Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Un-Accelerated Withdrawal Schedule

In recent weeks, various media outlets (including The New York Times) have anxiously suggested that the U.S. is accelerating its withdrawal schedule from Iraq, based on the improving security situation.

But that’s not quite accurate. In a Weekly Standard post last week, Bill Roggio found the current pace of redeployments mirrors a schedule outlined by General David Petraeus last year. As Mr. Roggio writes:

The graph shows that back in September 2007 the U.S. military planned to draw down to 15 combat brigades by July (this has happened) and targeted a drawdown to 12 combat brigades by the end of this year. The decision to draw down to 12 brigades will be made sometime in September. In March of 2009, the U.S. will decide to draw down to about 10 combat brigades.

The reality is that as the media focused on deriding General Petraeus's testimony on the state of the security situation in Iraq, they ignored the military's assessments on the planned posture of U.S. forces in Iraq in 2008 and beyond. Now that the U.S. is moving forward with its plans, their failure to note the timeline last year is characterized as an acceleration.

Following the draw down "horizon" outlined in the chart, the U.S. would have as few as five combat brigades in Iraq by 2011 or 2012, performing strategic and operational overwatch duties. At that time, the bulk of the security mission would be in the hands of Iraqi forces.

The Petraeus plan is based, of course, on conditions on the ground. If the security situation continues to improve, there might be a slight acceleration; if there’s a sudden uptick in violence, the draw down would be temporarily halted. It’s what you would expect from a leader like Petraeus, based on military judgement and experience.

We’d like to think that the draw down plan under a Democratic president would follow General Petraeus’s outline. But the party’s presumptive nominee, Mr. Obama, has made it clear that he prefers a fixed, arbitrary deadline for withdrawal, with no consideration for events on the ground.

John McCain said it best: when it comes to Iraq, Senator Obama made his mind up before embarking on that fact-finding trip. You’d think that wiser heads in the Democratic party would take their nominee aside and remind him of a salient fact: whoever occupies the White House when the troops finally come home gets credit for winning (or losing) the war.

Thanks to the surge, we are well on our way toward a final triumph in Iraq. But Mr. Obama and his advisers seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

7 comments:

Dave said...

You're incorrect in your statement that the demo candidate doesn't consider conditions on the ground affecting his withdrawal plan in Iraq. It's clear to any one who actually listens to him that he clearly states his timetable for withdrawal does depend upon conditions on the ground guiding the withdrawal.

Sandy Salt said...

Then Sen. Obama would be speaking out of both sides of his mouth if that is the case. He has stated on numerous occasion up to just recently that all combat troops would be out in 16 months period. Now that he is the nominee he has hedged that position with if conditions warrent, now that they are possible based on the gains made by the surge which he refuses to say worked or that he supports.

BadTux said...

The war in Iraq has been over since May 1 2003. There was a banner and everything, "Mission Accomplished!", remember? What has occurred since then is an occupation. Occupations aren't "won" or "lost", occupations simply end, either because the occupying power gets tired of occupying the place or because the occupation is successful in setting up a new government in the host country and the host country's new government asks them to leave.

There is violence in Iraq, that much is undeniable. None of that has anything to do with a war, but, rather, with insufficient forces in Iraq to police the place. The Army manuals prior to the invasion of Iraq called for 500,000 troops to control the violence that occurs when civil order collapses. Think of what would happen if we had done Iraq right instead of half-a$$. If even the modest surge has managed such a significant reduction in violence, think of what would have happened if we'd *really* surged, and put the 500,000 troops in there that the Army manuals called for?

Of course, we did not -- do not -- have 500,000 troops to put into Iraq. But we could. If the leadership of our nation had called for our nation to do so. President Ronald Reagan had 18 active duty divisions and 10 reserve divisions in the U.S. Army during the height of the Cold War and these were all volunteers. Instead we had Donald Rumsfeld mumbling about "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had." Which might have been okay in 2003, but this is 2008 -- there has been plenty of time to build up the Army to the size needed to perform a successful occupation. I mean, 5 years is longer than our involvement in WWII, and we raised a military of over 10,000,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen during WWII!

In any event, talking about "winning" or "losing" in Iraq is nonsense. The war was over in 2003 and you don't win occupations, you end them after certain conditions are met. So talking about "the surge is working" is nonsense doubled considering that neither Presidential candidate has proposed doing what's necessary to eliminate violence in Iraq so that civil society can re-emerge from the rubble -- which would require a *much* larger "surge" (the Army manuals called for 500,000 troops, as I mentioned, to police 20,000,000 people). If neither candidate is willing to propose that we do what it takes to pacify Iraq... what's the point of saying 12 months, 16 months, 24 months, whatever? It'll still be a mess at the end since apparently the leadership of the U.S. isn't willing to do the job right, perhaps under the impression that the American people aren't willing to pay the price. Maybe they're right. But what that does mean is that if our leaders aren't willing to do the job right... what's the point of quibbling over months, anyhow?

Ken Prescott said...

There was a banner and everything, "Mission Accomplished!", remember?

That banner, as you no doubt have been told many times, was put there by the crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln, and it stated that their mission (i.e., the deployment they were returning home from) was accomplished.

