What a day. I’ve spent the vast majority of it helping my dad set up his home wireless network, and most of yesterday was taken up with travelling here to Washington, DC, so I haven’t had much chance to write or even catch up on the news.
My response? Yeah, it is. For one, we’re not going to implement a draft anytime soon, or anytime in the long term, for that matter. A draft is a political killer, because, for better or worse, it brings back way too many memories of (shhhhh!) Vietnam. Plus, as Jim mentioned, the mechanics of training all those personnel will take months, if not in fact, years.
There’s lots of reasons why military commanders are loath to suffer casualties, but one of the bigger ones is that it takes a lot of time and money to train soldiers to do anything. And even after they complete basic training and AIT, they still have to be trained to do a vast number of tasks on the job. So, everytime you lose a soldier, you have to find a trained replacement. And if you have to train him, then that takes away from other tasks that you have to complete.
The cultural training? Yeah, you can snicker at the 5 days, but, frankly, that’s five days more than what we’re getting now. 99% of everything I learned about Iraq and the Middle East, I learned on my own, through reading books and asking my fiancee (a Middle Eastern Studies major), among others, about the region. Hate to break it to you, but I’m the vast exception to most soldiers in that area. Most of my guys still think that Arabs and Kurds are the same–and anyone who’s been around either will quickly be disabused of the notion. So, we can wish for more, but it will not happen. That’s about as good as it will get–and people will still think that it’s a waste of time.
Mixing with the locals? Sure, it will provide targets. So what? The only way wars like this can be won is by getting dirty, by engaging with the locals day in and out. It’s the only way you’re going to become familiar with the lay of the land, and with who can be trusted and who cannot. It becomes a lot harder to shoot that man down if you know him, if he’s your neighbor, if you buy food from him everyday. It’s why neighborhood block watches are so effective–if you live in the village, you notice anyone that suddenly shows up.
Right now, we don’t know who the foreign instigators are, and we surely cannot tell them apart from the locals. We’d have a better idea if we resided inside the cities themselves.
Proper training? Yeah, the Iraqis need it. They don’t have a working knowledge of anything we’d recognize as the “rule of law” over there. Search and seizure? No clue. Evidentiary procedure? Sure. Rights of the accused? Riiiiiight. That’s the kind of training I’m talking about. Right now, all we’re doing is marching them around for a week or two, giving them weapons and uniforms, and sending them out into the streets. We don’t know who’s a bad apple, or who would be a good cop, and longer training periods would help with that. And let’s not forget unit cohesion, either.
What kind of proper training helps them support the occupation? Well, I don’t know about the occupation, but in about 75 or so days, we’re going to attempt to turn over the administration of Iraq over to some kind of government (however unwise that move is). It would help if there was a security system in place to help support that government and secure the streets, for starters.
What kind of training helps them shoot their own people? The same kind that helps our cops shoot Americans, I guess. That’s where unit cohesion comes in, because if you have that sense of eliteness, of being part of an “other”, then it makes doing those kinds of things easier.
[Sidebar: Let’s not kid ourselves here. I’ll give many Iraqis credit: a lot of the insurgents do seem motivated by wanting to free Iraq from our occupation. But as many, or more, seem bent on violence for the sake of violence. It’s worth noting that we know exactly squat about what the insurgents want to do with Iraq should they take over. If anything, this insurgency has one motivation: get the U.S. out. It would help knowing what they want after that, because I think that’s more important, and harder to achieve.
Yes, I know what al-Sadr wants: an Iranian-style theocracy. But what do the Sunnis want? Anyone? I’m not heartened by the lack of knowledge on that score.]
Reconstruction? Sure, it keeps on getting blown up. But a year on, it’s shocking just how much of it hasn’t been rebuilt. Roads, buildings, power plants, you name it. There’s a lot of stuff that hasn’t been blown up, but rather, has been cannibalized. If we were to invest in that stuff, the rebuilding of Iraq would be further along. Which brings me to my next point.
Dismantling, not disarming. I’m not asking for people to communally disarm–never have. It would never work. But as I’ve mentioned before, one of the biggest inducements to join these militias isn’t any kind of patriotic fervor–it’s the steady paychecks. If we were to offer a massive jobs program, with decent, steady paychecks for those who are working, it’s safe to say that a lot of the militia membership would at least dwindle, and hopefully wither away to a sufficient number that it would be manageable for us to take on.
Stakeholding? Well, yes, one way to do that is pull up and leave. But if we do that, what is the guarantee that the majority of Iraqis will have a stake in what happens? For better or worse, I adhere to what’s been dubbed the “Pottery Barn” school of foreign policy–you break it, you own it. We decided, through our actions, to destroy Iraq. We now owe it to Iraqis to put the country back on its feet. I think that anything else is irresponsible.