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25 November 2006


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semper fubar

Pat, do you think they're serious when they propose this? Surely they are as well-informed as you are about what it really means to say we need tens or hundreds of thousands more troops in there.

My cynical guess is that they know full well it can't and isn't going to happen, but they are preparing their future defense for the debacle they've created. It'll go something like: if the American people hadn't lost the will to fight, we could have won.

Hey, it worked for Vietnam. Why not trot it out again to see if it can cover their butts for the next few decades?

Unless of course they're actually preparing us for the 'ah hell, bomb 'em back to the stone age' option.

(Someone [ex-CIA] told me a few years ago that we'd end this war by turning the desert into glass.)

What do you think their motive is for trotting this stuff out?

W. Patrick Lang

Semper Fubar

I am afraid that the miasma of mutual and self-deception and exclusion of independent thought is so strong today, that even if they do know they can't admit it. pl

Frank Sinatra

People seem generally prone to hold forth about subjects of which they know nothing, but this seems particularly true with military matters. The way people talk about sending more troops to Iraq, you would think they could be grown, like sowing dragon's teeth. This general, amazing ignorance is just one of the many factors that convince me the situation in Iraq will end in a worst possible case scenario.

Byron Raum

Semper Fubar,

You're missing one important element in the psychological makeup of these people. They are unable to come to grips with the possibility that we might actually lose. Thus, there was no serious backup plan, and never could be. Furthermore, if it looks like we're losing, then it's because we don't have the will to win. In other words, it's all the pansy critics like you and I who are to blame. We're sapping the will of the Republic to win. All that's required is for the dimwits (you and I) to shut up, more determination and troops on the ground, and all will be fine.

Eventually, reality will catch up with them. But the real problem is that such an attitude is really comforting. Life is great if you cannot do any wrong and it's always someone else's fault.


Green Zone Cafe

Rumsfeld fought all the suggestions from Congress that troops strength be expanded. There were joint resolutions by Sens. Reed and McCain which proposed that Army end-strength be expanded by tens of thousands. Rumsfeld fought tooth-and-nail against them, preferring to spend the money on other things.

The fools that were planning all these operations in 2002 should have known that many troops would be required, just as they should have known that the monetary cost would be huge. I think they just lied about the money, but were deluded about the manpower, despite warnings to the contrary.

In the wake of 9/11, a call to service would have enabled a rapid expansion of troop strength in 2002. Now it's too late to raise those troops, at least without huge bonuses and lowering of enlistment standards.

I have to wonder who is enlisting now, after the stories of stop-loss and repeated tours in Iraq. A young man or woman might want to test themselves in battle with a year in Iraq, but would pause at the prospect of committing to two or three years in Iraq or Afghanistan, or both. The stories, mostly in local media, about troops killed, maimed and psychologically damaged by these repeated tours have now permeated America.

Parents and teachers - "influencers" - are unlikely to be enthusiatic about kids near and dear signing up for the meat grinder.

Also, here are two recent columns by the realist William Pfaff on the illusory thought which the Colonel is talking about:

Demogogy About a Third World War

Bush left reality behind. Now we are all trapped.


First of all, thank you very much for this article Col., and that remarkably clear and concise description of the problems of raising troop levels.

I do have a couple of questions though, when you say Abizaid is using advisors as a euphemism, do you mean he's looking towards something like the Phoenix program in Iraq as a way out?

The US seems to have already tried the "Salvador Option", and that gave us the Shi'ite death squads, if Abizaid is advocating a latter day Phoenix, what do you think the results of such a policy would be?

It seems as if people are going back, reading the things critics of the war said at the outset, then presenting them as serious policy initiatives for the current situation. The proposals for switching sides and reconstituting the Baath party, or supporting the Sunni tribes, or finding our own mini-Saddam to run the place all have the same air about them. A little like slamming the barn door shut after the cows have escaped, armed themselves to the teeth, come back and burned the farmhouse to the ground.

This also seems a good place to link to the most recent War Nerd column for those who haven't read it.


W. Patrick Lang


what I meant is that Abizeid does not want to say advisers so he has some other word for advisers. after all, we don't want to make any refernce to VN although a lot of things were done better there in the advisory and revolutionary development fields. pl

Duncan Kinder

So --- If you really want to do what is talked abut in terms of augmenting strength in the war zones, then you are going to need MUCH LARGER ground forces with many more brigade and regimental combat teams.

