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August 12, 2003

HOW MANY TROOPS?....Michael O'Hanlon sounds an oft-heard theme these days in the LA Times today. We need more boots on the ground in Iraq, and that means a bigger army:

Rumsfeld's instincts are laudable in many ways. The defense budget is already growing enough without increasing it further through added personnel. And the armed services do need to be pushed to innovate, privatize and reform their practices.

But Rumsfeld goes too far when he claims that we can get by with no additional soldiers in today's U.S. Army. Even with more allied help — which Rumsfeld isn't doing enough to recruit — we are likely to need at least another division within a year. That's about 15,000 soldiers; accompanying support troops will double that number. Given our all-volunteer force, we need to start recruiting now.

I'm at a bit of a loss to figure out what's going on here. The arguments in favor of increasing the size of the army are fairly straightforward: experience tells us that we're going to need a lot of troops in Iraq for many years to come, and even a cursory look at rotation schedules demonstrates that we're going to be hard pressed to maintain an adequate presence.

It's true that Donald Rumsfeld has been a pretty consistent advocate for a smaller, "transformed" military that reacts more nimbly and makes use of better technology instead of massive numbers. Still, the requirements of an occupation, as opposed to a shooting war, are unarguably personnel heavy.

So I can't help but wonder if there's a bit of Brer Rabbit involved in this: deny the need for more troops, wait for Democrats to attack because, after all, that's what Democrats do to Republican secretaries of defense, then "reluctantly" give in to Democratic calls for a bigger army.

I'm not sure exactly where I come down on this issue myself, but there seems to be something a little odd about the debate. I'll keep an eye on it.

Posted by Kevin Drum at August 12, 2003 09:33 AM | TrackBack


Yesterday there was an article about a Navy ebay-like "auction" for unpopular postings. A sailor could offer to fill a specific vacancy the service was having trouble filling, for an extra bonus each month. Sailors bid, and the best fit gets selected, though not necessarily the lowest bidder.

(Wall Street Journal link, for those with a subscription:,,SB10605480503941600-search,00.html?collection=wsjie%2F30day&vql_string=navy%3Cin%3E%28article%2Dbody%29)

Posted by: squiddy at August 12, 2003 09:43 AM | PERMALINK

At an absolute minimum we need to increase the slots in the Reserves and the National Guard for critical support specialties like air to air refueling, logistics, military police, intel/translation for difficult/esoteric languages like Arabic, Farsi, Pushtun, Chinese, Urdu and the like.

Overall, we'd be better off just roughly doubling the Reserves/Guard or adding a division or two, another carrier group and a few air wings or some combination of the above, whatever is most cost-effective. We don't need a circa 1985 Cold War sized military but we need something larger than we have now.

Posted by: mark safranski at August 12, 2003 09:43 AM | PERMALINK

Aaarrgh- auctioning unpopular posts! Not acceptable. Uniformed servises means just that, uniform to me, a retired USAF enlisted. Everyone should have the chance to fill unpopular posts, at least in my opinion.

Having been a recruiter, I can testify that recruiting for Reserves isn't as simple and straightforward as recruiting for regular AF. I can't see, though I may be very wrong, the Reserves being able to fill in enough of the required manpower.

One of the problems now is that the Reserves are being stretched even tighter than the regular. These folk, for the most part, did not sigh up to spend a year at a time away from jobs and family. They're getting out faster than the recruiters can replace them.

Its time for someone, whether Democrats or whomever, to be willing to stand up, say this is going to cost us, but if we want to do it correctly (I almost said right), we need to have more money.

That, in my opinion, is where the administration wants the nation. They want to have those who are dead against more taxes to accept, and if possible actually make, the cuts in social services that will be absolutely required to pay for the type of military requitred to do the job that they have, through their arrogance, placed us.

Posted by: JMP at August 12, 2003 09:59 AM | PERMALINK

I am not sure that we need a bigger military. Everyone says that we will need many troops in Iraq for years to come, but I don't know that I agree with this.

