April 23, 2004

The Myths of Iraq

From StrategyPage, The Myths of Iraq (this is my condensed version)

The country is in flames! Actually, most of the country continues to rebuild and is at peace. The fighting is restricted to a few areas, but this is where the reporters and cameras go. Construction and commerce do not make for dramatic news stories and so are rarely covered...

Americans are hated in Iraq! Not according to the polls that have been conducted, nor according to the experience of most Americans working in Iraq...

U.S. troops are fed up with the war and leaving in droves! New recruits, and people wanting to stay in are at record levels in the armed forces. This applies to reservists as well as active duty troops...

The Iraqi Governing Council is despised by most Iraqis! Any 25 Iraqi leaders would be despised by most of the population.... But Iraq has lots of constituencies, including over a hundred tribes and dozens of religious leaders with large followings...

The U.S. Army doesn't have enough troops to handle current combat operations! Although combat commanders feel that "too much ain't enough" when it comes to troops, they learn how to go with what they got. ... Sending more troops won’t help with the basic problem; gathering intelligence. That requires people who speak Arabic and have police experience. More American troops won’t solve that problem, more trained Iraqi police will. 


The effort in Iraq detracts from the war on terror! Arab countries are where al Qaeda comes from, they were just using Afghanistan as a base. Invading Iraq forced al Qaeda to come and defend its Arabian heartland. The Iraq operations inflamed al Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia to start attacking Saudis and other Arabs. This cost al Qaeda a lot of support among Arabs, and would not have happened if Iraq were not invaded.

The war on terror is mainly a police and intelligence function. The troops that are needed most for counter-terrorism are special operations (Special Forces and commandoes.) Special operations forces were pulled out of Afghanistan for the Iraq campaign, but most of the action in Afghanistan is best handled by regular coalition troops, Afghans and the Pakistanis. After 2001, the war in Afghanistan was mainly political, not military. Special Forces troops specialize in a particular part of the world, and they are all over the planet chasing down terrorists. The war in Iraq gave the Special Forces an opportunity to work intensively, and without restraint, in an Arab country. 

U.S. Army should be expanded! It takes several years to recruit new troops, train them and organize them into new units. By then, the army leadership feels they won’t be needed. But the army will still have to pay for them. This will mean less money for training and new weapons and equipment. To the army leadership, that strategy will get more soldiers killed in combat in the long run....

Iraqi army should not have been disbanded after Saddam fell! The Iraqi army has been, for over half a century, the chief source of tyranny and oppression in the country. Army commanders overthrew the government time after time, and used their soldiers to brutalize the population. By keeping all, or part, of the army intact, and armed, coalition risked a quick return of the warlord attitude that gave the Iraqi people dictators like Saddam (and several others who preceded him.)...

Iraqi security and army troops, and police cannot be relied on! About half the police and security troops have worked well with coalition troops when put under pressure (attacked by al Sadr militia or Sunni gangs). Another 40 percent simply fled and about ten percent went over to the rebels. This was because the screening and training process for Iraqi police and security troops is still a work in progress....

Posted by John Weidner at April 23, 2004 8:07 PM
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