All of this would cost not only time but also money. While Congress politically appears to be willing to appropriate whatever funds the military requests, it does not appear willing to levy taxes to raise these funds.

Hence, the military power of the United States ultimately rests upon its ability to borrow these funds from others, who do not necessarily share Congress' enthusiasm for Pentagon appropriations.


If we have a draft, I'm not supportng it, but if, then we need to do rationally. Anyone under 50 who hasn't served is eligable.

For medics we get doctors and nurses, for those doing counterinsurgency an IQ of at least 120 and useful experience, for police work cops, for logistics, people who manage it at Walmart, for infantry cross country runners, very skilled hnters and players of all these strange sports, native Americans...

A draft is unfair in many ways, if we do it, we might as well do what we need to win. Identify the types we need, then cull the population for those who fit the specs best.

War is a serious business and if the local hospital loses a couple of it's trauma doctors and they are suddenly making $40,000 a year it will remind us of it.

And it would be interesting to hear people bitching that they haven't been drafted because it implies that they are not among the best.

W. Patrick Lang


I think we shoulr remember that it is not the military that sets the parameters for national foreign policy. It just carries it out. If the "central fromt were abandoned, the military would not ask for all the vast amount of O&M money now going into the wars.

Also, I saw that someone referred to Rummy, Wolfie and the idiot Feith as "military" today. No Way! pl

still working it out

Makes me wonder if, going forward, the United States is going to have a permanent problem of its military trying to implement a national foriegn policy crafted by civilians who have little understanding of the military's capabilities, limitations and needs, and little interest in the long term health of the military.

WWII got such a large part of society involved with the military that it has been quite easy to find civilians of genuine combat experience. Almost every administration since WWII has had senior members that served in a real war. With the passing of that generation and its replacement by those who avoided Vietnam America is left with people who don't seem to understand the military, and hence cannot direct it effectively.

Even if Iraq is exited safely it seems probable that the combination of absolute belief in the greatness of US military and incompetent civilian leadership will lead to a military disaster at some point in the future.


". . .it is not the military that sets the parameters for national foreign policy. It just carries it out.. ."

I always thought the military did defense policy and the state department did foreign policy. We used to have dipomacy, negotiation, compromise, etc. But I guess that was all pre-43. Today all we have is war, belligerence, and threats we can't carry out.

Foreign policy as we used to know it appears to be gone with the wind.

W. Patrick Lang


No. No. All policy is established in what is called the "interagency," that is the interaction of the various departments under the leadership of the White House.

The Defense Department has a voice in that in that the civilian appointed and/or senatorialy confirmed CIVILIAN people in the Offoce of the Secretary of Defense are a direct part of the interagency. The uniformed military are a separate part of the Defense Department. The Joint Chiefs of Staff participate in the interagency as advisers to the president in the matter of technical and operational advice with regard to foreign policy. In other words they are supposed to tell the civilians (including the president) what the options are for any policy decision and then carry them out when one is picked. If the decision is stupid they are stuck with it as are all those people serving in the ranks who did not have the chance to go to Harvard. pl


You might perhaps have had one opportunity to go large with a chance of success and that was in what should have been Phase 4 during 2003.

You did not go large then and now the record is a consistent and incredible one of mistake and wrong choice. Deep in my heart I suspect that going large, even if it were possible, would not work and would simply reinforce failure.


If Col Lang is right about the time factor, then it means the Administration is considering staying in Iraq at least five more years, because it will take over 2 years just to get all the units in place over there. Then probably at least 2 more years to fulfill objectives to stabilize the country.

If, as we have seen so far, the White House really doesn't know how to carry out millitary objectives, this will be political suicide for them.

Seeing as how anti-war sentiment was the prime mover of the public's voting preferences three weeks ago, if the Administration continues to make botch up after botchup in Iraq, there's no question that the public will elect a pro-withdrawal president in 2008. That would be before the units are even in place to carry out the Go Big Go Long strategy.


Bush and Cheney visiting the Saudi's and Jordan back to back means one thing: going big against Iran.

Eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth.

As Colonel Lang points out, troop increases in Iraq are a non-starter. As he also points out, troop reductions are a non-starter (as far as the current administration is concerned).

