October 17, 2004

The Army Is in Worse Shape than I Thought

The Blackhorse Regiment is being sent to Iraq. This means that the army is in much more trouble than I had thought. And it drives Phil Carter--who knows whereof he speaks--beyond shrillness:

INTEL DUMP - : The Los Angeles Times provides a long report in Sunday's paper on the deployment of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, dubbed "Blackhorse" for the stallion on its shoulder patch, to Iraq for a year of combat duty. The regiment has long served as as the opposing force, or "OPFOR", for units from other installations coming to train at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Now, with the Army stretched to practically its breaking point over the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, the Army has turned to the Blackhorse regiment for help.

For years, The Box has been a stage for the Army's elite "opposition force" ? soldiers expert at assuming the roles of enemy fighters, be they the Taliban or Iraqi insurgents. Their mission is to toughen new soldiers with elaborate simulations ? staging sniper fire, riots, suicide car bombings and potentially dangerous culture clashes.

Staging such scenes has long been the work of the fabled 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, or Black Horse Regiment. But starting next month, the 3,500-member unit will begin shipping out to Iraq from the Ft. Irwin National Training Center, near Barstow. Deployments are nothing new in the Army, of course, but there is a special sense of urgency about dispatching the Black Horse to tackle situations that it has trained roughly 500,000 soldiers to handle since 1994. Now the bombs and bullets they encounter will be all too real.

"No one ever thought the Black Horse would be taken out of the National Training Center; they are just too valuable here," said Maj. John Clearwater. "But the Army is stretched too thin, and Iraq is a big mission."

The article misses the most important point: deploying the OPFOR is like eating your seed corn. This unit is responsible for training other units and raising their level of expertise and combat readiness. The 11th ACR is being replaced by a National Guard unit. That's like replacing the Dodgers with a high school baseball team. Sure, they can both play baseball and wear the uniform ? but one is a whole lot more proficient and experienced at its job. The OPFOR has a reputation as a tough enemy, and that's a good thing because it forces units training at the NTC to become better themselves. By replacing this unit with National Guard troops, the Army has hurt its ability to produce good units for Iraq in the future. Suffice to say, National Guard and active units that go through Fort Irwin aren't going to get the same tough experience they would have with the Blackhorse regiment as OPFOR ? and that means they'll be less ready for combat when they get to Iraq. This is a desperation measure, and I think the Army will come to regret it.

Posted by DeLong at October 17, 2004 08:53 PM | TrackBack
Comments

I was in a National Guard unit which had a backfill support mission at Fort Irwin. Members of my unit joked that if we ever got called up to do a total backfill, the U.S. was losing the war. Our support mission changed in the late 90's, but the idea remains the same. If you take the trainers out of school, who will teach the next students?

If the Army does this in a smart manner, they'll run with a mixture AD and NG folks for the next few rotations through the box to get the NG folks up to speed. Otherwise, the NG folks will have to work out of written training plans, and figure it out as they go along. Not the best way to get people trained and tested quickly.

Posted by: Marcus at October 17, 2004 09:26 PM

If the Army is sending its training units into the line, then our military has been reduced to eating its seed corn.

Posted by: Bob O at October 17, 2004 09:26 PM

I was in a National Guard unit which had a backfill support mission at Fort Irwin. Members of my unit joked that if we ever got called up to do a total backfill, the U.S. was losing the war. Our support mission changed in the late 90's, but the idea remains the same. If you take the trainers out of school, who will teach the next students?

If the Army does this in a smart manner, they'll run with a mixture AD and NG folks for the next few rotations through the box to get the NG folks up to speed. Otherwise, the NG folks will have to work out of written training plans, and figure it out as they go along. Not the best way to get people trained and tested quickly.

Posted by: Marcus at October 17, 2004 09:28 PM

I dunno.

I'd bet that OPFOR unit really excels at pretending
to be Soviet or Soviet style mechanized forces.

It will be awhile before we face anything like
that again. Nobody is going to get a free ride in the Army while Iraq is hot. That OPFOR
unit, the division in Hawaii, the division in
Korea - they'll all be rotating through Iraq. No sacred cows. The Army and Marines are just not big enough to deal with Bush's Folly.

I think the AirForce has a pseudo infantry unit. They should go too. That's when you'll know they're REALLY over stretched.

