Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sadly, this sounds about right

According to Rep. John Murtha, who was on Hardball earlier tonight, the "long haul" in Iraq may be longer than you think.
(W)e`ve got a position where if we won`t redeploy, as I`m suggesting, and let the Iraqis change their own destiny, let them handle their own destiny, we`re going to be there for 100 years. I remember one time in the closed hearing, one of the top generals said, "we`ll be there for 25 years." I said you saying 25 years? A lot of people think it would take that long.
25 years? Surely he must be joking, right? I don't think so.

Consider this: According to most officer career progression stats, it takes roughly 25 years to "build" a general. Along the way, an officer has to take certain steps--platoon leader, company commander, staff positions, Command and General Staff College, battalion commander, War College and, finally, general. These steps and the training they entail are important and are mirrored in the similar creation of a professional, well-trained Non-Commissioned Officer corps as well.

Bush, in suggesting that you can get a real army up to speed quickly is simply ignoring that, in doing that, you're often putting people in charge because, say, they can read (though this is probably a rarer reason to promote in a more educated Iraqi populace) or they've had the most combat experience. I saw these sorts of things more than once in Afghanistan. I don't fault the tactic, because a command structure must exist, but it does not mean you have a professional officer or senior NCO corps.

In Afghanistan, however, those who were moved into command positions due to combat experience had already fought beside members of other ethnic groups. The Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Tajiks and other ethnicities joined in battle against the Russians and, due to the number and diversity of ethnicities, no single ethnicity ever completely controlled another. Yes, Afghans have ethnic skirmishes to this day, but they are decreasing.

Iraq, as we know, was a country that has always been split along ethnic lines. We are already seeing the effects of this split in the appearance of ostensible Shiite-controlled torture chambers. In order to create an army and national police force which consider themselves Iraqi will take much, much longer in Iraq than it did in Afghanistan. It's a simple fact. In the report (PDF link) we talked about earlier today (which was delivered before the war), Conrad C. Crane and W. Andrew Terrill predicted this.
The most likely development would be for parties to emerge based on ethnic, religious, tribal, and other such factors. Thus, even under free elections, differences within Iraqi society may be further exacerbated. Ethnically-based political parties generally increase divisions rather than mitigate them in highly fractious countries. Moreover, the current Kurdish political movements are also armed militias and thus set the wrong kind of example for others to follow by establishing political organizations which also maintain para-military forces.
So, if you want to stay the course, know that it will probably be a longer haul than you thought. Unless we're willing to spend a couple decades there, the country will most likely go through some violent upheaval one way or another.

Me, I'd rather our soldiers weren't there for it, protecting a government which has said our soldiers are legitimate targets. Murtha's plan is the right one. "(R)edeploy to the surrounding areas so that we can go back in if there`s a terrorist buildup. Now, define Iraqi insurgency versus a terrorist buildup. If the terrorist camps do come into Iraq, then we could go back in if they threaten our allies or us. There`s no other plan that makes any sense to me."


Update: More, from an old artilleryman.

Update: Brzezinski echoes my points.


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