Security and Peace Initiative Democracy Arsenal

« Left Realists or Exemplarism? | Main | Bits from Army and Congress »

December 12, 2006

MORE Troops for Iraq?
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

After I wrote last night's post about foreign policy events that could knock Washington flat between now and '08, I lay awake thinking of additional unpleasant possibilities.  A Lebanon-1982 style attack on US forces.  Taiwan.  Pakistan.  Saudi Arabia.

But I didn't think of the one Kevin Drum says Fox News is reporting -- that, after finding some experts who don't like the Iraq Study Group conclusions, the President is now leaning toward sending more troops to Iraq.

I hope this is wrong, or a trial balloon that can be stopped.  I'm straining to avoid rhetorical excess, but I see such a move as bad for Iraq, bad for the Middle East, bad for US power, and US influence, and US values, and the US military, and the US way of life.  And bad for the contract between American citizens and their government.

Karl Marx, wrong again.  The first time, tragedy with overblown dominoes.  The second time, tragedy with significant potential to go on causing tragedy for decades?


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference MORE Troops for Iraq?:


There is a never ending chicken or the egg argument, do you needed stability (security) for the economy to improve, or do you need the economy to improve so the security will improve? I think that the planners are convinced the security comes first. And more troops is usually what they think will fix the security.

I wish more troops was an answer that would work, but I just don't think more military uniforms of any type will be enough. As we've proved in Iraq several times, big "sweep and clear" operations do not work because we never sweep and clear away the motivation for Iraqis to become insurgents, or death squads, or passive supporters against the coalition.

I believe the answer lies in the economy. A better economy will take away the reasons why Iraqis become insurgents, a bullet does not (unless you kill them all, which is not an option for us). Employed and well fed people are generally happy people. Happy people don't become insurgents (in most cases). Fix the oil industry, bring money into the country and build new cities (stop trying to fix the old broken ones). There is plenty of empty space to built, and plenty of Iraqis who need work. We must stop focusing all of our attention on counter guerilla and focus more on the counterinsurgency itself or we will never end this downward cycle.

The answer lies in the economy. Of course. Spoken like a true American. Maybe we can build a WalMart over there.

What motivates an Iraqi to become an insurgent? Is it because they envy our freedom? Of course not. Iraqis become insurgents for the same reason that the colonists in Lexington and Concord became insurgents. We called them patriots--perhaps if we called the Iraqi insurgents "patriots" their motivation would become clearer.

What do we mean by "policing" or "sweep and clear" or any of the other euphemistic terms used to describe a brutal military aggression and occupation? In practice, in Iraq, just like in Vietnam, it means many things, but in Iraq a large component are raids, usually at night, on residences where ordinary people live. The official line is that soldiers knock first, but of course they don't because this is too dangerous. So they break doors down, ransack living quarters, humiliate the occupants, kidnap military age men, torture those taken away (which is accepted national policy), and that's the least that is done. These escapades can and do escalate into shootings, rapes, explosive shellings by air or artillery, and all the other niceties of war.

This is how we bring "stability" and "security" to an Iraqi community. This is why a vast number of Iraqis, most of whom have experienced the above horrors first-hand, want us out of Iraq. This is also why a majority of Iraqis, both Sunnis and Shiites, support attacks on Americans. A very normal reaction. How would you, in your home, like to be "swept and cleared" by a foreign army? And if they did, what would you do? Hide under the bed forever, or find a gun and go after the perpetrators?

So now the President is proposing to send more troops. Big surprise. No American leader will ever willingly withdraw in defeat before escalating to achieve "victory." It's a simple national reaction to extend force for national objectives. We see it all the time on this site. We've read the arguments recently by the Truman Democrats. Let the big dog loose--that's the American way. Intervention. Bush even invoked Harry Truman's name the other day.

You're exactly right, Heather, as usual, but the forces of darkness, those that think that might makes right, are in power and are even in ascension, and the prizes are too much for them to renege on their gambit for oil and profits, and those of us who deeply disagree with all the death and destruction are being left in history's dust. There's too much money to be made--the answer lies in the economy, and the elite is making tons of money, corporate profits and the stock markets are at all-time highs--what's not to like? The answer lies in the economy. Screw morality.

I am not going to deny that some raids don't go bad, and I will spare you any first hand accounts of what really happens since you seem to know so well how things really happen.

But I agree that those raids that do go bad make more enemies and that is part of the reason why I agree that more troops is not the answer.

