How many thousands US troops would GOP Hopefuls send to Iraq and Syria?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Bill Barrow of the Associated Press took a look at the specifics of plans for US troop deployments in the Middle East put forward by some of the GOP presidential hopefuls. Several Republican politicians have pledged a return of US combat troops in large numbers to the Middle East. Barrow draws the contrast with Gen. Ray Odierno, who had been commander in Iraq, warned that US troops could not do this job. They might be effective on the battlefield, but 6 months later we’d be back where we are, he warned.

His column provoked me to go back and look at what some candidates have been saying about Daesh in Iraq and Syria. I was surprised at how ignorant they all sounded.

Jeb Bush said recently that Daesh (ISIS,ISIL) is spreading like a pandemic and that the US may need to send more ground troops into Iraq to defeat it.

Bush maintained that defeating Daesh in Syria will require the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad. Whaat?. Al-Assad’s troops are fighting Daesh in the northeast. How would overthrowing him help the fight against it? Likely the day after al-Assad was toppled by Jeb, Daesh would sweep into Damascus!

Jeb said the way he would remove al-Assad was to organize the “moderate” forces and have U.S. troops on the ground in Syria “back them up as one force.” He added, “And we should back that force up all the way through – not just in taking the fight to the enemy, but in helping them to form a stable, moderate government… It’s a tough, complicated diplomatic and military proposition, even more so than the current situation in Iraq. But it can be done.”

But like 90% of rebel territory in Syria is held by the Support Front (Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate), Daesh, and a few smaller Salafi groups associated with the Army of Conquest or the Army of Islam. The Army of Conquest recognizes al-Qaeda as part of itself.

That is, there are no or almost no moderates for Jeb to back in the overthrow of al-Assad. So what he is actually proposing is to turn Damascus over to al-Qaeda. (Reagan tried that sort of strategy in Afghanistan in the 1980s and it came back to bite us on the ass.)

So Bush has actually advocated more US troops for Iraq, but has offered to put boots on the ground to help the mythical “moderate” opposition overthrow al-Assad. I wonder whose throats al-Qaeda would cut the very next day?

Lindsey Graham has something of the same plan as Bush but is far more frank about the numbers. As Barrow writes, the number is 20,000, some 10,000 for Iraq and a similar number for Syria. He said, “I am going to destroy the Caliphate. We are going to pull it up by its roots.”

Along with sending 10,000 ground troops to Syria, Graham says he would set up a “regional army” in Syria. He said he would tell the rebels,

“And here’s the deal: We will help you but stop funding terrorists is the price of admission, stop double dealing, stop supporting a terrorist group one day and fighting them the next. And, oh by the way, let women drive.”

I don’t know if the message is meant for the rebels or for backers such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Surely Sen. Graham knows that women can drive everywhere in the Muslim world except the small country of Saudi Arabia (citizen population: 22 mn.) As for supporting terrorist groups, if you count al-Qaeda virtually the only ones supported by US allies in the region are non-moderate Salafis or groups to their far right.

The problem with Graham’s position is that the US had at some points like 160,000 US troops in Iraq, and they could not stop the civil ware of 2006, nor could they defeat Daesh or its predecessors. So why would 10,000 each for Iraq and Syria be able to pull this off?

Gov Scott Walker of Wisconsin “wouldn’t rule out US boots on the ground in Syria. Syria?RT: “ISIS launches chemical attack on Kurdish forces in Iraq – report”

20 Responses

  1. These candidates are high on cultural evangelism which like the religious variety is driven by faith in the rightness of the objective. Faith ever supplants reason.

  2. First, for background, read Conor Friedersdorf’s column with the letters of people who support Trump as a Republican presidential candidate. Such a collection of human ignorance, with arrogance, in one place is hard to top.

    Ignorant Republicans and conservatives are the audience for this fantasy-land stuff that Bush, Graham, Walker and others are selling. America is pure and beautiful, America is and must be undefeated in anything it attempts.

    It’s all just pure “ignorance-bacon,” magic pills to sell to the stupid. None of it has any relation to reality, or to the actual policies these clowns might announce if we are stupid and unlucky enough to elect them to the chief executive office n the American government.

