Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Liar Calls Truthtellers Liars

Penraker attempts to debunk claims tha we went into Iraq with enough troops.

Well. let's deal with his arguments.

But Rumsfeld relied on the generals. The Generals have consistently said that we do not need any more troops. Sending more troops now is certainly not needed. Sending them long ago was not needed.

First of all, there is every reason to believe that the claim that the generals told Rumsfeld that they didn't need more troops is a lie. The original article is behind the subscriber wall, but you can still read the money quote in Andrew Sullivan's archives:

In contrast to the Pentagon's stock answer that there are enough troops on the ground in Iraq, the commanders said [to a Senate committee] that they not only needed more manpower but also had repeatedly asked for it. Indeed, military sources told Time that as recently as August 2005, a senior military official requested more troops but got turned down flat.

Of course, like a good warbot, Penraker simply worships Rumsfeld and takes his word to be the Word of God.

Immediately afterward, he makes this howler of a statment:

All that would have done is make us responsible for securing peace in Iraq, not the Iraqis. It's their country. They have to fight for it, not us.

The idea that the Iraqis ought to fight the insurgents for us is rather asinine. We conquered their country. One would think that we ought to be the ones to secure it. Unless, of course, you keep talking in Communist-speak of our conquests being "liberations." The fact of the matter is, once you conquer a country - which is what we did - you have the responsibility to keep order, unless you decide that you cannot handle it and pull out. The idea that letting their country go to Hell so that "they fight for it, not us" is a proper course of action either shows a total disregard for Iraqis in our so-called "liberation," a post facto rationalization of a mistake, or most likely both.

Next, Penraker admits that Rumsfeld nixed a larger force plan by Tommy Franks, but insists that Franks' plan was old and outdated, and essentially implies that there were no other serious plans that required more troops and that the whole reason for wanting more troops was due to the needs for the invasion rather than the occupation.

Frankly, James Fallows nicely dealt with this in an article (unforuntately, it is now behind a subscriber wall) in the Atlantic, where he pointed out that the administration basically ignored anyone who questioned their assumptions and that he would just cut troops out of people's plans in order to reduce the number of troops required - not necessarily calculating where they were needed and challenging the plans, but simply removing a few troops here and a few troops there. Moreover, a lot of the concerns were about getting enough troops to pacify the country, not just getting enough troops to be able to cut through Iraq's military and get to Baghdad.

After suggesting that yes, more civil affairs troops would be useful, but we didn't have any, Penraker makes some rather sweeping and counterintuitive assertions about the need for more general troops:

Would a 500,000 man army have solved all our problems? Nonsense. This is child's thinking. And by the way, people - if you are still worried about the looting of Baghdad, get over it. We would have needed much more than 500,000 to stop that. Think about it. Would having twice the number of troops that we had in Baghdad have stopped that? Of course not.

Well, not all of our problems, but it would definitely make it easier to hold more than one city at a time against the insurgents:

(From the Time article, as quoted on the Sullivan post):

There are about 160,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq, a number U.S. commanders in the region plan to maintain at least through the Iraqi national assembly elections on Dec. 15. But the battalion commanders, according to sources close to last week's meeting, said that because there are not enough troops, they have to "leapfrog" around Iraq to keep insurgents from returning to towns that have been cleared out.

As for the looting of Baghdad, I don't know what we could have done to stop that, other than shooting a few looters on sight to discourage the rest - which really, we were reluctant to do, for good reason. However, I am not convinced that having much larger forces on the ground would not have discouraged some of the looters a little just through intimidation, and it is not clear to me that twice as many troops would only translate to twice as many in Baghdad. More likely, we could quadruple our Baghdad forces and increase the forces in the Shiite south only slightly. But really, the real issue is that we would have been able to amke an immediat show of strength and clear out a lot of insurgents before they were able to take root.

In any case, if he is to argue that doubling our troop levels would not have made things any easier, why doesn't he argue that we should bring home half our troops? If 130,000 more troops wouldn't help much, why would 65,000 fewer hurt much? What exactly are all those troops doing that could not be helped by another hundred thousand or so?

