Weekend reflections

This regular feature is back again. The idea is that, over the weekend, you should post your thoughts in a more leisurely fashion than in ordinary comments or the Monday Message Board.

Please post your thoughts on any topic, at whatever length seems appropriate to you. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

60 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. “Basically everywhere. I don’t see why they should start with Iraq. What’s so special about Iraq?”

    Ah, but they wouldn’t be starting with Iraq. Two years ago, they announced that they would be starting with Saudi Arabia.

    I guess the thinking at the time was that they’d appease Bin Laden by withdrawing from Saudi Arabia, and just move next door to Iraq. Doesn’t seem to have gone quite according to plan, though. C’est la guerre.

  2. The rest of the list, Abb, except for Afghanistan, does not contain a shooting war.

    I wonder how much it would cost the Americans to rent the Vietnamese army for a couple of years? Besides being cheaper than the current solution, it would lead either to a) the Vietnamese winning on account of they are dead tough and understand the war or b) they would lose and get trashed, since they would be occupying the American position in Vietnam. Either way, the Americans would be very, very happy.

  3. The rest of the list, Abb, except for Afghanistan, does not contain a shooting war.

    Exactly. They never leave; okay – almost never. What would make anyone think that they intend to leave Iraq?

  4. Observa: It’ll take some time to find references to the initial post-war draw-down plans. (You don’t to know how mnay hits Google returns for “Iraq Rumsfeld withdrawal.)

    Here’s a quote from Paul Wolfowitz that’s relevant:

    >Testimony by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of Iraq policy, before a House subcommittee on Feb. 28, 2003, just weeks before the invasion, illustrated the optimistic view the administration had of postwar Iraq. He said containment of Hussein the previous 12 years had cost “slightly over $30 billion,” adding, “I can’t imagine anyone here wanting to spend another $30 billion to be there for another 12 years.” As of May, the Congressional Research Service estimated that Congress has approved $208 billion for the war in Iraq since 2003.


  5. “We could not burn the candle on the Cav prematurely,” he said. Others said that civilian officials in the Pentagon were so convinced that these “follow-on forces” wouldn’t be needed in Iraq that they thought they could withdraw 50,000 troops from Iraq in June 2003; 50,000 more in July; and a final 50,000 in August. By September 2003, Rumsfeld and his aides thought, there would be very few American troops left in Iraq.


    This article also reports that Rumsfeld originally thought 40,000 troops woudl be sufficient for the initial invasion, that requests by US government agencies to pre-position relief supplies in Kuwait were ignored and that at least one division originally intended for immediate post-war occupation duty was never sent.

  6. From an interview with Dan Rather in September 2003 (by which time remember, most US troops were initially expected to have been withdrawn.)

    Rather: He [William Kristol] says, “Rumsfeld lost credibility with the White House because he screwed up post-war planning.” His words not mine. “He wanted to do the post-war with fewer troops than many people advised and that turned out to be a mistake.” Now Mr. Secretary, you know I don’t have any joy in putting that quote in front of you, but what are the American people to make of that?

    Rumsfeld: I don’t know. (long pause) I guess what I would say is the Combatant Commander Tommy Franks, succeeded by general John Abizaid and General Sanchez here with the responsibility for this particular country of Iraq all have indicated that the level of troops are exactly what they believe is appropriate, what they requested. And I therefore would suggest that the individual you are quoting will prove to have been wrong.

    Rather: Mr. Secretary, just this week there have been quotes in the paper, rank and file Americans, saying are we into a tar baby situation? Are we into quick sand? Is this going to be another quagmire? This is the way people talk around coffee in the morning. I want to give you an opportunity to respond to those deep concerns.

    Rumsfeld: (long pause) Well, time will tell. The 23 million people have been liberated in an important country, in an important part of the world and that was about five and a half months ago, not five and a half years but five and a half months. Now is five and a half months a quagmire? Well everyone can look it up in the dictionary. I think that it’s tough, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be successful and I think the American people have a very good center of gravity.


  7. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/19/international/19war.html?ei=5090&en=7149e007ead63381&ex=1255924800&partner=rssuserland&pagewanted=print&position=

    en. Tommy R. Franks climbed out of a C-130 plane at the Baghdad airport on April 16, 2003, and pumped his fist into the air. American troops had pushed into the capital of liberated Iraq little more than a week before, and it was the war commander’s first visit to the city.

    Much of the Sunni Triangle was only sparsely patrolled, and Baghdad was still reeling from a spasm of looting. Apache attack helicopters prowled the skies as General Franks headed to the Abu Ghraib North Palace, a retreat for Saddam Hussein that now served as the military’s headquarters.

