Archive for November 20th, 2006


November 20, 2006

Thomas Ricks has an interesting online article about the Pentagon’s likely recommendations for how to move forward in Iraq.

Our 3 basic options, as the generals see it, are: go big, go long, or go home. Going big means sending an additional 20-30,000 troops. Going long means reducing our overall force size while sending more advisors to help train Iraqi troops and police, and staying for another 5-10 years. Going home means just what it sounds like.

They dismiss the 3rd option because it would lead to total civil war in Iraq. As you may have heard over the weekend, Gen. Abizaid favors the 2nd — going long. What the Pentagon favors is a hybrid of #1 and #2: send an additional 20-30,000 troops for a short time, while transitioning to a smaller, longer term force composed of more advisors.

Frankly, I don’t see how that would work. The problem, as best I can tell, with the Iraqi forces isn’t that they lack the ability to fight; it’s that they lack the will to fight. That is, the lack the will to fight for Iraq. They’ll fight to defend their own region or sect or ethnic group, but if they’re sent to fight for some other region or sect or ethnic group, they literally walk away. They quit and go home. (And take the guns we paid for with them.) I fail to see how sending more American military advisors is going to fix that. All we’re doing is arming and training people for the sectarian militias.

As Ricks notes, the Pentagon came up with the 20-30k number in their “go big” option because they realized they simply didn’t have the several hundred thousand more troops needed to actually conduct a counter-insurgency war. Even to get that smaller number, they’re going to have to extend tours and call up more reservists and National Guard.

Which is why, in my opinion, we should institute a draft. I mean, how is this not a draft situation?

  • We’re at war.
  • It’s a two-front war — Iraq and Afghanistan — that in 4 months will have lasted as long as America’s involvement in World War II.
  • We can’t afford to lose in either place.
  • For several months, we’ve been losing in both places.
  • We flat don’t have enough troops to change that.

It seems to me the rubber has met the road. Either we give up, or we make this a truly American war. So far, this has been a war the military has fought, but America hasn’t. America isn’t at war; the military is. America’s non-military families have not had to contribute a single thing to the war effort. We aren’t even picking up the tab (unless you count putting it on the national credit card for later generations to pay off). I worry about the future of a democracy when a majority of the populace slips into thinking “going to war” means “sending to war.” It makes us careless and sloppy about how and when we decide to declare war. If the history of this adventure in Iraq is any guide, we’re already much too cavalier. It’s time to make this thing real, and fight it for real.

World War II is the last substantial war America won. If we want to take anything resembling victory from this one, maybe we should learn something from what we did in WWII: go hugely big, get the whole nation involved, make our point, then go home. We need to draft and train that several hundred thousand soldiers the Pentagon knows it needs to really fight a counter-insurgency, and go fight it.