  3. I heard a brief interview with Kasich of Ohio recently; unfortunately–while he may not be as ignorant or hawkish as some of the others–he too wants to send more troops.

  4. Former Sec of Defense Bob Gates said of politicians like Lindsey Graham…”Some people have an unrealistic almost comic book super hero mindset as to what our military can actually accomplish.”

    Just as no one in the press will ask the warmongers….What happens to the price of oil the day you start bombing Iran? nor do they ask….Who would replace Assad once he’s out?

    Certainly with all the factions in Syria there is no one that will be accepted by all. So nothing would change except we would lose more soldiers and squander another 100 billion or more.

  5. GOP,
    listen to Ray Odierno.
    He oversaw widespread crimes against Sunni Arab Iraqis in Nineweh Province in 2003-04,
    and they still haven’t forgotten him.

    After the shocking awful invasion in March 2003, we tried to win the hearts and minds of the people we conquered.
    Crimes against humanity have a way of interfering with trying to win hearts and minds.

    And the unstated theme of current GOP proposals to send US ground forces back is that,
    once our guys are there,
    the local populations will shift their support to us,
    because we’re the good guys.

  6. It seems kind of pointless to me to apply rational analysis to what are irrational opinions. You basically have to be delusional to give any credence to their views.

  7. Many people have run for President promising peace. This is the first time that I know of that has people running for President promising war. (And not just one.)

  8. These people need to do some research on the Vietnam War. We escalated to over 500,000 troops in a relatively small country. Our T-shirts are made there now.

    • And almost all Nike shoes, for which Nike pays its workers about 50 cents an hour so they can have 1000% or more markup on their shoes. If the capitalists had realized back then that they could so exploit those workers, the war never would have happened.

  9. As Obama said last week that those who’re opposing US-Iran nuclear agreement – were the ones who sold Americans Iraq War. Bush & Co. sent 130,000 US’s best soldiers to bring a pro-Israel regime change in 2003. However, when the US forces withdrew after eight years of occupation – former British foreign secretary Lord David Owen claimed in December 2011 that the US occupation helped Iran to become the most powerful nation in the region.

    link to

  10. Thank you for asking the question. As the unauthorized spokesperson for the GOP, I give you the answer to your question:
    You know, it would only take a few weeks for the American military to vanquish the enemy including ISIL, and then all the Americans would be treated as heroes by the people of Iraq, Syria, etc.
    As for cost, no point in trying to crunch the numbers. We have the military precisely for defeating the enemy. Besides, liberty is priceless.

  11. Another problem with these grand plans that they seem to pull out of thin air: how would Russia, Iran, China or other countries respond?

  12. “And we should back that force up all the way through – not just in taking the fight to the enemy, but in helping them to form a stable, moderate government… It’s a tough, complicated diplomatic and military proposition, even more so than the current situation in Iraq. But it can be done.”

    Can anybody really take this seriously? In 2003 you took a backwards, repressive but otherwise generally stable, moderately free and relatively boring country, and you turned it into a murderous chaotic nightmare of epic proportions – the Iraqi army was not the first to lose a city to islamists.

    But now these clowns think they can take a country which is already a murderous chaotic nightmare, destroy the only force of order still extant, but somehow it’ll magically resolve into a happy United States in Iraq and the Levant?

  13. Can the US economic situation even allow sending of “thousands” of troops to Syria and Iraq !?


    • Of course it can. It puts thousands to work. Not to mention the support services involved, as well as the sales of $billions in logistical materiel, supplies, etc.
      The American GDP will increase.
      If you are worried about government expenditures, there is a lot that can be cut from medicare, social security, food stamp programs, Obamacare, regulatory agencies, etc.
      Evidently, you don’t spend enough time on FoxNews and the Fox Business Report!

    • Plenty of money for war, just run up the deficit. For health care, fixing our infrastructure, etc., then the money isn’t there and we HAVE to have a balanced budget. I thought everyone knew how this magically works.

  14. The US economic situation can handle a military operation. It just can’t handle anything that might help those who are less
    well off.

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