Gotcha game about disbanding the old Iraqi Army continues

Destroyed Iraqi Tank
Destroyed Iraqi Tank

Fateful Choice on Iraq Army Bypassed Debate

In what is essentially a revisitation of an article from last September, the New York Times once again worries about how the decision to dismantle the old Iraqi military was made.

This continues to be a funny little game of political ‘gotcha!’ that does little, if anything, to help anyone in any meaningful way.

The criticism seems to go something like this:

  1. There was no plan for the post-invasion occupation of Iraq
  2. Bush deviated from it by disbanding the army
  3. What an idiot…no wonder we’re going to lose

I discussed the September article here: To dismantle or not?

Today’s article links to a .pdf of part of a memo from March 7th, 2003:

The plan was outlined in a PowerPoint presentation that Douglas J. Feith, a senior aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, gave at a National Security Council meeting that Mr. Bush convened on March 12, eight days before the invasion began. Republican Guard units, the forces deemed most loyal to Mr. Hussein, were to be disarmed, detained and dismantled.

But the rest of the army would be retained. Three to five of the divisions would be used to form the –nucleus” of a new Iraqi Army, according to a copy of the PowerPoint slide, which was obtained by The New York Times. Other Iraqi troops would be used as a reconstruction force to rebuild the nation.

The presentation also carried a caution about the risks of dismissing the army in the early months of an American occupation in a nation racked by high unemployment: –Cannot immediately demobilize 250K-300K personnel and put on the street.”

What is missing in the discussion of this point is the fact that the army had already disbanded and demobilized. There weren’t “three to five of the divisions” left to use as the nucleus of anything, let alone a professional army.

Another thing that rarely comes up when blaming the disbanding of the old army for the size of the insurgency is this: Would we be finding it easier to reach political unity and national reconciliation in Iraq with a largely Sunni army under the control of a largely Shiite government? Or would we be seeing the Shiite militias openly backed by much of the government and population, much more than we see today, in an effort to resist the brute force of the military? Talk about a recipe for an Iraqi civil war.

I maintained for quite a while that we were seeing what amounted to a guerrilla civil war in Iraq. We certainly seem to have stepped back from the brink, thankfully. But what if the insurgency, rather than being a bunch of unemployed dead-enders, had been armed and controlled by factions within the legal government? wouldn’t that truly have set the stage for full-scale civil war?

Comments

  1. Ok, I’m ready for this dumbass neocon war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan to be over. This has been stupidity beyond all belief. It is Katrina over and over again every single day, and it is time to put it out of its misery. We have been there for years and have no plan to win or even just get out. Oh ok, there’s a plan that goes, we will leave as soon as the Iraqis get a government together, if you want to call that a plan. What imbicile figured out that one? That puts our military at the mercy of the Iraqis, doesn’t it? Is that how you win a war, by being at the mercy of your enemy? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Here’s an interesting article about a meeting of a bunch of gulf war veterans against the war there:

    ‘These are not bad people,’ Hicks said of U.S. troops. ‘They are there to make things better, but you discover a lot of the people want to kill you, and they look like the people that don’t want to kill you.’ Veterans on the panel did not allege war crimes or atrocities in Iraq. Much of the horror is based on the unfortunate reality of war, said Vincent Emanuele, a Marine veteran of the war and president of the Indiana chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Emanuele, not a panelist, said that during his time in Iraq he did not witness or hear of what he would describe as a war crime or atrocity, but he did see severe violence. ‘I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going to call it a crime – I’ll call it a brutal reality of what takes place,’ Emanuele told Cybercast News Service. ‘Little kids that are killed, women that are killed, bodies that are decapitated on the side of the road that American convoys are running over – these are things that are not on the news. These are things politicians aren’t talking about. These are things that the American people don’t know about,’ he said. – CNS News

    I though that was a good article. There are things that go on in war that don’t make the front page. There are things good and decent Americans have done in war that you don’t hear about on the Military Channel. Things like torture, killing of civilians, women and children. Things get blown up that aren’t military targets nor are they collateral damage. People do things to win a war that don’t get celebrated in the parade afterwards. We pay them to do that. We used to back them up when they did things that were necessary, but things that civilized people didn’t like to discuss in polite society, too. It’s time to let this war go. It’s time to get rid of the f’ing mercinaries and figure out how to deal with the problems of peace. We’ve got more than our fair share right now. It’s time to let these boys come home.

