Friday, October 08, 2004

More troops? Don't be stupid
My brother contributes a great post today, contradicting the points made by Andrew Sullivan, Jake at dcfb. The important portion:

"I've heard the criticism that while we hoped for the best, we neglected to plan for the worst. However, I disagree with that statement. We planned for a long hard slog through the desert to Baghdad, under a rain of chemical weapons, and across burning moats of oil. We planned for months, possibly years of door to door, high-intensity, urban combat through Baghdad with the Republican Gaurd and the Saddam Fedayeen. It didn't happen. The US and Iraqi military and civilian casualties would have been far greater in that case, and we should thank our military commanders that they were able to devise a plan that was flexible enough to capitalize on the previously known weaknesses of the Baathist military and those discovered through the course of battle in those opening days.
Some people say, that yes, we were able to take Baghdad, but obviously we don't have enough troops on the ground to pacify the nation. However, I'm unconvinced that more troops would significantly improve the situation. I'm inclined to believe those that say that more US or Coalition troops would further alienate Iraqis, rightfully inflame their sense of nationality, and lend credibility to the terrorists calls to arms."
I've been drawing parallels, in my mind, between the war in Iraq and the American Revolution since the explosion of Al Sadr's rebellion mid-summer. While I haven't found the time to write a full-blown column, allow me to draw out some of the connections here.

I took a class a few years ago on American military strategy through the Civil War, which went pretty far in analyzing the Revolutionary War, particularly how we were able to defeat the British. There are some important lessons there that can be applied to Iraq. The problem is, while these lessons have been taught to military strategists for centuries, they are not known to the general public. This makes it easy to say "we need more troops, we need more troops," to overcome a rebellion, when in reality that is exactly opposite to common military knowledge.

In the Revolution, very generally speaking, the British faced a native population, a portion of which was militantly opposed to their intervention, the majority of which was largely apathetic towards their presence, much as we now face in Iraq. The British thought was, the militant portion is small, and all that they needed to do was crush it once, maybe twice, chase the farmers back to their homes, and the rebellion would be put down. Lexington and Concord should have taught them otherwise, when, despite their overwhelming strength, the British sustained heavily casualties while returning to Boston. Throughout the rest of the war, the Brits constantly overestimated the importance of a military victory, as every American death led to more dedication from the militant groups in American society, and an even slighter possibility of a return to the status quo after the war.

The differences between this and Iraq are striking. Iraq is not our colony, we have no desire to maintain territory there (aside from a few military bases), and we are not trying to subjugate the people to our desires, but merely free them to pursue theirs. That being said, however, we are facing a similar enemy, and if we try to overwhelm them, we will lose the war the same way the British lost to us. The key is to do what the British failed to do in sufficient quantities: we have to stimulate the natives who recognize what we are trying to accomplish to act on our behalf. As my brother pointed out, we need to train Iraqi forces so that the terrorists are attacking them, not us, so that the overall Iraqi population comes to side with their countrymen, against Zarqawi et al. Winning the hearts and minds, as I believe our military commanders understand, cannot be accomplished by destroying Fallujah, or even just the terrorists within that city. It can only be done by creating sympathy among the apathetic portion of Iraqis for the portion that has sided with us -- through their losses instead of ours, through our refusal to target them, and through elections that show the people what true freedom can accomplish.

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