Posted by: Bram at October 17, 2004 09:28 PM

Click on my name for a really sickening tale. The Army is in such dire straits that they are sending injured soldiers with legs and arms in casts back to Iraq. They are sending totally debilitated soldiers back to Iraq. They are using up soldiers until there's nothing left to use up.

We're fucked.

- Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

Posted by: BadTux at October 17, 2004 10:09 PM

Click on my name for a really sickening tale. The Army is in such dire straits that they are sending injured soldiers with legs and arms in casts back to Iraq. They are sending totally debilitated soldiers back to Iraq. They are using up soldiers until there's nothing left to use up.

We're fucked.

- Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

Posted by: BadTux at October 17, 2004 10:23 PM

I'm not worried at all. I assume that even now, Glenn Reynolds is getting James Lileks and Stephen De Beste and maybe even Donald Sensing to tell us about the schools and how the Army is A-OK and we're just hearing about the bad stuff.

Go Fighting 101st!

Posted by: I'll Only Post Once at October 17, 2004 11:29 PM

What comes next? Shanghaiing combat-age men in bars and back alleys, issuing them an M-16, and "good luck, dude"?

Posted by: cm at October 17, 2004 11:48 PM

Click on my name for a really sickening tale. The Army is in such dire straits that they are sending injured soldiers with legs and arms in casts back to Iraq. They are sending totally debilitated soldiers back to Iraq. They are using up soldiers until there's nothing left to use up.

We're fucked.

- Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

Posted by: BadTux at October 17, 2004 11:56 PM

BadTux: Be patient. It takes a long delay for posts to show up. The post-abort-preview trick still works in principle, only there is now a minute-range delay.

Posted by: cm at October 18, 2004 12:03 AM

The Wehrmacht did the same thing for the same reasons in 1944, creating the Panzer Lehr armoured division from training units and sending it to Normandy. It was annihilated in Operation Cobra.

Posted by: JamesW at October 18, 2004 02:10 AM

yeah my bud is in the Army Reserve, serving in Hawaii with the unit that is supposed to deploy to Korea if the balloon goes up there.

I always knew if & when his unit was called things were spinning out of control, since this unit has been trained for a very specific role in the defense of Korea.

His unit was called up last month, to begin training for redeployment to Iraq.

I really really want Bush reelected. F&ck, I want Bush kept in office until there's piece in the mideast, the budget is balanced, and everyone's got a pony.

*you* f&cked it up, *you've* got to fix it!

Posted by: Fred at October 18, 2004 03:25 AM

"I'd bet that OPFOR unit really excels at pretending
to be Soviet or Soviet style mechanized forces."

That's a good point. After a year in iraq they'll have a much better feel how to simulate iraqi irregulars, to train our troops for the next 3 years of war in iraq.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 18, 2004 03:28 AM

Connecting Some Dots...More Dots Sought.

Remember back in the begining of the present administration, back when few were shrill, and those few not yet fully shrill save for one called the Mad Prophet and Dismal Scientist, the scribe of the Krugmanomicon?

1. Remember when that P-3 Orion was intercepted by the Chinese air force and forced to set down in China?

2. Wasn't there some story just a little while back, also reported on PHil Carter's blog about how though it be commonly said that the Army and Marines are FUBAR the Air Force and the Navy are in tip-top shape. But actually the Air Force isn't, - maybe with regard to recrutiment goals-I don't remember this part well.

3. Wouldn't it stand to reason that given the post above regarding the Army eating it's seed corn, that at some level in the chain of command of the Navy and Air Force, maybe just one or two strata below the Joint Chiefs, I don't know, that there are orders, perhaps tacit though they be shrill in intent, to give any potential situations as with the P-3 China incident, as wide a margin of safety as possible? Almost like orders to stand down, though not quite? It would make sense, though such officers would have to keep much from getting to their civilian oversight in DOD. Is that shrill enough for everyone?

BTW, A copy of this story should be sent out by Rock The Vote, and any who think that teenagers and young people in their early to mid twenties might very well be drafted should Bush get a second term.

The army is eating it's seed corn.


Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn


Aaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!

Posted by: Barry Freed at October 18, 2004 04:28 AM

More of the same over the weekend --


Sanchez said he was so badly undersupplied he couldn't keep fighting:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40321-2004Oct17.html

But of course, that's all been taken care of now. Except maybe it hasn't:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/18/national/18guard.html

"I'll Only Post Once" has it right, but forgot to add Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, all the unnamed White House sources, Rove, Gughs and the rest.

