Balkinization  

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Understanding the Iraq Redeployment Bills

Marty Lederman

Fred Kaplan over in Slate has just about everything you need to know about the House and Senate redeployment provisions.

Kaplan also links to this story in the Hill, which sets out what might happen to the Defense Department -- and when the money truly would start running out -- as a result of the President's promised veto of the bill.

Comments:

With a title which asks the question "Is Congress using the Iraq bills to send a message?," Mr. Kaplan does not appear to be confident his party will prevail in this veto fight.

Mr. Kaplan then proceeds to spin:

Two myths have sprung up around the House and Senate bills that require President Bush to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. One is that he would have to pull out all the troops. The other is that, if Bush vetoes the final bill (as he is nearly certain to do), the war—and all other military activities—would grind to a halt, leaving the troops in the lurch, bereft of basic ammo and supplies.

In spinning that the Dem bills really do not require our military to retreat from Iraq, Mr. Kaplan concentrates on the Senate bill's aspirational goals and soft peddles the fact that the House bill does in fact have hard (albeit unconstitutional) deadlines to retreat from and surrender in Iraq. We will see what comes out of conference.

As for the funding shortfall if the Congress does not produce a clean bill, Mr. Kaplan offers that the military can strip state side budgets in order to fund the war before the military starts collapsing. This spin sounds like a Dem whistling past the grave yard.

If the Dems do not quickly pass a clean funding bill, look for the GOP to remind Mr. Murtha of all of his demands that the troops be properly trained and outfitted stateside and then every couple days trot out examples of how various stateside units do not have the funding to conduct training or to re-equip because the Dems will not provide the money.

I am sure some of the folks here will give me the usual selection of Dem media polls showing popular support among adults (not voters) for the generic proposition of bringing the troops home. However, that is not the way the GOP is spinning this issue. Instead, they are asking whether military commanders on the ground or politicians in Congress should decide when to come home. When presented with a choice between General Petraeus and Nancy Pelousi commanding the troops, guess who wins in the polls?

It is useful to point out that the Dem Congress is less popular than our rather unpopular President. The Dems had to literally bribe their members to achieve exact simple majorities. All the GOP needs to do is peel off 1-2 votes and this entire enterprise collapses. While the partisan part of me would not mind seeing the Dems twist in the wind for a month or two, the troops need the training and supplies NOW.

Mr. Kaplan apparently can do the math and ends his piece pleading with the President to use these Dem bills as a prod to get the Iraqis to meet certain benchmarks. In this, Mr. Kaplan is about 4 months late. The President has been using the election victory of the Party of Retreat and Defeat to prod the Iraqis into several actions including working out an oil revenue sharing deal which is just about complete, sending several thousand troops from the quiet parts of Iraq into the fight in Baghdad and most importantly to give up the Shia militias.
 

It is fascinating to see where Biden and Hagel stood before they decided to run away.

This op-ed originally appeared in THE WASHINGTON POST on December 20, 2002.

IRAQ: THE DECADE AFTER

By Joseph R. Biden and Chuck Hagel

The United States will face enormous challenges in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, as well as broad regional questions that must be addressed. These are both matters that members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have been focusing on for some time. During a week-long trip to the region, we came away with a better understanding of the possibilities and perils that lie ahead.

In northern Iraq we saw the extraordinary potential of Iraqis once they are out from under Saddam Hussein's murderous hand. New hospitals, schools, roads and lively media are testimony to the determination of Iraqi Kurds and to the bravery of coalition air crews patrolling the no-fly zone. Just a few hours' drive from the oppressive rule in Baghdad, a freely elected regional government and legislature (which we were honored to address) are embarked on a path of clear-eyed realism. While neighboring countries fear an independent Kurdistan, Kurdish leaders appear committed to working together for a united Iraq. They realize they could lose everything they have built in the past decade by pursuing independence.

Although no one doubts our forces will prevail over Saddam Hussein's, key regional leaders confirm what the Foreign Relations Committee emphasized in its Iraq hearings last summer: The most challenging phase will likely be the day after -- or, more accurately, the decade after -- Saddam Hussein.

