web counter Media Lies: I couldn't agree less

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

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I couldn't agree less

Tech Central published an article today that I completely disagree with.
It appears to have become a consensus among congressmen, opinionados, and the like chatterers that the training of Iraqi soldiers is the key to victory in Iraq. What started as a harmless idea to create the seeds of an exit strategy while giving Iraqis a sense of empowerment has morphed, at least in the public perception, into a central strategic plank of the actual waging of war in Iraq.
Exit strategies are for losers. We should banish the term from our language.

I don't recall anyone in the administration ever mentioning an exit strategy, so where does the author, a philosophy professor, get this idea from?

Common terminology. It's accepted wisdom these days that you don't go into any conflict without an exit strategy - a rancid leftover from the Vietnam war. Planning an exit strategy is a euphemism for preparing to fail. The only exit strategy America should ever have is the complete and unconditional surrender of the enemy.
This newfound significance of the otherwise nice idea of training Iraqis is both silly and dangerous.

It is silly inasmuch as the trained Iraqis are not going to be a replacement for the American military. If our military has not been able to crush the insurgency as yet -- though doubtless great strides have been taken - it's unlikely a late-fangled Iraqi contingent will not do the trick.
Who said the Iraqi military was supposed to replace the American military as opposed to complementing it? Eventually, however, the Iraqi military must replace ours. Otherwise we would have to have a permanent large presence in Iraq, and I don't know anyone who is in favor of that.

Furthermore, the Iraqi military can do things that the American military could never hope to do - such as work intimately with the local population to extract intelligence that leads to the defeat of the terrorists. I expect to see the Iraqis moving more and more to the forefront as they develop into a cohesive force.
At the moment, we offer a three-week training program for those brave Iraqis willing to join our effort. I am a thirty years old male in good health; but if you started training me on New Year's Day, I will not make the most impressive soldier by January 22nd. Certainly not impressive enough to reestablish law and order in Iraq.
Once again, ignorance of the military leads to incorrect conclusions.

Do you know how long my Navy training was? Thirteen weeks. And the final four were "extra" because I was a member of the Bluejackets choir. "Normal" boot camp was nine weeks. The first four weeks were spent in basic training - force discipline, basic physical training, military customs, etc. Three weeks is more than enough time, if the training is intense enough, to whip a force into shape and build espirit de corps. The rest of the training can be done "on the job". Eating, sleeping, patrolling and living with US troops in the field is probably the best training the Iraqis could possibly get.

Furthermore, there are a number of different force types with different training regimens, so it's trivializing to say "they" get three weeks training.
At this stage in the game, what we need to train is not an Iraqi army, but an Iraqi police force. The Iraqis we train could not conceivably take on the hodgepodge of angry militants in Mosul, Fallujah, and half a dozen other soft targets. Not if we cannot.
Ah, but we already have. And so have the Iraqi forces. In Fallujah. And the Iraqi forces have been serving admirably in the al Anbar province, patrolling with the Marines and arresting terrorists.

And we've been training police for over a year now.
Nor does the Iraqi nation need the United States to create its army. In fact, such a US-created army is bound to lack legitimacy in Iraqi eyes. The new Iraqi army will have to be created by the Iraqi nation when the Iraqi state regains stability. But bringing the Iraqi state to stability is our own mission. Nobody can do it but the United States Armed Forces.
Apparently the good professor has not even read about the pride that Iraqis feel when they see their own forces in action.
The danger is that we start thinking of those trained Iraqis as our ticket out of Iraq, as many among us appear to have already done. The trained Iraqis can battle petty thievery and, on a day of glamour, armed robbery. They cannot finish the job the American military is struggling to accomplish. The American military will have to finish that job, whether or not there is an alternative Iraqi force in its wing, and then we can leave Iraq.
The American army is not "struggling to accomplish" their mission. Where did you get that idea? Obviously you bought in to the idea that the war would be quick and easy. This despite the fact that the President has said it would be long and difficult, and Rumsfeld has called it "a long, hard slog".
So our ticket out of Iraq is simply the completion of the mission we have taken upon us: to replace the murderous despotism of Saddam Hussein with a democratic government (or at least a government that is otherwise answerable to the governed) that rules over a relatively stable Iraq. That is our ticket out and the only honorable way we can bring our troops back home.
Finally something we agree on! But look at the conditions you articulated - a democratic government and a relatively stable Iraq. The first will occur in 35 days. The second could easily happen by the middle of 2005.
As American casualties mount, and the American public starts wondering why we are doing this, there is a temptation to sell to the public a fairytale about an American-trained Iraqi military that will soon take over, replacing American casualties with Iraqi ones.
Who's been selling us this fairy tale?
To the extent that this is sheer deceit, it is wrong. But it is even more dangerous if it is meant in earnest. For it may lead eventually to a public upheaval that culminates in a demand to act on such a plan, with disastrous implications for Iraq and consequently American credibility.
My goodness, the hyperbole here is almost overwhelming.
If we get out of Iraq before the job is done because we cannot accept the death toll, we will have confirmed Bin Laden's diagnosis that we don't have what it takes to take on such grand projects as we have initiated in Iraq. And we can forget about reforming and reshaping the Middle East, the sort of reshaping that is the only genuine cure for the malady of terrorism.
Again, I agree.
It is time for the nation's leaders, starting with the President, to say so clearly and unambiguously. We must accept the possibility that by the time we leave Iraq 5,000 of our best compatriots will have died; that we cannot leave before we ourselves restore law, order, and stability to the reemerging Iraqi state; and that no collection of hurriedly trained Iraqi soldiers, however courageous and devoted, can complete that task in our stead.
I disagree with the 5000 figure. At the rate that we are losing troops now, it would take four more years in Iraq to reach that number with no change in the levels of violence. I simply don't see that as being sustainable on the part of the terrorists. They don't have enough bodies left to inflict those kinds of losses on us, and we are getting smarter all the time. As more Iraqis troops complete training and join the fight, our intelligence will improve and the terrorists will lose even greater numbers.
Rather than indulge in the fantasy of seeing our troops soon replaced by non-American soldiers, one would do better this holiday season to make a donation to Operation Gratitude, the Wounded Warrior Project, USO, and other organizations devoted to supporting our troops in battle and beyond -- with a clear-headed determination to stay the course.
Now that I can wholeheartedly agree with.