As usual, Phil Carter is on the money. He points out the balancing act US commanders in Iraq are faced with as they try to carry out their mission while protecting US and Iraqi assets.
In the aftermath of deadly car bombings, many have called for the deployment of U.S. soldiers as security around key sites — police stations, large mosques, government centers, power stations, et cetera. As we have a finite number of soldiers on the ground, the dedication of U.S. troops to these sites takes away from the available pool of soldiers who can conduct offensive missions.
For all the talk of troop shortages, it’s peacekeepers we lack. We need more military police, more civil affairs types, and more plain old security guards. We need more people to answer the phones and distribute the aid. We need more people filling out the paperwork. What we don’t need are our front-line soldiers doing the above work. We need them to be front-line soldiers. Carter notes
you can’t win a counter-insurgency fight by playing good defense. The way to win a guerilla war is to go on offense — to gather intelligence, find the enemy, hunt them down, and capture or kill them. If you devote too many troops to this mission, you take away from your ability to prosecute the offensive part of the fight. Commanders and planners are trained to evaluate the operational risk entailed in both courses of action, and it’s a safe bet that this balance is being looked at daily to make sure we get it right.
And if you can forgive me for quoting me:
If some UN-mandated multinational forces can allow us to fight the war while they keep the peace, that will make a huge difference. Besides, that’s probably all that many countries’ militarys are good for. If they can get some men with guns to put on a show of force, that will dissuade quite a few would-be guerrillas. And when dead-enders and foreign fighters do try to make trouble, our guys will be able to deal with them instead of acting like targets.
We don’t want the 1st Armored Division guarding a power plant or riding shotgun on endless supply columns. We want them HUNTING DOWN BAD GUYS. Our troops are the best in the world. If Russian, Indian, or French troops will allow us to turn our guys loose, let’s see if we can’t convince them to lend a hand. Well, maybe not the French…
But I digress.
There’s talk that the extended duty in Iraq will sap the Army of re-enlisting veterans. While that may be assured if those guys are coming off of twelve months of sentry duty in 120 degree heat, I believe that things might be a bit different if they’ve spent their summer kicking some serious ass.