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November 21, 2005
Unspinning the Troop RotationsBy Greyhawk
Last week's congressional shenanigans regarding American troops in Iraq successfully obscured the real news about that topic. In an under-reported story earlier this month the DoD announced the units designated to deploy in the next rotation for Operation Iraqi Freedom. DoD Press Release, 7 November 2005:
DoD Announces Units for Next Operation Iraqi Freedom RotationThere's a key number in the above quote; "92,000 service members" - that's down significantly from this year's figure, approximately 140,000 with boosts to 160,000 for election periods (created by overlapping deployments).
But don't start thinking "drawdown" just yet. Because there's another key phrase that follows that number: "92,000 service members as presently envisioned". Here's what's happening. The DoD says they want to see how things go through December's elections in Iraq, then give commanders on the ground an opportunity to make deisions on who's needed where.
It's the obvious strategy, although it opens Don Rumsfeld to accusations of "passing the buck" from the same folks who accuse him of being a "micromanager". And if additional numbers are added later they will likely be labeled as an increase in the number of troops due to initial requirements being set too low - and the "no end in sight" argument will be invoked. Likewise there's always the possibility that if things go wrong the troop strength levels (Too high! Too low! Too late!) will be cited as primary cause. But conversely, if things go right they'll be declared wrong anyway - so the above arguments are essentially moot. And besides, torture is wrong!
Now back to the grown-up discussion. These numbers could result in a "drawdown". But the SecDef is cautioning any who will listen that that's not the correct interpretation. In fact, he chastised the AP reporting of the story, as they themselves noted here:
The number of troops in future rotations will depend on conditions, including the severity of the insurgency and the strength of Iraqi security forces, as well as the recommendations of U.S. commanders, Rumsfeld said.On one level that can be labeled Pentagon doublespeak, but I'm inclined to take the report at face value - there might be less troops in Iraq next year, it's situationally dependent. Not very satisfying to those who want instant answers to tough problems, but this isn't a TV drama with neat solutions at the end of the hour.
There are good reason to be optimistic though. In the same AP article linked above, General David Patraeus cites indicators of progress in the development of the Iraq security forces - and expectations for the future.
Separately, a senior Army general said there is a growing momentum in the training of Iraqi security forces, which now total about 100,000 army soldiers and about 111,000 police forces. In a detailed briefing before a group organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus said the goal is to have a combined total of 230,00 army and police by the December election.Iraq's civilian leaders are expressing optimism too. You might have missed this recent quote from Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi:
The United States and coalition forces will likely reduce the number of troops in Iraq next year, Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Saturday.He was speaking in Detroit, Michigan at the time, but his words went mostly unreported in major media.
Likewise President of Iraq Jalal Talabani's comments in Britain received scant notice:
British troops could leave Iraq by the end of next year, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Sunday. “We don’t want British forces forever in Iraq. Within one year – I think at the end of 2006 – Iraqi troops will be ready to replace British forces in the South,” Talabani told ITV’s Jonathan Dimbleby program.The Pentagon numbers and the AP report were released on November 7, Mahdi's remarks were quoted on the 12th and Talabani's on the 15th. So there you have it, the background situation against which last week's political drama was played. Given these developments it's not entirely surprising (although it is entirely disappointing) that there are those in congress who are in a bit of a panic over the possibility of upward trends in the situation in Iraq. Success there is far from assured, but that success is unfortunately political doom (or perhaps just a minor setback, if they're from the right district) for those who've chosen to oppose the effort. Seeing the possibility of light at the end of the tunnel has forced them to act.
We can each make our own determination as to exactly what they are acting like.
Related: Graphic Violence
Posted by Greyhawk / November 21, 2005 8:54 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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