The thing that everyone always overlooks is that the current situation in Iraq is *temporary*. Our soldiers won't have to provide basic services, like policing, forever. We are training a new Iraqi police force, and they will be able to relieve our soliders eventually. Ditto just about every other public service; power, sanitation, etc. Eventually (I'd say in less than a year), the Iraqis will be responsible for most of it.

This means two things. First, we'll be able to send some of our soldiers home. Second, the soliders who remain in Iraq should be safer. They won't have to direct traffic and guard banks in Baghdad and Tikrit any more; the Iraqi police will do it. Therefore, our soldiers will not be as exposed to hostile fire. They can move to bases in the desert with well-defended perimeters where they will not be exposed to sporadic attacks.

To be sure, they'll still be in danger. The ones guarding Bremmer and the occupation authorites will probably still come under attack every so often, as will our supply convoys and the like. But life should be much less dangerous for our soldiers.

This is the one thing that drives me crazy about criticisms of the occupation; the inability to see beyond the present and the inability to realize that a lot of the problems we are experiencing are only temporary. There will not be blackouts in Baghdad forever. We will restore the power, even if we have to bury all of the lines six feet below the earth in concrete casings. The oil industry will start producing again; even if you are a total cynic, you've got to concede that Cheney et al will see to that.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at August 12, 2003 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

It's unclear what's going on here to me as well. Expanding the size of the Reserves isn't the answer, as what's needed is actual folks on active duty. Reservists are for emergencies and doing occupation duty isn't an emergency, it's an everyday manning requirement.

But even if we decide the answer is a larger active duty force, this isn't something we can conjure out of thin air. Assuming we can provide sufficient recruiting incentives, we can get the necessary privates in a matter of months. But where are the NCOs and officers going to come from?

Further, we don't want our force to consist of large numbers of people who stand around doing guard duty. That's rather a waste of a 4th Generation military. Clearly, the "answer" is to recruit massive help from friendly forces, preferably from the LDCs. This answer, of course, brings with it some feasibility problems of its own that will need to be solved, but it's the only logical solution I can think of. Obviously, we'll still have to pay for the cost of their deployment, but they're cheaper than U.S. forces, could conceivably already speak Arabic, and would add a certain legitimacy to the occupation that Western forces can't bring.

Posted by: James Joyner at August 12, 2003 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

If the United States started being part of the global community and honored its commitments in various international organizations, we wouldn't need to have such a large military build-up. All we need to do is get rid of one "Bring it on" president rather than adding thousands of more troops. It is physically impossible to be the boss of every other country on the globe. Especially when a number of the other countries are learning the mutual benefits of cooperation and compromise.

Posted by: chris at August 12, 2003 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

JMP, Kevin's post mentioned "the armed services do need to be pushed to innovate, privatize and reform their practices". This is one example.

The article explicitly says it doesn't mean the posting is only subject to bidding. Bidding is one part. Local commanders also have a say. Also considered are the skills needed, and the cost of transfer.

The article also touched on service members getting a college or graduate education while in the service; it used to be that these individuals were treated with suspicion, that they'd get their degree and quit for the provate sector. It turns out that this group is more likely to re-enlist than the service at large.

Maybe giving service members an opportunity to volunteer for the hard-to-fill postings is a better way to run our _volunteer_ armed forces.

And this was for the Navy only, not the reserves.

Posted by: squiddy at August 12, 2003 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Does anybody know a source of current Army recruiting statistics? I tried a Google search, but got too much other stuff.


Posted by: Barry at August 12, 2003 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Putting on my tinfoil hat, I think that Rumsfeld doens't really care for troops. He cares for nifty, hi-tech gadgets and machines.

Why? Because he sells those things for a living. I think he has an inherent conlfict of interest, and it blinds him on this issue.

Joe Schmoe makes a good point, but what worries me is that if we have too little troops on the ground, we may not be able to get to the point where US troops can be replaced. We may lose the Iraqi sentiment so badly that we lose control of the country. Another division in Iraq would be worth the insurance factor against that.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at August 12, 2003 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

"We are training a new Iraqi police force, and they will be able to relieve our soliders eventually. Ditto just about every other public service; power, sanitation, etc. Eventually (I'd say in less than a year), the Iraqis will be responsible for most of it."

