Thursday, January 13, 2005

Comments Posted at Belmont Club on Troop Strength in Iraq

I think the discussion needs to be broadened a bit when is comes to troop strength, insurgent submission, and post-submission occupation.

All-in-all I think the comparisons of the various occupation force levels, while mathematically interesting, take little of the operational differences of each of the circumstances into account. I won’t belabor the point, but insurgency strength and organization, insurgency weaponeering and available re-supply, leadership capability, popular support, terrain, insurgent tactics, and occupier objectives will all drive the force levels and organization. Generally, the better the weaponeering of the enemy, the more difficult the terrain, the more popular support for the insurgency, the better the tactics of the insurgents; the more forces it will take for the liberators/occupiers to be successful. I think the variables are too great to put a marker down as the “correct” number or ratio.

Casualties will not correspondingly be lowered simply because occupying forces add troop strength. Occupying force casualties will certainly rise if these forces are unable to adapt their force structures and tactics to EFFECTIVELY combat the insurgent group(s) or population. Adding more troops on the ground without developing winning strategies and tactics only increases the target density for the enemy. Highly effective and adaptive tactics could easily have the effect of lowering the overall troop requirements and casualties. Conversely, poor tactics and strategies have always resulted in higher unit casualties, and bear a greater role in overall casualty rates than force strengths. This is true in all operational environments.

Additionally, I cringe a bit with talk of re-organization to “colonial” style forces, or a variation thereof. The post World War I explosion of nationalistic movements throughout the world can be attributed directly to the occupation of nations by colonial forces. Fighting an insurgent nationalistic force would be logarithmically more costly than fighting a disgruntled band of malcontents and outsiders. Our current reliance on our conventional forces necessitates development of efficient and effective tactics to be successful in Iraq. In our current situation, our force limitations are a driving factor for immediate tactical innovation and strategic re-thinking, both key elements in finding a quick, but decisive tactical/strategic combination for exiting Iraq. Developing specific occupation forces would lessen this sense of urgency, re-invigorate grass roots nationalistic movements world wide, and plant the vision of the US as a global conqueror.

The reasons for post-invasion occupation success are as varied as the situations in which they have occurred. Docile and defeated populations, free from outside agitation, have been relatively easy to pacify. Divided nations where the unpopular will of an outside nation is being imposed, have been costly and deadly to occupy. I doubt this will change in the near future, regardless of the amount of strategic analysis that occurs. I submit that our current force structures, with our ability and experience in task organizing, our weaponerring, and our advanced military educational programs, can provide workable solutions long into the future without major force or structural changes. In the end, it will be our mastery of the operational art that will be the difference between success and failure, not mathmatics.

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