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15 November 2006


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Jesus Reyes

The long term war in the ME is Sunni vs. Shia and you have to pick a side. The USG and KSA war is with the salafis, wahabbis, muslim brotherhoods, etc. These are hard core fundamentalists and they are not going to lighten up.

Khomeini was hard core but Sistani is way lighter and his brand of shia prevailed. The Iranian revolution is spent and Ahmadinehad is an aberration. Persian is the third dominant language on the net. A "secular" shiism is on the way.

A shia population is sitting on top of all the oil save the eastern "stans"

Knock off the Khomeini clerics and ally with the Sistani type clerics and go after the salafis. Ditch the KSA and complete the revolution around the gulf.

Hence the neocon dismissal of the Iraqi sunni military.

DeWitt Grey


Pardon my ignorance, but I thought our force structure and doctrine were based on the premise of having the capability to fight "one and one-half wars", originally central front in Europe and Korea, but gradually evolving to include the Middle East or other hot spots in Asia as possible alternatives. I can understand why the "heavy division" Army didn't want to hear about counterinsurgency -- they apparently didn't want to hear about it (much) even in Vietnam, much less afterwards. But the "heavies" are designed to fight the "one" in the "one and a half" wars -- I thought all the Army's talk about developing "light divisions" had the "half war" in mind, including counterinsurgency. How is it possible that Carlisle and Leavenworth weren't, at the very least, keeping the flame alive, particularly with a small army of officers who learned this stuff the hard way in the field?


Excellent review, Col. I like Mr Ricks' work very much, I've yet to read "Fiasco" - I appreciate Ricks at the WaPo standing up for Zinni when he was being maligned by those that aren't worthy to carry his boots.


That we went into Iraq without well laid preparations to make use of the Iraqi army is the shocking thing. It was the main secular political grouping that Saddam feared as a source of opposition to his power; you'd have thought we could have bribed a few generals to sign up before hand. Catastrophically arrogant decision to send them home un-defeated to live with the shame of not having fought the invader.

In truth though once the looting started and Rummie described freedom as being messy the writing was on the wall. This was an administration that proudly claimed they would not do nation building before gaining power and boy have they've kept to that promise.

You are very hard on the US Army in your review. The long sulk after defeat in Vietnam is surely part of the problem. This cold war relic was partly transformed by Rummie into something more light and agile but not remotely fit for likely purpose. It was and remains the wrong kind of army for this job. However the British Army is exactly the right kind of Army to handle Basra and look at the mess we have down there. I don't think the blame lies with our soldiers.

It's the neocon political agenda that sunk the project; this was not a society that could survive being frog marched towards free market capitalism. Maybe if we'd installed a military dictator, built a new secular elite around the old army gradually and fixed the broken ruins of Iraqi society it might have blossomed into something like Turkey after a couple of decades of commitment.

It will likely end with multiple warlords clashing until a new strongman emerges. I hope he's more like Kemal Ataturk than Saddam Hussein.

W. Patrick Lang


The one and a half wars were supposed to be fought by all the forces that would not fall into the "Prople's War" category. I suppose the Ranger Regiment would also probably not be included in that 1 and 1/2 thingy.

So, before 9/11 the number of Army people available for the mission you are talking about would have numbered less than 30,000.

Carlisle and Leavenworth were as bloody minded as the rest. pl


It seems that there were various schools of thought. Both Zinni and Sheneski are on record as arguing for a much larger force which could freeze the security until the old army was revamped. And negotiations were uunderway under Garner with officers who represented many units in the old army.

Frm what I have read many company commanders and others did an excellant job of local work. They didn't have resources, the CPA gave them 28 million of of 20 billion in Food For Oil money and in many cases after they got the thing started they were called away and insurgents terrorized the police and officials they recruited.

The military was not designed for these purposes, but I think it had leadership at all levels that could have done a much more credible job if it hadn't been purged and directed by the civilian half.

The State Department and other agencies also failed, they should have had "cadre" working with the units which were originally dispersed.

And certainly we had a vast assortment of civilian, often very experienced, talent that could have been recruited with the resources we spent on pork for US corporations.

I suspect the upper ranks will pat dearly, evidently younger officers are reading "Dereliction Of Duty."

John in LA

I don't understand at all the disconnect between the military institutions and the world around them. Wouldn't the end of the cold war make clear -- isn't it clear today -- that there will never be another war between the United States and a national army? If we can put cruise missiles onto a postage stamp....well, that option's off the table permanently.

But we seem powerless to adress the political/social/tribal swamp wars that will surely dominate everything from the Tijuana drug wars to the Middle East.