Joe, very good points about what needs to be done. But do you have any links about whether this is actually being done? I could only find this link after a 4 day trawl

about a 4-man Army team led by an ex punk-rocker who were sent to reconstruct the University of Mosul. I would have thought that this should probably have been done by a somewhat larger team led by someone who could speak Arabic, at the very least, with some idea about what an academic university needs. I'm hoping you can send me some more encouraging links.

Posted by: Manish at August 12, 2003 10:35 AM | PERMALINK


My apologies for having over-reacted. I still think it's a poor idea, but would be willing to give it a try for a specific period. Not that I have a thing to do with deciding whether it's either a good idea or worth trying.

This brings up an associated,not on subject, perspective. From my place in the world right now, I think that the civilian world is just now beginning to recognize that there is indeed a need to have a military. It seems to me that for too long, since there has not been a draft, the military has existed only in the back of the public's mind. Rumsfeld has some, emphasize the some, good ideas about modernization, but essentially these ideas have been around for a while.

Maybe I'm being overly reactive, but it seems to me that the professional military is working, and a prime need is to make the profession more attractive in terms of pay, benefits, and respect. They're not an element to be trotted out and displayed, nor are they able to be all that the Tom Clanceys of the world expect them to be without support from us all.

I apologize for this off subject stuff. I'm not a frequent responder to blogs, and will try to be better mannered when I do visit in the future.


Posted by: JMP at August 12, 2003 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Timothy Klein, I think, gets right to the heart of the matter, only i'm not sure that one more division is enough.

Wolfowitz (one of the two honest people, in my estimation, in the iraq-strategy-setting circles of the backbone administration) provided congressional testimony in advance of the war that it was "hard to conceive" that we would need more troops on the ground after the war than it would take to throw out saddam.

Unfortunately, he was wrong (see this illuminating discussion by fred kaplan in slate:

That someday, as joe schmoe says, iraqis will take over duties that are currently being done by US soldiers (to the extent that they are being done at all) is hardly any help today, and today is when the "hearts and minds," as Timothy notes, are being won and lost.

So to me it's not just insurance - it's central to any notion of a sucessful rebuilding of Iraq that we have more troops on the ground now.

I know nothing at all about what the appropriate composition of our armed forces should be, although i certainly agree with jmp that, whatever the size, we need to make military life attractive in terms of pay and benefits (sadly, the backbone administration is going in the wrong direction, as the Army Times editorial quoted by the shrill Paul Krugman made distinctly clear).

I was an opponent of the invasion, but it took place; now i'm a supporter of a sucessful occupation that leads to a market-oriented, rule-of-law driven, democratic state of iraq. It would be nice to see an overall plan from bush, but, as wolfowitz would say, it's hard to conceive of a good plan that doesn't, near-term, require more boots on the ground, wherever we get them from.

Posted by: howard at August 12, 2003 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Brer Rabbit indeed. It's been amazing these past few months watching Republicans arguing for bleeding heart humanitarian missions like rescuing our Iraqi brethren from a despotic regime. Not to mention all the new support for Keynesian economics. As long as we're trying to improve the planet rather than exploit it for narrow selfish greed I guess the bigger and better make-work military is probably a good idea and even might be necessary for homeland security.

All jest aside if Rumsfeld controls the military purse strings it seems more and more likely he won't be spending it on a bigger and better paid crop of soldiers, at least not until the Neocon crowd gets sufficiently re-educated by the real world.

Posted by: dennisS at August 12, 2003 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Mark you say that we should as a nation
Overall, we'd be better off just roughly doubling the Reserves/Guard or adding a division or two, another carrier group and a few air wings or some combination of the above, whatever is most cost-effective.

