Using Proxies

Here is a good argument against the current strategy, which I would like to answer.

"First, the strategy relies on the Iraqis somehow magically improving their performance in a very short time period. Yet the argument for staying in Iraq is that it is a vital AMERICAN interest. If we are seeking victory in Iraq because it is vital to America then we need a strategy which will win even if our Iraqi allies are inadequate. We did not rely on the Free French to defeat Nazi Germany. We did not rely on the South Koreans to stop North Korea and China during the Korean War. When it mattered to American vital interests we accepted all the help we could get but we made sure we had enough strength to win on our own if need be."

That is basically true. When it comes to a conventional military vs military clash, you do not expect a weak force to take on a strong force by themselves and sit back and watch them lose. You do it yourself. That's exactly why you don't rely on the poor Iraqis to stage an uprising in 1991 and then stand back while they all get slaughtered by helicopters.

However, that is not the situation in Iraq. In Iraq it is the insurgents who are the weak force, and we can stand back and watch the Iraqi government wipe them out. This is exactly the best use of American resources. Don't do work that the locals can do themselves unless there's a very good cost-benefit argument for it. In addition, there is the whole political argument of non-Muslims killing Muslims. As far as possible we want this to be a purely Muslim vs Muslim affair. The US is not (at the moment) trying to force Muslims to do anything or to kill Muslims. It is vital to make sure this is not a Muslim vs infidel war. To achieve that, you hand over all responsibility to the Muslims to do whatever the majority wants, as quickly as possible.

Additionally, a lot of people made the claim prior to the war that you can't just hand freedom to people on a platter, they have to fight for it themselves. The claim is ludicrous, but regardless, at the end of this, the Iraqis will be able to genuinely say that they fought for their freedom themselves. It was in no way handed to them on a platter by the US. The US just took out the major impediment - Saddam's forces, which allowed the Iraqis to essentially rise up in revolution. It was just a more organized revolution, with democratic elections and revolutionaries getting proper military training.

Above all else, we need to prove that in a war of liberation, you don't need sufficient troops to suppress the population, you merely need enough troops to ensure that no-one else can suppress the population. And then let the majority do whatever they want. This strategy has essentially worked. You need to understand that the sectarian violence has NO MILITARY EFFECT. All it does is slightly reduce the population, the same as car crashes. Iraq is not a mess, the military strategy is working out fine. The fact that there are a lot of nutcases who think that random destruction will somehow (somehow! somehow!) enable them to defeat Iraq's democratically-elected government has nothing to do with Bush or the US military. It's just a feature of Iraqi mentality. The Iraqis will need to come to grips with this in their own time. All the US needs to do is ensure that no-one topples the Iraqi government and everything else will sort itself out. They are doing an admirable job of this.

By the way, we DO expect the South Koreans to defend South Korea also. Now that they are actually able to do that, the US has a relatively small number of troops there. The same goes for Iraq. The Iraqi government is able to defeat the insurgents on its own, so we expect them to be the ones to do the fighting, and preserve the US troops for another day. This is the best use of US troops. No-one is asking the Iraqis to take on the Iranians or the Turks in a conventional battle. That is the US's job to protect Iraq from external invasion. It will probably remain so indefinitely so that Iraq doesn't need to waste money on expensive weapons to take on these countries when it can instead bludge off the US like everyone else does.

If you REALLY want to get picky, you should argue that the US should have stopped as soon as the statue fell, hunkered down in well-protected bases, and told the Iraqis that anyone who supported democracy should come to the protected bases, ask for training, which would be given, and then they could be sent out to fight the revolution. This would have limited the US deaths to 100 instead of 3000. Or alternatively you could argue that the old Iraqi army should have been reused so that the US could have been totally out of Iraq within 4 weeks, again with a loss of 100 US troops only. This argument will be fine for Iran and other countries, but for Iraq, it was important to give them the best shot at democracy, which meant being more (but not totally) proactive. The right balance needed to be found between getting the Iraqis to fight for their own freedom, and using US troops to significantly enhance the Iraqi's fighting strength.

"The inherent contradiction in the administration strategy is simple. If Iraq matters as much as the President says it does (and here I agree with the President on the supreme importance of victory) then the United States must not design and rely on a strategy which relies on the Iraqis to win.

On the other hand if the war is so unimportant that the fate of Iraq can be allowed to rest with the efforts of a new, weak, untested and inexperienced government then why are we risking American lives.

Both propositions cannot be true."

Not sure what you mean in the first statement by "rely". Unless my understanding of the military equation is faulty, 300k Iraqi troops with a monopoly on heavy weapons, popular support, and US air cover (at minimum) should be able to defeat 20k insurgents. So yes, it sort of "relies" on the insurgents not having some sort of superpowers that haven't been factored into the equation. But even then, it's still not "rely". There is nothing stopping more US troops from being sent to the theatre if some of those insurgents suddenly gain superpowers. Nothing has been lost. Nothing at all.

As for your second proposition, it's too simplistic. You're saying that Iraq is either important or unimportant, no room for grey. Iraq is important enough that some US troops should be sacrificed to ease the burden on the democratically-elected Iraqi government. It's not so important that hundreds of thousands of US troops should be poured in to set up a clone of America, against the will of the people if necessary. It's not so unimportant that we should insist not a single American soldier should be lost in defence of the democratically-elected Iraqi government. It's a trade-off that needs to be made. Look for cost-justified use of American power. Not just in Iraq, but elsewhere in the world. That's the key - cost-justified.

By the way, with 3000 Americans dying on the roads every MONTH, can you please put 3000 American soldiers dying in FOUR YEARS into perspective and get away from this concept of "not one American soldier should be lost doing xyz"? If American soldiers are so delicate that you can't afford to lose a single one, then you should hire foreign mercenaries that you ARE willing to lose. Or train exiles from the countries that are going to be liberated. I'm not sure that the American soldiers themselves will be too happy about them being treated like brittle pansies, but so long as you treat them as such, it's time to diversify. The British use Gurkhas and the French have a Foreign Legion. One way or the other, you need to have usable troops or you are seriously undermining US national security, by essentially using civilians to shield the military, because you're more concerned about the death of soldiers than civilians.

War isn't meant to be like this, and the US soldiers themselves never asked you to treat their life as sacrosanct in relation to foreigners. I've heard of commanders saying to their troops that the life of an Iraqi civilian is as valuable as one of their own troops. While I wouldn't go that far myself, 3000 US troops lost for the liberation of 27 million foreigners is a bargain in my opinion. Consider it a form of foreign aid. You might want to consider publicly announcing that until further notice all foreign aid is going to be directed into wars of liberation. That is actually what I do with my own personal donations. I'm not actually recommending this though. At this point in world history, it is strategic to keep the other forms of foreign aid going. Yes, it is unfair on the US taxpayer to have to shoulder such a large portion of the burden, but in my opinion you just need to grin and bear it. History will honour your sacrifice, and show the rest of the world up for the lazy immoral slackers that they are. Until then, you just have to be patient. It'll all work out in the end. This is the final straight.

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