***REMINDER: George Soros will be here today to talk about his latest book, The Age of Fallibility, in the FDL Book Salon at 5:00 pm ET/2:00 pm PT. Should be a fantastic book discussion!***
Billmon, who has been doing some incredible analysis the last couple of weeks, has a spot on piece on the potential pitfalls of escalating rhetoric and hyping military potential toward Iran. He points to an article by Pat Lang in the CSMonitor (found via NoQuarter), which is truly terrifying in its potential for American troops currently on the ground in the mess that is Iraq:
American troops all over central and northern Iraq are supplied with fuel, food, and ammunition by truck convoy from a supply base hundreds of miles away in Kuwait. All but a small amount of our soldiers’ supplies come into the country over roads that pass through the Shiite-dominated south of Iraq . . .
Southern Iraq is thoroughly infiltrated by Iranian special operations forces working with Shiite militias, such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades. Hostilities between Iran and the United States or a change in attitude toward US forces on the part of the Baghdad government could quickly turn the supply roads into a "shooting gallery" 400 to 800 miles long.
Billmon explains Lang’s perspective as follows:
There’s a saying: Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics. And in the case of the U.S. Army, they talk it about a lot. This has been true almost as long as there’s been a U.S. Army. During the 1944-45 campaign in Europe, for example, each U.S. division consumed 650 tons of food, gas, ammo and other supplies per day — roughly three times what the German Army managed to get by on. Logistical requirements have only exploded since then. Those lobster tails they’re eating at Camp Victory don’t grow on the trees.
If the supply lines back to Kuwait were to be cut — or even seriously interdicted — the U.S. military presence in Iraq would quickly become untenable. I’m not even sure the Army could scrounge enough gas to keep the tanks and Humvees moving, given that Iraq already suffers from a severe refining capacity shortage and must import most of its gasoline from Kuwait.
Just spot on from Billmon, and something that is too often ignored by all the media "military" analysts who spend their time hawking potential war wares to keep their contracts viable, and failing to discuss the very real world issues that all those boots on the ground have to face day in and day out in the hot desert sands that threaten to swallow them entirely.
Thomas Ricks has an article in today’s WaPo, discussing how the lesson of Vietnam were entirely forgotten by the neocon warhawks of the Bush Administration and the rubber stamp Congress, and that our military is paying the price for it, bit by horrible bit:
…[T]here is also strong evidence, based on a review of thousands of military documents and hundreds of interviews with military personnel, that the U.S. approach to pacifying Iraq in the months after the collapse of Hussein helped spur the insurgency and made it bigger and stronger than it might have been.
The very setup of the U.S. presence in Iraq undercut the mission. The chain of command was hazy, with no one individual in charge of the overall American effort in Iraq, a structure that led to frequent clashes between military and civilian officials….
In mid-2004, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. took over from Sanchez as the top U.S. commander in Iraq. One of Casey’s advisers, Kalev Sepp, pointedly noted in a study that fall that the U.S. effort in Iraq was violating many of the major principles of counterinsurgency, such as putting an emphasis on killing insurgents instead of engaging the population.
A year later, frustrated by the inability of the Army to change its approach to training for Iraq, Casey established his own academy in Taji, Iraq, to teach counterinsurgency to U.S. officers as they arrived in the country. He made attending its course there a prerequisite to commanding a unit in Iraq.
"We are finally getting around to doing the right things," Army Reserve Lt. Col. Joe Rice observed one day in Iraq early in 2006. "But is it too little, too late?"
This is wholly inexcusable. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has spent any time at all reading history of the Middle East would have known that a counterinsurgency strategy needed to be in place from the start of this offensive.
Appalling, criminal negligence on the part of every Administration official who pushed these half-baked policies, and our soldiers are paying the price with the sacrifice of their limbs and lives and beyond, because Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and the whole of the Bush Administration and the Republican Rubber Stamp Congress signed off on a war on the cheap, and the vague hopes of candy and flowers. None of which came to pass.
You do not go to war with plans for only the best case scenario. And it is now too late to learn that lesson on the fly, for over 2600 American servicemembers and counting who have lost their lives (and way more than that who have had their lives shattered with permanent injuries). How many more? How…many…more because these idiots refused to listen to dissent on their roses and candy planning?