Posted by: kharris at October 18, 2004 05:05 AM

Gushs? Wow, when did Karen change her name? Sorry.

Posted by: kharris at October 18, 2004 05:13 AM

JamesW: Wehrmacht

And while at it, don't forget the Volkssturm ("people's storm troops") created in a last desperate attempt out of boys and old men, when all combat-age men were already churned through.

Posted by: cm at October 18, 2004 06:27 AM

The 11th ACR became an OPFOR unit after returning from Germany and GW1. It isn't the cav regiment it used to be when its main mission was to protect the Fulda Gap from Russkies tryin to invade Germany.

The mission for OPFOR has been more influenced by the first Gulf war than by lessons learned in Germany. Consider also that troopers in OPFOR units make it a matter of honor to beat the training troops.

But I agree: this is bad. This is a unit that is best used to prep other troops for combat, but not designed for deployment. Their TO&E is a completely different from the other ACR's

Posted by: Saint Fnordius at October 18, 2004 06:47 AM

How Many Iraqi Schools Would Jesus Paint? And Why Do So Many Of His American Followers Seem To Be Inhaling The Fumes?

Just what part of Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn don't they understand?

Posted by: Barry Freed at October 18, 2004 06:51 AM

It is not bad yet. It will be bad when we have to send the MP's, cooks and airplane mechanics to the front. That's not happening until next March

Posted by: Dave S at October 18, 2004 07:04 AM

Everything that's been done in the last several months has been calculated to stave of disaster until the election. At this point, the Green Zone is no longer secure, so disaster looks pretty close.

If Bush wins, he'll have a free hand and a four years blank check. If he loses, Kerry will be fucked (sort of like Bush the first left Clinton Somalia, except a hundred times worse).

There are literally thousands of media people and Republicans who pretty well know what's going on, but who aren't saying anything because of their career agendas, ideological obsessions, and utter cynicism and shallowness. If Kerry wins, there really have to be recriminations and score-settling (as I think Krugman has said).

One peculiarity of the moral-clarity people and the religious right is that they frame their political fight as a fight against amorality, cynicism, and relativism, but seem completely unaware that they too will be judged. The most dangerously cynical people in the world today are conservative Republicans.

If Bush wins........

Posted by: Zizka at October 18, 2004 07:16 AM

Well, this is bad, but as an independent piece of information not that bad on its own; you might well, in a sensible surge effort, deploy the training unit to get current experience.

The problem is that this isn't a surge effort; this is a last-gasp reinforcement.

Those seventeen reservists who refused to take an unescorted convoy with contaminated fuel are getting a fair bit of attention, all focused around the lack of escort and the suicidal nature of the mission.

The thing that should be getting the focus is the contaminated fuel; how short is fuel -- how bad is the general logistical situation -- if sending a suicide mission to deliver contaminated fuel seems like a good risk to someone in the command hierarchy?

The US Army has been put into what amount to pre-surrounded positions in Iraq; one of the consequences, obvious consequences, of doing that is that these units, highly mechanized and heavily dependent on a steady supply of fuel, ammo, and spare parts, are by default cut off from supply.

Expended is the usual term of art for units expected to maintain combat operations while cut off from supply; you may get some of the troops back, but they're not good for much after. You don't get the equipment or the live, functioning organization back.

Note the fraction of the US Army that is being, or will be, expected to do that, over the next year against multiple full-dress stage III insurgencies.

It's not sending in the Black Horse that should have you concerned; it's sending in the Black Horse making sense because there isn't going to be an Army to train for a half-decade or more, so expending the OP FOR specialists doesn't really cost the Army anything it hasn't already paid.

Concerned may not adequately cover the appropriate response to that circumstance.

Posted by: Graydon at October 18, 2004 07:46 AM

It is not bad yet. It will be bad when we have to send the MP's, cooks and airplane mechanics to the front. That's not happening until next March

Ever read Michael Herr's brilliant "Dispatches"? Herr as I'm sure you know wrote the Martin Sheen's narration for Apocaypse Now! "Dispatches" is a work of genius with many memorable parts. (For those who may not be familiar with Herr or the work, Herr was a reporter for Esquire during the Vietnam War. Unlike the reporters for the big dailies and TV networks, Herr only had to file every month or so, consequently he was able to leave Saigon and the "5 o'clock follies" as the daily briefings were called by reporters, and really roam all over and just hang out with all sorts of soldiers from all kinds of units in many different parts of Vietnam. )

Anyway, that reminds me of the section in that book where Herr talks about all the "crazy colonels", these completely batty off the wall nut jobs. One such colonel's particular monomania was a penchant for making all of the support guys in his battalion go out on patrol. Well, such troops haven't been honing their bush skills and it wasn't long before one such patrol, comprised of the entire cooking staff, chefs, prep cooks, etc, got ambushed one night. That unit had no kitchen staff for quite a long time after that little clusterfuck.

