Thursday, February 01, 2007

Double the surge! Or halve it


President Bush's surge has been advertised as involving 21,500 soldiers. I always assumed that was a total. But now the Congressional Budget Office says that only counts actual combat troops, and when you add in support troops the figure could be as high as 48,000.

The number comes in response to a request from Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., the chairman of the House Budget Committee, for an estimate on how much the surge will cost ($27 billion a year, as it turns out).

What are support troops? They're the folks who back up the soldiers doing the actual fighting. For every infantryman on the front line, there's a whole bunch of soldiers behind him, responsible for paying, feeding, equipping, informing and otherwise taking care of his needs. The ratio of combat to support troops in a military organization is known as the "teeth-to-tail" ratio, and that ratio is usually quite lopsided. When I was in the Army in the early 1990s, the Soviets had a ratio of about 3:1, meaning there were three support soldiers for every soldier actually fighting. The U.S. ratio was much higher: 8:1 or even 10:1, IIRC.

The lower the ratio, the more combat power you can deploy with a given number of troops. But the higher the ratio, the more durable your combat power is. So the Soviets could throw huge numbers of troops into the fray, but their logistical train was fragile so their combat power would decay rapidly. We could field fewer combat troops, but our robust tail meant we could sustain that level of combat power far better.

That assumes, of course, that the tail is actually functional, and doesn't simply represent bureaucratic dead weight.

Anyway, the reason I assumed the 21,500 figure included support troops is because such figures almost always include support troops. If you're sent to Iraq, it doesn't matter if you're a rifleman or a clerk-typist; you're in Iraq, and you count as part of the overall strength. So it's a bit surprising to find out that Bush was counting things up differently.

There are two reasons he might have done this, and which you choose probably depends on your view of Bush. On the one hand, it could have been politics: he might have played up the lower figure in order to minimize opposition to the move. On the other hand, it could have been that he simply didn't know yet how many support troops were being sent.

Me, I'm actually happy to find out he was undercounting. 48,000 troops still isn't a big enough increase to show we're serious, but it's a lot closer than 21,500.

On the other hand, maybe we only need half as many troops after all. In a frankly bizarre bit of testimony before Congress, Gen. George Casey -- the outgoing top general in Iraq who Bush has nominated to be the Army chief of staff -- said the surge was too big, and only half as many troops were needed.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on his nomination to be Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey said he had asked for two additional Army brigades, based on recommendations of his subordinate commanders. Bush announced Jan. 10 that he would send five extra brigades as part of a buildup that would total 21,500 soldiers and Marines.

Asked by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., why he had not requested the full five extra brigades that Bush is sending, Casey said, "I did not want to bring one more American soldier into Iraq than was necessary to accomplish the mission."

Yeah, because things went so well under Casey's watch. Methinks his credibility on this issue is not so high.

To be fair, Casey may be talking about a narrower, more specific thing: the number of troops necessary to carry out the specific mission he was given. As we discovered in September, actually defeating the insurgency hadn't been our mission up to that point. So if Casey defines his mission narrowly enough, his numbers make sense. But then he's either being myopic or obliquely saying that the problem was the mission -- a subtle criticism of Bush, who defines the missions that the military then carries out.

I'm beginning to think, however, that Bush isn't solely at fault for the mess that has engulfed Iraq.

,

Labels: , , ,

3 Comments:

Blogger Maxtrue said...

Hi Sean,
The NIE just came out and I think overall, it supports Bush's Last Chance. It does point out that Iraq is more complex than a Civil War and that Iran and Syria are working to fuel sectarianism and violence. It also gives a dire warning about failure. I wonder if any Democrats will agree or stand by their "solution" which includes the fantasy of Iran or Syria "helping". I wonder if you are aware of the William Arkin blog over at WaPo that is drawing quite a stir. Having served yourself, I might suggest you take a look.

