War and Numbers

Steve Gilliard responds to the news that support for the Iraq war is slipping among evangelicals:

Uh, who’s sons and daughters face the choice of Wal Mart or Iraq? It ain’t the Dobsons of the world sending their kids to the sandbox. Who’s spending their nights looking at their broken children in Walter Reed? Not the rich, not the connected. When that phone call comes, god forbid, the knock on the door, the odds are good that a evangelical is behind it.

Their kids are the ones coming home broken and dead and Washington lies to them and they know it.

And this, combined with Foley, is dooming Bush and the GOP’s election chances. He may think he’s winning, but the people with the 21 year old who spends all day drinking or the 22 year old daughter learning to walk with a new leg, know Iraq is all fucked up and Bush won’t admit it.

A new poll by the PEW Research Center found that 58 percent of white evangelicals still believe the U.S. made the right decision to support the war, which is still a majority. But this is down from 71 percent in September.

That’s a pretty big drop for one month, I’d say. Perhaps the drop correlates to this month’s spike in U.S. deaths in Iraq.

I can’t help but think a lot of these evangelicals are the same folks who dissed the Dixie Chicks.

Behind the New York Times firewall, Paul Krugman writes:

Iraq is a lost cause. It’s just a matter of arithmetic: given the violence of the environment, with ethnic groups and rival militias at each other’s throats, American forces there are large enough to suffer terrible losses, but far too small to stabilize the country.

We’re so undermanned that we’re even losing our ability to influence events: earlier this week, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki brusquely rejected American efforts to set a timetable for reining in the militias.

Well, yes. And it seems everyone in the country has figured that out, except Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.

Professor Krugman thinks that we haven’t lost Afghanistan yet (N. Todd at Dohiyi Mir disagrees) and suggests that our resources in Iraq might be redeployed to Afghanistan before two wars are lost, assuming two wars aren’t already lost.

Here’s where Krugman gets his numbers:

The classic analysis of the arithmetic of insurgencies is a 1995 article by James T. Quinlivan, an analyst at the Rand Corporation. “Force Requirements in Stability Operations,” published in Parameters, the journal of the U.S. Army War College, looked at the number of troops that peacekeeping forces have historically needed to maintain order and cope with insurgencies. Mr. Quinlivan’s comparisons suggested that even small countries might need large occupying forces.

Specifically, in some cases it was possible to stabilize countries with between 4 and 10 troops per 1,000 inhabitants. But examples like the British campaign against communist guerrillas in Malaya and the fight against the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland indicated that establishing order and stability in a difficult environment could require about 20 troops per 1,000 inhabitants.

The implication was clear: “Many countries are simply too big to be plausible candidates for stabilization by external forces,” Mr. Quinlivan wrote.

Krugman is a numbers guy and I’m not, so I’m going to trust that he has this figured out.

Given the way the Bush administration relegated Afghanistan to sideshow status, it comes as something of a shock to realize that Afghanistan has a larger population than Iraq. If Afghanistan were in as bad shape as Iraq, stabilizing it would require at least 600,000 troops — an obvious impossibility.

However, things in Afghanistan aren’t yet as far gone as they are in Iraq, and it’s possible that a smaller force — one in that range of 4 to 10 per 1,000 that has been sufficient in some cases — might be enough to stabilize the situation. But right now, the forces trying to stabilize Afghanistan are absurdly small: we’re trying to provide security to 30 million people with a force of only 32,000 Western troops and 77,000 Afghan national forces.

If we stopped trying to do the impossible in Iraq, both we and the British would be able to put more troops in a place where they might still do some good. But we have to do something soon: the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan says that most of the population will switch its allegiance to a resurgent Taliban unless things get better by this time next year.

It’s hard to believe that the world’s only superpower is on the verge of losing not just one but two wars. But the arithmetic of stability operations suggests that unless we give up our futile efforts in Iraq, we’re on track to do just that.

You can count on the Bushies to deny there’s any reason to change the course in Afghanistan, either, until it’s too late. And probably not then, either.

Today’s Dan Froomkin:

… in spite of a furious public-relations campaign by the White House aimed at muddying the issue, at week’s end there is simply no doubt that “stay the course” is a deadly accurate description of Bush’s strategy in Iraq.

The fundamental issue is whether American troops should continue what looks to many to be a hopeless fight — or whether they should start coming home. And on that central point, Bush has not wavered one bit.

