November 29, 2005

Rebutting Odom IX

Finally got a link to Gen. Odom's recent column on Iraq. Gen. Odom is a serious man and deserves to have his views addressed seriously. I completely disagree with them.

Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:

8) We havenít fully trained the Iraqi military and police forces yet.

8) On training the Iraq military and police. The insurgents are fighting very effectively without US or European military advisors to train them. Why don't the soldiers and police in the present Iraqi regime's service do their duty as well? Because they are uncertain about committing their lives to this regime. They are being asked to take a political stand, just as the insurgents are. Political consolidation, not military-technical consolidation, is the issue.

The issue is not military training; it is institutional loyalty. We trained the Vietnamese military effectively. Its generals took power and proved to be lousy politicians and poor fighters in the final showdown. In many battles over a decade or more, South Vietnamese military units fought very well, defeating VC and NVA units. But South Vietnam's political leaders lost the war.

Even if we were able to successfully train an Iraqi military and police force, the likely result, after all that, would be another military dictatorship. Experience around the world teaches us that military dictatorships arise when the militaryís institutional modernization gets ahead of political consolidation.

I challenge the idea that the insurgents have been fighting effectively. They have absorbed brutal levels of losses. They are losing leadership and trained cadre faster than any military organization can absorb. They are losing the money men that have financed their allied "rent a gang" mercenaries. The position of the insurgency in November, 2005 has to be viewed as precarious.

What little we know for sure about the insurgency's position is from captured correspondence that is released by Coalition forces. From that we know that they fear the establishment of a democratically elected Iraqi government. They fear the arrival of an Iraqi military and the loss of the visible presence of US forces on Iraqi streets. They fear that they will have to pack up and move on because they are running out of places to move on to.

This does not sound like an insurgency that is fighting effectively and winning in Iraq. This sounds like an insurgency that prays that figures in the US, figures such as Gen. Odom, will win in the fight domestically and force a pullout of critical US forces before the Iraqi armed forces are ready to fully take over the task of Iraq's security. These Iraqi forces are already shouldering part of the burden and their part grows greater every month.

The idea that Iraqi forces are tentative about their loyalty to their government is an unfair broad brush. Iraqis are individuals and will have varying commitments to their government as we have varying commitments to our own. It's unrealistic and insulting to make negative categoric statements about all Iraqi soldiers and policemen as lacking loyalty to and belief in their government. Surely some lack conviction and some lack loyalty. It's also a sure thing that such things come out in combat and that such people are washed out when they desert, run from a fight, or just don't run their patrol routes but hide in a building for the requisite amount of time and go home.

All measures of Iraqi troop and police effectiveness are improving over the past year. Iraqi police stations don't get overrun anymore (the insurgents gave up on that after losing too many battles) Iraqi troops no longer suffer from massive desertions in combat situations (training is improved and there are experienced troops with them that stiffen their resolve). Iraqi troops are successfully holding what US and Iraqi forces are successfully clearing.

It is true that Iraq's political leadership is going to win or lose things in the end. That's true for every country in every war. Here, General Odom assumes incompetence instead of bothering to demonstrate it. The Iraqi political class is not made up of one party, one faction. Judgements about their ability to lead the country are extremely premature at this point.

Posted by TMLutas at November 29, 2005 04:33 PM