If Iraq wasn't lesson enough, I should think that the IDF in Lebanon should be a total redline underscore.

I can't think of anyplace in the world where industrial armies actually dominate insurgent irregulars.

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

Why do you expect the Iraq's army to have been useful in post-invasion Iraq? That army was a largely Shia conscript army used to control Shia and Kurds - why do you expect it to have been able to serve as a national army? Would Najaf or Irbil permitted that (I think not)?

W. Patrick Lang


You are mistaken in your characterization of the old Iraqi Army and its history.

Conscription does not necessarily produce poor armies. Russia, the USA, Germany, and the UK did quite well in WW2with armies that contained a large number of conscripts.

The Iraqi Army contained large numbers of people from all the major communities in Iraq. There were a lot of Shia enlisted men becaseu there are more of them than anything else in the general population. There were many senior officers who were not Sunni Arabs. There were Kurdish, Shia, Turcoman and Christian generals in the armed forces. The Commanding General of the Republican Guard Armored Corps (the spearhead of the invasion)in the invasion of Kuwait was a Shia Lieutenant General. He now works in the Ministry of Defense.

During the Iran-Iraq War there were were no significant defections, mutinies or combat refusals of orders in the Iraqi Army including among all the Shia soldiers that you mention.

The units who put down the Shia revolt in '92 were mostly manned with Shia soldiers.

This was a national army. It defeated Iran and no amount of propaganda can change that. pl

W. Patrick Lang

LA John

No. It is not clear that the US will never fight another national army. You sound like my mother who, in 1958, told me that I should forget about the Army and go in the Air Force because high tech weapons and "the bomb" meant there would never be significant ground warfare again.

You may think you can foresee the future but the record of experience in real history indicates that it is impossible to predict with the certainty you apparently feel just exactly what or who the enemy will be ten or twenty years from now. Rumsfeld's "reforms" are creating a force incapable of fighting any kind of enemy other than the "4th generation" kind. Prudence would insist on a more balanced approach.

Cruise missiles? Do you know what they cost? Do you know how small the payloadds are" These weapons are suitable only for point targets of high valus, not your "4th generation" guerrillas. How many are you going to use chasing guerillas in Iraq? How many have we used? pl


I also think it's unlikely that the U.S. will ever fight an "industrial" army in the immediate future. That is to say an army that looks like a western army with tanks, jets, etc. Two things in particular would have to change before we go back to the era of nationalized industrial warfare.

1)Globalization. When economies are interdependant you cant fight a war without first rupturing your own countries economy. Not to say it isn't possible, but it's alot harder to fight a war if your steel, indusrial chemicals and electronics all come from somewhere else than if you have the domestic industry.

2.) Nukes. They don't make ground warfare obsolete obviously, but people seem to think long and hard about fighting a war when a limited or all out nuclear exchange is likely to be involved. And any country that can assemble a large, modern conventional army seems to be able to put together nukes and ballistic missiles. Unless someone comes up with a magic 'anti' nuke field, they're going to be damper on any conflicts between industrial powers.

Nothing in this analysis says it can't happen however. Just that the trends make these types of wars less likely. As with anything, the right combination of bad luck and incompetence can make any bad outcome possible.

I have no argument with your statment about the difficulty of predicting what sort of opponent will be encountered, however I don't think the current approach the US is taking, which seems to be about building the most advanced weapons systems possible and then looking around for a threat to justify them could be called 'balanced'.

As for only being able to fight 4th generation or networked guerrilla or whatever you want to call them enemies, I haven't seen anything that says the air mobile 'shock and awe' military Rumsfeld had in mind would be able to do that. That John Paul Vann line about CI warfare being political and calling for discrimination in killing keeps coming to mind as being essentially correct. I very much doubt you'll get better results in that arena from the back of a Stryker than you would from the back of an M1A1.


"This was a national army. It defeated Iran and no amount of propaganda can change that." - PL.

PL, I am curious about this statement. All I remember from the corporate media reporting was that it was a stalemate. It seems the Wiki on this topic is disputed but it too claims a stalemate.


I found Fiasco to be extremely interesting, especially the pre-war sections where I ended up learning quite a bit when I came in thinking I knew it all already. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the Iraq War.

Ricks falters, however, in his conclusion. The whole moral of the book throughout is that things started off bad and have only gotten worse and worse. Taking that extensively researched and quite sound moral, he concludes with a bizarrely emotional response: things are going from bad to worse but we shouldn't leave because........we shouldn't? The fine attention to detailed sourcing makes for a startling contrast when Ricks starts making wild speculations as to what could happen if we left. He also never squares the troop level paradox: the commanders don't have enough men to do the job vs. having a heavy military presence causes excess damage and is counter-productive. No one in the military seems to have worked that one out either.