Yes, as the White House has been at great pains to point out lately, the day-to-day military tactics sometimes change. But as Bush himself has long been at great pains to point out, the White House has no place in setting those military tactics.

Bush will make no substantive policy changes in either Iraq or Afghanistan as long as he has anything to say about policy changes. I doubt he will make even non-substantive policy changes. It doesn’t matter how many commissions are sent to study the situation or what they recommend. I doubt that Bush is much engaged in what is happening in Iraq at all; that’s what the help (i.e., generals) are for. He’s happy as long as he can claim we’re winning, and he can claim we’re winning as long as we don’t leave.

Tortured news update: Yesterday I wrote that The Dick had admitted the U.S. engaged in waterboarding. Dan Eggen writes in today’s Washington Post that “a Cheney spokeswoman” denied the Veep admitting to waterboarding. Today Tony Snow did his best to spin what The Dick said; see the video at Crooks and Liars.

8 thoughts on “War and Numbers

  1. “Specifically, in some cases it was possible to stabilize countries with between 4 and 10 troops per 1,000 inhabitants. But examples like the British campaign against communist guerrillas in Malaya and the fight against the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland indicated that establishing order and stability in a difficult environment could require about 20 troops per 1,000 inhabitants.”

    We initially stabilized Germany with one soldier per 10 Germans.

  2. We initially stabilized Germany with one soldier per 10 Germans.

    Interesting. Are you factoring in all Allied soldiers?

  3. Regarding waterboarding: I have an idea and I am damn serious. Americans love ‘reality’ shows. Let’s do one; kind of a fear factor with a huge prize for the participant/victim. What the show would do is offer say $10,000 for someone to undergo waterboarding on TV. They would select a strong, healthy, neocon chickenhawk type. After all, it’s not torture.Then they would need a CIA person with experience in the technique as it’s being administered in American gulags. There would be a doctor and EMA people standing by. The contract that the chickenhawk/ candidate signs would specify that he can’t quit the exercise. Let’s see; let’s show the world – what we are doing – that’s not torture – and see if America approves.

  4. “Krugman is a numbers guy and I’m not”
    I’m not a numbers guy too, but I know you can’t starve someone fat or bomb them happy.Simple mechanics.Afghanistan is a land locked failed state, rebuilding it will be a hurculean feat, but “the precious” lies within.Afghanistan is the gateway to the Caspian basin, as long as Pakistan remains somewhat stable.Contrary to the word on the street,NATO is not there to help women out of their burkas. Apparently, Bush/Cheny is willing to share the spoils of Afghanistan, but not Iraq’s. In Iraq, French Bad, in Afghanistan, French good.WTF?
    Perhaps there is more to Barat from Kazakhstan than meets the eye?
    As for Cheney and waterboarding, while waterboarding may sound like an Olympic event or a new sport, it is indeed torture.
    I’m wondering if Dick’s pacemaker is waterproof….

  5. I don’t know if it would be a copyright infringment..But they could name the program..Truth or Consequences. International water boarding competitions where contestants vie for the Torquemada award. Maybe even some synchronized water boarding competitions?

    Verily, verily, I say unto you.Unless a man be water boarded he cannot enter into the kingdom of Guantanamo.

  6. I don’t know how many people are aware of the classical characteristics of domestic abuse or the abusive personality. But one sure trait is that the abuser will describe their abusive behaviour as being necessitated as an expression of love..I beat you because I love you!. That’s why Cheney claims he’s torturing for us..to save American lives. I should feel special basking in Cheney’s love!

    Yeah, Greater love has no man than to totrure others for a friend.

  7. It seems obvious we have at least 2 years of watching our soldiers die for an idiot prez, an idiot congress, and an idiot public, that bought Bush’s bull shit in total. I must say, since I am from Texas I knew Bush was an asshole before he became gov’nor. We all knew he was a drugged out drunk, but his daddy was the saint of texas so people voted for the little puke and ousted my governor Ann Richards. Since the GOP hangs drug addicts I thought Bush would lose. I did not know that they only hate drug addicts that happen to be democratic and poor or unknown So until a new prez from the dems or a moral repuq is elected the war will continue. Perhaps if Bush had a larger penis we could leave Iraq now. But he has to outlive his cheerleader days in school. He never was the jock. Bush was a little punk with an influential and rich daddy.

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