Scaling error

This CS Monitor story reports that morale among US troops in Iraq has “hit rock bottom”. I used to use this phrase in relation to the university I worked at during the Kemp-Vanstone era, but then realised it was a mistaken metaphor, since it implies a zero level. In fact, no matter how low morale is, it can always go lower.

In relation to Iraq, the inapplicbility of the metaphor the current situation is clear. The griping reported in the story is nothing compared to, say, Vietnam, where desertion and ‘fragging’ (murder of officers, with the weapon of choice being a fragmentation grenade) were routine events [there was an isolated case of this kind during the Iraq war, but nothing since].

But it’s hard to see any alternative to a long occupation or any way that morale among the occupying forces can go, other than down. For a successful war of liberation, what was needed was multilateral support, ideally including support from Islamic countries willing to supply peacekeeping forces, and an internationally recognised alternative government ready to take over in a relatively short period.

4 thoughts on “Scaling error

  1. Hmm one could argue that rock bottom for morale is when all your soldiers are deserting, since then you don’t have an army, thus morale is irrelevant. Or something like that.

  2. “The griping reported in the story is nothing compared to, say, Vietnam, where desertion and ‘fragging’ … were routine events”

    How long did it take for morale in Vietnam to reach that point?

    It’s only been a matter of months in Iraq; call it six months. Was morale in Vietnam this bad six months in?

    I would agree though that it’s premature to declare a bottom.

  3. an alternative government would require an alternative army, which is very hard to train, equip and establish…

    destroying saddams regime destroyed the power structure. the US has to stay and its natural for them to be seen and targetted as an occupying power.

    the good thing about long wars like world war 2 is that the population is so war weary that they accept occupation.

    if the US pulled all troops out of iraq now it would still be better than saddam. let them fight amongst themselves for power.

    furthermore, if the US did pull out, and iraqis looting iraqis again became rampant, the antiwar brigade would blame the US for that too.

  4. Sorry to contradict c8t0, but it is actually easy to establish governments like that.

    The method has fallen into disuse, largely because of the USA mucking up European empires. It involves not trying to hold everything down and have your writ run everywhere, just keep a base and deny control to anyone else until you become the last ones standing later on. When that has happened in the last few decades some other power moved in, or some outside group gave backing to some seed of opposition in the no man’s land. That was how the Indonesians “won” against the Dutch – the Dutch held back to avoid attrition which would have beaten them, only doing incursions, but the USA et al prevented them from applying a Fabian strategy against the insurgents (and the French never even tried the hands off at a distance method in Indochina after 1945). But that was how the English ruled Ireland for centuries – extensively, using incursions more than occupation.

    At the moment the only reason the USA is not doing this is that it has not absorbed the idea that, hey, what it is doing is imperialist. But over in Jerry Pournelle’s site he is canvassing the techniques…

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