Once he is gone, expectations are high that coalition forces will remain in large numbers to stabilize Iraq and support a civilian administration. That presence will be necessary for several years, given the vacuum there, which a divided Iraqi opposition will have trouble filling and which some new Iraqi military strongman must not fill. Various experts have testified that as many as 75,000 troops may be necessary, at a cost of up to $ 20 billion a year. That does not include the cost of the war itself, or the effort to rebuild Iraq.

Americans are largely unprepared for such an undertaking. President Bush must make clear to the American people the scale of the commitment.

The northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk is an example of the perils American forces may encounter. It sits atop valuable oil fields and is home to a mixed population of Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds. In recent years, Saddam Hussein has expelled Turkmen and Kurds as part of an "Arabization," or ethnic cleansing, campaign. We toured a refugee camp housing 120,000 displaced people and heard countless stories of brutality and the loss of loved ones. Kirkuk could become the Iraqi version of Mitrovica, the volatile city in Kosovo where the U.N.-led administration has faced the dilemma of forcibly resettling people from various ethnic communities who have been evicted from their homes.

This is one reason why we will need our allies to help rebuild Iraq. Cementing a broad coalition today will keep the pressure on Hussein to disarm, build legitimacy for the use of force if he refuses, reduce the risks to our troops and spread the burden of securing and reconstructing Iraq. Going it alone and imposing a U.S.-led military government instead of a multinational civilian administration could turn us from liberators into occupiers, fueling resentment throughout the Arab world.

Iraq cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Disarming and stabilizing that country will be all the more difficult because of the unsettled regional environment, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While it is essential that the United States aggressively pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace on its own merits, doing so has ancillary benefits for the disarmament of Iraq. Simply put, we will make it easier for Arab governments to participate in, or at least support, our actions in Iraq if they can show their people we are engaged in the peace process.

Meetings with Israeli officials and Palestinian reformers led us to believe new opportunities exist for American diplomacy. Recent polling shows that nearly three-quarters of Israelis and Palestinians seek reconciliation and a two-state solution. For the first time since the violence began, a majority of Palestinians support a crackdown against terrorism as part of a peace process. A large majority have no confidence in Yasser Arafat.

The key is to empower Palestinian reformers and encourage Arab moderates. President Bush should lose no time in publicly endorsing the "road map" developed by the Quartet -- an informal group of mediators on the Middle East from the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. The road map provides for a series of reciprocal steps to jump-start a renewed peace process. That would give hope to Palestinian reformers and send a clear message to the Arab world that the United States remains determined to pursue an Israeli-Palestinian settlement even as we deal with Iraq.

Working on multiple fronts poses a difficult test for American leadership, but there is no escaping the fact that we face several related, interlocking crises in the region. As the bulwark of freedom and democracy, the United States faces the need to disarm Saddam Hussein and set the stage for a stable Iraq, win a protracted war on terrorism and engage fully on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Working with our friends and allies, it is a challenge we can, and must, meet.
 

One bit from the Biden/Hagel piece stands out, especially in face of your earlier comment about how the GOP knows the people think we should listen to military men, not politicians, when deciding war-related issues:

Various experts have testified that as many as 75,000 troops may be necessary, at a cost of up to $20 billion a year.

General Shinseki, then Army Chief of Staff, made it clear right before the war that several hundred thousand troops would be necessary for "post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."

You may recall that Wolfowitz dismissed the amounts as "wildly off the mark" despite the fact that previous military simulations suggested the amount should be around 500,000. Talking about the occupation effort, he said "It's hard to conceive it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself...The slaughter in Iraq has been the slaughter of all ethnic groups. It is equal opportunity terror."

Yet now, four years later, we're talking about "surges" and increasing levels to make Iraq stable. Gen Abizaid made it clear late last year in congressional testimony that Shinseki's estimate was spot-on.

Frankly, if the GOP could take the kernel of wisdom located within its poll ("listen to the people with actual experience") to adminster a government, they (and we as a nation) would be in much better shape right now.

