Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 11, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

SURGE ARITHMETIC....As everyone knows, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced today that regular Army units would begin serving 15-month tours in Iraq instead of their usual 12-month tours. But just in case the connection to the surge isn't obvious to everyone, here's how he explained it:

Gates said the change is necessary to prevent five Army brigades from deploying to combat before they complete a desired 12-month rest period at home and to give predictability to soldiers and their families.

....He said the longer deployments also will allow President Bush's "surge" strategy in Baghdad to last a year in case such high force levels are needed in Iraq.

The surge, of course, consists of five brigades. What Gates is telling us is that the Army didn't have those brigades, and the only way they got them was by lengthening the normal tour of duty in Iraq to 15 months.

It's not plausible that the Pentagon didn't know this when the surge was announced. They just decided not to announce it at the time. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to guess why.

Kevin Drum 7:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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I would say because the American Electorate is basically dumber than salt...wait, that's an insult to salt. My apologies to all the salts for the comparison.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on April 11, 2007 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Well, not plausible, but not impossible either,... that they didn't realize the numbers wouldn't add up. Why assume a sudden, uncharacteristic attack of competence?

http://themandarin.blogspot.com

Posted by: The Mandarin on April 11, 2007 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

It's not plausible that the Pentagon didn't know this when the surge was announced.

Sadly, it's entirely plausible that Bush didn't know, and nobody wanted to be the one to tell him.

Posted by: thersites on April 11, 2007 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

It's not plausible that the Pentagon didn't know this when the surge was announced. They just decided not to announce it at the time. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to guess why.

To suprise the enemy. The enemy thought we weren't willing to put forward more troops and therefore some of them might have thought they could wait us out until we leave. By making this suprise announcement, Bush keeps our enemies off balance by using the element of surprise and makes it even more likely the Surge will succeed.

Posted by: Al on April 11, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Calling Army Group Steiner" "Calling Army Group Steiner" "Come in PLEASE"

Posted by: R.L. on April 11, 2007 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Al, to say you sicken me would be an understatement. What a loathsome, vapid and contemptible creature you are.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 11, 2007 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Don't hold back, BG. Tell us how you really feel!

Posted by: thersites on April 11, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Bush keeps our enemies off balance by using the element of surprise and makes it even more likely the Surge will succeed."

Al,
You ignorant Rovian groupie, how bout a nice steaming cup of STFU!

Posted by: sheerahkahn on April 11, 2007 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

kevin, if this were "exercise," we would have to work at it....

Posted by: howard on April 11, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

The timing is odder than that. Why not wait until after the budget standoff is resolved? Announcing this now helps the Democrats, as far as I can tell, and while these guys are disasters at policy, they are usually very conscious of how and when to release things for maximum, or minimum, effect. I don't get it. Are they stretched so thin that they couldn't wait a few months?

Posted by: Martin Gale on April 11, 2007 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes you go with the surge you have, rather than the surge you'd like to have.

Posted by: Dumsfeld on April 11, 2007 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush/Cheney Mal-Administration in short:

- omit key information when selling a plan
- fabricate information to support a plan
- lie about the cost of the plan in money or resources
- hide or not remember what they have done
- attack any who question them as terrorists or appeasers
- violate the laws, Constitution, or treaties with claimed impunity
- refuse to consult with Congress, listen to the people, fully collaborate with allies, or have diplomacy with non-allies.
- make sure that their non-governmental supporters in business and media are given privileges, rewards, and sweet deals
- appoint loyal people who will do the above
- fire dedicated people who will not do the above

and lie, lie lie

Posted by: JimPortlandOR on April 11, 2007 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

No one anticipated that five brigades will not materialize out of thin air when needed.

Posted by: gregor on April 11, 2007 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

blue girl, al doesn't really exist. no one could be that stupid. not even the president. well, maybe him.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on April 11, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Martin Gale asks:

Are they stretched so thin that they couldn't wait a few months?

Yes. This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions. t.m. Atrios.

Posted by: ozzy on April 11, 2007 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

Everybody knew they were going to get screwed by the surge, but didn't know how. Now they know...15/12 rotations. It sucks. It also keeps troops that know the fight in the fight, and sends a message to the jihadis that the surge won't end soon. Whether that last point is true is TBD.

Posted by: Sgt Bilko on April 11, 2007 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

Suck it up and make me look good, troopers! Fuck you very much!

Posted by: George "Man-Child" Bush on April 11, 2007 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

To suprise the enemy. The enemy thought we weren't willing to put forward more troops and therefore some of them might have thought they could wait us out until we leave. By making this suprise announcement, Bush keeps our enemies off balance by using the element of surprise and makes it even more likely the Surge will succeed.

Not even you can be this stupid and/or dishonest, can you, "Al"?

Posted by: sglover on April 11, 2007 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

No one could have anticipated that five brigades will not materialize out of thin air when needed.

Fixed the paraphrase for ya.

Posted by: Disputo on April 11, 2007 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

By making this suprise announcement, Bush keeps our enemies off balance by using the element of surprise and makes it even more likely the Surge will succeed.

