Time To Reassess

Annie

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I don't think this will come to pass, but I think it should. We'll see what the new Congress decides. I do not think Gates is going to become DOD, if not, who?

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/933jaydy.asp
Doubling Down in Iraq
Warfare isn't like business.
by William J. Stuntz
11/20/2006, Volume 012, Issue 10


Don't throw good money after bad. When you're in a hole, stop digging. If you've been running in the wrong direction, the first thing to do is, turn around.

These are the kinds of things Americans are hearing and saying about the war in Iraq. It's understandable: Those familiar sayings are often useful. When you gamble and lose, the natural tendency is to double your bet--and when that doesn't work, mortgage everything you have to try to retrieve your losses. But as every undergraduate economics student knows, that strategy is a disaster. Hence the principle of "sunk cost." The fact that I've lost a pile on some enterprise or investment is no reason to lose an even bigger pile. The smart move, economically speaking, is to reassess your decisions on a regular basis. When an investment isn't working, get out. Put your money, your talents, and your energy to better use somewhere else.

All of which seems to apply to Iraq, in spades. A seemingly quick and easy military victory has turned sour. The costs, in blood and treasure, have escalated. Victory looks uncertain and distant. It seems the time has come, if not to cut and run, then surely to cut our losses. If ever the principle of sunk cost applied to warfare, it would seem to apply here.

But that instinct is wrong. Warfare is not like investment banking. At precisely the moment an economist might say to stop throwing good money after bad, a wise military strategist might say to double the bet.

Why might that be so? For one thing, willingness to raise the stakes often wins the game. Why do insurgent gangs, who have vastly smaller resources and manpower than the American soldiers they fight, continue to try to kill those soldiers? The answer is, because they believe they only have to kill a few more, and the soldiers will leave. They need not inflict a military defeat (which would be impossible, given the strength of the American military)--all they need to do is survive until American voters decide to throw in the towel, which might happen at any moment.

The proper response to that calculation is to make emphatically clear that the fight will not end until one side or the other wins, decisively. That kind of battle can only have one ending, as Abraham Lincoln understood. In a speech delivered a month after his reelection, Lincoln carefully surveyed the North's resources and manpower and concluded that the nation's wealth was "unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible." Southern soldiers began to desert in droves. Through the long, bloody summer and fall of 1864, the South had hung on only because of the belief that the North might tire of the conflict. But Lincoln did not tire. Instead, he doubled the bet--and won the war.

There is another reason economic logic does not readily apply to the fighting of wars. When running a business, one aims to invest just as much as is necessary to make the sale or manufacture the product--no less, and no more. Profit equals revenue minus cost, so minimizing cost lies at the core of wise business management.

Warfare could not be more different. Send just enough soldiers and guns and tanks to do the job, and you may soon find you have sent too few. The enemy concludes that if it can raise the marginal cost of the conflict just a bit, if casualties are a little higher or the expense a tad greater than you imagined, you'll quit the field. On the other hand, send vastly more soldiers and materiel than required to the battlefield, and the enemy soon decides that the fight is hopeless--that, as Lincoln so elegantly put it, our resources are unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible.

In the world of business, decisions are made at the margin: a little more invested here, a bit less there; everywhere, strive to cut waste, to spend no more than is absolutely necessary. In warfare, waste and excess are productive: They send the message that victory is inevitable, that whatever resources are needed to obtain it will be given to the task. That is the essence of what military historian Russell Weigley called "the American way of war." Overwhelm the enemy--instead of investing just enough, invest far too much. Make sure the other side knows that our capacity to give and take punishment immeasurably exceeds their capacity to absorb and inflict it.

The difficulties the Army has experienced in Iraq are due, in large measure, to the fact that the Defense Department forgot this historical lesson.
Donald Rumsfeld tried to run a businesslike war. But warfare is not business; it is not fought at the margin. By striving to do just enough to win, we have done too little. The right strategy is to do too much.

That is especially true of a war like the one in Iraq. Consider these data: Between November 2004 and February 2005, according to the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, the number of coalition soldiers in Iraq rose by 18,000. In that time, the number of Iraqi civilians killed fell by two-thirds, and the number of American troops wounded fell by three-fourths. The soldiers were soon pulled out; by the summer of 2005, American and Iraqi casualties rose again. Later that year, the same thing happened again. Between September and November of 2005, another 23,000 soldiers were deployed in Iraq; once again, both Iraqi and American casualties fell. In the early months of 2006, the number of soldiers fell again, and casualties spiraled up.

