Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 2, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

"NOT ENOUGH TROOPS"....I think Matt Yglesias is right to take Jon Chait to task for suggesting that liberal hawks were right about the war in Iraq, and it was only George Bush's mismanagement that turned the whole thing sour. Here's Chait:

Liberal complaints about mismanagement of the war have centered on the Bush administration's refusal to send as many troops into Iraq as the Army, and nearly any expert, thought would be necessary to carry out an orderly occupation.

....Many Iraq doves have dismissed this alternative as wishful thinking, a way for liberal hawks to transfer the blame completely onto the Bush administration and spare themselves. Yet the most prominent advocate of this view, Larry Diamond, is not only the most prominent expert on the subject (as a specialist on democracy-building who consulted with the Coalition Provisional Authority), he opposed the war in the first place. Obviously, we can't know for sure how a competently executed occupation would have fared. Yet the certainty of the doves has little to recommend it. History is filled with examples of occupations East Timor, postwar Germany, and Japan that had sufficient troops and did not lead to the sort of chaos endemic in Iraq.

Earlier this year I took a look at how many total combat troops were available to us, and the number turned out to be about 500,000. However, even that number is high, since we couldn't literally strip every combat brigade from every base in the world:

Realistically, then, the maximum number of troops available for use in Iraq is probably pretty close to the number we have now: 300,000 rotated annually, for a presence of about 150,000 at any given time.

The only way to appreciably increase this is to raise the Army's end strength by several divisions....But as [pro-war hawks] acknowledge, doing this would take a couple of years and as they don't acknowledge, it would have made the war politically impossible. The invasion of Iraq almost certainly would never have happened if Rumsfeld had told Congress in 2002 that he wanted them to approve three or four (or more) new divisions in preparation for a war in 2004 or 2005.

The "not enough troops" excuse just doesn't wash. We didn't have more troops. If your position is that you supported the war, but only if we had sent in the 300,000 or so troops that we needed to do the job right, you're basically saying you didn't support the war.

Kevin Drum 2:08 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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