Posted by: Barry Freed at October 18, 2004 07:49 AM

Excellent comment Graydon:

But this part has me wondering:

It's not sending in the Black Horse that should have you concerned; it's sending in the Black Horse making sense because there isn't going to be an Army to train for a half-decade or more, so expending the OP FOR specialists doesn't really cost the Army anything it hasn't already paid.

Did Ahmad Chalabi pass off a document to the Bushists naming the hour and date of their eagerly anticipated Rapture?

I'm only half joking here. That would be the Chalabi half.

Posted by: Barry Freed at October 18, 2004 08:09 AM

"If Kerry wins there really have to be recriminations and score-settling."

All the more so, if Kerry loses. My son is 15 this month. The Bush administration does not deserve recriminations. It and its enablers deserve prolonged, awful vengeance.

Posted by: John Thullen at October 18, 2004 08:15 AM

My cousins late husband fought in the Battle of the Bludge. He was in the US Army Airforce Infantry.
A news story coming to a TV near you?

Posted by: dilbert dogbert at October 18, 2004 08:17 AM

Sending the trainers into combat was the beginning of the end of the WW2 German and Japanese air forces. Both tried to fight a long war with a short-war organization.

But then, you'll never get public support for a war of choice unless you sell it as a short war. It's a disadvantage of being an aggressor.

Posted by: ...now I try to be amused at October 18, 2004 08:34 AM

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/18/national/18guard.html?

Soldiers Saw Refusing Order as Their Last Stand
By NEELA BANERJEE and ARIEL HART

JACKSON, Miss. - What does it take for a man like Staff Sgt. Michael Butler, a 24-year veteran of the Army and the Reserve who was a soldier in the first Persian Gulf war and a reserve called up to fight in the current war in Iraq, to risk everything by disobeying a direct order in wartime?

On the morning of Oct. 13, the military says, Sergeant Butler and most of his platoon, some 18 men and women from the 343rd Quartermaster Company, refused to deliver a shipment of fuel from the Tallil Air Base near Nasiriya, Iraq, to another base much farther north.

The Army has begun an inquiry, and the soldiers could face disciplinary measures, including possible courts-martial. But Jackie Butler, Sergeant Butler's wife, and her family in Jackson say he would not have jeopardized his career and his freedom for something impulsive or unimportant.

The soldiers, many of whom have called home this weekend, said their trucks were unsafe and lacked a proper armed escort, problems that have plagued them since they went to Iraq nine months ago, their relatives said. The time had come for them, for her husband, to act, Ms. Butler said.

"I'm proud that he said 'no,' " Ms. Butler said. "They had complained and complained for months to the chain of command about the equipment and trucks. But nothing was done, so I think he felt he had to take a stand."

Other soldiers completed the mission the platoon turned down, the military kept functioning, and the Army has cast the incident as isolated.

But as the soldiers involved in the refusal in Tallil and others begin to speak out, it is growing more apparent that the military has yet to solve the lack of training, parts and equipment that has riddled the military operation in Iraq from the outset, especially among National Guard and Reserve units.

Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers, commander of the 13th Corps Support Command, which the 343rd reports to, said at a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday that he had ordered two investigations into the incident and the concerns expressed by the 18 soldiers "regarding maintenance and safety.''

General Chambers said preliminary findings showed that the unit's trucks were not yet armored and were among the last in his command to get such protection, because they usually functioned in less dangerous parts of Iraq. None of the trucks in his command were armored when they arrived in Iraq, General Chambers said. He told reporters that he had ordered a safety and maintenance review of all trucks in the 343rd.

"Based on results of this investigation other actions may be necessary,'' the general said, but he added, "It's too early in the investigation to speculate on charges or other disciplinary actions.''

General Chambers described the episode as "a single event that is confined to a small group of individuals.''

A number of Army officers contacted in recent days said such an apparent act of insubordination was very unusual, particularly among such a large number of soldiers in a single unit and especially since the military is all volunteer.