The picture is clear: More soldiers mean less violence, hence fewer casualties. The larger the manpower investment in the war, the smaller the war's cost, to Iraqis and Americans alike. Iraq is not an unwinnable war: Rather, as the data just cited show, it is a war we have chosen not to win. And the difference between success and failure is not 300,000 more soldiers, as some would have it. One-tenth that number would make a large difference, and has done so in the past. One-sixth would likely prove decisive.

Counterinsurgency warfare is more about protecting than killing--like a nationwide exercise in community policing. And the lesson of the 1990s in American cities is that the best way to reduce the level of criminal violence is to put more cops on the street. The lesson of the past three years in Iraq is the same: If the goal is to cut our losses, the best move is not to pull back, but to dive in--flood the zone, put as many boots as possible on the most violent ground. Do that, and before long, the ground in question will be a good deal less violent.

War is not poker; the stakes in Iraq are much higher than a little money or a few chips. But war's psychology bears some resemblance to a well-played game of cards. The only way Americans lose this war is to fold. That seems likely to be the next move, but it is the last thing we should do. Far better to call and raise. Our cards are better than theirs, if only we have the nerve to play them.

William J. Stuntz is the Henry J. Friendly professor at Harvard Law School.
 

Adam's Apple

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Food for thought for everyone in that article, Kathianne.

Last night on one of the cable talk shows, there were two veterans from the Iraq war who zeroed in with their opinions. They thought the war can be won, our military is capable of pulling this off, all that is needed is time to get the job done. They were complimentary of the strides being made by the Iraqi military and police.

To me, their message to the American people was be patient, support the effort and give it time to succeed. With our prevalent "I want results now!" attitude, I wonder how many converts they made.
 
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Annie

Annie

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Food for thought for everyone in that article, Kathianne.

Last night on one of the cable talk shows, there were two veterans from the Iraq war who zeroed in with their opinions. They thought the war can be won, our military is capable of pulling this off, all that is needed is time to get the job done. They were complimentary of the strides being made by the Iraqi military and police.

To me, their message to the American people was be patient, support the effort and give it time to succeed. With our prevalent "I want results now!" attitude, I wonder how many converts they made.
Yeah, the problem with Americans and our strength is impatience. We are always in a hurry and get bored too quickly. I think some of the naysaying on ADHD comes from the fact that we all have it. (Ok, I'm exaggerating!)
 

Gunny

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Food for thought for everyone in that article, Kathianne.

Last night on one of the cable talk shows, there were two veterans from the Iraq war who zeroed in with their opinions. They thought the war can be won, our military is capable of pulling this off, all that is needed is time to get the job done. They were complimentary of the strides being made by the Iraqi military and police.

To me, their message to the American people was be patient, support the effort and give it time to succeed. With our prevalent "I want results now!" attitude, I wonder how many converts they made.
Problem is, the sheep have run out of patience. The attention span has been stretched to the limit. We need an asterisk next to "resolve" that reads: as long as ti happens within 3-5 years max.
 
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Annie

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Problem is, the sheep have run out of patience. The attention span has been stretched to the limit. We need an asterisk next to "resolve" that reads: as long as ti happens within 3-5 years max.
I have to agree. At the same time I have this awful feeling that something will happen before a pullout can occur, that will change their minds or stiffen their spines once again.
 
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Annie

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Now this doesn't bode well. Of course it's from my very own :finger: Senator, Turbin Durbin:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061111/ap_on_go_co/warrantless_wiretaps
Warrantless wiretaps unlikely to be OK'd

By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press WriterSat Nov 11, 7:16 AM ET

Legislation aimed at President Bush's once-secret program for wiretapping U.S.-foreign phone calls and computer traffic of suspected terrorists without warrants shows all the signs of not moving ahead, notwithstanding President Bush's request this week that a lame-duck Congress give it to him.

Senate Democrats, emboldened by Election Day wins that put them in control of Congress as of January, say they would rather wait until next year to look at the issue. "I can't say that we won't do it, but there's no guarantee that we're going spend a lot of time on controversial measures," Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois said Thursday.

In Senate parlance, that means no.

