and that will see the Iraqi forces take much more of the mission from the US forces. This is necessary to bring stability to Iraq. We need to be fewer in numbers and less in the midst of the people for the moderate Iraqi government to succeed.
And so the conversation continues.
Now you might ask, "Hey Skippy, why are you so damn negative? He's the commander, you might ask, doesn't he know what he is talking about?"
To which I would reply, "Yes he does, but in the end its the details that are not said that really count."
Because both Richard and Gen Abazid are not incorrect in their data, proving only that objective analysis still counts for something and is an art that is being rapidly lost within the military.
First, it is probably useful to look at a map and ask some questions about the 4 out of 18 provinces statement:
Lets look at the population density map:
It is true, as U.S. officials often point out, that the violence is confined mainly to four of Iraq's eighteen provinces. But these four provinces contain the nation's capital and just under half its people.
Now lets look at the map of attacks in the past year. Notice how they match the population density pretty closely ?
And then finally, lets not take the 200,000 number at face value but dig down a little closer shall we? Here is what one finds(from Fallows data):
Most assessments from outside the administration have been far more downbeat than Rumsfeld's. Time and again since the training effort began, inspection teams from Congress, the Government accountability Office (GAO), think tanks, and the military itself have visited Iraq and come to the same conclusion: the readiness of many Iraqi units is low, their loyalty and morale are questionable, regional and ethnic divisions are sharp, their reported numbers overstate their real effectiveness.The numbers are at best imperfect measures. Early this year the American-led training command shifted its emphasis from simple head counts of Iraqi troops to an assessment of unit readiness based on a four-part classification scheme. Level 1, the highest, was for "fully capable" units those that could plan, execute, and maintain counterinsurgency operations with no help whatsoever. Last summer Pentagon officials said that three Iraqi units, out of a total of 115 police and army battalions, hadreached this level. In September the U.S. military commander in Iraq, Army General George Casey, lowered that estimate to one.Level 2 was for "capable" units, which can fight against insurgents as long as the United States provides operational assistance (air support, logistics, communications, and so on). Marine General Peter Pace, who is now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last summer that just under onethird of Iraqi army units had reached this level. A few more had by fall. Level 3, or "partially capable" units, included those that could provide extra manpower in efforts planned, led, supplied, and sustained by Americans. The remaining two thirds of Iraqi army units, and half the police, were in this category. Level 4, "incapable" units, were those that were of no helpwhatsoever in fighting the insurgency. Half of all police units were so classified. In short, if American troops disappeared tomorrow, Iraq would have essentially no independent security force. Half its policemen would beconsidered worthless, and the other half would depend on external help for organization, direction, support. Two thirds of the army would be in the same dependent position, and even the better-prepared one third would suffersignificant limitations without foreign help. The moment when Iraqis can lift much of the burden from American troops is not yet in sight.It's those details that get you every time. That's one thing I've learned working for the government............ Remember that when the president talks tonight............