Friedman And Imaginary Troops Tom

Friedman and Imaginary Troops

Tom Friedman, writing in the New York Times, makes several policy decisions with regard to Iraq. The first is to stay the course until an effective Iraqi force could be stood up. Another is to find ways of re-involving the United Nations in Iraq. Both of these ideas have things to recommend them, though Bush is highly unlikely to go for the latter.

The third is to double US troop strength in Iraq to 260,000 servicemen.

I’m not sure why Tom doesn’t know this, but we don’t have the troops to do that. There are only 10 fighting divisions in the Army, and standing up more would take 5 years. (A division is typically between 20,000 and 25,000 troops). You can’t put all ten into Iraq (remember Afghanistan and South Korea?), and couldn’t keep them all there permanently if you could. Friedman’s suggestion literally cannot be implemented.

As early as 2003, military journalists were pointing to the problems in maintaining troop strength in Iraq. At that time, it seemed the only hope was to widen the coalition. That did not happen, and probably now cannot. The alternative is to kidnap the reservists and keep them in Iraq for 18 months at a time. That is what has been done, and it isn’t likely to help recruitment of reservists.

Moreover, a counter-insurgency is not always best fought with large numbers. We had 500,000 men in Vietnam, and that did not go well. Counter-insurgency requires political successes in which you get the people on your side and manage to entice the insurgent leaders into giving up violence. (Hint: So far little sign of successful counter-insurgency in Iraq.)

So the suggestion is impractical. And if it were practical, it would not work.

It is an index of how desperate the US political class is that impractical ideas are put forward by major journalists in newspapers of record that have already reported on their impracticality.

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