  2. Given the 5 year anniversary of Iraq II, I’ve been searching the web to review what various pundits, talking heads and others said five years ago. I found an article by James Webb, the former republican who ran as a democrat for the Senate in 2006. I was struck by the artcle’s title, Heading for Trouble, do we really want to occupy Iraq for the next 30 years?, and the fact he wrote it 6 months before the war started. In it he takes some shots at the neocons before it was fashionable to do so. Meanwhile, American military leaders have been trying to bring a wider focus to the band of neoconservatives that began beating the war drums on Iraq before the dust had even settled on the World Trade Center. Despite the efforts of the neocons to shut them up or to dismiss them as unqualified to deal in policy issues, these leaders, both active-duty and retired, have been nearly unanimous in their concerns. http://www.jameswebb.com/articles/washpost/headingfortrouble.htm

  3. You can call me a ‘neocon’ if you want, but you can’t tell me I said this thing would be easy back in 1991 or so when I started suggesting that it was necessary. I fully realize democratising a dictatorship and freeing the oppressed is hard. I also realise it’s important, especially for this region. I’ve lost plenty of relatives to dictators and madmen and I won’t stand by while I watch others meet the same fate. I don’t care of it’s in Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Russia, China, or anywhere else. I’ll agitate for things which are wrong to be stopped. It won’t always happen but I won’t apologise when it does.

  4. The idea that we are ‘freeing’ the Iraqis with an invading, occupying infidel force consisting roughly of one half Americans and the other half mercinaries is laughable at any level. We destroyed their army, killed most of their leadership, and continue to kill many of their people. That’s some tough love there. We keep that up much longer and we’ll have loved all the fur right off those people. 11 Bravo, that’s a great article. It is too bad the Republican party, the party of the ‘big tent’ as they always tell us, has chased away people like Senator Webb. Webb saw right through what is really going on here. China has used this proxy war to kick our ass. They’ve used their unfair trading practices to destroy our industry and destabilize our economy. They’ve used this war in the Southwest Asia to destroy our military credibility and to drive a wedge between ourselves and our closest allies around the world. At the same time they’ve used their extensive spy network to steal whatever military or commercial technology we haven’t been willing to freely give them due to our own greed. As I’ve said before, we used to be a great country with great enemies. Today we are a small and pitiful country bogged down in a proxy war in a 3rd world hell hole. What a bunch of morons we’ve become.

  5. The idea that we are ‘freeing’ the Iraqis with an invading, occupying infidel force consisting roughly of one half Americans and the other half mercinaries is laughable at any level.

    That’s utterly ridiculous. You can debate the details all you want and you can say that it hasn’t been worth it all you want, but to pretend that Iraqis are less ‘free’ today than five years ago and that the coming years will not see even more ‘freedom’ is simply willful ignorance of the facts.

  6. Dfens, Would you care to expand on this notion that the U.S. has lost military credibility? That’s quite a bomb to heave without at least citing a few references. Alternatively, the identity and motives of the person who must be fouling your Cheerios every morning is also of interest.

  7. Well, if a country can be more free during an occupation than they are as a soveriegn country, then we should have never fought the Cold War. We should have listened to the unilateral disarmists. Why be bogged down with self determination when you can be more free by having another country take over? How has our military lost crediblity? Give me a f’ing break.