Republicans for months have known that no bill accomplishing Bush's goal could get filibuster-proof support from 60 senators. Sealing off any hope was what Democratic leader Harry Reid put on his lame-duck to-do list. The warrantless domestic surveillance bill was conspicuous in its absence.

As for next year, Bush should not expect Democrats to allow such legislation to pass without language establishing considerable congressional oversight of any expansion of warrantless wiretaps.

"We have been asked to make sweeping and fundamental changes in law for reasons that we do not know and in order to legalize secret, unlawful actions that the administration has refused to fully divulge," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record) of Vermont, the next Judiciary Committee chairman. "If legislation is needed for judicial review, then we should write that legislation together, in a bipartisan and thoughtful way."

The Bush administration has a backup plan. In speeches over the next few weeks, the Justice Department will launch a new campaign for the legislation by casting the choice as one between supporting the program or dropping it altogether — and appearing soft on al-Qaida.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will make the eavesdropping program the focus of a Nov. 18 speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for the national security, will make a similar pitch Wednesday to the American Bar Association.

Leahy said that monitoring communications of suspected terrorists is essential but that "it needs to be done lawfully and with adequate checks and balances to prevent abuses of Americans' rights and Americans' privacy."

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush ordered the National Security Agency to monitor communications potentially related to al-Qaida between people in the U.S. and those overseas. He bypassed normal requirements for court approval of such eavesdropping, and the program came under harsh criticism after it was disclosed last December by The New York Times.

Democrats and Republicans on the intelligence and judiciary committees spent much of the year trying to find out details from the administration, to little avail. Much of the information is classified, and the White House has insisted that revealing it would mean compromising the war on terrorism.

The House passed a bill in September to allow warrantless wiretaps under certain restrictions. House and Senate intelligence committees and congressional leaders would have to be notified, the president would have to believe that a terrorist attack is imminent, and certification would have to be renewed every 90 days.

A Republican measure in the Senate favored by the administration would require the Justice Department to report twice a year to the House and Senate intelligence committees the number and kind of any such operations. It would permit the surveillance to continue for up to one year without a warrant.

___

The House bill is H.R. 5825; the Senate bill is S. 3931.
 

Gunny

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I have to agree. At the same time I have this awful feeling that something will happen before a pullout can occur, that will change their minds or stiffen their spines once again.
Realistically speaking, whether or not we pull out tomorrow or twenty years from now, tribal feudalism, religious fanaticism from within, and religious fanatics imported by terrorist groups aren't going to go away. They are a fact of life in the Middle East in all nations. Look how long Israel has been fighting terrorism.

The goal, IMO, is to leave the Iraqi government powerful enough to stand on its own without us. Hopefully, they won't take the chapter from our book on "resolve," or they won't last long.

There DOES have to be a time though, when this comes about, but not some arbitrary timeline set by politicians appeasing impatient people with short attention spans and no sense of integrity to finish what they started.

I also think we have done a remarkable jog in Iraq considering we are doing it the hard way; meaning, kissing politically correct ass instead of kicking it.
 
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Annie

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Realistically speaking, whether or not we pull out tomorrow or twenty years from now, tribal feudalism, religious fanaticism from within, and religious fanatics imported by terrorist groups aren't going to go away. They are a fact of life in the Middle East in all nations. Look how long Israel has been fighting terrorism.

The goal, IMO, is to leave the Iraqi government powerful enough to stand on its own without us. Hopefully, they won't take the chapter from our book on "resolve," or they won't last long.

There DOES have to be a time though, when this comes about, but not some arbitrary timeline set by politicians appeasing impatient people with short attention spans and no sense of integrity to finish what they started.

I also think we have done a remarkable jog in Iraq considering we are doing it the hard way; meaning, kissing politically correct ass instead of kicking it.
I agree. BTW I meant the 'spine' of the sheep. ;) not the Iraqis, they don't seem to have the jellyfish problem.
 

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Annie

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The Dems are loonies trying to live in some idealistic "have your cake and eat it too" world. They say they're all for combatting terrorism and are quick to point fingers when something happens while at the same time refusing anyone the tools to get the job done.
I am seriously hoping that the majority are of a different ilk than he. I know, it may be :tinfoil:
 

Gunny

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I am seriously hoping that the majority are of a different ilk than he. I know, it may be :tinfoil:
In all actuality, I don't see a real problem with Congressional oversight. It's one of their jobs. I DO wish they were as professional and diligent with all their responsibilities as they want to be with this one.
 

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