Yes, economy, money, not for us, but for them. That is Arab morality, that is Arab honor. The definition of Arab honor goes back to their bedouin heritage and is defined as providing for their family, tribe, etc. Any man who provides for his family, regardless of how he does it, is a honorable man. Their system of morals (Islam) is secondary to this sense of honor in most people. And as we've seen, some who follow Islam have a different concept of morality than we do.

Spoken like a true American? I am no historian, but weren't the Boston Tea party, the Stamp act and the Townshend acts about taxes (aka money)? I thought that the bill of rights was an after thought to the revolution (over a decade later). An argument can be made that American Patriots, although using the call of freedom as a battle cry, really had very economic reasons for wanting independence.

People care about money, and they care about who controls their money. One of our big battle cries was "No taxation without representation!". Harder to shout than "Don't tread on me!".

One of iraq's problems is the economic nonsystem Bremer imposed on them. Like, they aren't allowed to have tariffs. Lots of ways, lots of times, tariffs are a bad idea. But when they can't have any their producers are stuck trying to make things in a war zone better and cheaper than they can be produced in neighboring countries. It's hard. And there have been examples where managers hired a private security force to protect their businesses, and the force got captured and executed by the americans as insurgents. If a business can't have rent-a-cops, what are they supposed to do? Depend on the police? Easier to relocate across the border.

With high oil prices iraq's external income would be enough to get the economy rolling, except the money just flows right out to buy imports. Imports don't provide jobs in iraq. They don't create investment in iraq. But they're the most efficient way to provide stuff when you have foreign exchange and no local security.

Back when we were talking about how fast the iraqi economy was improving, even then it was particularly construction. You can't import houses.

The iraqi assembly could overturn some of Bremer's commands. But as I remember it takes a 2/3 majority to do it, and that might not be their most immediate priority.

We're 'way beyond that now. There is a civil war, in addition to the occupation resistance, with a massive refugee crisis. The Iraqi "government" has no power beyond the Green Zone.The US is now tilting toward the Iran-allied SCIRI Alliance, against the Sunnis, PM Makiri and the popular, anti-Iran and anti-Americab al-Sadr. Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia will become more involved, and Syria, so hold on tight. The eggs are all broken--there'll be no more chickens.

We need troops out and to start creating jobs for the Iraqis through rebuilding infrastructure. We have increased their poverty massively by being there and it's only getting worse. According to the Borgen Project, achieving global peace and security can be reached through reducing poverty. The Millennium Goals are our chance to accomplish this. It's time we do that!

The Pentagon's option to "Go Big" has been bouncing around for awhile now (see Ricks- "Pentagon May Suggest Short-Term Buildup Leading to Iraq Exit", Nov 20) so I'm not sure why it's a surprise. Plus you have McCain & Lieberman who have been making the rounds on this option--floating the option to increase troops has reached the length of a clinical trial, not your typical DC test launch of a wacky idea.

The facts on the ground for '06 are clear. We added 15k US troops, trained an additional 100,000 Iraqi forces and in return raised the number of insurgent attacks & IED explosions, saw the Iraqi death toll surge to 3,000 a month, and lost the lives of nearly 800 US soldiers. Going big i only going to intensify the death and destruction in the country.

Don Bacon, there's something that's continued to puzzle me about the lack of influence by the official iraqi government. It goes like this:

The official iraqi government (OIG) gets the revenues for all the oil that isn't smuggled. That's a nice bit of change they officially control. Are we spending that money for them?

In 2003 Saddam's government paid for something like 90% of the food, and rationed it. That's most of the nonperishables, notably wheat products. US estimates at the time were that 80% of the population couldn't survive without those rations. The CPA immediately took on the job of buying the food on the world market and shipping it into iraq where it could be distributed. They had close to a 3-month stockpile and had the goal of increasing that to a 6-month stockpile so they could handle scheduling glitches etc. No JIT food delivery for them.

The CPA left and those jobs got handed entirely to the OIG, except for whatever supervision we maintained. The OIG is still maintaining rationing records all across the country. (That's what they use for voting rolls.) They're still paying people to manage the rationing and distribute the food. I haven't seen any recent reports about how well that's going.

So ... how come we aren't talking about using that? It's an obvious weapon for the USA to use against whoever we don't like. make the OIG stop supplying food to places that do things we don't like. Too many insurgents? Too many sunnis? Cut off the food. Why pay for food that you'll send to sunnis for free? Give it to them only if they recognise the OIG as the real government. Otherwise let them starve. And if that sounds too bald-faced evil, then just announce that it's the violence that keeps you from sending food shipments. They just can't get through.

