Or, Why Sending 20,000 More Troops Is Just a Drop in a Bucket. . .of Blood
The President is currently insisting after almost four years, 3000 dead troops, seven times that or more injured or maimed and a couple trillion dollars (counting equipment replacements, future medical costs and wasted infrastructure rebuilding) that we can still have “victory” or “mission accomplished” in Iraq by simply adding another 20,000 or so to the approximately 135,000 US military already there. No wonder the investors lost money in all the companies Bush ran before fleeing to politics. He failed accounting.
In the first place, when I was in the military, the ratio out of all the military to those at the sharp end of the stick, in other words the “ground pounders” who go out and personally kicked in doors of suspected enemy, was only about one in ten. The rest were clerk-typists, truck drivers, instructors, and the like. I am not disparaging them because those jobs need to be done as well, but we need to focus on whether 20,000 uniformed bodies, even 20,000 front line combat veterans who have already earned combat infantry badges, makes the slightest sense.
Let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that the giant, self propelled, bureaucracy known as the US Military has managed to cut that combat troop to support troop ratio in half by farming out potato peeling or counting those in high risk MOSs (military occupation specialties) such as military policemen and combat engineers. That would still mean only about 10,000 additional armed door kickers are available to do the job.
Let’s also assume that none of those get sick or are on leave and that they are diligently out there beyond the perimeter kicking in doors twelve hours a day seven days a week. That means that at any given moment, only about 5,000 are out and about at any one time. After all, they have to sleep and eat some portion of each day. That is about the number that attend a decent, but not championship, basketball game.
Now, 5,000 looks like a lot crammed closely together in a stadium. But, disburse them over a country the size of California and they become lost. That works out to about one pair of new boots on the ground for every 33 square miles of Iraq or 277 troops per province.
Let’s assume however that the 5,000 are not scatted geographically. Logically, most would be concentrated where the people are, in the cities. Let’s also assume that not a single one is put in the Kurdish areas which still like us to a certain extent. Since there are (or were) 26,074,906 people in Iraq, not counting the new terrorists migrating there from elsewhere, and since up to about 20% of those are Kurds, that means each proposed new trooper on patrol only has to suppress about 4,000+ Iraqi. Even Custer faced better odds than that. You couldn’t carry enough bullets per person to defend against that if they started mobbing.
Actually, to be fair, each new troop would not have to face 4,000 hostiles. Since there are already about 135,000 military in Iraq (not all of which are door kickers of course, but most can shoot in self defense), that would lower the odds. Still, very roughly, it is currently only one personal in US uniform per every 167 Iraqis. Adding another 20,000 targets for the Iraqis to shoot at doesn’t help much.
According to public opinion polls about 60% of Iraqis favor killing Americans in their country. Because that includes the Kurds, the percentage is presumably higher yet among the Shi'ite Muslims (who represent 60% of the population) and especially among the non-Kurd Sunni (who represent much of the balance and lost all their power once Saddam was gone).
The figure apparently rises to eight or nine out of ten Iraqis who want us to leave, but let’s ignore the ignoring of democratic opinion and concentrate just on the six out of ten who openly want our troops dead. Bush proposes to increase the number of imbedded US advisors within Iraq army units. Oh good, surround our boys with armed Iraqis, six out of ten who wouldn’t mind if a bullet went astray in the heat of battle toward those same unpopular US advisors/trainers. In Nam, unpopular offices got “fragged.” Will they be “Iraqed” in this new configuration?
Twenty thousand new troops, even quadruple that number, hardly seems adequate given the magnitude of the task. Would a million troops in Iraq be enough to bring “stability” and “democracy” to that country, especially given the previous disastrous policies we have been pursuing? That would reduce the occupying army ratio to suppressed citizenry down to a more manageable one to twenty or so.
It would be insanity of course to contemplate such a “surge” in troop numbers, not to mention fiscal suicide. According to on-line encyclopedias, as of 2004, there were only 1,450,689 active duty military personnel from all services including the Coast Guard. About ten percent of the grand total is already in Iraq. The National Guard and Reserves are already stretched to the breaking point. To even add 20,000 more means many soldiers (and indirectly their families) will have to risk third and four tours in a combat zone, something Bush himself was not willing to risk even once.
Bush has been granted an unprecedented carte blanche for two thirds of his Presidency to use whatever he wanted in whatever way he wanted supervised by whomever he wanted to pursue whatever ends he wanted. Everyone except Bush has known for years however that the existing number of troops is not enough to accomplish any legitimate objection (even assuming there was one to begin with).
It’s time for some rigorous cost/benefit analysis. The question that must be asked now is whether it is even possible to add enough troops to accomplish anything. If not, then why the hell are we doing it? I'm no accountant, but it doesn’t seem to add up.