With eerie echoes of Generals French and Haig, who couldn’t believe that one more really big push of soldiers into entrenched German machine guns wouldn’t win World War I for the allies – and who left 150,000 dead for five miles of advance at the Somme (for example), a big increase in US troop strength in Iraq is being touted here and there as a way to get out with something better than the across-the-board catastrophe we’ve achieved so far.
Just because it didn’t work for the poor poilus and Tommys doesn’t mean this won’t work in Iraq; certainly trying to do too little with too few has been a big part of the debacle to date. But the idea raises another question: even if a ‘big push’ in Iraq could work, can the current administration actually do it? Implementation incompetence has been the drone note of the last six years: everything these guys touch, they break, and there’s no point trying to build a cathedral – or a doghouse – if you know the job will be managed by someone who’s drunk, untrained, a lunatic ideologue who prefers belief to facts, or just doesn’t care.
It’s not clear, I have to note, what these extra divisions will actually do: is there something to attack with arms? a strong point to seize and occupy? A fortress to invest? Maybe it makes sense, and maybe Truman and MacArthur, or Lincoln and Grant, or Bismarck and Von Moltke, could pull this trick off. But we have Rumsfeld to thank for the insight that you go to war, or make your big push, with the administration you have, not the one you wish you had. I think an enterprise like “straightening out Iraq with one short commitment of lots more troops” is completely beyond the competence of the people who will run it, from the president down at least several levels into Rumsfeld’s defense department, and maybe into the star ranks that remain after his housecleaning of generals who said what was true. Mark makes a larger claim about national security generally, with which I concur; pending further evidence, my call is that this is a very bad bet.