Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Advisors Give Advice

Never forget the difference between means and objectives; or between the tools and the task that requires the tools.

On the Weekly Standard blog there is another criticism of efforts to withdraw troops from Iraq to "save" the Army and keep it ready for other fights at the risk of losing in Iraq:

To the extent that ground forces would be needed, surely the Army and Marine Corps would be able to commit adequate resources. But to pull forces from Iraq in order to improve readiness and without regard for the impact on the security situation in that country just wouldn't make any sense. The point of maintaining readiness is to allow American forces every opportunity to secure victory in combat. To sacrifice victory in combat in order to improve readiness is a kind of backwards logic that obscures the real objective of its advocates.

Yes indeed. While the American generals back home responsible for generating forces surely don't want us to lose in Iraq, their job isn't to win the war in Iraq and so they don't make recommendations on what it takes to win the war. It isn't fair to say they are blind to victory (as I implied in the post of mine cited this paragraph), although many who are anti-war grab at the readiness issue to compel retreat and defeat in Iraq. Have no doubt about that. Good grief, what other fight would the anti-war side want to be ready for?

Again, it isn't fair to say that the generals back home are just dense or blinded by their jobs to sustain the Army that they are ignorant of the situation in Iraq. In fact, these generals have a separate job of saying what must be done to maintain the health of the Army.

The Army in Iraq has the job of saying what we need to do to win in Iraq. And if the Army must be harmed to win the war, that isn't their job to consider.

The President's job is to decide what to do with these conflicting recommendations.

Winning in Iraq is the correct basis for a presidential decision. So don't get too worked up over the Joint Chiefs' recommendations. They're not supposed to consider their judgment on the war when they assess the stress on the Army. They're just staying in their lane.

UPDATE: These officers know they are giving advice and right up front note that battlefield needs trump their hopes to reduce tours of Army troops to 12 months:

The proposal, recommended by U.S. Army Forces Command, is being reviewed by senior Army and Pentagon leaders, and would be contingent on the changing needs for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our top priority is going to be meeting the combatant commanders' requirements, so there may be no decision until we get more clarity on that," Army Col. Edward Gibbons, chief of the command's plans division, said Wednesday. He said the goal was to meet those demands while still reducing soldiers' deployments and increasing their time at home between tours.

If possible, the reduced tours would be phased in for the brigades currently in Iraq. And it all depends on whether we reduce our troops in Iraq from the surge peak as planned:

Gibbons said the new proposal assumes that commanders will maintain 15 combat brigades in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.

Sticking strictly to the Army issue and ignoring the 8 Marine regimental combat teams available, we have 42 active Army brigades (with 6 more coming over the next several years). We need 1.15 brigades to keep a brigade in the field for one year (allowing for travel and overlap). So 42 brigades would in practice mean 36.5 brigades in the field for one year. If you want them one year in the field and one year at home, we could keep 18.25 brigades in the field for 12-month tours. This fits the assumption of 17 brigades in the field. And this doesn't include mobilizing Guard brigades to the mix. Since Guard units mobilize for one year with 9 months in the field, we aren't taking about more than 3 brigade equivalents in the field for a year.

If we want to have units in the fight for a year with two years off, our ultimate goal, we'd need to get down to 10 Army brigades in Iraq and 2 in Afghanistan. Six more infantry brigades planned will give us a bit more to work with. But the key to eliminating stress is turning the fight over to Iraqi units that replace our units instead of reinforcing our units.

Unless the enemy can find a way to adapt to our success and regain the initiative in a way that requires us to keep fighting at current levels of troops, we are on the way to reducing stress on the Army without compromising ultimate victory in Iraq.