  8. I’ve lost plenty of relatives to dictators and madmen and I won’t stand by while I watch others meet the same fate. I don’t care of it’s in Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Russia, China, or anywhere else. I’ll agitate for things which are wrong to be stopped. It won’t always happen but I won’t apologise when it does. Nicholas, I hope by including Iraq in your long list of countries you are not suggesting the US repeat our Iraq adventure in them. Invading Russia or China would be the end of the US. Even invading Iran while we are hemorrhaging treasure in Iraq would be a disaster. The trouble I have with neocons is that their strategy does not make any sense. On one hand they preach the US must be the dominant nation on Earth. Yet, they support policies that undermine that strenght. For example, most neocons promote the free trade policies that have seen our trade deficits soar, making China an economic giant. They then support massive US defense spending subsizided by borrowing from China. China now has leverage on us. I believe they hold about $1 trillion. They support policies which infuriate the Russians such as tearing Kosovo away from Serbia and expanding NATO to Russia’s doorstep. At the same time their posturing and agitation in the Mid East has helped lead to record oil prices which has strengthened Russia. They also tell us how dangerouse the world is and how the terrorists will follow us home if we leave Iraq. Yet, they do nothing to guard our borders. In short their policies are not sustainable.

  9. See, I actually wanted a response, not bile. I’m honestly interested in your opinion here. On another note, it’s my considered opinion that Russia has its own belligerence to blame for the eastward expansion of NATO, not the U.S. The Poles, Bulgars, Ukrainians et. al. aren’t joining under duress, AFAIK. That’s not to say I’m a great fan of NATO in this post-1991 world, but it’s still reassuring to see republics which used to host Long Range Aviation regiments lining up for seats at HQ AIRNORTH.

  10. In what ways were Iraqis ‘soverign and free’ as a country (?) that was a Wholly-Owned Saddam Hussein Subsidiary-State? In any other sense ‘Iraq’ was a sovereign ideal that didn’t even exist. With the same calculus the USSR was a ‘sovereign and free’ collection of sovereign and free satellites… Yeh right.

  11. TrustButVerify, History is important and this is where the neocons seem to drop the ball. They ignored history and the experiences of the British in 1920 when planning to take down Iraq. They ignore the legitimate concerns Russia has about its western flanked being attacked. From Napoleon to WW1 and WW2, Russia has been invaded on at least 3 major occasions from the West. As an American it is hard for me to comprehend how much loss of life they incurred. They probably lost 10 to 15 million civilians just during the German occupation of 1941 to 1944. The US has probably lost under 2 million total in all our wars over the last 233 years. The US created the Monroe Doctrine to keep Europeans away from the western hemisphere. You don’t think the Russians have a similar right to ensure the safety of their western border? The Russians have valid historical concerns about their western border. At the end of the cold war they went home without firing a shot. We responded to that gesture by expanding NATO, a military aliance, to their doorstep. Why are we doing this? Clearly post cold war we are stronger than Russia. But will that always be so? Russia has been a strong nation historically. After the cold war they went through major disruptions and changes. But they will become strong again. They won’t regain the status of the USSR, but they will become one of the top 5 nations in the world. They have an educated population with ample resources. Meanwhile we are committing ourselves to the defense of nations that have little to do with our national interest. Do you realize Britain was obligated to fight Germany in WW1 because of a 75 year old treaty they had with Belgium at that time? Could this happen to us? What if 30 years from now we are pulled into an unnecessary war because we have pledged to defend anyone of these new Nato members.

  12. Every day that hostilities exist in Iraq we are losing. Who doesn’t get that? I mean, if the NE Patriots went to play a high school football team in a demonstration game and they were tied going into the 20th overtime, would the Patriots ever win that game? Hell no! They might end up with a higher score, but no one with half a brain would think they won. You gain respect by winning. And that’s not to mention how rediculous we look having to hire over a hundred thousand mercinaries just to fight the war in Iraq. Mercinaries say something about a country, and it is not something good. Apparently someone thinks Saddam Hussein was Superman because he single handedly held the entire country of Iraq at bay due to their terror of that one man. What would have happened if we hadn’t had those special Kryptonite bullets that could take him down? Seriously people, leave the political party koolaide at the door and look at reality for a change.

  13. Nicholas, I hope by including Iraq in your long list of countries you are not suggesting the US repeat our Iraq adventure in them. Invading Russia or China would be the end of the US. Even invading Iran while we are hemorrhaging treasure in Iraq would be a disaster.

