Friday, September 14, 2007

All quiet on the Numaniyah front

Still waiting for the next brigade to show up- apparently, while the security situation is much improved (see this week's Petraeus briefings), the last brigade to go through our training is not able to vacate its 'battle space' to come down here for training just yet. So we wait.

Which means I continue to read, exercise, sleep, eat, and have watched a few DVDs this week.

So I continue to think about the larger picture, which can often be quite exasperating. What we see and hear around us feeds into my perceptions. And then given my lack of access to military information, I also try to find out what is happening through the media- my favorite source right now is Al Jazeera (English edition)- what all seemed so outlandish from my American perspective before being out here makes perfect sense as I learn more about the cutlure and perceptions here.

So here's a bit of an essay on my thoughts, never official doctrine or military policy...


JCS and Centcom leaders have in the recent past made comments about our being overcommitted here in Iraq. We don't have any sizable reserve force to address potential threats anywhere else- we're so tapped out, we're even forced into a reduction in forces here (and some will trumpet it as a drawdown, I side with those who point out it is simply going back to the pre-surge levels, which at that time were unacceptable to the general public, but now, relative to the current 170k troops out here, relativity makes it seem more palatable).

I'm an armchair quarterback on this, and don't have the 'intel' or other perspectives of those working at a strategic level, but I don't understand why senior military leaders, and senior leaders in the legislative and executive branches appear to do nothing more than complain about this lack of flexibility caused by our commitment here.

From my line of reasoning, there are 2 ways to solve that problem, first is to bring troops home so they can refit and get back online for contingencies (the reserve, switched from 'strategic' to 'operational,' also needs to get things back together again). Our President has made it clear we're not taking this option. This option may be put back on the table as he finishes his term at the end of next year, so we're working into 2009 with essentially the status quo.

Well then, how do we prepare to meet the potential other threats? How do we create a capacity to respond to these potential problems in terms of manpower and equipment given our current shortfalls?

We can just not respond to threats and violence against our country or allies, I guess, but at some point, I think we'd like a plan which leaves us feeling like we can dictate terms a bit better than that.

To me it seems we need to build up our forces and equipment, and we need to do it quickly and with major national commitment, financially and otherwise. How is it that no one is calling for a MASSIVE increase in funding, manpower and equipment for the armed forces if things are as dire as folks make them out to be? Where is the leadership on this?

We had General Lute make some comments about bringing back the draft, but he got 'shouted down' on it, and some democrats have made similar comments, and everyone pushes it off as left-wing alarmist rhetoric.

If terrorism remains such a threat as we are told it is, how is the need for our engagement in something large scale somewhere else such an unrealistic scenario? If that need arises, what troops are available to respond?

Maybe I'm missing something in all of this, but it seems to me that the reason we're not going 'all in' with strengthening the military as we complain it is being weakened is that there is a failure on the part of leadership to make the very tough case to a war-weary public. True, Congress has authorized an increase in forces, but I would submit that it is not nearly enough given the current OPTEMPO and the OPTEMPO for the forseeable future. It will be tremendously expensive, and the U.S. public and leadership are not committed to it.

We want the capabilities, but we don't want to pay the price necessary. The public, the government, and the military. We don't want to pay the price.

That's one of my 'Go big or go home' rants.

The other is our approach in Iraq itself.

I'm not a COIN connaisseur, but I am learning, and also learning about general military doctrines for post-conflict occupation, and so forth. By almost all of these doctrines, even the surge numbers are not enough for what we are needing to do here. If someone is severely bleeding in ten places, and you given them some really cool bandages with the coagulant factors, but only give them 5, and sell how well those five places have started to be patched up, should anyone be impressed? We can't provide security everywhere given the numbers we have. We can deny safe haven to the enemy ..... in some places, but not others. Back to what the critics like to refer to as the 'whack-a-mole' strategy.

I am hopeful that things really are getting better here. I'm a bit dubious of the data discussions. What is happening around me locally is more troubling than reassuring, but that is a natural consequence of the pressure being applied up in Baghdad.

But I think our problems here in some ways boil down to the same issue I noted above about a need to build up forces and equipment to deal with other threats. We don't have the will to go 'all in' and mobilize all of our country's massive resources in terms of intellectual capital, industrial strength, financial treasure, and our greatest treasures, our sons and daughters' lives for this cause. And so we do something that is frankly an 'in-between' compromise solution.

I don't think war and nation-building are things that you can do halfway. But that is what we appear to continue to try to do. We've taken King Solomon's advice and cut the baby in half.

Can we thus maintain that we hold the moral high ground if we decide to stay the course? Is it right and does it do anyone any good if you do just enough to say you're doing something, but by your own doctrines, not enough to 'win'?

Just my opinion. Go big or go home.

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