I do not see how most of these proposals would help the country out in Iraq or any foreseeable contigency in the next 2 years, which hopefully is the window of problems. As it is right now, the Reserve/National Guard is having trouble recruiting enough slots to maintain the present force, and from what we are seeing in Iraq, retention is probably going to be a problem for the current Guard/Reserve as their committment is way pass 1 weekend a month, 2 weeks a summer, and Oh Shit National Emergency level. They are being used as if they are regular troops.

A carrier group would take at least another year or two to form (Constellation needs a refit, escorts need to be found, an airwing needs to be formed (either mobilized from reserve units and placed on active duty, or reconstituted from disbanded units) and crews need to be trained)
In the long run if the United States is to continue upon the neo-con roadmap, then yes the forces available are currently insufficient to meet the needs. My plan to avoid that problem is to get the neo-cons and Bush out of office.


Posted by: fester at August 12, 2003 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

JMP - no worries, and everything you said was valid anyway!

Posted by: squiddy at August 12, 2003 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who thinks that creation and implementaion of an Iraqi police force will actually result in our troops leaving needs to consider the greater geopolitical scheming behind this adventure. We don't advertise it, but we are there to stay for some time given the current strategists at the wheel.

Posted by: Waffle at August 12, 2003 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

To sizably increase troop levels would require the return of the draft. That would quickly increase opposition to current aWol policies, so it won't happen.
Rumsfeld reminds me of the character in Candide, who no matter what calamity happens, calmly states that "This is the best of all possible worlds".

Posted by: sal at August 12, 2003 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe said:
"This is the one thing that drives me crazy about criticisms of the occupation; the inability to see beyond the present and the inability to realize that a lot of the problems we are experiencing are only temporary."

The occupation of Iraq is not the first occupation ever; there is ample evidence from occupations in the past to give a rough guide as to sizes.

And if you think the problems are temporary, wait until the US army withdraws most of its soldiers, leaving a power vacuum behind. Iraqis are not stupid: many will smell opportunity. Do you think the current Council will command the loyalty of the new police force and keep Iraq together by sheer force of personality?

Finally, the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia should give you a clue as to the Administration's true plans for Iraq.

Posted by: Elliott Oti at August 12, 2003 01:28 PM | PERMALINK

From the administration's own words, we will have a "generational committment" to Iraq. This means from their own standpoint they will need the boots on the ground for a long time. They don't have the troops to provide that at this time. They're shuffling for all they're worth trying to find some way to rotate the troops already there. This will only work for a year or so. We need more boots on the ground in training right now to meet the need then. And that is simply to maintain a rotation of troops at the current level.

Rumsfeld wanted a military with fewer boots available, not more. He figures we can do with less people because we'll have such a high tech force. But smart bombs and ultra hi-tech fighters wont help us in Iraq unless we decide to smash them into submission, and there sort of goes the whole ball game if we get to that stage. This has been an effort (across the board but playing a big part in military spending) to hand lots of money to defense contractors who are led by friends of people in government and who used to be part of government themselves. Promoting the revolving door works for both the current government and the defense contractors.

But do we really need the Osprey, the F-22, the F-35, and the Joint Strike Fighter? Exactly what military in the world has an air force to defeat what we have now in a major conflict? So far as I know, all our potential adversaries are using vintage aircraft that wouldn't stand a chance in an up-front fight with our Air Force. Saddam didn't dare lift one aircraft off the ground in opposition to us.

We do need something to fulfill the mission that the Osprey was to do. But that plane is a multi-billion dollar albatross hung around our necks; too difficult to keep flying even under peacetime conditions and has been known to kill the people who try to fly it. The other aircraft I don't see a need for, though perhaps they could choose one of the three and let the other two go.

The money is needed for boots on the ground, not more high tech aircraft. We need a major push for teaching Arabic just so our current escapade in Iraq isn't plagued by lack of communication. People get killed because they don't understand what the other side is saying.

Also waiting in the wings is the fact that thanks to Iraq we are no longer able to provide troops to any other crisis that comes down the pike. We need more troops to meet any further crisis that might come up, such as if N. Korea decides to export nukes.