    No, I am not saying an invasion of say, China, is a clever idea. What I am saying is that we should push to resolve each of these situations by the means which are available to us, and are likely to achieve results. With Iraq, we had run out of options other than the use of force. With China, we have to be more subtle. For example we should continue to support Taiwan and make it clear that any aggression towards them is unacceptable. We should also look at ways to encourage the Chinese to become less authoritarian. I’m not an expert, I can’t say what those ways are, but I insist that we try something. Same goes for the other situations. Use the appropriate foreign policy tools.

    The trouble I have with neocons is that their strategy does not make any sense. On one hand they preach the US must be the dominant nation on Earth. Yet, they support policies that undermine that strenght.

    I would support free trade on a ‘tit for tat’ basis. The more protectionism a country uses, the more we should use against them. If they want free trade, let it really be free. USA and Australia relatively recently signed a ‘free trade agreement’ which IMO is heavily biased towards the USA, however I realize that you are in a better bargaining position than we are. In general this kind of agreement is a good thing IMO. With countries like China, they are going to have to make a whole lot of concessions before I would suggest a free trade policy is appropriate.

    They support policies which infuriate the Russians such as tearing Kosovo away from Serbia and expanding NATO to Russia’s doorstep. At the same time their posturing and agitation in the Mid East has helped lead to record oil prices which has strengthened Russia.

    Again I’m not an expert, I can’t say what the appropriate response with Kosovo is, but Russia is no longer the USSR and I think we have to make it clear to them that we frown on them meddling in neighboring countries which are now sovereign. If you appease a bully, all you get is more bullying… No, we don’t want another cold war, but at the same time we can’t just defer to them on every issue.

    They also tell us how dangerouse the world is and how the terrorists will follow us home if we leave Iraq. Yet, they do nothing to guard our borders.

    I agree, this is stupid. Is it really a ‘neocon’ position or are you making a strawman, though? I certainly agree with tough border controls. One of the whole points of having a nation in the first place is that you control who enters and leaves. Otherwise it’s just some lines on a map.

  14. Dfens, Can’t say I agree (mainly because we define military credibility in different terms) but I understand your POV now. Thanks, actually. 11B, Perhaps I’m missing it, but it seems you haven’t addressed by central point, namely, that Eastern Europe wanted in to NATO as much as NATO wanted them in. Who can blame the Czechs, Poles, and- good lord- Lithuanians for wanting someone to have their back, given their treatment over the last three centuries? (That ‘know your history’ bit is a two way street- if Putin was worried about NATO expansion he could at least extend a few more olive branches to the Latvians and Ukrainians.) If you will allow a metaphor, if my son is hanging around with a bunch of hoods, I’d say it’s more his fault than theirs. And then there’s the fact that in terms of aggressive and belligerent character, NATO rates just ahead of my elderly and near-deceased blue heeler. Even including the Balkan misadventures of the 90s, I have trouble empathizing for anyone who feels threatened by the military might of the Germans or the Spanish. And the Germans I know are only interested in Russia insofar as their local Russian gangsters are concerned.

  15. They also tell us how dangerouse the world is and how the terrorists will follow us home if we leave Iraq. Yet, they do nothing to guard our borders. I agree, this is stupid. Is it really a ‘neocon’ position or are you making a strawman, though? I certainly agree with tough border controls. One of the whole points of having a nation in the first place is that you control who enters and leaves. Otherwise it’s just some lines on a map. Nicholas, the above was not meant to be a strawman. John McCain was who I was thinking about when I wrote this. He is the one who says if we leave Iraq the terrorists will follow us home. He is also one of the biggest opponents to constructing effective fencing along our border. He has labeled people who wish to tighten the border as nothing more than racists.

