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Double Down? Or Move to the ‘Burbs?

by jason on December 13, 2006

One of these things is not like the other…
NYT: “Iraq has presented the United States with a plan that calls for Iraqi troops to assume primary responsibility for security in Baghdad early next year. American troops would be shifted to the periphery of the capital.“

“I think it is extremely important they reduce their visibility and they reduce their presence,” Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraqs national security adviser, said of the American troops in Baghdad. “They should be in the suburbs within greater Baghdad.“

LAT: “Strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to ‘double down’ in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.

The problem with any sort of surge is that it would require an eventual drop-off in 2008, unless the president was willing to take the politically unpopular move of remobilizing the National Guard and sending reserve combat units back to Iraq.
But military officials are taking a close look at a proposal advanced by Frederick W. Kagan, a former West Point Military Academy historian, to combine a surge with a quick buildup of the Marines and the Army. That could allow new units to take the place of the brigades sent to Iraq to augment the current force.
“It is essential for the president to couple any recommendation of a significant surge in Iraq with the announcement that he will increase permanently the size of the Army and the Marines,” Kagan said.
Kagan, who plans to release a preliminary report on his proposal Thursday, said he had discussed his ideas with people in the government. Although the military has had trouble meeting recruiting goals, Kagan said Army officials believed they could recruit at least an extra 20,000 soldiers a year. The Army missed its recruiting targets in 2005 but met this year’s goal.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Cranky Observer December 13, 2006 at 1:48 pm

Correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn’t “doubling down” require a total of 240,000 troops, not an additional 20,000? And if so (a) where are the additional 120,000 coming from or (b) what will the 20,000 accomplish?
Seems to me this is about running out the clock and letting the next President take the blame for the ensuing disaster.
Cranky

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BT December 13, 2006 at 2:11 pm

I don’t think “double down” is a literal strategy. 20 thousand footsoldiers in Baghdad won’t help. 20 thousand advisors might help speed the training process. 240 thousand footsoldiers in Baghdad will help and is needed, but won’t or can’t happen. I think the US will sneak out of Iraq’s backdoor when no one is looking.

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Noah Shachtman December 13, 2006 at 2:41 pm

Oh, please, C-Low. It might have been a good idea to make Iraq an “all or nothing” war. But the Bush/Rummy strategy has been anything but. Four quick examples:
* Suggested troop levels slashed by more than 50%.
* No cuts to major weapons programs, like the DD(X), which have nothing to do with counter-insurgency.
* Barely any Arabic language training, even 3+ years into the conflict.
* No draft.
This isn’t “all or nothing.” It’s limping along. It’s doing just enough to fail.

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campbell December 13, 2006 at 2:41 pm

yeah, what BT n Cranky said.
The only way the Army did, or can, meet reqruitment goals is by handing out “signup bonus”….one hears of figures like $38,000….
how then, with this “cash strapped” military, can anyone reasonably expect to build up the Army/Marines?
a little pragmatic logic, and truth would seem to be in order, more and more, every day.
yeah, right

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Robot.Economist December 13, 2006 at 3:03 pm

I’m not going to wade too far into this policy debate except to say this: The Army met its 2006 recruiting and retention goals by spending about three times more on bonuses and perks than it did five years ago. The Army spent $200 million on bonuses in 2000 and almost $700 in 2005. That’s not exactly peanuts out of a total (Army) personnel budget of $40 billion.

