Tuesday, December 19, 2006

That War in Iraq

By Charles ParsleyWhat with the renewed interest in the War in Iraq, I myself have many questions about what is being said about the war and what to do about it. I'd like to hear some dialogue from the contributors at Liverputty, if we can keep a discussion from becoming an argument.

The main thing that I find very surprising about the War in Iraq are the numbers of troops that are being given. I have heard estimates that there are about 140,000 troops there now, with the possibility of sending 20,000 more. These numbers seem very low, especially when military commanders then say that they are 'stretched thin as it is', and that finding additional resources will be difficult.

How is it that the US would have difficulty sending troops someplace? Aren't we the world's military superpower, or am I mistaken? Does China have more troops on-call than we do? Surely the insurgents in Iraq cannot outnumber American troops.

Why does the US have difficulty with these wars, such as Vietnam? I am wondering, since World War Two, has the US been able to claim a clear victory in any war since? Even the war on drugs and the war on poverty and the war on christmas are being lost.

After reading through the numerous articles in Wikipedia, I discovered a few surprising things. Also, I discovered the first gratuitous vandalism I have come across in a wikipedia article: the page about George W. Bush himself. This article about GWB may be a good litmus test of the limitations of Wikipedia's open-sourceness. Can Wikipedia create an accurate and uncontested and unvandalized profile of George W? As long as the article is open to editing, surely it gets altered on an hourly basis.

Accepting these limitations in Wikipedia is what prompts my questioning. However, if Wikipedia cannot put forth reasonably accurate information with all of its contributors and references and cross-refernces, who is it that can verify 'facts' about the war?

In addition to the number of troops the US has available to utilize, I am surprised with these numbers:

The estimated expense of the Iraq War as of December 2006: 350 billion, and,

The miltary says it has lost forty percent of its equipment (ground vehicles and helicopters mostly) in Iraq, and it will take an additional 3 or 4 billion to replace it.

Should the war continue at its current pace, in a few months the military may say it has lost fifty percent of its equipment. I find this... unbelievable. Nearly half of the military's equipment has been damaged or destroyed in Iraq?

Another question which I find many others asking: Why didn't the US stop once Saddam was captured? Maybe the WMD claims were inaccurate, or maybe they were accurate but the weapons were stealthily removed. Yet it is undeniable that Hussein was captured and put on trial. Why wasn't that the victory?

I will admit that one opinion of mine has changed since the war started. At first, I was among those who thought that the invasion was mainly to secure American business interests as related to oil. Now, it seems like having access to the oil in the region is small potatoes.

However, I never expected that the Iraqis would really welcome the Americans as liberators. It seems like they really do want us to get out of there.


Edward Copeland said...

It's very simple: We had no plan for after the post-invasion. We have a president who prior to the planning for the war didn't even realize that there were two different sects of Muslims. The insurgents are a very small part of the problem now -- we are stuck in the middle of a civil war between the majority Shiites, feeling their oats after decades of Saddam's oppression, and Sunnis who don't want to lose the advantages they had. While Saddam was a murderous tyrant, it should be clear by now that some places need a strongman to hold it together. Think Tito in the former Yugoslavia. Now, we are stuck there because we have a moral obligation to fix what we broke, but at some point we have to ask ourselves is there anything we can reasonably do? Will there be a marked difference if we left tomorrow than if we left six months or two years from now -- other than more American lives lost? The Joint Chiefs of Staff have already told the administration that sending a few thousand more troops is a bad idea -- especially without a defined mission. This isn't even taking into account that the just war we engaged in against Afghanistan is teetering toward collapse because the bulk of our resources were shifted to Iraq and the Taliban has gained more and more ground. We don't have that many U.S. troops in Afghanistan, yet we've lost more of them to violence this year than in the previous years combined. Not to mention that by stretching our forces to the breaking point we leave ourselves vulnerable for any other potential crises. Invade Iran? How? Battle a nuclear North Korea? Don't think so. Our piss-poor attempts to shore up the weak Somalia government has now resulted in a broader conflict in the Horn of Africa and a stronger power base there for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. No matter what happens next in Iraq, odds are it will end badly and the best we can hope for is that we make it a little less bad for us. No matter if our initial reasons (ever changing as they are) were just, there is no denying that this administration completely blew the post-invasion by its lack of strategy and by ignoring people who told them things they didn't want to hear and now we continue to pay the price in American blood and treasure. It's funny. I'm watching Flags of Our Fathers, where the WWII government wanted to use the soldiers who raised the flag at Iwo Jima as a P.R. tool because they were strapped for cash and they couldn't borrow any more to pay for a justified war effort. This fiscally irresponsible administration could care less about debt and hasn't demanded one bit of sacrifice from the Americans at large except for the loved ones who have died and the mountain of debt that it will leave for others to take care of.

Jeffrey Hill said...


I would offer that keeping 130,000-160,000 troops is the same as having a pool of twice to three-times that much to maintain that presence. In an indefinite war-that's a considerable force to maintain, along with 10,000-18,000 in Afghanistan - with a potential need for more elsewhere. Increasing the troop levels is a good thing so long as you can maintain a healthy return. Would we be doing so in Iraq? I'm doubtful.

As for overall military populations, the Chinese do have more people in their forces - somewhere around 2.2 million compared to 1.4 million for the US. Add to the mix that we went to war while we still maintained an old cold war stance with large forces in Europe, Japan and S. Korea, while Chinese forces are almost entirely in China. That's just the big bad world we live in. Still, I wouldn't argue for parity with the Chinese - men wise. We still have tremendous advantages in most other capacities. Whatever increases we choose should be out of an assessment of current needs, not some idea of matching your longterm rival man for man.

