Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Too Few Troops-? There's a Good Explanation

Wretchard at Belmont Club offers a superb answer to the critics who assert we had too few troops in Iraq when the combat operations stopped and the looting began.

This discussion was prompted by former Ambassador Bremer's widely quoted comment: "We paid a big price for not stopping it (looting) because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness... We never had enough troops on the ground."

Wretchard points out the Fourth Infantry Division was the missing battlefield component and it was missing "directly as a result of the machinations of those supposed to administer Kerry's Global Test to America in the United Nations, who were large part responsible for closing Turkey to the United States." He quotes a contemporary Christian Science Monitor article to support this view: "Turkish President Ahmet Sezer says that the US must first win international legitimacy before launching any military operation in Iraq, arguing that a second UN Security Council resolution beyond Resolution 1441 be passed."

Of course, that "legitmacy" could not be obtained to Turkey's saitisfaction and "The Fourth Infantry Division which was scheduled to attack downward from Turkey and sweep through the Sunni heartland never arrived in large part due to the opposition of countries like France in the Security Council. Instead, it was forced to re-embark and ship around to the Gulf where it marched north up the Tigris in the path of the 3rd Infantry Division."

It speaks well of our armed forces that the 3rd ID and the Marines, coupled with the Brits and othe allies were able to do the job as well as they did until they were joined by the rest of the intended units.

It speaks poorly of those nations that acted to interfere with the movement of troops through Turkey. At least part of the problems resulting from this interference should be laid at the feet of the governments involved.

Update: A somewhat counter argument is made by Phillip Carter at Intel-Dump

"It's not altogether clear how many U.S. troops we would've had to commit to Iraq in order to secure that nation. Even if we had marched in the 4th Infantry Division from the north via Turkey to steamroll the Sunni Triangle, and put 500,000+ troops on the ground, I think we would likely still face an insurgency from the former regime loyalists and jihadists bent we face today. But I believe that we would've reached the tipping point far earlier in our fight against the insurgency, by providing sufficient security to enable reconstruction projects to go forward, thus improving the lives of enough Iraqis so as to remove much popular support from the insurgency..."

Maybe. As Mr. Carter also provides: "We'll never be able to prove this assertion, unfortunately, because you only get one shot to make history."

But it is important to use that history to see where things may have gone wrong and learn from it. The flaw in the U.S. plan was an reluctance to believe that the French and some other former allies would not support us. Perhaps it was "oil for food" or perhaps it is a Old Europe desire to keep the U.S. in a box...but the State Department should have warned the Pentagon that such a thwarting was possible before we had the 4th ID equipment bobbing on ships off Turkey.

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