Part of the "new" strategy in Iraq must include a careful increase in Iraq's military equipment, deployment of our own equipment such as more "Dazzlers", chopper protection, laser anti-mortar weapons, as well as the new armor the DOD has produced. Bobby, who you probably chatted with at Centerfield is in Karbala right now directing some forces and local supporters, This is also the place where Iran seems to have sent agents ( the result---five dead American soldiers), Also Fatah has claimed to have killed an Iranian General in Gaza.

As Arkin and even numerous AP stories show us, media is fueling the polls and the polls are fueling a possible snowball in Congress to cut funding. I suggest that Iraq is part of a broader security threat and prisoner to a political struggle here and in Iraq fueled by sectarian violence, terrorists, media and various governments. Lost in America's political focus here at home are many important stories like Chirac's gaffs about Iran, Putin's wild denials, Chavez's spin on tyranny (his), the civil war in Gaza preventing the roadmap, events on Somalia, Nigeria, zero intervention in Darfur, EU default in Afghanistan and the Syrian admission that "it cannot "prevent" insurgents from using Syria as a base to launch attacks.

20,000 troops will also come with another 15,000 support personnel. I wonder why the US government has not presented the evidence for Iranian shoulder-launched missiles, advanced IEDs, technical and logistical support. It is a huge chess game going on, Perhaps that explains the strange remark Perez made a few days back that Israel attacking Iran's facilities in not on the table. Something is up and I wonder how Democrats seem to be sending the signal that Iraq is lost, force is not an option against Iran, Syria might be a friend and all Israel and Palestinians need is a helpful push to negotiate? We are moving from Republican mistakes into a phase of Democrat ones. I think one must take into account the 90% of what we don't know when we try to evaluate Casey, Fallon, Gates, Petraeous, Negroponte, Hayden and other approved officials.

Keep up the steamroller. People might not be posting, but they are looking. If you need a laugh, try Kos or the Huffington Blog.

Max NYC

2/02/2007 1:18 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

The NIE just came out and I think overall, it supports Bush's Last Chance.

Yeah, I'm going to make a post on that at some point today. I don't think it's quite as supportive of the surge as you do, but only because its pessimistic that much of anything will work at this point.

I wonder if you are aware of the William Arkin blog over at WaPo that is drawing quite a stir. Having served yourself, I might suggest you take a look.

I read it, but didn't consider it worth responding to. He's got a valid if simple point -- soldiers' views are no more valid or invalid than anyone else's -- but he wraps it in heaps of ignorance about the military. The "mercenary" bit was way out of line, of course -- something he at least acknowledged in his follow-up.

Aw, heck. Maybe I will write something about it.

Media is fueling the polls and the polls are fueling a possible snowball in Congress to cut funding.

Perhaps. I think Congress should cut off funding if the surge doesn't work, part of my "get serious or get out" philosophy. It really is Bush's Last Chance.

I suggest that Iraq is part of a broader security threat and prisoner to a political struggle here and in Iraq fueled by sectarian violence, terrorists, media and various governments.

I have a hard time seeing Iraq as any sort of serious security threat, even if we pull out. I simply disbelieve all the dire scenarios that "failure" will bring about. Invading was a mistake, and correcting that mistake is not "failure", it is acting like responsible adults. And doomsday predictions notwithstanding, Iraq will not turn into an al-Qaeda haven if we leave.

Neither did our withdrawal from Vietnam lead to the global victory of Communism. And today, 30 years after we left, Vietnam has the hottest, least-regulated stock market in Asia. Being in Vietnam hurt our interests more than leaving did; same with Iraq.

I wonder how Democrats seem to be sending the signal that Iraq is lost, force is not an option against Iran, Syria might be a friend and all Israel and Palestinians need is a helpful push to negotiate?

As far as Syria and Palestine, what else are we going to do? And force against Iran really isn't an option as long as we're bogged down in Iraq. We could do airstrikes, and it may come to that, but we can't serious contemplate anything more serious.