Then he brings up the famous neocon canard:

Did the lack of troops allow the insurgency to take over and grow? No. It was the surrounding nation's efforts to make sure democracy did not grow that fueled this insurgency. Money and terrorists flowed into Iraq, but it took some time. That's why the insurgency started slowly, with a few ex-Baathists throwing around grenades for about a year. Then Iran was able to get a professional terrorist force in there, was able to funnel all sorts of support for the rag tag home grown insurgents. No, this is Iran's war on us, and to a lesser degree, it is Syria's and Saudi Arabia's.

Does anyone else notice that the people who say this never actually provide any evidence that the insurgency is mainly run and funded by foreign countries? The fact of the matter is, it is a homegrown insurgency. 90-96% of the insurgents are Iraqis. The neocons simply state that it is run by the other countries (a) to excuse themselves from being wrong about how much the Iraqis would welcome us and about how the Iraqi would all get along in a nice big, multiculti democracy, and (b) to set us up for the next war. I especially like the War Nerd's pointing out of why a little nobody like Zarqawi was made out to be such a big deal:

I said that our interests and Al Q's dovetailed perfectly here: we wanted to pin a local, Iraqi-manned, neighborhood-based insurgency on an outside agitator like Zarqawi, and Al Quaeda wanted to show its donors in Pakistan and the Gulf that it was the real force behind all the fuss in Iraq.

But even if we assume this to be true, wouldn't more troops have allowed us more people to patrol the border with Iran to prevent terrorists from sneaking in, or to patrol the borders with Syria and Saudi Arabia? With 3500 miles of border, an extra 70,000 troops could provide 20 troops per mile to keep the baddies out. An extra 140,000 would provide an extra 40 troops per mile. Blaming the insurgency on foreign fighters does not mean that more troops would not have been helpful.

After that, he apparently states that the one thing we did wrong in the war was not anticipate how much Iran and Syria would interefere in Iraq. That was apparently because they were not interested in undermining our efforts in Iraq until Bush started talking about democracy, which, it turns out, terrified them a whole lot more than the most powerful nation in the world occupying oneof their next-door neighbors.

Even if we believe that the democracy talk scared them, I still insist that it is ludicrous to say that this was not part of the propaganda effort all along. A lot of people insist, however, that Bush did not talk about spreading democracy until after Iraq was invaded (although I remember worrying about us trying to plant demcoracy in the Middle East way back in 2002 if not earlier) so I will have to do some research to show what the case is one way or the other [any links on this issue will come about later]. And in any case, if bringing democracy were such a necessary part of the War on Terror, why didn't Rumsfeld factor that, and other nations' reactions to that, into our plans from the get-go? Even if we assume that Bush didn't tout the democratizing aspect of the War on Terror prior to the conquest of Iraq, surely it must have been part of his plan all along. If, as Penraker states, But we have no other choice [than to democratize the Middle East]. So long as [middle eastern countries] remain dictatorships with growing young populations, we are in danger. Bush still did the right thing. It is only because we have studiously refused to look at the whole picture that we luxuriate in a narrow view of Iraq, and Iraq alone, then surely he must have realized how important it would be long before we were actually in there. Surely Penraker isn't suggesting that Bush never let Rumsfeld in on the fact that he was going to be pushing for democracy and that Rummy was totally surprised at that, and so had no time to plan for the reactions of other countries, is he?

After that, Penraker goes on about how wonderful things are going in Iraq, and about how we are making progress against the insurgency. Considering the recent upticks in the civilian death tolls, the increasingly deadly terrorist attacks, and what appears to be the end of a six-month decreasing trend in hostile coalition fatalities. In short, I wouldn't bet that we are going to be in a position a year from now where things are unambiguously better in Iraq.

But regardless of that, the argument that we didn't need more troops or that more troops would not have helped to pacify Iraq sooner and better is just stupid defend-Rumsfeld-at-any-cost-ism.

Not that we actually had more troops to send, or that firing Rumsfeld now would actually help us win this war. I think that getting into the war in the first place was a bad idea; I'm not sure we could win unless we define winning as setting up a U.S.-friendly dictatorship and unless we are willing to commit mass-murder to keep it in power. But let's not kid ourselves that we had enough troops, or that if we could have found more troops that that would not have helped.

That is all.

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