As for a victory mark in Iraq: I'd use the same guidelines that Bush has stated consistently for years: a free nation that can support and defend itself. Victory will not come with a "signing ceremony on the USS Missouri" clarity, but it will come to pass if we stay the course.

As for Wikipedia: I didn't notice the vandalism on the Bush page - but I have noticed some bogus information. It's still a fascinating and useful site, but its very nature will keep it from being a trusted source of information. Some topics are well covered, others are not.

You mentioned that you now think that the reason of the invasion is bigger than oil. How would you characterize it now?

To Ed Copeland: The President has asked for one extremely valuable thing from the people: their patience.

Jeffrey Hill said...

To go off topic a bit: in concerning the credibility of open source sites like Wikipedia, I brought up the blogosphere. But in determining the credibility of political and current event blogs, it's useful to see what they are measured against - ie. newspapers and wire services. That is not setting the bar too high when you consider incidences like this
: where the Washington Post, the AP, the Chicago Tribune, etc. got the headline jarringly wrong.

Charlie Parsley said...

Discussing wikipedia and other sources of information is exactly why I really feel completely uninformed and thus without much opinion about the Iraq War and politics in general.

Even news stories from 'trusted' sources will be inaacurate. On top of this, knowing the the white house press room is the primary source for what's happening, everyone knows that certain proprietary information will not be revealed.

I don't know why I had expected to hear that US troops would total into the millions. To think that there is around one million seems... inadequate. HOwever, I do know that technology can often do things without needing to send people into harms way. Perhaps technology is accounting for a lot of work that's happening.

I really don't know why Iraq deserves so much of the US's attention. There are many other threatening countries, N Korea, etcetera, which we are not spending resources on.

I don't understand the background of the ties between the Husseins and the Bushs. Why wasn't the first persian gulf invasion resolved?

Oh, no... before I start asking any more questions, I'm going to stop here and include something else I wrote last night.

My Grandma as public opinion

Grandma voted for Bush in 2000, back when my Grandpa was still around. He was a WW2 vet and strongly republican. There are two books on the bookshelf of Rush Limbaugh. Maybe one day when I am bored I will read one.

Grandpa watched 9/11 on tv just like most of us did. I wish I had been able to visit him to hear his thoughts about it, but he died in 2002. That was when I decided to fill in for him and look after grandma.

When we watch the news together, we will both talk back to the television. It has been very interesting to witness her reactions to news stories. Any news story about ‘Your tax dollars’ ‘wasted’ by Senators or the Pentagon brings forth immediate condemnation from her just a few words into the story. Any quoted amount of money over one million dollars taps into her amazed wonderment of such outrageous fortune.

When Mr. Bush nominates anyone for any position, she immediately shouts: Sure, help your friends! When Mr. Bush says he will be investigating a particular problem, grandma calls him a jackass. When they give a report of soldiers killed in Iraq, she goes on about Our Boys being sent in to get killed for nothing, etc.

I will attempt to explain the full story to her, pointing out additional parts of the story I had read online which were not given in the evening televised news. Sometimes this provides insight, but sometimes she is just too cranky to listen to it. I find myself DEFENDING Mr. Bush sometimes, telling her that he doesn’t really have control over things like gas prices and bankruptcy policy.

When the 2004 elections rolled around she determined that she would vote straight democrat. I asked if it mattered to her about the particulars of our local representatives and judges and sheriffs and she said no.

She has said how all the Bush-bashers were right all along. She has said that Bush is Just Like Hitler. I stopped her on that one and said, Now, you don’t really mean that. Her view is that because soldiers are getting killed in Iraq, that that is the worst possible thing that Bush is doing. Keeping the war going just to have more soldiers killed is her overreaching concern. It shows me how the daily reports of the American Heroes featuring their name, rank, age and hometown can really distort the television viewer’s perception of what is happening in the war. Or, what is relevant to teh situation. Personally I find the cash expenditures more shocking than the deaths.

In the past few months, when Bush is mentioned in conversation, she will yell and get pretty ugly with friends and neighbors. She has opinions, dammit.

When I have been in her office, I notice that she has printed dozens and dozens of emails over the years which poke fun at Hillary, cut down John Kerry and bash Clinton for the Lewinsky infidelity. Even to this day, nearly all of her friends send these anti-left emails. I wonder if she understands them? Is she confused? I asked her why she voted for Bush in 2000 and she says she isn’t sure.

It intrigues me because she and I are somewhat mirrors of each other.

On that day of shock and awe in March 2003, personally, I was opposed to it simply on the generalized ‘war is bad’ concept. Was there not any other means to solve the problem, we were asking. I had thought if Saddam Hussein were to attempt a confrontation with the US I had assumed that the US would have a reliable way to defend itself.

Since that time, I have learned the idea that you don’t choose to go to war. You don’t vote for war. War chooses you. Barroom fights are not stopped simply because I am against them. If someone throws a punch, you really are obligated to return it.

Now that the war has been going, I can see the point of finishing what you started. I hate to remind people of Bush’s statement about testing America’s resolve. It seems like a lot of that resolve has weakened.

People should stop calling it Bush’s war. Nearly everyone supported it when it started, and those that opposed it were shouted down.

Finish what you started USA.