But I hear nothing about starvation in iraq except from WHO etc. It just doesn't get much discussion at all. Here's the most obvious weapon for us to use, something that's probably going to be a whole lot more effective than having soldiers shoot things up, and it just doesn't get mentioned.

"make the OIG stop supplying food to places that do things we don't like"

And when the insurgents go out,steal the food and then distribute it for nothing in the areas you're attempting to starve into good behaviour ?

The end result would be the insurgents being even stronger in their home areas as they're now the ones supplying the food.


My friend, you seem to be denial about how bad things have gotten since the mosque is Samarra was destroyed last February (my belief: with US complicity) and the ensuing civil war. Voting roles? Food distribution? This, from Patrick Cockburn, who (unusually) travels in Iraq:

"In Baghdad, Sunnis no longer dare to visit the main mortuary to look for murdered relatives because it is under Shia control and they might be killed themselves."

Beyond that, I don't know anything about food distribution in Iraq. Under the Geneva Convention and International law the occupying power (the US) is responsible for the welfare of civilians under control of the occupation, and the steps you are suggesting, besides being morally repugnant, would be illegal, in my view.

food distribution in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Dec. 12 — A truck loaded with bags of wheat drove up to a crowd of poor Shiites early Tuesday, lured them close with a promise of work and exploded as they gathered around. Seventy were killed and 236 were wounded, officials said.

I'm not advocating this idea. I'm wondering why I haven't heard any hint that we're doing it.

It isn't a war crime now because the official iraqi government has sovereignty and officially we aren't occupying iraq any more. If they choose to starve part of their own population it would be hard to prove it was us making them do it.

Hard for me to believe that food production in iraq has gone up. Hard to believe that private food imports have gone up nearly enough to make up for whatever government shortages there are.

We leaked the "salvador option" plan. We haven't leaked anything about the cambodia option. And I hear hardly anything about starvation in iraq. Last year there was a report that acute child malnutrition had gone up from 6% under sanctions to 11%. Things have surely gotten worse since then. But I don't hear anything about it, all I hear is reports of violence. Is it just that the system for collecting statistics and keeping records has broken down? Or is it some kind of censorship?

Time to get out and address the Millennium Goals. The Borgen Project encourages the achievement of the MDGs for the promotion of global poverty and security.

Don said, "... the mosque in Samarra was destroyed last February (my belief: with US complicity)"

How can you make accusations like that and expect anyone to take anything you say seriously? Please explain why you are accusing the US of being in complicity with the terrorists who blew up the mosque? Do you have any evidence or reasonable cause or was it just really ignorant conspiracy theory?

I disagree with much of what you say, but most comments are well informed, researched opinions which I respect. Since you like quoting people who have actually been to Iraq, here is a quote for you. "That comment was just dumb."

Bg, given that the US public has been consistently lied to about everything connected to the war, it's only reasonable that we'd start to believe in things like the Salvador option and US sabotage disguised as insurgent action. Many journalists who've been to iraq are convinced that US snipers have been one of the major causes of journalist death in iraq.

Why wouldn't we believe that US demolition experts did the Samarra bombing? It fits everything we've heard except the lies the US military puts out.

It's a problem that our military has to lie to the US public about the war. Of course if they told the truth the terrorists would find out things that would help them fight us, and we can't have that, now can we?

But the lies poison the atmosphere. They don't work either.They leave us ready to believe the worst, because we've seen so much bad that's already been lied about.

Can you think of any reason we shouldn't give due consideration to the idea that the US military directly bombed the Samarra temple, not in complicity with terrorists but did it ourselves?

Beyond the general belief that our boys would never do something like that? See, I used to believe that sort of thing. I believed that our soldiers would not torture prisoners, that if they took prisoners they took care of them and didn't summarily shoot them, that we wouldn't use white phosphorus as a lethal agent, etc. I believed that Phoenix ended in vietnam and would never return. Well, I was wrong. It's a new army now, and it's gotten a different reputation. The new army does whatever needs to be done.

JT, I truly believe that if something like the that was happening (US support of death squads, etc), someone would blow the whistle, just as was done with Abu Gurayhb.

"Can you think of any reason we shouldn't give due consideration to the idea that the US military directly bombed the Samarra temple, not in complicity with terrorists but did it ourselves?"

Aside from the point that it would be the stupidest thing strategically to do? That it would lead to a worsening of our position in Iraq?

Other than that, well, no. There is no reason to believe we would be that stupid.

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Guest Contributors
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of the Security and Peace Institute, the Center for American Progress, The Century Foundation or any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use