So if the status is to remain quo, why do Presidential diplomacy in the the ME?

To get all you ducks in a row for when you bomb Iran, that's why.

Of course, there's that pesky French carrier task force next to Lebanon. Maybe take that out at the same time...teach those perfidious French a lesson.

I do not wish to be proven right, but I said before the election that the most danger would arise if the Democrats won. That would leave this administration a tiny window between the election and the seating of the new Congress to carry out its escalation of the war.

Think Israel bombing Beirut. That's the template.

Also think of the fact that this administration now knows better than anybody that it has been done like a two-dollar whore by the Iranians. If you're Bush and Cheney, you don't let that go by without retaliating.


Sir, I call myself, Grumpy, because I'm a Grumpy Disabled Vet from the Viet Nam era. You have raised a complex issue about where these additional troops will come from. Let's go back to basics. The U.S. Constitution says if we are going to put troops in harm's way, there should be a "Declaration of War". This changes the whole perception of the civilian population of this Nation. The whole Nation goes to war, not just the military and their families. The Nation as a WHOLE braces itself for the sacrifice, not just the military. If we want to attract young people to the military, then we need to stop playing games and we really need to be CONSTITUTIONALLY ACCOUNTABLE!

(To be continued.)


In the spirit of equal time, here's the other interpretation of Cheney and Bush's visits to the ME: a mini-UN of "moderate" (read Sunni dictatorships) Arab states to help us out of the quagmire.

That's what Le Monde believes. They sure as hell know more about it than I do.

What I do know is that the Coalition of the Willing (remember them?) now consists of less than a dozen suits in London and Washington (okay, and Tel Aviv).



As a non-military person, thanks for the "plain-English" explanantion of the manpower terms of military units. Is it true that ther military doesn't have"Divisions" anymore??

Off topic: we were lucky enough to be visited in our classroom by a cadet from USMA last week - home for the holiday. She gave a great talk and the class of 12th graders enjoyed hearing about a style of "freshman year" that few of them had given any though about!

Soonmyung Hong


How about keep UNITs iraq permanently, and gradually rotate UNIT's personnel?

I think it effectively increase UNIT's number in Iraq.

Are there any drawback?

One of my mentor, who was former US-ROK CFC deputy commander, criticised UNIT rotation hurt it's readiness. He said newly deployed unit must adapt changed environment.

I think regular unit rotation mean just "search-destroy". If they want "clear&HOLD", unit's permanent presence is a lot better option.


Page 2. As we ALL become accountable, trust will START to form. A thought from our past, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." George Washington, 1789. Washington really points out a crtically important point, Our young people need to see the whole truth, not just selected sound bytes. Just think back to what we were told to do after 9-11, get back to normal, travel and shop. There was nothing about national sacrifice and preparing to go to war. The young will not sacrifice until the nation sacrifices. We have been hearing this called, the long war. How long is "long"? I'm not talking about a split second, but are we talking about years, decades, centuries or millennia? We have a tough time ahead of us. Mr. Lang, thank you, for sharing your thoughts with us. Thank you, for your service to this GREAT NATION. "Grumpy"

W. Patrick Lang


Bless her.

Theoretically the Army still has divisions, but in fact the "unit of action" is the brigade combat team. I think they still have divisions so that generals can still be promoted to two stars in the combat arms.

The marines someone else must speak for, pl

W. Patrick Lang

Soon, etc.

No. We tried that in VN and the result was that unit levels of training eventually declined toward zero, nobody knew anyone else and nobody cared.

I was lucky. I was in SF and we always cared because we were a tribe.

Humans, especially soldiers, need to hunt in tribes. pl


Col., my understanding was that in other conflicts units would be rotated away from the front, but not out of theater in order to rebuild their strength with new soldiers. Would it be possible to do something like this, where units are moved out of forward bases and off patrol for a few months, have people at the end of their terms sent out and replaced with new soldiers. Once the unit has had a chance to work together in a non combat area, they can then sent back out, or was that the way it was tried in Vietnam?

The option I've seen floated is rotating personell on the basis of small units that were trained together stateside, say nothing above platoon level, while leaving the command structure for the larger unit in place?

Duncan Kinder

Are the insurgents not also obliged to organize themselves into units of some sort?

If so, of what sort? How are they thereby constrained?

Can their unit organizations somehow be attacked?

If not, why not?

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