Posted by: Norman at August 12, 2003 02:09 PM | PERMALINK

What's the point of having a "nimble" military that can put 2000 Marines on the ground, ready to fight, 36 hours from the word "Go" -- if we won't send them in because the mission is "poorly defined"? Maybe the Department of Defining Missions needs to become more nimble, as well.

Posted by: Grumpy at August 12, 2003 02:24 PM | PERMALINK

I was a little suprised to see that out of all the comments only Norman cam close to my own opinion on this; the knowledge should be much more widespread.

The US Army is a mechanized force. Wherever it goes, wherever there is a soldier, there are machines. For everything.

If you're facing another force made up of machines it's a very effective body. If you're facing another force of no or few machines it's a massive case of overkill.

The easiest way to think of mechanized/non-mechanized tactics I know of can be seen in the European WWII theatres--in the Pacific conditions demanded a non-mechanized force/tactics (island jungles), while Patton giggled delightedly at the sight of thousands of heavy tanks lined up on the French landscape.

American forces have by far the worst ratio of combat troops to support troops in the world. I thinks it's 1-9. They call all the logisitcal support for a division "the mountain of iron."

All those weapons, machines and logistics are useless in Iraq. What's required right now is boots, twice as many, with every other man speaking Arabic.

Our Army didn't have to be built this way. It could have started to change once it was obvious it would not be facing 20 heavy tank divisions from the Soviets.

It didn't. It's still slow, huge, heavy, and with very few actual fighters. It's built for expensive machines. We could at LEAST scrap that useless NMD and build a new division with it.

The thinking here is that you scrap a lot of the useless machines and get more men. Don't laugh. The M1A Abrahms was crippled and useless in Kosovo. It was too heavy for any of the bridges.

Not to get into it much longer, but if you still need more information, Mr. Drum, contact Steve Gilliard at He's the best-read military historian I know and he knows this subject.

Posted by: paradox at August 12, 2003 03:09 PM | PERMALINK

The linked article points out that the current US Army is too small maintain current force levels around the world, and makes a case for a larger US Army. Another argument, not made by the author, is that the current force levels in Iraq are far lower than they should be, if measured by recent historical yardsticks and the Congressional testimony of General Shinsheki.

Combining the two trains of thought implies that the Army is far smaller than it should be, given its various missions. The size of the Army and the missions of the Army are the responsibilty of the President. If he wishes to address this issue, he can request from Congress an Army big enough to handle the tasks it faces. To not address this issue is the height of Presidential irresponsibilty.

Posted by: etc. at August 12, 2003 03:47 PM | PERMALINK

Paradox; I agree with everything you're saying, which isn't a surprise since you agreed with me. It's axiomatic that the measure of genius is how much the other person agrees with yourself. But voices like ours don't seem to be getting any traction in government. Does this make us wrong, or make the government corrupt and wrong? Obviously, I think the latter.

Your observation about the number of support troops needed to put one combat troop in harm's way is spot on. It's even worse in the Air Force; when I was an enlisted man there the number was closer to 100 people for every person inside a cockpit.

In private enterprise we find new ways to make more things happen with less people. Of course this has the downside of raising joblessness. And it's part of the reason the present administration can present its ideas about privatizing so much of what used to be support troop's jobs. Unfortunately those private companies are just cronies getting handouts, and in any case they aren't required to go into a war zone, so much of the promised reconstruction hasn't happened yet. If we're serious about nation building we need actual troops to do it. We don't have enough troops now to provide security, let alone reconstruction. What we need to do is borrow those streamlining ideas that private enterprise has brought about and bring them to the military itself. On logistics, there are some promising advancements. But until we remodel at least part of our military from a logistics-heavy mechanized force into one that can perform peacekeeping and nation-building missions, we will continue to suffer insufficient boots on the ground.

