Sunday, January 07, 2007

Joe Galloway: The Bush Troop Surge is Too Little, Too Late

Joseph L. Galloway knows war. He was brutally introduced to it at the Battle of Ia Drang, in November 1965, when he accompanied (then) Lt. Colonel Harold "Hal" Moore and his 1st Battaliion, U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division into Landing Zone X-Ray. He is the only civilian to be awarded the Bronze Star in the Vietnam War, for his valor in rescuing U.S. soldiers under heavy enemy fire during that battle. As a UPI war correspondent, he served three tours in Vietnam. He is the co-author with Hal Moore of We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young, their first-hand account of the Battle of Ia Drang. Galloway currently is a military correspondent for the McClatchy Newspapers. When he writes about war, one doesn't have to agree with him, but one had better listen with respect.

In an opinion piece today in the Salt Lake City Tribune, entitled "Another Flight From Reality by Bush," Galloway questions whether a small temporary bump in the U.S. troop commitment in Iraq of only 10,000 to 30,000 troops would have any salutary effect. He points out:

The idea of so small a bump doesn't even meet the suggestions of the only two outside advisers who promoted the idea of a surge of as many as 50,000 additional U.S. troops for at least 18 months - neo-conservative think tanker Fred Kagan and retired Army Gen. Jack Keane. It doesn't come close to the 100,000 more troops that Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona - who hopes to be his party's nominee for president in 2008- has advocated, nor does it satisfy the majority of Americans who no longer have any trust in Bush's conduct of the Iraq war, or those like-minded voters who turned Congress over to the Democrats in the November mid-term elections.

Galloway does not hide the fact that he considers the entire Iraq invasion to have been folly. He calls it "a war without end and without purpose" and "an unnecessary and costly war." However, even many of us who suppported the invasion of Iraq acknowledge that the occupation and anti-insurgency campaign have been dreadfully mismanaged. If the U.S. now is to "double-down" in a last-chance attempt at achieving a satisfactory political outcome, this is no time for half measures. The commitment must be at least the troop strength and minimally the 18-month time period advocated by Kagan and Keane.

I do not know whether the American military can sustain that level of commitment, much less the 100,000 additional troops advocated by John McCain. It would be unworthy of the sacrifice already borne by American military forces for George W. Bush, as Galloway accuses, "to buy another couple of years of violent stalemate so he can hand off the disaster to whoever succeeds him in the White House on Jan. 20, 2009."

Galloway's words are harsh and unsparing. But let's be honest with ourselves--Joe Galloway is not Cindy Sheehan and his critique cannot be offhandedly dismissed. Those who would back either maintaining the status quo, regarding U.S. military commitment, or to increase that commitment, must be able to intelligently discuss and refute Galloway's position. If any of our readers are able to do so, please post your comments here.


Blogger Harold C. Hutchison said...

First, one needs to ask if Saddam needed to go. The answer is yes - and Austin Bay has explained most of the reasons  very well. I believe that recovered documents also show a relationship with al-Qaeda. And as the post by Colonel Bay points out, we have found WMD.

So at this point, once one come to the conclusion that Saddam had to be replaced, what then? Replace him with another person of his ilk? Only if you want to have to go back in 20 or 30 years time.

To me, Galloway's basic premise that liberating Iraq was folly is flawed, and thus, one has to look at his criticism in that light. 

Posted by Harold C. Hutchison

Monday, January 08, 2007 6:39:00 AM  
Blogger The Kosher Hedgehog said...

Harold: Let's assume that you and I agree that Saddam had to go, and that an invasion was the only way to accomplish that objective. Let us assume further that neither you nor I want to see another "person of his ilk" replace him, whether it be a Baathist, a Sunni jihadist or Muqtada al-Sadr. While that goal would seem to eliminate the policy alternative of an immediate U.S. withdrawal, I assume that if you were convinced that no commitment of U.S. forces, however large and however long, would accomplish the goal, even you would agree that an immediate withdrawal is the best present course of action. It is irrational to say that we have no choice but to pursue a policy, at a further cost of blood and treasure, that has no reasonable possibility of succeeding.
Therefore I think that the discussion now must address the following questions, which you did not do:
1. Can the U.S. objective of creating a stable, democratic government in Iraq still succeed?
2. If so, what is the best way to obtain that objective--
a. Maintain troop strength at the current levels?
b. Attempt a short-term limited troop surge in the range of 10,000-20,000 soldiers?
c. Commit between 50,000 to 100,000 troops for a minimum of 18 months?
3. Are alternatives 2.b. or 2.c. practical alternatives without putting an undue strain on the U.S. armed forces?
I certainly hope that you read this and that you and others respond.


Posted by The Kosher Hedgehog

Monday, January 08, 2007 1:17:00 PM  
Blogger Harold C. Hutchison said...

My answers:
1. Yes, the objective can be achieved.

2. I'm going to go with a combination of options b and c. For the short-term (six months), an extra 50,000 to 100,000 troops. Over the long haul, drop it down to an extra 20,000.

3. I would consider the alternative practical, if we are willing to do things on other fronts (leaning on the Navy and Air Force) to increase the pressure on Iran, and if we can get a larger military. 

Posted by Harold C. Hutchison

Tuesday, January 09, 2007 6:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Al Reasin said...

It looks like the insurgency was a plan of Saddam from the beginning from recently translated documents and we didn’t anticipate it. So, too little to late might be correct but to me that would be because once the insurgency erupted, we refuse to acknowledge that we are going to have to fight a non-PC war against a savage enemy.

As in any group, the majority gravitates toward the strong or those perceived to be strong. And strong doesn’t mean they that have the best equipment and the most money. It means that you can protect those that work with/for you. After the end of organized resistance by Saddam, a friend of mine drove thousand of miles, never with any armed protection, around Iraq checking out the needs of power plants. The situation as deteriorated considerably since then.

Areas of Baghdad that were “pacified” are now again under insurgency control. I find a parallel in Iraq with our police forces in our inner city areas. The police patrol in squad cars; few walk the beat and get to know the lay of the land. In Iraq, in too many areas, it appears we are behind the wire sending out patrols and then move back behind the wire. Becoming part of the landscape, to have the people see you are there for them, is extremely dangerous, as the Iraqi police and army have found out. If the casualties we have taken with our limited engagement with the Iraqi population are used to condemn the war, what would have happened if we had had very large casualties early on as we professionally but brutally pacified the country. I believe the biggest mistake was not doing what was necessary when the insurgency first appeared, but that was not politically viable then nor now, apparently.

Just listening to Senator Kennedy today is enough to make me wonder how President Bush has held on this long. But we had better do what is necessary or we will again have a perceived defeat which will embolden our enemy and increase his recruitment. The cost to us later will be much higher than it is today if we do not prevail in Iraq. And, in a way worse, we will again see hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people we said we were saving from a savage ideology killed. I will always remember this:

Just days before his execution at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodian statesman Sirak Mitak penned a final note to the U.S. ambassador refusing his offer of evacuation.

"I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty....You leave and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under the sky."

"But mark it well that, if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is too bad because we all are born and must die one day. I have only committed this mistake in believing in you, the Americans."

I am old enough to have witnesses this disgraceful tragedy and do not wish to see it again.

Posted by Al Reasin

Tuesday, January 09, 2007 5:48:00 PM  

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