Tuesday, January 16, 2007

# Posted 11:51 AM by Taylor Owen  

Just around 3 weeks between the two articles, and Kagan goes from 80,000 (or 50,000*, see below) to 30,000 as to what's needed to secure Baghdad (as Frank Rich quips in today's NYT, "whatever")! What changed?...
80,000. 50,000. 30,000. Whatevs! Roll the die on the craps table, ok, cuz it's gonna be 17,500 (barely half of Kagan's supposed drop-dead minimum requirement for Baghdad, and that's charitably construing his number-juggling, of course)! I repeat, does Fred Kagan support the President's "surge-lite"? If so, based on what rationale? A hail mary, or reality? Or is this just a Potemkin, souped-up version of Rumsfeld's "just enough troops to lose" doctrine? Have we learned nothing these past four years?

The 80,000 and 50,000 figures come from this TWS piece. 80,000 is clearly what he thinks it would take to secure Baghdad all at once: "Conducting Tal Afar-type operations across the entire capital region all at once would require concentrating all available forces in the area and a 'surge' of about 80,000 U.S. soldiers." 50,000 is his ballpark figure for what it would take to do it in phases...

And 50,000 is not that different from what Kagan and Keane came up with when they sat down and did a more detailed military plan for securing Baghdad in phases (a huge part of the city, Sadr City, was left off the table in their plan). They called for five brigades and two regiments to Baghdad and Anbar, more than 30,000 combat troops (but even more troops than that if you count logistics, etc. to support the combat troops). Bush has proposed sending five brigades and a regiment to Baghdad and Anbar, almost precisely what Kagan/Keane proposed. The difference comes in the way the brigades are being counted. The Bush administration is low-balling them as 3,500 troops each, so it comes up with a lower total number.


Bush is reportedly sending only 17,500 troops to Baghdad, and 4,000 separately to Anbar. 'Late December' Kagan says that we need for the "surge" at least 25,000 in Baghdad, and 7,000 in Anbar. So that's 7,500 short in Baghdad, and 3,000 short in Anbar--and that's playing with kid gloves--by not boring into the detail of Fred K's early December piece that spoke of the need for 50,000-80,000 fresh troops, before he dramatically (and so conveniently) reduced the bid/ask.

Contra Rich, this isn't about whether you count a brigade as 3,000 or 5,000. It's about this surge-lite being half-assed, even with a very talented guy like Petraeus at the helm, because we simply don't have the troops (in large because a lot on the dumbed-down NRO Right these past years were carrying water for Rumsfeld's incredibly misguided, troop-lite transformationalist nostrums). The surge is also likely to fail as it will be relying on confusing chains of command, because Kurdish peshmerga are going to be thrown in the mix, and because the Shi'a force being brought in from the south won't fight radical Shi'a militias, but only Sunnis--thus exacerbating the civil war (sorry, sectarian tensions, in NRO-speak). And, in the middle of course, will be G.I.s from places like Idaho and Indiana--getting killed to fight al-Qaeda and those evil Iranian mullahs, we're being led to believe, presumably--rather than, more likely, ultimately proving powerless to prevent Shi'a hegemony in Baghdad (you know, some of those friendly folks doling out the Nick Berg treatment these days).

P.S. Memo to Rich: before casually accusing me of a "smear", take a good hard look at what's shovelled around NRO day in, day out. The aspersions, juvenile belittling and denigrations bandied about the sand-box you call home come pretty fast and often, truth be told, so careful tossing around the "S" word, -k?

(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

Im not Lowry, but something confuses me. Are we talking about the number of troops needed in Baghdad, or the number of troops needed to be surged? After all we already have US troops in Bagdad dont we? Dont the high end numbers include troops already there as well as the increase do the surge?

As for your comments about Shiite troops, etc. If the Iraqi army is in such bad shape, so unusable, what does that say about the strategy of starting a withdrawl NOW, as proposed by Baker Hamilton (IIUC) and others? Doesnt that depend even more on Iraqi troops? If Iraqi troops are not capable of dealing with Shiite militias even when matched up brigade for brigade with US troops, how would they do so without US troops in a forward role?

Here is a proposed solution to the situation in Iraq. It is a simple idea, but more often than not, simplicity is the best course. I propose that this plan be scrutinized by persons who have an international platform. Amend and refine it as necessary. Then announce it to the world. The reaction from various leaders will immediately tell us whether or not the solution is viable.

First, the United States announces an immediate, conditional withdrawal of its military. Second, the United States pledges to finance the costs of reconstruction in Iraq. This reconstruction would be done wholly by Iraqi workers, thus giving a significant boost to their economy. To avoid possible misappropriation of monetary aid, the United States would pay on a project by project basis. Rebuild a hospital, send the bill. If the bill is reasonable, it is paid. The costs of relocation of millions of refugees would also have to be borne. If you break it, you have to pay for it. It is a moral obligation of the United States. The cost of rebuilding in Iraq would be substantial, but undoubtedly far, far less than the cost of continuing our current military course, estimated at about $200,000,000 per day. Perhaps the “coalition of the willing” would also contribute, as might neighboring countries.

Our financial aid would be based on two important conditions. One, the civil war must end. Two, the Iraqis must expel the foreign insurgents. Why would such a plan have a chance of success? The people of Iraq certainly want peace and prosperity. The prospect of job opportunities and a burgeoning economy might just lead the Iraqi people to ask: “Do we want to continue the bloodshed, or do we want a peaceful life with economic opportunity?” This plan offers the hope that both peace among Iraqis and their suppression of terrorists can be achieved. They would have strong financial reasons for doing so. Again, the announcement of this plan would give Iraqi leaders and others of influence an opportunity to declare their willingness to end this insane massacre.

Certainly, to end the civil war, the Iraqis will have to craft power and oil revenue sharing laws. The Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites would have to be satisfied. Increased revenue from restored oil operations would also give the government of Iraq the opportunity to further stimulate the economy. The prospect of peace and prosperity would be a powerful incentive for all parties to work out compromises and to embrace this solution. Further, Muqtada al-Sadr has publicly proclaimed that the presence of U.S. troops adds to the violence. Our withdrawal, therefore, should make it easier to end the civil war, giving al-Sadr’s militia less motivation to fight.

The condition of having them expel the insurgents will allay the U. S. fears that Iraq will become a “haven for terrorists”. The Iraqis will want to do this because they will want U.S. financial aid, and they will not want violent people in their newly peaceful country. This plan will be a step for the United States to begin to repair its damaged world reputation. As is commonly acknowledged, this damaged reputation has been used as a recruiting tool for the terrorists. This would be a step in beginning to reverse that trend. The United States should admit its errors and begin to atone for them.

If such a plan were announced there would be an immediate reaction to it from the Arab world. Neighboring countries, in the interest of peace in the region, might be willing to aid in Iraq’s economic recovery. If the reaction is favorable, the United States can proceed to implement it. If the reaction is unfavorable, we can go back to Plan B, whatever that might be. However, the incentives to embrace this solution are very strong. People always want a vibrant economy so that they can pay for the necessities and enjoy the luxuries that a decent income can provide. With the financial help of the United Sates, and with reconstitution of the oil production, the Iraqi economy can begin to thrive. And, finally, the prospect of living peacefully, without fear of being killed or maimed, will certainly be a major incentive for the people of Iraq to end the civil war. Is this solution not worth trying?

David Nugent
San Francisco
And then afterward everyone could have a pony!
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