Yes indeed. The next plan by the decider to surprise the insurgents into surrendering is to outfit the troops with Groucho Marx glasses.

Posted by: Disputo on April 11, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

When is a draft not a draft? Bush and Fox will pin this on the Democrats.

BET BET

Posted by: bob w on April 11, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

The timing is odder than that. Why not wait until after the budget standoff is resolved?

Oh, you don't have to wonder about that. Gates stated the reason in his announcement - some "very thoughtless person in this building" had already leaked the news to the press, so he was forced into admitting it publicly.

I'm not sure why the Post didn't include that bit in their article. My guess is that they were the ones leaked to, so they would have felt they shouldn't discuss it.

I'm also guessing that the leak indicates what "thoughtless people" at the Pentagon feel about the whole surge business.

Posted by: Mr. P on April 11, 2007 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

Gates stated the reason in his announcement - some "very thoughtless person in this building" had already leaked the news to the press, so he was forced into admitting it publicly.

Ah, of course they were keeping this secret for matters of national security....

Posted by: Disputo on April 11, 2007 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

For those of you interested history is a guide.

In 1942 on, some soldiers walked all the way from north-west Africa to Tripoli, through Sicily and up the Italian Apenines. Others went from Sicily to Normandy and walked to Germany.

Some pilots did tour after tour and still, somehow, survived also.

From '42 to '45. Rested at times but no getting out. It was a real war.

This administration has never made a judgement on this war that has stretched interminably before them.

That is one reason why this preznit is the most incompetent ever. EVER!

Even now, we have no plan and no exit strategy. No judgement as to how we might succeed or fail. And no idea how we are damaging our land defence force, the Army -- Professional, Reserve and National Guard.

Ignorant? No. Dangerously Ideological. Absolutely.

Sociopath. Yes.

Posted by: notthere on April 11, 2007 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Notthere - I just finished posting about the exodus of academy-trained officers. I think it ties in with what you just posted, so forgive me the shameless self promotion...

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 11, 2007 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

Gates said he wanted 48 hours to place the announcement into the Friday news vacuum -- no strike that -- to allow "the opportunity to notify unit commanders who could then talk to their troops 48 hours before we made a public announcement."

Posted by: idlemind on April 11, 2007 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

From the article: "He [Gates] said the longer deployments also will allow President Bush's "surge" strategy in Baghdad to last a year in case such high force levels are needed in Iraq. "We are creating the capability to keep it in place," Gates said, adding that the surge will last only as long as commanders believe it is effective and necessary, based on conditions in Iraq."

I think the days of Bush's strategy being called a surge should be coming to a quick end. The reporter here appropriately put "surge" in quotes, as the passage makes clear that the surge is open-ended and will last at least a year, perhaps longer.

Posted by: joe p on April 11, 2007 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

To suprise the enemy....

Posted by: Al on April 11, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

And now we unsurprised them a year ahead of time.

Jeesh! I hope, as I suspect, this is a fake Al.

Posted by: notthere on April 11, 2007 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Any late visitors, you might like to read

this

Thank you, RGBS. Nice post.

Posted by: notthere on April 11, 2007 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

The talk of five brigades rang a bell. Over at The Independent, Robert Fisk has an article about the counter-insurgency strategy for Baghdad:

But the campaign has far wider military ambitions than the pacification of Baghdad. It now appears that the US military intends to place as many as five mechanised brigades - comprising about 40,000 men - south and east of Baghdad, at least three of them positioned between the capital and the Iranian border. This would present Iran with a powerful - and potentially aggressive - American military force close to its border in the event of a US or Israeli military strike against its nuclear facilities later this year.

From William S. Lind

General Barry McCaffrey's report on his recent trip to Iraq states that:

… at division and brigade level these C3I command posts are not movable. They simply are not prepared to effectively fight a war of maneuver.

Those five mechanized brigades will be ready to effectively fight a war of maneuver.

Posted by: blowback on April 11, 2007 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't know if Patraeus looked back, but he should have to when Rommel, as a training officer pre-WWII, wrote a paper on this very topic. Patraeus' conclusions aren't too much different. Wow! 70 years on and re-writing the same thing. Good job! Lesson learnt!

Boy, you know what? Why has no one looked ahead?

They fought the war without a mobile reserve. They continue to fight without a ready reserve. It's all fought on the end of a string where the fibers continue to fray. Gates, at least, has made a decision that is logical and ameliorates the stress. But there is worse coming down the pipe in Iraq, and we have no ready reserve for any unexpected event.

Tough as it is to say, but they should be on 18 month tours, with a plan to get out.

Going to happen?

Posted by: notthere on April 11, 2007 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

Robert Fisk is an excellent. excellent Middle East correspondent and has the subtleties and vagaries of Arab politics down as well as any Westerner I know about. However, he is not so good on grand strategy or military arcana. I think he is a little too close to the trees.

So take that side of what he has to say with a pinch.

Posted by: notthere on April 11, 2007 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

It looks to me like that was satire Al speaking.

I'd imagine that this will really hit troop morale very hard.