It will take a strong President to start from the ground up and remake the military and end the rampant corruption that makes up our military procurement. End the revolving door between government officials and lucrative jobs awaiting in companies wanting government contracts. And it will take a similar effort to promote small businesses that make capitalism flourish and reign in the large corporations that can only prosper by getting even larger. And it needs to be done soon before the concentration of wealth and power resides in so few that the country breaks under the backlash. It may in fact already be too late. But I'm just enough of an optimist to believe we can turn things around. First part of the agenda has to be getting rid of Bush and the crony capitalists that are raiding the US Treasury for corrupt purposes, and to be willing to call both parties out on their quid pro quos to campaign donors.

Posted by: Norman at August 12, 2003 05:20 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have a problem with the idea of expanding the military. Politically, it's a no-lose proposition for the Democrats. No one can criticize a call for more troops, and it'll make us look tough(er) on defense.

Also, I fully agree that we'll be in Iraq for some time to come. In fact, I don't think we ever plan to leave, or at least not for several decades. That is entirely consistent with historical precedent; we've stationed tens of thousands of troops in Germany, Japan, and Korea for over fifty years.

What I have a problem with is the idea, generally unspoken, that the occupation of Iraq will require a troop commitment *at present levels* for many years. There is no reason to think this. Within two or three years, we can probably reduce our presence there to 30,000 or 50,000 troops, or whatever Rumsfeld's original estimate was.

Once Iraq is up and running, we won't have to direct traffic or guard banks and schools. Our troop commitment can be reduced accordingly.

Thereafter, our troops will serve three purposes. First, they'll ensure that no Iraqi rebel group can raise an army and march on Baghdad. Second, they'll allow us to put pressure on the Iraqi government and ensure that our democratic reforms are carried out; the presnece of heavily armed troops will deter any radical mullah or would-be Sadaam clone from trying to subvert the democratic process. Third, they'll allow us to pressure the other regimes in the region, such as the Saudis, the Iranians, and the Syrians.

None of the critics of the occupaiton ever seem to recognize this fact. Our present heavy troop commitment won't last forever. This also means that the need for "allies" will decrease with time. Once the Iraqi police is up and running, not only will we need fewer American troops, we also won't need any allied troops.

Conditions in Iraq are improving and will continue to improve. As they do, our troop commitments will be lessend.

The next challenges in the Iraqi occupation are twofold. First, we have to rebuild the economy, and transform Iraq from a twisted version of a Socialist welfare state into a modern capitalist system.

Second, and far more importantly, we have to teach the Iraqis about democracy. We'll have to convince the leaders, some of whom we won't like, how to work with one another despite several decades of bitter enmity. Kurds and Sunnis will have to learn to debate legislation and cut deals with one another. The average voter will have to learn that it isn't always a good ideat to elect the smooth-talking scoundrel as mayor if he is going to promptly pack the city payroll with friends and relatives and use the city treasury to pay for his Mercedes and his wife's shopping trip to Paris. We'll have to privatize a lot of the industries to ensure that the politicians won't make a mess of them and steal the profits; the Iraqi oil industry cannot be allowed to become like the Mexican oil industry. Last, we'll have to keep the Saudis and Iranians out of Iraqi politics, and you can bet that those guys will be trying to make the reconstruction fail.

This stuff is going to be extremely difficult. I do not envy Paul Bremmer. But what it won't require is a massive committment of troops, American or allied. We need to recognize that.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at August 12, 2003 09:02 PM | PERMALINK

I will provide the requested links tomorrow.

To start, former NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerick is responsible for training the Iraqi police force. He's made several appearances on the Today show to discuss the progress of training.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at August 12, 2003 09:06 PM | PERMALINK

While I agree, Joe, that we wont forever need current troop numbers in Iraq, I don't think we can say a certain date when we'll be able to draw them down. How rosy things are going in Iraq depends on who you talk to. Obviously there is a mixed level of success. Electricity will take a year, says Bremer, and at least partly this is because of sabotage of hi-tension lines. I don't think we can train enough Iraqi police to guard the whole power grid. Until we utterly defeat those trying to get us to leave we'll need some substantial number of troops, and I don't think we will utterly defeat them, as jihadi Saudis, Syrians, and Iranians are all coming over to either join the fight or lead protests to enable Islamic Law in Iraq. We'll need to secure the borders too.

