Gates, in Iraq, Hears Support for More Troops
BAGHDAD, Iraq Dec 21 — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, talking to enlisted soldiers on his second day in Iraq, heard broad support today for a proposal to send more American forces to Iraq, an idea that has emerged as a leading option as the Bush administration considers a strategy shift.
“I really think we need more troops here,” said Specialist Jason T. Glenn, one of several soldiers at a breakfast meeting with Mr. Gates who backed the idea. “With more presence here,” he said, security might improve to a point that “we can get the Iraqi Army trained up.”
When Mr. Gates asked, “Do you think we need more American troops?” a majority of the soldiers nodded their heads or murmured, “Yes, sir.”
An army specialist is a technician with the equivalent rank of corporal. I don't mean to pick on Specialist Glenn. He certainly has a right to his opinion and to express it to the Secretary of Defense when he's asked for it, but he's hardly Carl von Clausewitz, so why did his opinion on a possible troops surge make the second paragraph of a lead story in the Times?
And how does a majority of junior enlisted men at a breakfast nodding or murmuring "Yes, sir" constitute "broad support" to send more troops to Iraq?
Cloud notes that "It was not clear how the soldiers who met with Mr. Gates had been selected." It may not have been clear to Cloud, but it's plain as day to me. I can't count the number of staged events like this I saw in the course of my career--a supposedly informal meeting between hand picked volunteers and a VIP where the hand picked volunteers tell the VIP what he wants to hear while media reps look on. (Footage of the breakfast appeared on MSNBC Friday morning, along with the message that enlisted personnel want more troops in Iraq.)
This story wouldn't be so bad if we hadn't already been through scores of these phony town hall encounters during the Bush administration, and if it weren't being projected on the heels of reports that our top generals don't think sending more troops to Iraq is a good idea. That I agree with the generals doesn't necessarily make them right. But I don't see what lasting good a surge in troops would do unless all the militant groups joined together in a decisive battle for Baghdad, and that is not a realistic expectation.
It's possible that a surge of U.S. troops in Baghdad could chase all the bad guys out of the city long enough to train more Iraqi troops, rebuild some of the city, and allow the unity government to get its act together. But if 7 or 8 or 9 months go by and the troops aren't trained and the city isn't rebuilt and the government is still a sham, what then?
The surge option has been referred to in Pentagon circles as the "double down" strategy. A more accurate name would be "all in," because if the gamble doesn't work, we'll pretty much be all done.
A fairly decent argument says that we'll be all done if we don't try something, and that a surge is the only thing we can try that has any hope at all of success.
If that is this administration's best assessment, it needs to sell the strategy to the public in frank, somber terms. We've been fed enough cow plop about this woebegone war, and we don't need to hear or see any more of this "It's what the troops want" balderdash.
And the big media players need to quit letting themselves be used for covert propaganda purposes.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.