Thursday, May 04, 2006

A general's inside take on Iraq

Fred Kaplan over at Slate reports on a memo that retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey wrote about the situation and prognosis in Iraq. McCaffrey supports the war and now teaches at West Point.

The assessment won't surprise anyone who has been paying attention. Our troops are doing a professional job, and the Iraqi army is coming along. But the security situation is worsening, the Iraqi police and army units are underequipped, underfunded and unable to fight on their own and reconstruction aid is dwindling to nothing.

He estimates it will take 10 years and about $100 billion in economic aid alone to achieve what we set out to achieve in Iraq. Add another $700 billion or so to that total for military operations, if you look at our current rate of spending.

It's an excellent and balanced piece, and points up what I've said for a long time: had the benefits, perils and costs of invading Iraq been fairly and openly debated, the American public would never have signed on. Whatever you may think about the morality of invading -- and I'm generally okay with the idea of taking out bad guys -- I'm pretty sure we could have found better ways to spend $2 trillion.

Go give it a look.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous maxtrue said...

Interesting views of more general criticism, which fails to fully vet the issue of the Iraq army. First, the decision to disband the army was rumored to be the result of some political Democratic pressure. We didn’t want a "Sunni" army, though we could have had foot soldiers go to their barracks and await new commanders. The deeper problem is how one builds an new army with Sunni participation or without it. This present dilemma is one reason the Iraqi army has not been given much of the hardware. It is likely to land in enemy hands. Our lack of foresight leaves armor unprotected. This is one important reason building the Iraqi army is moving slowly and not a grail in itself that some promote.

Biden's plan in talking about forming three autonomous regions, each with their own policing is all about pressuring the Sunnis and Shiites into a unity government. Both sides know the dangers of open civil war. We have played this situation as if Iraq was Viet Nam, and it is not. Threatening to arm all three sides and withdrawing to bases might be the leverage we need to end the sectarian impass.

The cost of US military hardware replacement in Afghanistan and Iraq is more than 60 billion. The amount of money is staggering. Some put the price of Iraqi “mistakes” at 1 trillion. Does that make the Guinness Record books? Or will Iran break the record for the financial consequence of mediocre planning?

5/04/2006 6:05 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Yeah, the Shiite death squad connection, too, is a decent reason to avoid handing out heavy weapons. But until we do, the Iraqi army can't stand on its own. And the longer we wait, the more angry the Iraqi army gets, because they're sitting ducks. That's a hell of a pickle.

I advocate a tough line against Iran. But I don't think we're crazy enough to actually invade. There's no political will, and it wouldn't be a cakewalk. If Iraq's 27 million people can cause such trouble in the open desert, imagine what 60 million Iranians in rugged mountains could do. I don't overestimate Iranian capabilities; their force projection capability is almost zero. But infantry and guerrillas in mountains would be most unpleasant.

Never mind that we simply do not have the troops to occupy Iran.

I'd be willing to try the Biden plan. Iraq is a country but not a nation; if they don't want to hold it together, I don't see why we should try to make them.

5/04/2006 11:37 PM  

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