This analysis of the thinking behind "the surge" makes pretty good sense to me and can be found at Hewitts's blog.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
- The Surge!!
Posted by Dean
Barnett 1:09 PM
1) How in the hell are an additional 20,000 troops going to make such a
big difference when we already have about 140,000 troops in Iraq? It makes no
sense! Cut and run!!
First, calm down. We’re going to walk through this analytically, not
sprint through it hysterically. The current troop level in Baghdad is only
13,000. Most of the 20,000 new troops are going to be headed to Baghdad. That
means we’re going to increase our troop complement in Baghdad by roughly 150%.
In other words, as regards the Battle of Baghdad, this is an enormous tactical
adjustment, not a symbolic gesture.
2) Hmmm. Interesting. I didn’t know that. Why didn’t the president say
that last night?
This is where things get a little dicey. Most of the fighting has been in
Baghdad. And Baghdad has been the symbolic center of things. And yet only 10% of
out troops were in Baghdad. This doesn’t say anything good about the Bush
3) Why did they do that? Why were so few forces in Baghdad?
To know the truth, we’ll probably have to wait for the memoirs to be
written by the war’s principals. And even then, most of those will probably be
self-serving and dishonest. The most reasonable explanation is that the Bush
administration was so fearful of casualties that it hesitated to put a
significant amount of troops into harm’s way.
4) Do you think that’s why Bush finally last night admitted to
When you make such a significant tactical adjustment after three years
of doing something else that didn’t work, it’s pretty clear that whoever was
doing the initial strategizing screwed the pooch. Big time. The President knows
the buck stops with him, and he did the right thing taking the blame. It is his
5) The president’s critics, the bloggers who act like 20,000 troops is
just a symbolic addition to the 140,000 who are already there – do they
understand how the addition of 20,000 troops to Baghdad represents a radical
change in troop strength in the key area of the conflict?
I doubt it. It actually makes me laugh to hear and read some of these
people comment on complex military matters without acquainting themselves with
the most basic facts. Take Andrew Sullivan. Please. In his
“analysis” of the speech last night, Andrew tossed around troop figures
without having the faintest idea of what he was talking about:
president tonight had outlined a serious attempt to grapple with this new
situation - a minimum of 50,000 new troops as a game-changer - then I'd eagerly
be supporting him. But he hasn't. 21,500 U.S. troops is once again, I fear, just
enough troops to lose.”
6) What’s wrong with that? Andrew wanted 50,000 troops. Big deal.
Mentioning a troop number without saying what those troops are going to
do is an intellectually vacant and frivolous exercise. It’s a low form of
positional bargaining, throwing out numbers without attaching those numbers to
anything concrete. If Andrew’s going to hurl out the number 50,000, he should
give a hint as to what he’s going to do with those 50,000. He should also
specify why he thinks 20,000 isn’t an adequate number for the task at
7) Which is?
8) Where did the number 21,500 come from?
Out of a hat. Just kidding. But that is where figures like Andrew’s
50,000 came from.
The surge strength number comes from Dave Petraeus’
estimate of what will be necessary to win Baghdad. Petraeus is breaking Baghdad
into nine neighborhoods. Each neighborhood will get a contingent of 2500 Iraqi
soldiers (probably ones trained by Petraeus) supported by 600 American troops.
This number, the plan figures, will be sufficient to clear the neighborhoods and
then hold them. In previous encounters, we would clear and retreat. This is a
very significant difference. The total surge into Baghdad, counting Iraqi
troops, will be well over 40,000.
9) What else is new?
The rules of engagement have finally changed. The Shiite militias will
be targeted for destruction. This is important. For any government to be
legitimate and effective, it has to have a monopoly on the use of violent force.
Even though the Maliki government might be philosophically friendly to the
Shiite militias, the government would be (and has been) worthless with those
militias running around.
10) Sounds like there will be a lot more killing.
Yes. Unless the militias and Al Qaeda back down. Neither seems
11) How about the Democrats? What do they want?
Honestly, they want to call the mission a failure and withdraw.
Interestingly, not a single Democrat has seen fit to address the tactical wisdom
of the surge (or escalation as they prefer to call it). Not a single donkey has
challenged the potential efficacy of Petraeus’ plans with anything resembling a
detailed analysis. All they do is holler their favorite new one word slogan –
“ESCALATION” – and get out of Dodge.
12) Why don’t they assess the plan in a serious and responsible
Good one! You think the Democrats want Petraeus to testify before the
Senate and argue military tactics with Dick Durbin and the Admiral of
Chappaquiddick, Ted Kennedy? They know they’re out of their league when talking
about such matters, so they avoid the conversation altogether.
13) Do you think Democrats are aware of the kind of tactical things
that we’ve just discussed here?
I doubt it. Frankly, I doubt that a lot of Republicans are either. The
intellectual incuriosity of our Congress-people is truly breathtaking. You have
guys and gals on the intelligence committee who five years after 9/11 don’t know
whether Al Qaeda is Sunni or Shiite. I have a hard time believing that our
solons have really crunched the numbers and analyzed the tactics regarding the
battle for Baghdad.
14) So they’re just playing to their nutroots base?
Sam Brownback doesn’t have a nutroots base and he’s against the surge.
On its face adding 20,000 troops to the 140,000 already there does admittedly
seem to be, as my dear old Uncle Willie said this morning, a “band-aid.” The
problem is most of our congressmen don’t look beyond the surface. So when a
lightweight like Republican Gordon Smith of Oregon refers to the surge as a
“Hail Mary pass,” I’m quite willing to believe that he says such things not out
of malice but out of ignorance regarding the tactical sea-change that the surge
15) Whoa! Really lashing out at the Republicans there. What’s the deal?
Enforcing some kind of party loyalty or something?
Democrats can at least defend their antics as garden-variety partisan
idiocy. Republicans saying the same sort of things can’t hide behind the curtain
of serving their party. They’re just being idiots.
16) But what if Gordon Smith came out with a comprehensive assessment
of what is tactically necessary to subdue Baghdad this afternoon? Would that
change your mind?
Frankly, there’s a greater likelihood of unicorns flying out of my ass
this afternoon than Gordon Smith demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of
anything. In other words, I’ll deal with Senator Smith’s comprehensive
assessment when he delivers it.