    Huddling in a drawing room with his top commanders, General Franks told them it was time to make plans to leave. Combat forces should be prepared to start pulling out within 60 days if all went as expected, he said. By September, the more than 140,000 troops in Iraq could be down to little more than a division, about 30,000 troops.

    To help bring stability and allow the Americans to exit, President Bush had reviewed a plan the day before seeking four foreign divisions – including Arab and NATO troops – to take on peacekeeping duties.

    Military aides on the National Security Council prepared a confidential briefing for Ms. Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, that examined what previous nation-building efforts had required.

    The review, called “Force Security in Seven Recent Stability Operations,” noted that no single rule of thumb applied in every case. But it underscored a basic principle well known to military planners: However many forces might be required to defeat the foe, maintaining security afterward was determined by an entirely different set of calculations, including the population, the scope of the terrain and the necessary tasks.

    If the United States and its allies wanted to maintain the same ratio of peacekeepers to population as it had in Kosovo, the briefing said, they would have to station 480,000 troops in Iraq. If Bosnia was used as benchmark, 364,000 troops would be needed. If Afghanistan served as the model, only 13,900 would be needed in Iraq. The higher numbers were consistent with projections later provided to Congress by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in Iraq. But Mr. Rumsfeld dismissed that estimate as off the mark.

    More forces generally are required to control countries with large urban populations. The briefing pointed out that three-quarters of Iraq’s population lived in urban areas. In Bosnia and Kosovo, city dwellers made up half of the population. In Afghanistan, it was only 18 percent.

    In mid-April, Lawrence Di Rita, one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s closest aides, arrived in Kuwait to join the team assembled by General Garner, the civil administrator, which was to oversee post-Hussein Iraq. Mr. Bush had agreed in January that the Defense Department was to have authority for postwar Iraq. It was the first time since World War II that the State Department would not take charge of a post-conflict situation.

    Speaking to Garner aides at their hotel headquarters in Kuwait, Mr. Di Rita outlined the Pentagon’s vision, one that seemed to echo the themes in Mr. Rumsfeld’s Feb. 14 address. According to Col. Paul Hughes of the Army, who was present at the session, Mr. Di Rita said the Pentagon was determined to avoid open-ended military commitments like those in Bosnia and Kosovo, and to withdraw the vast majority of the American forces in three to four months.

    Thomas E. White, then the secretary of the Army, said he had received similar guidance from Mr. Rumsfeld’s office. “Our working budgetary assumption was that 90 days after completion of the operation, we would withdraw the first 50,000 and then every 30 days we’d take out another 50,000 until everybody was back,” he recalled. “The view was that whatever was left in Iraq would be de minimis.”
    General Franks, for his part, said the United States had sufficient combat forces in Iraq but did not initially have enough civil affairs, military police and other units that are intended to establish order after major combat is over. The issue, he said, was not the level of forces, but their composition.

    While saying he was not criticizing Mr. Rumsfeld, General Franks suggested that this was partly a result of difficulties in getting all of the Central Command’s force requests approved quickly at the Pentagon. He also said delays in obtaining funds from Congress for reconstruction efforts and the decision of many foreign governments not to send troops had contributed to the continuing turmoil in Iraq.

  8. IG, you’d better go and look at my careful use of geographical and cultural, not ethnic, and at the fact that I carefully didn’t suggest equivalence but rather pointed out a smaller distintion than between existing groups now considered politically Chinese. I was being very careful to point out that these things are not what they seem on casual scrutiny – not inviting further casual scrutiny.

    For what it’s worth, the Chinese, that is to say the Han, are themselves a group that “came down from the north” and displaced existing groups. I made no mention of the time scale of all this; it is short in cultural terms, but only long in current affairs terms.

  9. Defenders of the initial decision to invade Iraq often talk abotu how that country has been “liberated”.

    In order to do so they have to ignroe reports such as this:


    “BASRA, Iraq — Physicians have been beaten for treating female patients. Liquor salesmen have been killed. Even barbers have faced threats for giving haircuts judged too short or too fashionable.”

  10. I really DON”T want to turn this into link of the day – but anyone who is interested in events in Iraq really needs to read this Knight-Ridder article which appears to make a very strong case for numerous extra-legal killings (30 in one week in Baghdad alone) of Sunnis by the government security forces. This includes, a group of farmers from the town of Madain detained, apparently at random, after Sunni insurgents in Madain murdered shi’ite hostages.


Comments are closed.