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:
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.
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
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
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
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
(Wall Street Journal link, for those with a subscription:
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
JMP, Kevin's post mentioned "the armed services do need to be pushed
to innovate, privatize and reform their practices". This is one
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
And this was for the Navy only, not the reserves.
Does anybody know a source of current Army recruiting statistics? I tried a Google search, but got too much other stuff.
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.
"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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
JMP - no worries, and everything you said was valid anyway!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/. He's the best-read military
historian I know and he knows this subject.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
[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
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
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
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.
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
We began recruiting the new Iraqi army in June:
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
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.