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"Half-Measures" in Iraq

11:59 AM, Nov 7, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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The evidence that we never had enough post-invasion troops in Iraq is overwhelming (see target=_blank>here) -- and, no, it isn't Monday morning quarterbacking to say it. As I have noted many times, the "more troops" chorus, though small, began in 2003, in the face of a clearly deteriorating security environment, and continued in 2004, 2005, and 2006. Evidently, Gen. Sanchez agreed, according to Amb. Paul Bremmer. In his book, My Year in Iraq, he wrote:

On May 17 [2004], I had a meeting with General Sanchez to discuss the war.

What would you do if you had two more divisions, Rick? I asked him.

He was a practical soldier who didn't normally speculate about the hypothetical when there were so many concrete problems to address each day.

But he answered immediately. "I'd control Baghdad."

He hated the fact the insurgents seemed able to operate openly in the capital....

Today, some argue that it's too late for more troops to do much good or that Secretary Rumsfeld would never increase the force enough to make a decisive difference, so why bother. Well, put the National Review's Rich Lowry in the Frederick Kagan target=_blank>camp. Lowry has followed-up target=_blank>this piece with another interesting one " target=_blank>Against Half-Measures" in Iraq.

The recriminations over the Iraq War have long been raging, but now some of the war's staunchest supporters have joined the blamefest. The list of what has gone wrong is long and varied, with liberal opponents of the war and conservative supporters all having their own ideologically congenial items.

But if there's one consistent lesson from our experience in Iraq, it is to avoid half-measures - go to war with more troops, more deadly force, and more vigor rather than less. Muddling through and hoping to succeed with just barely enough resources, is a fool's policy.

As Napoleon said, "When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna." We took Baghdad, but never with the level of commitment to ensure it would stay taken in any form worth having.

With apologies to Napoleon, if you are going to invade a country, invade a country. The Powell Doctrine calling for overwhelming force might not be applicable in all situations, but it is a reasonable rule when undertaking a major ground invasion of a country with a 400,000-man army. Instead, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld constantly bid down the U.S. invasion force.

There were sound reasons for wanting to go in relatively light, but clearly more troops were necessary for the postwar occupation. Here is where liberal hero Gen. Eric Shinseki proved right in his prewar analysis when he told a congressional committee that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to secure Iraq: "We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kind of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."

If you are going to fight an enemy army, fight an enemy army. We let Iraqi fighters escape our initial invasion out of a misplaced humanitarianism and a belief that Iraqi soldiers were the innocent victims of Saddam Hussein. Many of the Sunni fighters that we spared formed the nucleus of the insurgency.

If you are going to occupy a country, occupy it. When we arrived in Baghdad, we watched the place get looted. Once we toppled Saddam, we owned Iraq, and letting disorder spread unchecked undermined our authority and set back the already-difficult task of reconstruction.