Il Duce is plan­ning to plead tell us all that his “surge” of 20,000 troops in Iraq will help sta­bi­lize the nation so we’ll be able to hand off con­trol to Iraqi forces.

Apart from the fact that he’s dead wrong about the num­bers — off by an order of mag­ni­tude — we’ve seen this song and dance before. Remember “stand up/​stand down”?

In 2003, for­mer Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki was fired for hav­ing the temer­ity to tell the Textard’s buddy Rummy that some­thing on the order of 200,000 to 300,000 sol­diers would be required to cre­ate a gen­uinely effec­tive oper­at­ing force in Iraq.

The idea that it would take sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. General Shinseki gave his esti­mate in response to a ques­tion at a Senate Armed Services Committee hear­ing on Tuesday: “I would say that what’s been mobi­lized to this point — some­thing on the order of sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand sol­diers — are prob­a­bly, you know, a fig­ure that would be required.”

On what did Rummy base his esti­mates? On absolutely noth­ing. Rumsfeld, a career civil­ian, was in no posi­tion what­so­ever to advise the mil­i­tary on any of its func­tions; and, hav­ing been around dur­ing Viet Nam (but con­spic­u­ously absent from the the­ater of oper­a­tons), he really has no excuse for his spec­tac­u­lar will­ing­ness to ignore the his­tory of ill-​​conceived wars against neb­u­lous, spooky enemies.

On what had Shinseki based his esti­mates? Military his­tory, and a hell of a lot of it.

Who won that bat­tle? A life­time sol­dier, a patriot, a man will­ing to speak plainly to power? Or was it instead a dod­der­ing, irrel­e­vant old man?

Il Duce was fond of say­ing for a while that the “war on ter­ror” is like no other war in his­tory — and that’s sim­ply not true. The “cold war” that got hot by proxy in places such as Southeast Asia has some dis­tinct par­al­lels, and it’s only the obsti­nate stu­pid­ity of the Textard and his cronies that led the fool­ish, intellectually-​​lazy Bush boost­ers down the road to damnation.

But then, here’s the kind of value Il Duce places on history.

I think we agree, the past is over.”

With that depth of insight, it’s no won­der we’re where we are.

Bush has had it con­sis­tently wrong since 2003, and he’s wrong again this time. 20,000 troops is off by a fac­tor of ten, at least; we need 200,000 or more to truly res­cue Iraq from the hell we placed it in. Post-​​WWII Japan had a US occu­py­ing force of 450,000; that occu­pa­tion per­sisted for 17 years in a nation that had very lit­tle hos­til­ity left to pour on US soldiers.

We have only a third or so of that num­ber in Iraq now — and we’re fac­ing not an iso­lated, com­pletely exhausted enemy, but a continuously-​​renewed multi-​​front dan­ger that has more in com­mon with a hydra than any­thing else. And the total num­ber of US troops avail­able to be deployed world­wide is not a whole lot more than the num­ber that occu­pied Japan — around 500,000 sol­diers on active duty as of 2004. This is close to the autho­rized max­i­mum of 512,000, and doesn’t include the Army Reserve or National Guard, nei­ther of which should be deployed in Iraq; one is reserved for extreme emer­gency — which an elec­tive war absolutely is not — and the other is cru­cial for domes­tic defense.*

As I wrote back in November, we can’t rein­sti­tute a draft, and we’re going to be hard pressed to sum­mon the troops we need to really have a suc­cess­ful occu­pa­tion of Iraq — par­tic­u­larly in light of the prob­lems going on in the Sudan, Iran and North Korea. What that means is we have to apol­o­gize to the world that we pissed off and ask for the assis­tance of our allies in shoring up our num­bers; not just for our own secu­rity, but for that of the planet we all have the fre­quent exas­per­a­tion of sharing.

This means an end to the right-​​wingers’ dream of uni­lat­er­al­ism (which is really big­otry in dis­guise, but that’s a topic for another post); we’re going to have to make nice to the UN once more, and engage in diplo­macy for a while.

This also means the Dems will have to sprout spines pretty quickly, because there is no way any­one from the Republican side of the aisle is going to force the White House — or Washington — or the nation — to face reality.


* Such as help­ing out with the after­math of, oh I don’t know, a hur­ri­cane maybe.


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