We agree this is a very difficult proposition, and I'm not debating about whether it was worth it to do.

I think it's a non-starter to get the Iraqi oil privatized. They wont go for it, and it will look to the world that we are stealing their oil. And no big oil company will go in there until security is restored at any rate. By then the Iraqi Oil Ministry wont need private investment most likely. Once we get them up past pre-1991 levels of production they'll want to keep things nationalized. For better or worse, Iraq wont be a Shell Oil enterprise.

I think that democracy wont really take hold in Iraq until we've had a generation of kids schooled in classes teaching it. That's why I've said all along we'll be there for 20 years, and maybe longer. Leaving prematurely would be very bad, with an Islamic Republic in the south and perhaps a Turkish war with the Kurds up north.

Worse thing though, to my mind, is we should have waited until we finished in Afghanistan. We don't have the ability to do what we promised there now. And perhaps the horse would have learned to sing in the meantime.

Posted by: Norman at August 12, 2003 09:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin says:

[HOW MANY TROOPS?....Michael O'Hanlon sounds an oft-heard theme these days in the LA Times today. We need more boots on the ground in Iraq, and that means a bigger army:]

But that is not an accurate description of what Michael O'Hanlon says. He does not say we need a bigger Army because we need more "boots on the ground in Iraq".

His point really is quite different. He says that without a bigger Army, some units which are in Iraq now, or have already been in Iraq, will eventually have to cycle though another duty assignment to Iraq by 2005!

And my reply to O'Hanlon is, so what.

First off, by 2005 there should be thousands of Iraqi police and Iraqi Army forces available to reduce the burden on Amercan occupying forces. So it is not true some U.S. units will be forced back to Iraq by 2005.

Second, if an active duty Army unit has to pull another tour of duty in Iraq, so what. Navy units do this kind of thing all the time, It's normal.

Third, if the strain on Army units is that bad, why not pull Army units out of Germany?
They should have been pulled out ten years ago when the Warsaw Pact collapsed anyway.
I mean what the hell good are they doing now? Protecting Germany from Germans? Adding to NATO's defense? When NATO has already reduced their own armies by amounts greater than the whole U.S. force based in Germany? It's way past time for the U.S. Army to get out of Germany.

Posted by: Brad at August 13, 2003 01:05 AM | PERMALINK

As promised, here are some links.

Yesterday's Tom Friedman column in the NYT talks about Bernard Kerik's work. No link, because I assume you've seen it.

The US began paying the salaries of Iraqi governent officials in late May. We've even doubled most of the salaries (naturally, this is never reported...):

We began recruiting the new Iraqi army in June:,8599,457648,00.html

The USAID is making grants to help re-establish Iraqi universities:

Here is the thing that it is imparative to remember about the Iraqi reconstruction. "Reconstruction" is something of a misnomer. Most of Iraq's infrastructure is completely intact. It's not as if the schoolhouses were leveled in a scorched-earth bombing campaign, and now we have to physically rebuild them. It's not as if all of the professors and electrical workers were killed in the bombing, or drafted into the Iraqi army. No. Hardly any civillian facilites were destroyed, and civillian casualties were kept to a minmum, as horrible as that is to say.

Iraq already has schools, teachers, etc. We don't have to start the system from the ground up. It simply needs to re-open, and we simply need to provide assistance, rather than the system itself.

Of course, Iraq was until recently a third-world country, so many of the institutions don't meet the standards that we are used to. Before one starts criticizing the occupation, one should keep this in mind. If Iraq's schools don't have enough books today, or if student-teacher ratios are bad, well, that's probably how they were under Sadaam. If the science department at the University of Baghdad is a little light on gas spectrometers and scanning electron microscopes, same thing. We will improve this stuff in time, but it will take a few years for the Iraqi educational system to even approach American standards. The same is true for most other public services.

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