Instead, they'll probably take away a message from the poll that Americans are fundamentally sexist when it comes to ideas about who should be running the military, and will push that hard if Hillary manages to secure the nomination.
 

PMS_Chicago said...

One bit from the Biden/Hagel piece stands out, especially in face of your earlier comment about how the GOP knows the people think we should listen to military men, not politicians, when deciding war-related issues...

There was actually a rather vigorous debate amongst military officers over how many troops would be required for Iraq. Shinseki was on the high side with around 500,000 while others were arguing that 50,000 would be sufficient after we took down the Taliban with only an SF group of a couple thousand with air support leading an Afghan militia. Rummy took the side of the folks supporting a lesser amount of ground troops with air support, but went with three times the troops required under the lower estimate.

In fact, we probably only needed around 50,000 to take down Saddam. However, the counter insurgency was more manpower intensive and would have probably went better with about 200,000 instead of 130,000. With only 130,000, we could not control everything and had to wait two years until the Iraqi military was trained and deployed.

The 500,000 figure was ridiculous. It was based on the entire country's population rising up in an insurgency. In fact, the actual insurgency consisted of a portion of the Sunni who made up less than 20% of the country. The Kurds and Shia were thrilled to be liberated.
 

pms:

This argument about troop strengths is not a political argument per se. If you are interested in doing some reading on the subject, the military has undergone a quantum leap in efficiency after incorporating all the new information technology in the 80s and 90s.

We (and all our military rivals) were genuinely shocked how well all this technology worked in the Persian Gulf War. The difference between when I served in the early 80s and then again during the Persian Gulf War was like night and day.

When the 82d deployed to Grenada, the units often could not talk to one another and had no idea what each other were doing. Command and control was extremely difficult and that led to leaving entire sectors of the island uncovered.

This never made the after action reports for obvious CYA reasons, but the 82d Division command post was set up in a field overlooking a town with a jungle behind it. Everyone thought that someone else had cleared the jungle. In fact, there was a couple companies of Cuban troops in that jungle who could have wiped out the division commander if they knew the situation. However, they were equally blind and lost and wanted to surrender. Some poor Cuban grunt was ordered to carry a white flag to surrender the unit and literally walked up on the division commander.

By the Persian Gulf War, the Corps commander knew the location and was in constant communications with his subordinate units down to the battalion level. More importantly, he knew where nearly all the enemy units were by using a variety of surveillance platforms. And this was all during a theater wide sandstorm! Meanwhile, the enemy was still largely blind and lost. It was like playing chess being able to see the board while your opponent is blindfolded.

Today, this command and control technology has gone down the chain of command to the individual soldier. The surveillance drones have become big brother scary accurate. It is now literally possible for an SF team of a couple thousand leading a local militia to take down a enemy military several times as large.

This is why there is a genuine good faith debate over troop strength levels in the military. We are only now just getting experienced at handling all of this new technology and learning its possibilities.
 

I'm familiar with the increases in military efficiency. I served in the military under Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton, roughly the time period that such advances were made.

The question is not how many troops are required to take down an enemy. The question is how many troops are required to occupy a territory. Shinseki himself was known for being an advocate of military efficiency, as was Rumsfeld, of course. Their ideas on how one achieved that efficiency differed, with Rumsfeld preferring to rely on technological advances, and Shinseki on mobility.

The political question comes when you pick the political appointee's plan (Rumsfeld) over the military's prepared contingencies (Shinseki). One important factor is the fact that the logistics of occupation do not require you to simply "take down an enemy military several times as large." They also require you to coordinate and train local forces in order to establish normality, not to mention setting up elections, restoring an economy, etc. etc. etc.

If you go back and look at the period articles and editorials, Wolfowitz (as you can see in the quote above) was so certain that the Iraqi people had been universally oppressed that ethnic differences would be set aside to greet the liberators. Shinseki and his advisors were more forward-thinking, and frankly more qualified to make the call.

Of course, we shouldn't have invaded in the first place, but that's another issue...
 

pms:

Where did you serve?
 