  16. TrustButVerify, NATO’s purpose was to defend the west against the communist threat from the east. It was an example of a special alliance created for a singlular purpose. It should have been disbanded in 1992. There is no longer a need for it. The Europeans can defend themselves. They rely on us as a crutch and the sooner we leave the sooner they will have to stand on their own. I would imagine eastern Europe, especially the baltic states, wanted into NATO. They have been the battleground between the Russians and Germans for years. So now that the west is strong relative to Russia, it makes sense that they would want to join the western alliance. However, just because the people of eastern Europe want something, we still have to consider if it fits our national interests. Our friends the Kurds would like to have a homeland, yet we are not going to support them. To me Russia has a valid concern and the US has no national security interest in that area. The Russians are not seeking to invade and conquer Europe. They want to make sure their western border is friendly to them. No different then the US wanting to make sure the Latin American countries have friendly governments. Just because Germany has been humble for the last 50 years does not mean they won’t ever be a threat again. As long as Russia has vast resources and Europe does not, Germany and the rest of Europe are a potential threat. China was a historical superpower, but was dormant the last 150 years. However, no one doubts today that they are not again on the rise. Germany and the rest of Europe could revert back to their old ways as well.

  17. Ok, TBV, what’s not to agree with? Were we not the superior force? Should we not have won this thing years ago? Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a presence there in Iraq, but it should be a presence like the one we had in post war Japan, which is to say one that is not actively engaging a dangerous and prevelant enemy. Then we let Iraq dictate to us when we pull out by their actions instead of setting a list of priorities that are under our own control and exist to satisfy our own interests. If it wasn’t bad enough that we let Iraq set our agenda we also hire mercinaries who likely as individuals want the hostilities to cease, but do you think Blackwater, the corporation, wants the war to end – ever? The bottom line is, we are 5 years into this conflict and we still have no concept of what winning is let alone have a plan to achieve it, and it is entirely possible that we cannot achieve a perception of winning due entirely to the effect I mentioned in my previous football example. Then to second what 11Bravo said, the neocons like Bush, McCain, Graham, and Chafee were out standing on the steps of the capital calling anyone who wanted to control our borders ‘racists’. Bush himself called the Minutemen border volunteers ‘vigilantes’. Linda Chavez was right out there in front beating the neocon drum when she called anyone who wanted our nation to control its borders ‘racists’. How soon people forget who started the call to control the borders and ports. It wasn’t neocons. It was people like Buchanan, then a whole bunch more piled on the train when it was clear the American public was finally paying attention.

  18. 11Bravo, Now we’re getting to the place where it comes down to what you think our interests are. I happen to believe that, despite its warts and questionable GWOT utility, NATO is worthwhile for keeping the Europeans away from each other’s throats. (The Russians are out and the Germans are very down, of course.) The eastward creep of NATO benefits us in that- 1.) It keeps the members from coming to blows. 2.) It gives the Eastern Europeans some assurance against Russian adventurism. Consider the tendency of authoritarian governments to indulge in this when it suits their purposes. See Argentina, Iraq, and for that matter most of the 20th century. Thus I see it as a stabilizing factor, overall, and that stability is in our interest. As I said earlier- no one can look at the social democracies of Western Europe and feel justifiably threatened, whilst declaiming the benign intentions of the gospodin Putin. This isn’t to say that I think Russia’s recent muscle-flexing is the prelude to more serious action, but I think the Baltic states have more to fear from the East than the West. And I think NATO is a potential guarantor of continued stability in that area.

  19. How do you measure military credibility? Here’s one- can any nation say, ‘We can successfully invade, occupy, and subjugate the United States’ without being laughed off? Alternatively, can any government face the prospect of invasion by the U.S. as anything less than a losing proposition? Hence the drift towards asymmetric warfare, of course. I don’t think much of your football analogy. Leave aside the fact that I’ve successfully ignored the sport since 1997, comparing the insurgents in Iraq to a high school football team is implying that they’re playing the same game as the other team. IMHO it’s more along the lines of the Patriots showing up and demolishing the varsity team in the first quarter, after which the high schoolers ditch their gear and start throwing eggs from under the bleachers. They know they can’t compete, hence the retreat to suicide bombs. I hate sports analogies, by the way, which is probably why mine stink. The border is something we can agree on, though.