Bush overreached; perhaps the Dems are undderreaching. And perhaps the tension between those two will produce a reasonable policy.

2/02/2007 1:47 PM  
Blogger Maxtrue said...

Well, a few comments. Viet Nam was not lead by a group of extreme Jihadists that formed a network throughout the area in an effort to defeat Liberal Democracy and impose fundementalism. In fact, history proves the animosity between Viet Nam and China, As the result of our quick exist more than 2 million died. Not that I believed in our planning, execution or rationale. You can't really compare the geopolitical situation between the two, so using Viet Nam as some example of what "could" happen doesn't work. Both the NIE and Thomas Ricks (see last chapter) point to much dire results. Of course, Iraq isn't likely to get WMD anytime soon, now that Saddam is gone. The danger is what I mentioned: the attempt to connect an extreme crescent from Africa to Central Asia. So goes, Iraq, so might go Lebanon and other places.

The idea that we are really bogged down in Iraq to the point that our Navy and Air Force, along with troops that are in the area cannot deal with Iran is questionable. I am not advocating action now, but numerous experts suggest there is sufficient ability to disrupt Iran's nuclear activities. Hell, if we draw out of Iraq in a year, there you go...LOL. I doubt the Democrats will reject the additional 93,000 additional troops to the Marines and Army. Certainly Iranian conventional forces would last about 72 hours. Again, I am not advocating action at this time, but it is a Straw Man that we couldn't disrupt Iran.. Soon they are blasting a satellite in orbit while Putin claims Iran can’t hit Eastern Europe. That is not the point anyway. Proliferation is the major threat. Why do you think Fallon was picked?

Arkin said far more than the “mercenary” remark. I believe you had more military experience than he did. And it made you wiser. You should research his bio and his intent. You don't expect such fabrication and stupidity from an "expert".

Unfortunately, one does not negotiate successfully from a position of weakness. The only way we can turn Syria and peacefully turn Iran with the help of the majority of Iranians who think their leader is an idiot, is to convince them we are not leaving the area. Anxiety works wonders. If we depart, how long before you think serious conflict will erupt? And the Democrats don't really mean, re-deploy to Afghanistan or Somalia, or Darfur, or Lebanon. They mean our use of military threat and/or intervention is counterproductive. Bring em home is the real mantra. In place of action, they suggest negotiation and international pressure will solve the problem. You really think so? The few Democrat Hawks left seem to accept Koppelian logic and advocate the Don Corleone approach. I could post the link if you wish. If any dirty bomb goes off here we will make Tehran glow. Now tell me how we will know who attacked us? It is just a stupid approach born from the Cold War when ICBM were not mobile. Once we could determine who hit us. Technology has changed that big time.

In addition, the Chinese said last week that weapons in space are inevitable. Putin declared yesterday he was building hypersonic warheads that can defeat any missile defense. The global situation is escalating. It certainly isn’t America’s doing. I do not advocate the blind rush to conflict.I decry the mistakes we’ve made. I wish we established clear markers and criteria, but even with them I do not see the powers coming together to form a mutual alliance against insanity. In fact, Russia recently PROBABLY directed the first nuclear terrorism. As I said, one brings about serious political agreement and compromise in a state of security. Military power and deployment has a critical role to stabilize. Yes, I would have done things differently, but it takes time. I wrote blog on blog in 2002 and 2003 that blowback and stupidity of execution could serious harm our efforts. We have brought about progress in the past by a sustained effort and resolve. With remarks like the ones Chirac and Putin have made lately, and even the Chinese who are in Sudan today supporting the whims of its regime, I doubt we should retreat anytime soon. In fact, the message should be that America is sticking around. I hope that it will be with better plans, better execution and with leadership that explains the dangers and convinces Americans that the world's security is our security. Negotiations cannot happen in chaos or insecurity. I do not hear that coming from the Left despite some reform in the Right’s position. Just a thought....

Go Bears......

2/02/2007 5:04 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home