Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Friday | July 04, 2003

It's worse than it seems

By Steve Gilliard

The look on Donald Rumsfeld's face lately has not been a happy one. As the Bush Administration and its defenders try to pretend that the war in Iraq is not going badly, the reality is that things are getting worse with little hope for a solution in the near future.

Viceroy Jerry has asked for 50,000 troops to maintain his rule. There's one small problem with that. There aren't 50K to give. The US military is nearly at the end of it's deployable strength and needs to withdraw the 3ID as soon as possible.

Let's look at the numbers:

So far deployed to Iraq are the elements of seven of the US's 10 active duty combat divisions, making up half the combat power of the US Army. Only the First Cavalry Division is fully deployable from the US. Bosnia is now being covered by National Guard combat battalions and Kosovo was supposed to be covered by units now in Iraq.

Then there are our committments in Korea, Afghanistan and other sundry places.

Michael O'Hanlon argues that we desperately need help from our allies to relieve the burden in Iraq.

OK, now didn't we disregard our allies sane, rational, and logical suggestions about how to deal with Iraq? Now, we expect Japanese and Korean troops, forget French and German to help us out?

It's time for a reality check:

No country is going to send their troops to be bullet sponges. Kill 25 Dutch troopers and their parliament will flip out. Everyone wants to be peacekeepers. There is no peace to keep in Iraq. There is war, one which the foot patrol and not the Bradley should dominate. Foreign governments are selling peacekeeping as a way to get close to the US while limiting the outrage which will follow if their troops come under attack.

The French and Germans already have committments. They have absolutely no reason to join in a US venture when their voices would be muted at best. The Congressmen and pundits who expect them to step in to save us in Iraq are wishing for an unlikely thing. The political opposition to the war remains and the idea of French troops dying to control Arabs, in a country pushing 10 percent Muslim and with bitter memories of Algeria, is unacceptable.

The idea of South Korea, where opposition to the US is intense, and Japan, which would face a constitutional crisis in deploying armed peacekeepers overseas, sending troops to Iraq is just as unlikely. The motley bag of troops that we can expect, most of which will rely on the US for funding, don't bring Arabic fluency, and will have strict, secret orders on what to do and not do in regards to combat.

Time and again, the Bush Administration was told: you need allies, you need help. They refused it, again and again. Now, Bremer, in his best Westmoreland circa 1966 mode, is begging for more men. He can't have them. Politically, it would be devestating, and tactically, it would only provide more targets without providing the security he needs to provide.

Our intelligence in Iraq is abysmal. CENTCOM officials are either lying or genuinely stating that they have no clue as to who we are fighting. I have no idea what is more frightening. But to not know who the enemy is after three months is amazing, and not in the good, naked woman on the bed way. It's clear that this resistance goes way beyond anything Saddam and his cronies could have cooked up. Because while the Baathists are taking their shots. average Iraqis are turning their backs. Some clearly are afraid of retribution, but there are many more who react with glee at every attack.

We are rounding up people in their sleep and taking 10 AK's in battalion and brigade sized sweeps. Use the combat power of a US battalion to grab, what, five sleepy guys and their rifles and the attacks grow? There may be up to one million potential guerrillas and supporters. Not only that, but the kids are tossing rocks and laughing at our wounded and dead. We are losing the population more and more each day.

The fatal error of Bush's "Bring 'em On" comment is that besides its cheap talk and bully posturing, is that it isn't true. We cannot handle what they're throwing at us. We don't know who they are and we aren't killing them in number. They wound and kill Americans every day and escape. They aren't being killed.

Every US unit is under daily observation. They cannot move, cannot buy a DVD, without people noticing and recording it. The Iraqis are passing information to the guerrillas without pause. Foreign volunteers are flooding into Iraq as they did in Spain in 1936. They have over 135,000 American targets and a friendly population to work with. Unlike Afghanistan where Arab volunteers were pointed out by the locals to the Americans.

The request for troops is a political minefield and one which places the Army at it's limits. The war was supposed to be over, 50,000 men getting their Iraqi visas puts that to the lie once and for all. It would awaken opposition to the war and not solve the problem.

Keep in mind that the Sunnis and the limited guerrilla war has already taxed the US Army to it's limits. A Shia rebellion would make the country ungovernable without using much greater levels of force and that presents a political conundrum. While some on the left expect the worst out of the Bush Administration, the reality is this: killing Shias, be they civilians or guerrillas, would delegitimize our occupation beyond redemption. To fill new graves with Shias would be beyond explaination. To vicitimize Saddam's vicitims would be politically unacceptable.

Yet, to flee from Iraq, would be such a significant defeat, that there is no way that Bush could expect to be reelected and probably would join Lyndon Johnson in not running for a second term during wartime. All talk, from Dean to Hegel, about staying in Iraq "until the job is done" relies on one factor: Shia cooperation. With it, no Sunni rebellion can last for long. Without it, no Sunni rebellion can be repressed for long. Unless we make a deal with the Shias to offer them political power, they will eventually have to join the Sunnis in guerrilla war. As it stands, the resistance to the US is spreading in the Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad.

To do so, however, would create a Shia fundamentalist state in some form. That is also unacceptable. It would place pro-Iranian clerics, Sadr, Hakim and Sistani, in charge of Iraq. Which might or might not result in a subsequent civil war. But it would clearly not be the pro-Western democracy pushed by the PNAC crowd. Israel would not be getting their cheap Iraqi oil and US bases would be out of the question.

It is an ugly series of choices, easily predicted but ignored. The Shia will determine what happens in Iraq regardless of our desires and will. The Army is stretched to the limits with no clear source of more troops. And there are no simple answers to any of this. Bring it on? We have brought it on, more than we can handle without grim choices.

Posted July 04, 2003 01:11 AM


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