"Bart" DePalma:

Mr. Kaplan concentrates on the Senate bill's aspirational goals and soft peddles the fact that the House bill does in fact have hard (albeit unconstitutional) deadlines to retreat from and surrender in Iraq.

Just out of curiousity, which section of the bill requires "surrender in Iraq"? Would you be kind enough to quote the lannguage that says that> Thanks in advance.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma:

As for the funding shortfall if the Congress does not produce a clean bill, Mr. Kaplan offers that the military can strip state side budgets in order to fund the war before the military starts collapsing. This spin sounds like a Dem whistling past the grave yard.

NP, "Bart". As your fave would say, "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want." If Dubya wants to fight more

I am sure some of the folks here will give me the usual selection of Dem media polls showing popular support among adults (not voters) for the generic proposition of bringing the troops home. However, that is not the way the GOP is spinning this issue.

Of course not. They lose arguing on the merits. That's why they, and you, keep spinning and tossing out "straw man" arguments and falsehoods.

It is useful to point out that the Dem Congress is less popular than our rather unpopular President.

Which is why His Emanence Rush does it and "Bart" repeats it. But honest it is not. Nor does it show much respect for the American people.

The President has been using the election victory of the Party of Retreat and Defeat to prod the Iraqis into several actions including working out an oil revenue sharing deal which is just about complete,....

It was "complete" a week or two ago, and then it fell apart. Such "progress".

Say, speaking of "progress", how's your Petraeus wonder town of Tal Afar doing, "Bart"?

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma quotes Biden and Hagel:

The most challenging phase will likely be the day after -- or, more accurately, the decade after -- Saddam Hussein.

Once he is gone, expectations are high that coalition forces will remain in large numbers to stabilize Iraq and support a civilian administration. That presence will be necessary for several years, given the vacuum there, which a divided Iraqi opposition will have trouble filling and which some new Iraqi military strongman must not fill. Various experts have testified that as many as 75,000 troops may be necessary, at a cost of up to $ 20 billion a year. That does not include the cost of the war itself, or the effort to rebuild Iraq.


They ca,e a lot closer to the truth than the "flowers and kisses" maladministration. Betcha they came a lot closer to the truth than you too, "Bart". If you even thought about it at all, that is....

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma:

We (and all our military rivals) were genuinely shocked how well all this technology worked in the Persian Gulf War. The difference between when I served in the early 80s and then again during the Persian Gulf War was like night and day.

When the 82d deployed to Grenada, the units often could not talk to one another and had no idea what each other were doing.


Comparing it to Grenada!?!?!?! The island with no air force and no serious military?!?!? The island where the news cameras were set up on the beach to catch the troops coming ashore in th einitial assault?!?!?

But on a more serious note, yes, the technology has improved, and for some things, we're more efficient at killing. But as Iraq is pointing out, that doesn't mean we're better at winning.... But that should have been clear from Vietnaam as well.

Cheers,
 

Kaplan does a pretty good job in his War Stories column at Slate.

Oh, and Bart Depalma:
"Mr. Kaplan does not appear to be confident his party will prevail in this veto fight."
'His party'?
Kaplan is not writing as a Democrat or Republican. Yes it is an opinion piece, but it is not written that way and shouldn't be since neither party represents a real ideology but rather two parties of a two-party system.
 

clearthought:

Kaplan is not writing as a Democrat or Republican.

Uh huh. Kaplan just happens by accident to be pushing the Dem party line. Next, you will tell me that Sean Hannity does not pitch the GOP line.

There is not such thing as unbiased media. They all have axes to grind.
 

Hopefully, the UN, or even NATO, will be available to assure the Feed and Forage permissions are not the equivalent to allowing unfunded troops to pillage as they drawdown from Iraq. To optimize the dregs of the current budget and without specious application of Feed and Forage, maybe the Pentagon might opt to cancel and breach all the mercenary contracts while safeguarding the obligations to protect enlistees in the voluntary military, until drawdown is complete.
 

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