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September 14, 2006

Let's have a debate!

by Staff Sgt. Russell L. Klika September 13, 2006<br />
Spc. Danell Herd and Pfc. Michael Ferryman, from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, greet Iraqi children during a roadside break while looking for smuggling routes along the Syrian/Iraqi border. This photo appeared on www.army.mil.

by Staff Sgt. Russell L. Klika September 13, 2006
Spc. Danell Herd and Pfc. Michael Ferryman, from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, greet Iraqi children during a roadside break while looking for smuggling routes along the Syrian/Iraqi border. This photo appeared on www.army.mil.

"These readers just don’t get soldiers or soldiering."

Over at National Review, they've been having a discussion of troop levels, both in Iraq and in the services in general. Rich Lowry posted an email from an officer, which I've excerpted here and interspersed comments - to get the whole gist you need to probably need to start here and read up...

The writer is mostly correct, though obviously an officer. As a blogger who hears from troops (a self-selecting group that *want* to say something, hence there is bias) the troops say pretty much the same thing - except they want more forceful leadership at the highest levels.

They see the senior military and political leaderhship engaged *about* the war, not *in* the war.

A lot of which is a perception issue, but with an element of truth.

"Stryker versus Heavy vs Light infantry versus SOF could lock an entire Leavenworth class in debate well past graduation. A strawman never fully developed such that a talking head or non-responsible gov’t official can later claim title as Cassandra—the strawman knocked or embraced whichever way the news takes it that day."

This is dead-on. Medieval bishops have nothing on government civilians, officers and pundits (heh, I'm both) wrangling over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin... I know, I get paid to do that. And sometimes, I get paid to provide both sides of the argument their ammunition.

"Sucks that I’ve been to Iraq twice, Afghan once, but – ya know- it aint breakin anything but paradigms in the Pentagon and in Newspapers and even in VFW halls."

I would add... "but, oddly, not breaking any paradigms in the anti-crowd, for whom the clock seems to have stopped at 1975."

This is where the between-the-lines stuff happens - and where the ghost of Vietnam wreaks it's havoc in the political debate back at home.

1. It *isn't* a draftee Army. That makes a huge difference.

2. We aren't taking a Vietnam (much less Korea, WWII, WWI) level of fatal/fully disabling casualties, being suffered by people serving against their wishes, which makes it far more sustainable.

Those two bits alone, and the inability of the aged and doddering anti-crowd to understand that difference, make a huge difference in the quality of the force doing the fighting, and the bafflement of the antis in not being able to mobilize the youth to politics - the bulk of the youth who *really care* in a big way about this particular war... are fighting it. As volunteers.

"Folks just can’t help but fear the Army stretching thin and then cracking or snapping or failing in some structural manner— its just not neat and ideal and budgetable and program-able-. "

And that is where the Administration, and senior military leadership, I think, fumbles the ball. Since the economy is different from the Vietnam-era, so that the felt-at-the-personal-level economic impacts are less obvious and intrusive, they've been able to fight this thing on the relative cheap and not had to mobilize the populace, so to speak, though the President is on that jag now, whether for the long haul, or just to scare everybody into voting Republican in November remains to be seen. In some respects, there are some similarities (and real huge differences because the whole military/political/media structure is different so you can't push this very far) to how we found ourselves fighting in the Phillipines.

Hey— Need Iran done? —the major combat ops won’t take much more than a month, then we can leave or dilly daddle around with democratizing the joint for a few years. Or not. Besides, lots of us haven’t been there yet! Just kidding about that last, there…"

And this is the kind of "Yessir, Can do" attitude that *will* break the services if the senior DoD leadership were to embrace it. I agree with the writer that we can continue what we're doing at the current pace if they'll pick up the bill for the equipment here pretty soon - but I don't believe for a minute we could do anything remotely like Iraq in Iran - especially from a post-MCO perspective - unless Ledeen is correct, and the Iranians will just step right up, take up the reins, and move out smartly. Iran is most certainly not Iraq - but is it different enough?

Of course, Derbyshire would support what I call a "smash and grab" perhaps - it's what he thinks we should have done in Iraq in the first place...

There's no doubt huge holes in this, it's early and I'm only half-way through my first cuppa joe - but that's the nature of punditry, right?

Whattaya think? This is not a fully-developed treatise - it's a high-school forensics meet improv.

U.S. Army Spc. Enriquillo Hernandez provides security as his platoon leader gathers intelligence along the Syria/Iraq border near Forward Operating Base Nimur, Iraq, Aug. 13, 2006. Hernandez is with 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika) (Released)


U.S. Army Spc. Enriquillo Hernandez provides security as his platoon leader gathers intelligence along the Syria/Iraq border near Forward Operating Base Nimur, Iraq, Aug. 13, 2006. Hernandez is with 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika) (Released)