The incident has prompted widespread interest among military families who have complained in months past of inadequate equipment and protection for their soldiers.

Nancy Lessin, a leader of Military Families Speak Out, which opposes the war, said she had been flooded with calls and e-mail from families with a simple message: What had happened to the reservists echoed the conditions their own soldiers experienced in Iraq: a shortage of armored vehicles, especially for part-time soldiers' units; convoy missions through dangerous stretches without adequate firepower; and constant breakdowns among old vehicles owned, especially, by National Guard and reservist units.

"This is absolutely striking a nerve," Ms. Lessin said. "People are saying, 'This is the same thing that happened to my son,' and if the Army tries to spin this as 'just a few bad apples,' people need to know that these are common problems and what these soldiers did required a tremendous amount of courage."

Nothing seems to separate the men and women who defied their command in Tallil from the tens of thousands of others now in Iraq, their families say.

Posted by: anne at October 18, 2004 09:08 AM

What George Bush's War is showing for all adversaries to see is that the United States is in certain ways a paper tiger, that its resources are much more limited could have conceived, that its massive firepower cannot be used to advantage in certain types of conflicts, that it can be beaten.

The really dangerous message Bush and Rumsfeld are sending to the world is that we are much less powerful than anyone thought before the war, where the example of the Taliban was all anyone needed.

Posted by: Bob H at October 18, 2004 09:28 AM


Isn't it odd, that Bush thinks nothing is worth the expenditure of American embryos, yet thinks Iraqi embryos, babies, children, and women are acceptable losses?

(Never mind that the Iraqi civilians who die suffer far more than an unsentient blob of cells would.)

Posted by: Jon H at October 18, 2004 09:38 AM

Barry --

It's going to take a minimum of a half-decade to put the US Army back together from now, as a recruitment and training exercise, is what I meant. If they take the kind of Stalingrad casualties they've been set up for, you won't get the US Army back, you'll get something else.

That may be what Rumsfeld wants; he is reputed to hate the Army.

Bob H --

The US has been beaten. Iraq is a major strategic defeat. (Victory is what happens when the other guy gives up, and agrees that he's beaten. Iraq has multipled the other guy's numbers and filled his heart with the conviction that he can win. To get this, the Bush administration has expended the US Army and the United States' entire stock of good will and moral authority.)

The questions now are "how bad?" and "how recoverable?"; I would submit that the fellow who dug the hole this deep is not the fellow you can trust to know when to stop digging.

Posted by: Graydon at October 18, 2004 09:52 AM

"I'd bet that OPFOR unit really excels at pretending
to be Soviet or Soviet style mechanized forces."

Considering the Soviets have not been a threat for over a decade, this is a stupid assertion. My understanding, through Wes Clark's statements about his command at Ft. Irwin and on the staff of the Joint Chiefs, is that they excel at training soldiers for deployment to Iraq and Korea. Those were identified as the most-likely scenerios for which we should train our military. That was back in the early 90's as the military was trying to become more efficient in the face of necessary budget cuts.

Posted by: tanstaafl at October 18, 2004 10:07 AM

"I'd bet that OPFOR unit really excels at pretending
to be Soviet or Soviet style mechanized forces."
That's a good point. After a year in iraq they'll have a much better feel how to simulate iraqi irregulars, to train our troops for the next 3 years of war in iraq.

Read the article. At the moment, the OPFOR specialises in being Iraqi insurgents, not Soviet armoured cavalry.

On the subject of overstretch: how about this Black Watch thing? Either the US army is so stretched in its area that it has no reserve battlegroups and is having to call on the Brits (with all the problems that implies; different doctrine, political worries, etc) or this is some devious plan to keep US casualties low (at the expense of the UK) for the next few weeks. Either way I don't like it.

Posted by: ajay at October 18, 2004 10:17 AM

The fact of defeat -- inevitable since the attack on Fallujah and the Abu Ghraib revelations in April -- seems to be emerging for all to see. What about the domestic political consequences?

Posted by: sm at October 18, 2004 10:27 AM

NTC allocates a very minor % of training time to peacekeeping and guerrilla warfare. Let's be honest, NTC is a playground for tanks and bradleys to practice speeding across the desert while the Air Force strikes tactical targets easily viewed in the wide open desert.
If you look at training resources allocation within the Army, I'd bet the training $ spent on guerrilla warfare scenarios pales in comparision to the tens of millions in annual operating expenses for NTC. Let's be real: the regular Army (non-special ops) has not emphasized guerrilla war training. The Army is paying a high price for mis-prioritizing its combat training due to leadership's reluctance to conduct stabilization operations.