W. Patrick Lang


Probabilities. That is what it comes down to in the end.

The question asked should be - how much are you willing to bet on what kind of enemy you are going to fight?

I think your point about the interconnection of economies being a deterrent to war is ill taken. I suppose that you remember that the German H-Hour for Barbarossa had to be held up along the Bug while the Germans waited for Russian freight trains to finish crossing into their territories. pl

W. Patrick Lang


You are correct. The Iran-Iraq War was marked by skilful management of the press by the Iranians and the Israelis who, at that time regarded the Iraqis as a greater menace than Iran and who assisted the Iranians in various ways to include the the Iran-Contra Affair, procurment of materiel on the world grey arms market and media "sculpting."

The end of the war was nothing like a stalemate. In a series of ground offensives beginning with the offendive that recaptured the Fao Peninsula and which culminated in operation "Tawakalna ala Allah" (In God We Trust)the Iraqi military destroyed the military potential of Iran's ground forces. In this last op, the Iraqis sent four armored divisions into Iran in a semi-circular sweep about a hundred miles long and twenty miles deep. This was a huge raid. It finished the Iranians. They acepted the UN sponsored cease-fire. at that time the Iraqis were inside Iranian territory everywhere that I can remember.

After the war, the Iraqis put on a display of captured Iranian equipment at a cantonment south of Baghdad. Lined up for thousands of visitors to see were thousands of pieces of equipment; tanks, artillery, APCs, recon vehicles, trucks, etc. Each pieces was painted in whitewash or some such substance " This ---- is the booty of the ---- Division."

I briefed this event in various capitals. In one Arab capital, the head of state asked me what the overhead shot of the display represented. I told him that he was looking at the skeleton of a dead army. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

Thank you for reply.

But if what you say is correct why can't this Army be re-constituted now?


Colonel Lang,
Part of the current White House plan being bruited in the press is increasing the force in Baghdad by 20,000 troops.
In addition, we are being treated on a daily basis with reports of sharply increasing casualty rates among our troops. This increase has continued past the election and probably has nothing to do, directly, with the election.
Are we in military trouble in Iraq? Are we having trouble avoiding a significant military defeat similar to Dien Ben Phu? Do we have the capacity to evacuate large numbers of troops if we get into trouble?

have skunk

Has anyone noticed that Shrub's "big push" phrase and plan is taken from a line straight out of the movie, "Lawrence of Arabia." No kidding:


Pat, very interesting. But if Iraq was so successful on the battlefield in the end(and with the US increasingly acting directly against the Iranians), why didn't they push for more favorable settlement terms? One of the big reasons why people regard the war as a stalemate is because both sides ended up in pretty much the same place where they began. Why didn't the Iraqis at least demand full control of the Shatt-al-Arab?

W. Patrick Lang


"There is a tide in the affairs of men..."

Too much time has passed and the situation is not what it was in 2003. The US is committed to raising a new army. We are too far down the road both in Iraq and here for that. pl


PL, thanks for setting the record straight. Its hard to discern fact from fiction for the average American like me with all the "sculpting" of corporate media reporting.

In your estimate what is the current state of the Iranian military?

W. Patrick Lang


If the democrats accept Bush's last throw of the dice in the big push, then they will own a piece of his war by 2008. pl

W. Patrick Lang


1.The US was NOT acting directly against Iran. This is more mythological crap (Murtha reference).

2. Iraq was exhausted by its long and nightmarish expeience and the thought of driving further into Iran to occupy more territory was the last thing on their minds. They wanted the war to end.

3. The terms of the UN sponsored cease fire were not negotiated with the parties. It called for a cease-fire in place. That was the deal that the Iraqis were gong to get if they wanted an end. pl


Grimgrin, lazy but quite typical analysis is to project the present into the future. In the financial world we see analysts pretty much always drawing straight line projections. Take for example analyst projections for flash memory manufacturers even with the "present" where flash spot prices are collapsing and WalMart is cutting prices on consumer electronics ahead of the holiday season.

I guess in the military the line that "general's fighting the last war" is appropriate.


The current possibilities in Iraq are either bad or really bad. The disconcerting rhetoric reported by corporate media only mentions: 1) Senator John McCain's 20,000 troops drop in the bucket, 2) stay the course, or 3) stay the course with troop withdrawals.

The true alternative is the draft, 500,000 American boys and girls in Iraq, exorbitant taxes on the wealthy, Arab League troops, and a set deadline for last Christian troops to get out of Iraq. If a stable Iraq is in the National Interest of the USA, it requires real sacrifice by all Americans.

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