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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ed Koch's strategy

Ed Koch lambasts the New York Times and the Democratic party for their response to terrorism in general and George Bush's speech last week in particular. He makes some very good points, and the whole thing is well worth reading. He goes on to give some advice to the President on a particular strategy that he espouses:

I propose that we put the UN Security Council on notice that we will leave Iraq by the end of this year. My belief is that the UN, particularly France, Germany and Russia, knowing we will leave, will have a greater interest in maintaining peace in Iraq than we have, either a regional interest, e.g., Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan; or a commercial interest -- oil and vendor contracts with Iraq -- e.g., Germany and France. They will then understand that it is in their interest to have us remain with them proportionately providing troops and sharing the costs of war. We should provide them with these choices. Indeed, whether they come in or not as a result of our threat of withdrawal, we will be strengthened on another front. As a result of our being in Iraq to the extent that the largest number of our worldwide forces -- 149,000 American soldiers -- are tied down, we are unable to be a vital threat to North Korea, Iran and Syria. Those countries believe that, because we are in Iraq and bereft of allies, we are a paper tiger whose demands and threats can be ignored with impunity.
I have to disagree with him on this. First off, I think you have to be very careful about bluffing if you aren't willing to follow through. If we follow this strategy, and they still refuse to provide meaningful support in Iraq we would be in a very bad position. We would either have to go back on our word or abandon Iraq and live with the consequences of that choice, consequences that would be horrible in my opinion. America is often seen as a feckless ally already, and abandoning Iraq would reinforce that opinion and embolden Al-Qaida immensely. Perhaps if the gains were good enough, and the likelihood of a successful bluff succeeding high enough, that would be worth the risk. Neither of those factors seem true to me though. Germany is simply not going to have a significant presence in Iraq. Politically it is impossible for them, and even if they had the will, their military is degraded to such a degree that they do not have the capability. France while marginally better off as far as capabilities, is equally unlikely to participate for political reason. Even at it's best, it would be hard pressed to match the number of effective troops that Britain is mustering. Russia's military while still numerically significant is probably unable to logistically support such a deployment. Frankly, they can't deal with Chechnya and it is unlikely they could be much help in Iraq. While the economic possibilities of Iraq might tempt Russia, and an increasingly authoritarian Putin might be able to politically work a deal like this, it is unlikely that they would be very capable and unlikely that they would even try without an equal commitment from France and Germany. Beyond those arguments though, which address the likelihood (or lack thereof) of Koch's proposal succeeding it is unclear to me that even if it would succeed that the gains would be worth it. A big part of the focus in Iraq is training the Iraqi troops. A lot of this training is being done by joint operations with American forces. Probably the biggest single thing we are trying to do is build up the Iraqi NCOs to be the backbone of the Iraqi Army. The NCO culture that our military is so dependent on is pretty much entirely absent in Russia, it has been degraded into non existence in Germany and France, well, lets just say having the French train the Iraqis to be an effective fighting force seems like a stretch. There are perhaps three countries, Britain, Australia, and Israel, that have the technology and training to 'keep up' with U.S. forces in an engagement. Our other allies are appreciated, and perform valuable work, but on a battle field they are often more trouble then help. The individual members of these other forces may be very brave and dependable, but they simply don't have to tools to work along side the modern U.S. military. Perhaps in a few years their will be a forth nation, Iraq, that can accomplish this feat. There is already one unit there that is considered 'level 1.' We won't get more level 1 Iraqi units by bringing in level 3 militaries though. For the most part, if we want to do this we have to do it ourselves.


Blogger The probligo said...

Good analysis Dave. You put the "damned if we do and damned if we don't" position very well.

Whether intended or not, the other slightly chilling note is the hinted shadow of NK in particular. Their force, their strength, is not in potential nuclear or other WMD. Their strength is in numbers, and if you believe that the processes of indoctrination used by alQaeda are "advanced" I think that we are all in for a substantial surprise should NK ever let loose on SK or Japan.

Iran? No. Iran can afford to sit back in the sure knowledge that at some point in the next five years Iraq is going to be a close religious and military ally. I believe too that that friendship will mould around the expulsion of the Sunni into Syria and Saudi Arabia.

At that point US efforts will be concentrated on the protection of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in particular. Not necessarily from Iraqi or Syrian invasion. It is more likely that there will be Hawabi insurrection - there are strong hints of it already - in probably successful attempts to keep the US active against the threat from Iran/Iraq.

But then, what the h3!! do I know?

10/11/2005 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

NK is not a military threat from an invasion standpoint. However fanatical they may be (and I have my doubts on that) simply put they don't have the logistics to invade.

The real danger from NK in a military sense is artillery that is already in range of Seoul. The second danger is that being extremely cash strapped, they are probably the most likely nation to sell off nuclear weapons to the highest bidder. Our best bet at preventing that until the collapse is an inderdiction scheme, which is already underway. Our troops being busy in Iraq doesn't have much effect on negotiations with NK because due to the unacceptable losses in SK a military response is off the table.

I don't think that your analysis of Iran and Iraq is very likly either. The fact that both nations are Shiite does not make them military allies. Iraq is a very different nation than Iran, and I don't see them being super close even if we largely fail there and an Islamic Republic is established. They will still have very real territorial disputes and very real culteral differences.

Certainly there are many signs of disturbances in Saudi Arabia, and that is a real concern. We will only have limited ability to effect the outcome of those events (and a Hawabi insurrection is only one possible problem) but I remain convinced that our best bet in that regard is by building a stable, democratic Iraq that can show a new way for an Arab nation to function.

It is a major race though, it will be probably at least 5 years before Iraq is an obvious success, not just politically but economically. We may not have that much time.

10/11/2005 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Sandcastle said...

Your analysis of other nations lacking the resources and ability to properly train Iraq is right on. America is the largest trainer of military forces in the world, and civilian training companies such as MPRI would be more effective than bringing in other countries. I actually recieved training from MPRI in Kuwait and they are outstanding. The other thing is that Iraq has turned out to be much messier than most people predicted. I don't think anyone that has avoided it this far would want to become involved. It would be hard to sell the upfront economic costs and military casualties to the German or French public, no matter what the long term benefit from oil may be.

10/11/2005 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Cubicle said...

"As a result of our being in Iraq to the extent that the largest number of our worldwide forces -- 149,000 American soldiers -- are tied down, we are unable to be a vital threat to North Korea, Iran and Syria."

I love pointing out the obvious.

WTF? Iran and Syria are both next door to Iraq. In fact OUR miltary is stratigeically placed to deal with two out of the three of those threats.

Also, if we build of Iraq enough to actually leave, we have Iraq taking care of those two easily (because we sell Iraq supplies) and us taking care of north korea.


10/12/2005 01:32:00 PM  

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