Posted by: t rat at October 18, 2004 10:58 AM

NTC allocates a very minor % of training time to peacekeeping and guerrilla warfare. Let's be honest, NTC is a playground for tanks and bradleys to practice speeding across the desert while the Air Force strikes tactical targets easily viewed in the wide open desert.
If you look at training resources allocation within the Army, I'd bet the training $ spent on guerrilla warfare scenarios pales in comparision to the tens of millions in annual operating expenses for NTC. Let's be real: the regular Army (non-special ops) has not emphasized guerrilla war training. The Army is paying a high price for mis-prioritizing its combat training due to leadership's reluctance to conduct stabilization operations.

Posted by: t rat at October 18, 2004 11:03 AM

mebbe i'm just naive about matters-military, but what training does this regiment have in counter-insurgency? aren't they best-of-the-best in tank warfare? i didn't realize the terra-ists in fallujah had an armored brigade?

the reason i'm snarky about this is that this regiment is one of the big reasons we have such an enormous conventional military edge over our rivals (nobody's better drilled and is as tactically sound as our ground units).

feeding the blackhorse regiment into the meat grinder to do a job they're not proficient in is either too stupid for words, or a sign of terrifying weakness on our part. or both, i suppose.

Posted by: dang at October 18, 2004 12:03 PM

Fred:..."until there's piece in the mideast..."

I know the feeling, and I know you meant peace.

Posted by: bncthor at October 18, 2004 01:57 PM

http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/9947413.htm?1c

Republicans, you gotta love 'em

Posted by: Ron Aarons at October 18, 2004 02:02 PM

OT but following the theme of being stretched to the limit: "70 police officers charged with protecting Congress...called in sick."--WaPo-- The never ending heightened alerts are exhausting police around the country. So we are in trouble in terms of protecting ourselves abroad and here at home. It looks like Bush is hanging out a huge banner that instead of saying "Mission Accomplished" says "Come and Get Us We're weak and Vulnerable". BadTux is right, we *are* fucked.

Posted by: Dubblblind at October 18, 2004 02:23 PM

Online Presidential poll:

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6092749/

Posted by: Kosh at October 18, 2004 02:51 PM

Anyone else noticing the internet seems slow slow today? From the New York Times to Brad DeLong's comment pages to Gmail.

Posted by: anne at October 18, 2004 03:21 PM

online casino

Posted by: online casino at October 18, 2004 03:24 PM

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/18/opinion/18herbert.html?hp

A War Without Reason
By BOB HERBERT

acing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
- President Bush, Oct. 7, 2002

There should no longer be any doubt that the war in Iraq is an exercise in lunacy. It was launched with a spurious rationale, the weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be a fantasy relentlessly stoked by obsessively hawkish middle-aged men who ran and hid when they were of fighting age and the nation was at war.

Now we find that we can't win this war we started. Soldiers and civilians alike are trapped in the proverbial briar patch, unable to move around safely in a country that the warmongers thought would be easy to conquer and then rebuild.

There is no way to overstate how profoundly wrong they were.

Our troops continue to die but we can't even identify the enemy, which is why so many innocent Iraqi civilians - including women and children - are being blown away. The civilians are being killed by the thousands, even as the dreaded Saddam Hussein is receiving first-class health care (most recently a successful hernia operation) from his captors.

Last week, in a story that read like a chapter from an antiwar novel, we learned that members of an Army Reserve platoon were taken into custody and held for two days after they refused to deliver a shipment of fuel to Taji, a town 15 miles north of Baghdad. They complained that the trip was too dangerous to make without an escort of armored vehicles. Several of the reservists described the trip as a "suicide mission."

The military said that was an isolated incident, but there is evidence of growing dissatisfaction among the troops, many of whom feel they are targets surrounded by hostile Iraqis -insurgents and ordinary civilians alike - in a war that lacks a clearly defined mission.

Even the heavily fortified Green Zone, which contains the U.S. embassy and the headquarters of the interim Iraqi government, was penetrated by suicide bombers last Thursday. At least five people, including three Americans who had been providing security for diplomats, were killed in the attack.

As the pointlessness of this war grows ever clearer, the president's grand alliance, like some of the soldiers on the ground, is losing its resolve. When John Kerry, in the first presidential debate, mentioned only Britain and Australia as he mocked Mr. Bush's "coalition" in Iraq, the president famously replied, "You forgot Poland."

