Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Use All the Numbers

I think we have enough forces to win in Iraq and our progress toward winning the war validates my confidence.

This RAND analysis (via the Weekly Standard blog) concludes we have way too few troops in Iraq to pacify the angry population, arguing that our ratio of 6.1 American security forces per 1,000 people doesn't come close to reaching the minimum of 20 per 1,000 people that historical evidence shows is necessary:

It turns out that the number of "world policemen" required is roughly proportional to the size of the population being protected or controlled. At the low end of the scale is the proportion of police officers required for day-to-day law enforcement duties among generally peaceful populations such as those in the United States. Peaceful populations require force ratios of somewhere between one and four police officers per thousand residents. The United States as a whole has about 2.3 sworn police officers per thousand residents. Larger cities tend to have higher ratios of police to population.

For cases drastic enough to warrant outside intervention, the required force ratio is much higher. Although numbers alone do not constitute a security strategy, successful strategies for population security and control have required force ratios either as large as or larger than 20 security personnel (troops and police combined) per thousand inhabitants. This figure is roughly 10 times the ratio required for simple policing of a tranquil population.

The British are acknowledged as the most experienced practitioners of the stabilization art. To maintain stability in Northern Ireland, the British deployed a security force (consisting of British army troops plus police from the Royal Ulster Constabulary) at a ratio of about 20 per thousand inhabitants. This is about the same force ratio that the British deployed during the Malayan counterinsurgency in the middle of the 20th century.

I've addressed the numbers game before in some detail, most recently here, but let me try another shorter version based on this RAND study.

I have a question. Why aren't non-American forces counted by RAND? I'm reasonably certain that the Malaya operation counted locals in the total count and even the author of the RAND study says police should be included in the force total examined, so it can't be that he doesn't count Iraqi police because they aren't troops. The author counts local police in the Northern Ireland example, if you'll notice. So why only count American combat troops in Iraq when other outsiders are involved and when Iraqis are involved?

I count 160,000 US troops in Iraq right now. Add 23,000 Coalition, 20,000 contract security, and 212,000 Iraqi security forcs, and we have 415,000 troops, police, and guards. This alone gets us to 16.6 troops per 1,000 for all of Iraq. This is far better than the 6.1 ratio the study says we have. Still, this is shy of the minimum of 20 that history shows is needed for tougher opponents.

But as I noted, I think we are clearly winning. So how do you explain this in the face of failing to meet the minimum troop-to-population ratio?

Let me ask a second question. Why are we assuming that the standard of 20 security personnel per 1000 people applies to the entire country? Aren't the Shias and Kurds more accurately termed "generally peaceful" rather than hostile requiring the highest force ratios? The study author even notes that although the US has a ratio of 2.3, cities may have higher ratios. Why? Because local differences require different levels of security forces. Mayberry, for example, needed one wise sheriff and a poorly trained but well meaning deputy who was allowed to carry one bullet in his pocket--not a dozen heavily armored and armed Marines patrolling the streets with generous rules of engagement.

Surely, we shouldn't need 20 per 1000 people in the Kurdish north or Shia south. Yet the 5 million Sunnis aren't all in one homogenous area, so we can't say the population to be pacified is only 5 million. Subtracting the 3 million Kurds in the north and the 8 million Shias in the south, we have 5 million Sunnis plus 2 million Kurds and 7 million Shias in the ethnically mixed center. This totals 14 million people. (I'm going by memory from when I first looked this up)

To reach the minimum ratio of 20 for the 14 million in the pacification area, we would need 280,000 of the 415,000 security forces available. Let's say 300,000 for a little extra just in case. This leaves 115,000 for the almost purely Shia and Kurdish regions. Yet we really shouldn't count the Kurdish region as needing troops, since the security totals I cite don't include the Pesh Merga that provide regional security. So the 115,000 extra forces we have for the non-mixed area need to protect 8 million Shias in the south. These forces provide a ratio of 14.4 to protect the Shias--well above the peaceful range of the US as a baseline, yet getting fairly close to the ratio needed for a tough area.

You can do the math right every time, but if you don't have the right numbers, the results just don't make sense compared to the real world situation of a winning war effort in Iraq.

We have enough troops in Iraq.