I have been surprised this morning to see that none of the news shows, as yet, have asked about the waning support from Al-Sistani in Iraq. (via C&L) This would be the death knell to the Iraqi government, and especially to any cooperation with Americans on the ground. And Arthur’s gloomy assessment is not making me feel any better.
As for the rest of the Middle East, and the burgeoning conflict between Isreal and Lebanon, both Swopa and Juan Cole are hitting the various bits and pieces with far more precision than my limited knowledge can. So please, take some time to read at both blogs. Additionally, Robert Worth has an op-ed piece in today’s NYTimes Week in Review that is a snarky-if-depressing read, with a graphic that will make you both rip something and laugh until you cry.
I have carefully read and considered US President George W. Bush’s words to British Prime Minister Tony Blair that were inadvertently caught on an open microphone during the G-8 Summit in Russia last weekend: "See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing this shit and it’s over" – and I respectfully conclude that Bush doesn’t know shit about shit.
Bush’s comment is worth analyzing because it is very telling of many things, all of them problematic for the United States and the Middle East region. In that single phrase of his, the American president compressed into two dozen words the cumulative negative consequences of Washington’s unusual capacity to forge a self-defeating and counter-productive Middle East policy on the basis of a faulty analysis, in turn built on misreading local realities and not speaking to the main actors. […]
The real irony in Bush’s statement is that he wants others to pressure Syria to pressure Hizbullah to change its policies – at a moment when the central pillar of Washington’s Middle East policies appears to be a refusal to speak to some of the most important political groups in the region. The US has no relations or known contacts with Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah, and is not on speaking terms with Syria, which it has mildly sanctioned.
Bush ignores at his own peril the fact that Islamist political sentiments and resistance movements are the fastest growing sector of national life in the Middle East. For the US to be squarely opposed to and unable to speak with this large part of the public spectrum is foolish enough; it is even more reflective of amateur American foreign policy-making that Washington’s policies in the region are an important contributor to the expansion of such Islamist sentiments and organizations.
That the FratBoy in Chief continues to make the rest of us look like cuckholded fools is appalling enough. But to know that thousands upon thousands of American lives — our soldiers, our diplomatic personnel, our intelligence officers, our citizens still trapped in Lebanon as the bombs continue to fall — all of them, because the President only wants to hear people back up his view of the world…well, it’s almost too much to bear this morning.
I refuse to allow this nation to slide any further. I refuse to allow our nation’s military to be broken any longer by failure and incompetence from the Bush Administration. And I refuse to allow this frat boy with no ability to see past his own sycophantic echo chamber to be the sole voice of my country.
And I refuse to let these smarmy spin merchants spend one more day with their hollow "war on terror" rhetoric without answering back: a true "war on terror" would get at the heart of the despair, the anger, the disproportionate representation, the kings that we continue to prop up and the civil rights violations in these nations that we steadfastly continue to ignore, to our detriment.
Hypocrisy, thy name is Bush, and it is about time the entire nation started calling him on it.
I hereby pledge to do whatever it takes to help the Democrats win back the House and Senate in November, to restore at least some check and balance to our government. Whatever it takes to gain some accountability for all of these many Bush Administration failures — because the public has a right to know about each and every last one of them.
And from there, whatever it takes to prevent this sort of man from ever sitting in the Oval Office again in my lifetime — for every election to come in my lifetime. America simply cannot afford any more of this narcissistic ego and poor excuses for public servants. The stakes are too high — both for me and for my child and I, for one, have had more than enough.
We cannot afford any more years of unchecked power grabs by a unilateral executive who is hell bent on keeping a war going, damn the cost, to buck up his poll numbers, and a herd of yes men whose sole purpose in life is to promote whatever spin is necessary to keep the boss happy, and to hell with the consequences to the rest of us. I have had enough. And Karl Rove’s reign of ends justifies the means is about to hit "game over." If there is anything at all that I can do to hasten that along, I will do so, I swear to all that is sacred.
Who is with me?
PS — In the interest of full disclosure, I have had friends and family in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan for the last few years, and currently have a very dear friend who just shipped out to Iraq in the last month. That their lives have been treated with such a cavalier attitude by the Bush Administration, which continues its piss poor decisionmaking and decided lack of diplomacy on all fronts, is both infuriating and terrifying. We all deserve better, but especially the men and women who put their lives on the line in uniform, many of whom signed up after 9/11 in a heartfelt expression of patriotism to go after al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, who is still, after all these years, at large. Had enough?