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Kaltes December 13, 2006 at 7:56 pm

Sheesh, so much defeatism. The whole point of “doubling down”* is that we need the extra troops to take down Al-Sadr and the militias. I don’t see this as a controversial thing. We backed off and did not crush these people before because we wanted to “involve them in the political process.” That approach was and is a miserable failure. We have to learn from that mistake and start letting the military run this war and not the state department.
Get in there, send Al-Sadr to go see Zarqawi in Hell, take down the militias eliminating them as threats and rivals to government authority, and THEN people will join the political process merely because it is a choice between that or nothing.
Maybe the sunnis will keep fighting. Their loss. Even if everything hits the fan and a civil war breaks out, you will end up with peace. The Shiites will crush the Sunnis, subjugate them and get their payback, then you will have stability with the kurds and shiites dominating the country as partners. Yes it might be bloody, yes everyone will b*tch and whine and blame it all on the USA, but at the end of the day you will have a democracy, middle-east style, and we will have eliminated an avowed enemy (Saddam), caused the utter humiliation and loss of power of his ruling elite, and eliminated a major future proliferation risk.
Overall, I see Iraq as a success. Money well spent. We need to remember that even if the neocon dreams didn’t come true, even if SOME Iraqis (Sunnis) end up worse off than under Saddam, and even if there is massive bloodshed, at the end of the day, the USA is safer regardless of those things. We might not have a ‘clean’ victory that passes the ‘global test’ as a nation-building exercize, but we will have successfully accomplished most of what we set out to do.
The only real way the US goals could be defeated would be if the likes of Al Sadr took over, so that is why we need to go in, kill him, and crush his following. With him eliminated, even if things deteriorate anyway, it really doesn’t matter for the people in the US. If the Iraqis want to ruin their country and kill eachother, that’s their problem.
*(double down is the appropriate term. You do not need to double our forces, it is merely a phrase that means, when you are losing, to increase your bet in an attempt to turn things around and win, with the added risk that entails. here, I dont see much extra risk. adding troops and attacking the militias is nothing new, we did it before. It is not like our troops could possibly lose. we will wipe the floor with them just like last time.)

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C-Low December 13, 2006 at 10:56 pm

1) Ahh my bad Noah for the hulk caps I am dog sick and not feeling to happy go go. You will be alright tighten up.
2)Those are the same metrics that many have used to beat this war effort down over a 4yr campaign. Daily casualty numbers, bleeding hearts hammering is it worth the cost. Never ending Sheenan coverage on and on. I never heard you then mention

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Cranky Observer December 14, 2006 at 8:22 am

> That approach was and is a miserable
> failure. We have to learn from that
> mistake and start letting the military
> run this war and not the state department.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that _prior_ to the invasion of Iraq the military and the State Departement were on exactly the same page: if there were to be an invasion, it should consist of overwhelming military force _followed_ by overwhelming occupational force and resources, resulting in an immediate reconstruction of Iraqi society.
It was the administration that has been in power for 6 years now, back by the political party in essential control for 12, that made the decision to invade with barely adequate force and then “not do” reconstruction.
So now that the crystal vase is smashed and the shards have been on the floor for 3 years (being scattered and slicing up people’s feet at the same time) you want the US public to entrust the /same administration/ with “doubling down”? You are aware of current polls concerning the public’s view of the invasion, its conduct, and the preferred course of action?
Or perhaps you prefer Admiral King’s plan of not telling “civilians” (= Citzens) anything about an Administration’s military adventures until they are over? Very democratic - prehaps we need an invasion to restore the Republic here.
Cranky

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Kaltes December 14, 2006 at 7:10 pm

“So now that the crystal vase is smashed and the shards have been on the floor for 3 years (being scattered and slicing up people’s feet at the same time) you want the US public to entrust the /same administration/ with “doubling down”? You are aware of current polls concerning the public’s view of the invasion, its conduct, and the preferred course of action?”
Bush is the only one making these decisions till 2008, not the public. This is not a direct democracy. If Bush wants to double down, that what we will do, and I actually think the public will either support it or be split down the middle. Most of the moderates unhappy with the war are only unhappy because they see us as LOSING. If we were winning, which is very very hard to pull off given the fact that the media spin is so severe, polling would be overwhelmingly in favor of the war.
Remember Bush’s approval when Saddam was caught? I rest my case.
Americans want a win, and they don’t want to cut and run. That is why the congressional democrats, who do want to cut and run, are too afraid to openly say so: they are afraid of an electoral backlash.

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