President Ronald Reagan had 18 active duty divisions and 10 reserve divisions in the U.S. Army during the height of the Cold War and these were all volunteers.

And President Clinton got rid of them. Sure would've been nice if we'd've had them under arms on September 11, 2001. Oh, well.

Badtux, people like you make me wish that stupidity was physically painful.

BadTux said...

Uhm, no. Clinton didn't get rid of the 18 divisions. President George H.W. Bush and his Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney got rid of them. There were only 12 active duty divisions on the day that Clinton took the oath of office. The B-52G bombers that bombed Saddam's forces to defeat in the sands on the Kuwaiti-Saudi border during Desert Storm? They flew home to the boneyard in Tucson and were dismantled immediately afterwards. The soldiers that won Desert Storm? They went home to civilian life, leaving their equipment in Kuwait.

Oh, since you appear to be ignorant of history, here is Secretary of Defense Cheney's plan in 1990 to reduce the size of the military. He did, in fact, execute this plan and the military described in this plan was the one that President Clinton inherited on the day he took the oath of office. Clinton took the Army from 12 divisions to 10 divisions and the Navy from 12 carrier task groups to 10 carrier task groups, but the bulk of the reductions were made under the Presidency of George H.W. Bush.

Really, this isn't ancient history. I remember when it happened. Where were you when it happened -- sucking on your baby bottle while soiling your nappies? In any event, my point was that we have, in recent history, had an Army with the manpower to conduct a successful occupation of Iraq "by the book" that was written to successfully occupy Germany and Japan after WWII. Five years (from 2003 to today) would have been plenty to build the military back up to that level and successfully implemented an occupation that not only reduced violence, but *elimininated* it -- if our Republican leadership had cared to do so. Which, apparently, they did not. You cannot blame five years of inaction by a Republican President on Bill Clinton. We have a name for that, similar to the "Bush Derangement Syndrome" that afflicts some lefties -- it's called "Clinton Derangement Syndrome". George W. Bush has been President for 7 years now, and had a Republican Congress for 6 of those years. You can't blame this failure upon Bill Clinton. Neither John McCain nor Barack Obama propose to do what it takes to conduct a successful occupation of Iraq either. So my point -- that quibbling over months was ridiculous since the place will be a mess whether we leave in 1 month, 12 months, 24 months, or 100 years as John McCain once jokingly suggested -- remains. Either do it right, or don't do it at all. Sadly, there seems to be no will -- on the part of either Democrats *OR* Republicans -- to do it right.

Ken Prescott said...

Really, this isn't ancient history. I remember when it happened. Where were you when it happened -- sucking on your baby bottle while soiling your nappies?

1. I was there. I may have misremembered exactly who deactivated the divisions, but Clinton made it damn near impossible to reconstitute them in anything under two decades with his defense infrastructure policies (a lot of money that went to storing and maintaining production tooling was eliminated, and the tooling was subsequently scrapped; a lot of bases that could've been maintained as DoD property were sold off, frequently to developers who made generous donations to Bubba and Company). Funny how you neglect to mention that part.

2. I do not believe that you were actually there. There is no way, given your demonstrated lack of anything resembling good manners, that you will ever live past the age of 12. I've seen people get shanked for milder insults than what you tend to pass out.

BadTux said...

Welcome to the Internets. If you hand out insults, you tend to get insults in return.

As for where I was, let's just say that in February 1984 I walked into the air force recruiter's office to sign up, and leave it at that. Obviously I wasn't a toddler at the time, heh. Way I saw it was a combination of getting out of town ASAP, getting college money, and doing something to help defend my country. As for why the Air Farce, growing up underneath the end of the Barksdale AFB runway probably had something to do with that :-).

Regarding the current infrastructure, we still have sufficient infrastructure to support a much larger force than we are supporting. Note that Clinton did *not* suggest what bases to close. This was a base closings commission created by Congress and reporting to Congress. Also note that this law was passed under the (drumroll) GEORGE H.W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION. Yeppers, by the Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990. Google it.

In short, you seem to be misrepresenting yet another thing done by other people as being done by President Clinton. So it goes. And I will continue to point out that President George W. Bush has been President for SEVEN YEARS now, and had a Republican Congress for six of those years. We tooled up for and won WWII in less than five years, going from a U.S. Army that had only eighteen tanks that had cannons on them (yeppers, every tank in the U.S. arsenal in 1939 was an obsolete type armed with machine guns except for a few of the brand-new M2 tanks armed with the totally awesome 37mm M3 cannon that wouldn't even scratch the paint on a Panzer) to a U.S. Army that had tens of thousands of tanks by 1944. Even if President Clinton had been evil incarnate, President Bush has had seven years to reverse anything President Clinton did -- and has not done so. He hasn't even reversed President Clinton's decision to reduce the Army to 10 divisions from 12 divisions, which would be a fairly easy decision to reverse given that so many of our troops are overseas now. He has not done so, and neither McCain nor Obama are proposing to do so. That is not how you ramp up a nation's armed forces to produce a force capable of achieving victory :-(.