Presented by Lapham's Quarterly and the Institute for the Future of the Book

Table of Comments

Total Comments in Report: 92

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3. Security and Military Forces

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But this is the same General Casey who has recently been cashiered, as part of the Bush administration’s new effort to pass the blame for Iraq onto the military. This is clearly signaled in a January 7, 2007 column in The New York Times, by longtime administration apologist David Brooks:

“For over three years, President Bush sided with the light-footprint school. He did so for personal reasons, not military ones. Casey and Abizaid are impressive men, and Bush deferred to their judgment.
“But sometimes good men make bad choices, and it is now clear that the light-footprint approach has been a disaster. If the U.S. had committed more troops and established security back in 2003 when, as Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek recently reminded us, the Coalition Provisional Authority had 70 percent approval ratings, history would be different.
“It is now 2007, and President Bush has finally replaced Donald Rumsfeld, Casey and Abizaid…”

This is about as bald-faced an effort at historical revisionism as as has been seen in recent years. Down the memory hole goes the fact that it was Bush himself who ordered up a cheap, “light” war, and who promptly canned Gen. Eric Shinseki when he dared to point out that the occupation of Iraq would take hundreds of thousands of troops. This sent a clear and unmistakable message to any other army brass who might be tempted to ask for more men.

Now we are to believe that poor Bush was snookered by all those “impressive” men in the high command. It is impossible to see how this sort of buck-passing can bring about the sort of new rapport and honesty between the military and civilian authorities, that the Study Group calls for below.

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This simply underscores the fact that the combined occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq–some 420,000 square miles of the most fractious territory in Asian history–without a draft. The strain on the army is yet another consequence of launching a vast, global crusade that is supposed to be vital to the security of our couuntry, without demanding any sacrifice of anyone, save for the men and women already in uniform.

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This recommendation reminds me of that scene in “The Life of Brian,” the old Monty Python movie, in which the “Judean People’s Front” solemnly demands that all Romans must leave Israel immediately…save for those involved with architecture, road-building, wine-making, etc., etc.

“Support forces, rapid-reaction forces, special operations forces, intelligence units, search-and-rescue units, and force protection units,” and an increased number of trainer units? Just who are they recommending we send home? Military bands?

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Here the ISG hasn’t much more to say than the Bush administration: as the Iraqi army stands up, US forces stand down. Its one original recommendation is to increase the number of advisors and trainers embedded in Iraqi units while US combat troops move out of Iraq. But how crazy is this? When US regular troops withdraw, the American advisors will be targeted not only those by those target them now but quite conceivably by the units they are advising. (The IRG speaks of “force protection units” but does not explain how advisors scattered in Iraqi units throughout country could actually be protected.)

In general, this part of the report seems to have been written by people who have not read the assessment section at the top. That section makes it clear that the problem in Iraq is not military but political, but this one assumes that building an Iraqi army is a good thing in itself. In other words, the ISG here shares the administration’s fantasy that putting men into the same uniform removes their sectarian and ethnic loyalties and makes them into true nationalists.