"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." - - - William Blum

January 09, 2007

"One of the ironies of the current situation is that in the early months of the occupation, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who's slated to take over in Iraq, was the general on the ground who all the sharpest people on military affairs thought was the one guy in charge over there who really understood what kind of a battle he was engaged in. In short, counter-insurgency, or rather, heading off an insurgency by prioritizing real reconstruction and hearts-and-minds work rather than kicking people's doors down.

"He spent last year co-authoring the Army's new counterinsurgency field manual. But look at what the manual says. Counter-insurgency operations require at least 20 combat troops per 1000 people in a given area. And look closely. That's not just military personnel, but combat troops.

"Kaplan runs through the numbers. But the key points are that you'd need 120,000 combat troops to mount real counter-insurgency operations just in Baghdad. We currently have 70,000 combat troops in the whole country. So concentrate all US combat personnel in Iraq into Baghdad. Then add 20,000 more 'surge' combat troops. That leaves you 30,000 short of the number the Army thinks you'd need just in Baghdad.

"Needless to say, Iraq isn't just Baghdad. And if you know anything about how insurgencies work you know that if we actually had enough troops in Baghdad (remember, to even get in shooting distance of that you need to evacuate the rest of the country) the insurgents would just fan out and start literal or figurative fires where we're not.

"What this all amounts to is that 20,000 or even 50,000 new combat troops don't even get you close to what the Army says you need to do what President Bush says he's now going to try to do. To get that many troops into the country you'd need to put this country on a serious war-footing and begin drawing troops down from deployments around the globe. All of which, just isn't going to happen, setting aside for the moment of what should happen. And that tells you this whole thing is just a joke at the expense of the American public and our troops on the ground in Iraq.

"What's sad about this (and it's hard to know where to start on that count) is that a few years ago, much, much more would have been possible with more troops on the ground. Alternatively, if the president and his key advisors hadn't lied to the country about the number of troops required to stabilize and police Iraq (then-Army Chief of Staff Shinseki said 400k+, I think) we might not have pulled the trigger in the first place.

"We're living in the wreckage of the president's lies. And this is just one more of them."

-- Josh Marshall

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