Monday, June 26, 2006

Not even coming to the smart party

My previous post about how the left has been right about everything, always, got two responses from Blogging Tories. Steve Kantor writes:
Right about Iraq? Ha! It was right to go in, maybe implemented poorly, they needed more troops. The left is just shirking its responsibilities.
Well, I'm not sure what my responsibilities are as part of the left, but if Steve wants to hector me further, I'll listen. As for the substance of his argument - no, more troops would not have made things better. Why? Because the US did not have enough troops in active duty, national guards, and reserve to adequately occupy Iraq. This was summed up nicely in Matthew Yglesias' article, "The Incompetence Dodge."
“Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki was ridiculed for suggesting that it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq,” wrote Senator Joe Biden in a June 2004 New Republic article. “He looks prescient today.”

Shinseki’s ballpark numbers were based on past Army experience with postconflict reconstruction. A RAND Corporation effort to quantify more precisely that experience, frequently cited by dodgers, concluded that a ratio of 20 foreigners for every 1,000 natives would have been necessary to stabilize Iraq.
This turns out to mean an occupying force - including soldiers and civilian police - of about 500,000. (Yglesias is obviously a partisan source, but the RAND study he cites can hardly be called pro-Dem.) Meanwhile, the CBO estimates that the US can only maintain a long-term occupation of Iraq of approximately 100,000 soldiers - at the very most.

In order for the US to keep 500,000 men and women in theatre, they would need an active service roster of some 1.5 million soldiers (to maintain regular service rotations, not the failing back door draft we've got now), not including the 200,000 or so the US needs to maintain its positions across the rest of the world. So we're talking about almost doubling the existing US Armed forces, with most of that going to the Army.

Assuming this is even possible for the Pentagon to finance (how does a $1 trillion defense budget sound?) it would be impossible to find the men unless the White House and Congress brought back the draft. Which simply wouldn't happen.

And all of this speculation is useless when you consider that many authors have now shown that Rumsfeld repeatedly refused demands for more troops for ideological reasons. Even if Rumsfeld had the unlimited hordes of the Roman legion, he didn't want to use them because he wanted to show that the US could win a war on the cheap, as a demonstration that Iraq was just the first of many wars the US would fight.

So in short: The Iraq war wasn't going to be won with more troops, because they weren't there to be used. Even if they had been, Rumsfeld and Bush wouldn't have used them. So the only way to win the war would have been if Rumsfeld and Bush weren't in charge, in which case we wouldn't have gone to fucking war in the first place.

The second comment wasn't about Iraq, but climate change. PhilTaj writes:
heh...right about climate change? As I understand it, human induced climate change has yet to be proven.
There are two possible responses to this willful refusal to see facts. One is to cite groups like the NAS, the IPCC, the journals Science and Nature and show that the consensus is that the climate change we are seeing today, and have been seeing since roughly 1950 or so, has been primarily driven by human greenhouse-gas emissions. This is not the same thing as saying that all climate change is driven by humans, but it does mean that we are now the primary cause.

But I'm not sure this is enough for the most stubborn of denialists. I fear that for some - for too many - climate change will never be "proven" unless we actually watch individual carbon atoms actually turn up the planets thermostat. It's a nice racket, because this will never happen, so people who refuse to believe in climate change will forever be able to insulate their mindsets, even as they refuse to insulate their homes.


Ronald Brak said...

I've just recently blogged about climate change denial. To believe that human beings are having no effect on the climate, you would have to believe either one or both of the following:

1. Carbon dioxide does not contribute to global warming.

2. Humans are not increasing the levels of carbon dioxide in the air.

The first idea is not suportable without pretty much rejecting science fullstop and we have documentary evidence of people burning large amounts of fossil fuels for a variety of reasons.

World consumption of oil is about 80 million barrels per day, the density of oil is about 0.9 that of water so there are about 7 barrels to the ton and oil is about 85% carbon. As you can no doubt see just by glancing at these figures, humans add about 9.7 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere each day, or about 3.5 billion tons per year. Do similar calculations for coal and gas and you come to roughly 7 billion tons total.

Since the earth’s atmosphere weighs approximately 5,100,000,000,000,000 tons and each ton of carbon burnt combines with oxygen to form 3.67 tons of carbon dioxide, is easy to see that humans are increasing CO2 concentrations by about 5.1 parts per million per year. Since CO2 in the atmosphere is currently about 381 parts per million we are increasing it’s concentration by about 1.34% per year.

adam said...

I came across this post today, not long after reading the comments you're reacting to.

It's interesting mostly because it points out that if climate change becomes a conspiracy theory, then the contrary view taken by denialists is not for lack of evidence, but is reinforced by every piece of evidence that you can dredge up.

After all, if out of hundreds of papers published in scientific journals over the last few decades, exactly zero of them refute climate change, then what more proof do you need? Other than that which would expose the journals as pawns of the global climate change conspiracy that is.

Steve Kanter said...

It was possible for the USA to field the troop level to stabilize Iraq - 500k soldiers, could have been fielded at the time (at the very start, in 2003). Your argument correct that to field it now would be very difficult.

In military matters, it is much easier to do it right the first time, than it is to fix later. That is why conventional doctrine is to send a vastly superior force, as Shinseki suggested.

This is why military matters (ie number of troops deployed) should be left to the military.

The way I see Iraq, is that if troops were pulled out, it would get alot worse really fast. It would be worse than Darfur in ethnic cleanzing, and worse than the Taliban in harbouring terrorists that mean to attack the west.

So what to do? The status quo seems to be slowly advancing towards some sort of stability. The Iraqi Army is finally taking over some major security operations. (that was another mistake, disbanding the Bathist Iraqi army, without an alternative force in place. It put many people skilled with weapons, who knew where they were stored, out of work and unemployed)

So stay the course (I know its almost cliche now), the mess will be fixed by those that started it. Hopefully the next president won't be burdened by it.

Mike said...

We can argue troop numbers until we are blue in the face. Frankly, John's numbers and sources are far more believable and reliable. But even if we accept your position Steve, the fact remains that the reasons given for the invasion of Iraq in the months leading up to March 2003 were:

1) That Saddam had WMD
2) That Saddam was prepared to use these WMD against the US and was a threat
3) That Saddam was "6 months" away from having a nuke and thus, was an immediate threat

All of which were pointed out as either outright wrong or highly questionable before the invasion (see Hans Blix, Scott Ritter, most of Europe et al) - championed by the left, for the most part. It turns out not only were they all wrong, but based on lies an willfull blindness on the part of the Bush Administration. Eveery other excuse for war - freedom for Iraqis, getting rid of a dictator, "flypaper" - was nothing more than a post facto excuse.

Not one American soldier should have set foot in Iraq. Not one. In the end, the left was right about it, warned about it before hand.

Yammering about 100 000 occupation forces vs 500 000 misses the point. The war should never have happened in the first place.

Considering the lies that created it, Bush should be facing impeachment right now. The next president will be burdened by more terrorism and a gigantic debt, thanks to Bush.

Even now you can't admit the the entire war was a mistake can you?