Poland has 2,400 troops in Iraq. But on Friday the prime minister, Marek Belka, announced that he will cut that number early next year, and then "will engage in talks on a further reduction."

Mr. Belka has a political problem. He can't explain the war to his constituents. And that's because there is no rational explanation.

As for the rebuilding of Iraq, forget about it. Hundreds of schools were damaged by U.S. bombing and thousands were looted by Iraqis. It's hard to believe that an administration that won't rebuild schools here in America will really go to bat for schoolkids in Iraq. Millions of Iraqi kids now attend schools that are decrepit and, in many cases, all but falling down-lacking such essentials as desks, chairs and even toilets, according to the United Nations Children's Fund.

Military commanders are warning that delays in the overall reconstruction are increasing the danger for American troops. A senior American military officer told The Times, "We can either put Iraqis back to work, or we can have them shoot [rocket-propelled grenades] at us."

The president and his apologists never understood what they were getting into in Iraq. What is unmistakable now is that Americans will never be willing to commit the overwhelming numbers of troops and spend the hundreds of billions of additional dollars necessary to have even a hope of bringing long-term stability to Iraq.

This is a war that never made sense and now we are seeing - from the troops on the ground, from our allies overseas and increasingly from the population here at home - the inevitable reluctance to forge ahead with the madness.

The president likes to say he made exactly the right decision on Iraq. Each new death of a soldier or a civilian, each child who loses a parent to the carnage, each healthy body that is broken or burned in this war that didn't have to happen, is a reminder of how horribly wrong he was.

Posted by: anne at October 18, 2004 03:45 PM

Here is what an Army guy emailed me re the Air Cav:

"The OPFOR according to Ralph Peters and other leading Army strategic planners is now obsolete in training for the type of warfare we now face. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan depend upon decision making at the squad, platoon, and company level. The most successful units are those with innovative Captains, Lieutenants and Sergeants. Several after action reports from those engaged in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have specifically noted that the training at the National center with its emphasis on large scale armor and mech infantry operations is useless. Training and Doctrine Command has been considering a new format for some time. The Armored Cav outfit's being reassigned may be a reflection of its training obsolescence."

I give it to you without comment since I truly do not know.

Posted by: MICHAEL L HARRINGTON at October 18, 2004 04:51 PM

Brad,

I don't know why you thought the Army wasn't in deep trouble. Eric Shinseki said at the beginning of this mess that it would take 500,000 men to occupy Iraq. He was ignored and humiliated. When it became clear that he was right, you would have expected the regime to have sent 500,000 men to Iraq to occupy it.

That didn't happen.

Why not?

Because there aren't 500,000 men. Not when Iraq was planned. Not now.

What's in Iraq is what's available to send to Iraq. There aren't a whole bunch of Army guys hidden somewhere that Rumsfeld is refusing to send to Iraq because it would make him look bad. What you see is what we've got.

That's why there's talk about a draft.

Posted by: jam at October 18, 2004 06:45 PM

(From Al Jazeera:)

Brent Scowcroft tells the story of a pre-Iraq Army strategy session, including the post-war occupation, known as Phase 4-C. When the slide projector came to that point, the image said:
"Slide to be provided later."

The Army isn't in trouble, it's the Pentagon, and that ass-clown "sexiest man in DC" Donald Rumsfeld. Yes, if you haven't read the pre-war fluff piece about how tough and sexy Donny is, how "all the women want him", please Google it,
and then please Google our troops out of Iraq!

These are mad-men ass-clowns and we are chimps. Real men would already be saddling up for WADC.

Posted by: Tante Aime at October 18, 2004 09:17 PM

"Real men would already be saddling up for WADC."

...saddling up and slapping leather you mean...

Posted by: Harry Possue at October 18, 2004 09:47 PM

"The mission for OPFOR has been more influenced by the first Gulf war than by lessons learned in Germany. Consider also that troopers in OPFOR units make it a matter of honor to beat the training troops.

"But I agree: this is bad. This is a unit that is best used to prep other troops for combat, but not designed for deployment. Their TO&E is a completely different from the other ACR's"

Maybe their mission will be to train iraqi troops. Remember how the units that are supposed to do that now are way understrength? Maybe that didn't happen just because the army is so badly overstretched, maybe it's partly because it was so hard to find US guys in iraq who're qualified for that job.

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