Posted by: mcdruid on April 12, 2007 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

As everyone knows, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced today that regular Army units would begin serving 15-month tours in Iraq instead of their usual 12-month tours.

It's not plausible that the Pentagon didn't know this when the surge was announced. They just decided not to announce it at the time. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to guess why.

No, it's not plausible. Nor was it any secret.

If anyone was paying attention, the arithmetic was spelled out long ago by Kagan/Keane in their original surge proposal Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq Interim Report (pg 20):

Extend rotations to 15 months for 15 Army BCT's
Which was also repeated in their final report.

Posted by: has407 on April 12, 2007 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

I love it when people fall for the fake Al.
The real Al said several months back (at Yglesias's) that he never comments here anymore because of the fake Al phenomenon. There is no Al.

Posted by: um on April 12, 2007 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

On top of everything else, I'll believe the 15-months-in-country, one-year-at-home thing when I see it. If the DOD can extend 12-month deployments into 15 and cut year-long home rotations by several months now, they can do it later. And they will, if they deem it necessary one Friedman Unit from now, when the Administration needs more juice to claim its so-called "surge" is working.

Posted by: Gregory on April 12, 2007 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Al is Emmanuel Trollstein.

-GSD

P.S. The surge is working! John McCain and Lyndsey Graham have the cheap rugs to prove it.

Posted by: GSD on April 12, 2007 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Someone should ask President Bush how he would like to have HIS term of duty extended by another 3 months!

On second thought, scratch that idea....

Posted by: lampwick on April 12, 2007 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

In other news today, Gates announced that under the auspices of "Screw, er, Save the Republic", the entire Administration has been extended until 2010. Minor constitutional details will be worked out later.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 12, 2007 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, that specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of the clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.

"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka replied."

Joe Heller

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 12, 2007 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

MsN,

I'll be out of the office from 1300 to 1700 Hours. Please have my First Sergeant show you right in for your 1305 appointment.

Posted by: Major Major Major on April 12, 2007 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

So it goes.

Kilgore Trout: "We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane."

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 12, 2007 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

The war on terror has been lost. It has been lost by a bungling president who could not have managed a fast food franchise. It has been lost because Islam is stronger than the decadent West that puts forward the retarded son of a former president as a leader.

Posted by: abdul rahim on April 12, 2007 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "The surge, of course, consists of five brigades. What Gates is telling us is that the Army didn't have those brigades, and the only way they got them was by lengthening the normal tour of duty in Iraq to 15 months."

Of course Gates is telling us no such thing. For starters, what was dubbed the surge by people outside the administration always included extending forces that were already in Iraq. Moreover, the issue isn't so much the lack of brigades as it is how best to employ the forces we have.

Critical to understanding the issue are two points. First, the Army has decided to keep its forces on a version of its peacetime training cycle (this cycle runs combat forces through phases where they are available for deployment, resetting after returning from deployment, and a training phase). This is why soldiers come back after a year and then go through their ordinary peacetime training cycle (though some of this has been abbreviated when units get ready to deploy again). In other words, we have set conditions independent from the military requirements in Iraq that compel us to deploy and redeploy units in this particular way. That decision is what restricts the availability of brigades to deploy to Iraq.

Second, once that decision was made, the issue becomes how best to meet your military requirements for forces in Iraq. You could redeploy troops in Iraq after 12 months but this would cascade through the availability of other brigades (based on the training cycle) and force you to deploy those brigades early. As a result, units returning from Iraq might not get the full 12 months back in the US that DOD wants them to have before they may deploy again. To avoid this, Gates decided it is better to keep forces in Iraq 3 months longer and thus assure them they will be home for a full year.

Yes, we cut back the size of the military too much after the Cold War and need to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps. But the bulk of the problem Gates is dealing with is not so much one of the size and structure of the military but rather the decision we have made to fight a war while continuing to run our forces pretty much through their peacetime training cycles.

Posted by: Hacksaw on April 12, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

If they allowed gays in the military, they would have sufficient troops and not need to extend the tour of duty.

Posted by: Objective Dem on April 12, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

notthere: They fought the war without a mobile reserve. They continue to fight without a ready reserve. It's all fought on the end of a string where the fibers continue to fray.

A vivid image, notthere. In other words, Bush and Rumsfeld sent the troops over a cliff without first measuring the height of the cliff or the length of their rope. Now the troops are almost at the end of the rope, they don't know how far it is to the bottom, and Commander Cuckoo Bananas orders them not to start climbing back up.

Because he's got such vision.

Posted by: cowalker on April 12, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Their chief weapon is surprise, surprise and fear. Two! Two chief weapons are surprise and fear!. And an almost fanaltical devotion to the Pope. Three! Three weapons....

Also, regarding the competence of the military: I'm only a third way through Thomas Ricks' "Fiasco", and I think it is fair to say that the Military knew what to do and how to do it. The Army War College essentially warned about and urged preparation for everything that subsequently happened. Our military have done us proud. Our civilian leadership was and is a disgrace. I have some hope for Gates, but look who he works for...

Cheers,

Posted by: cmhmd on April 12, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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