Saturday, January 31, 2015

The New Math of Counter-Insurgency

During the Iraq War, the Bush administration received a lot of heat for failing to put enough troops into Iraq. Since we won on the battlefield by the time we left in 2011, we clearly had enough troops. We may actually have had enough troops even by liberal standards of criticism.

During the Iraq War counter-insurgency phase, many on the left argued that we failed to put several hundred thousand troops into Iraq as US Army General Shinseki once asserted we'd need to win, and as past counter-insurgency fights indicated could be necessary.

It was a dishonest critique by Democrats because they would never have supported an effort on that scale, but they made it nonetheless.

Yet except for specific periods when enemy initiatives threatened our war effort (I'm thinking of spring-summer 2004 and summer-fall 2006), I judged that we were winning the counter-insurgency war in Iraq despite the constant media cries of imminent defeat.

I wrote many blog posts calculating the troop-to-population ratio for our effort and continually judged we had enough to win.

The basis for my judgment was that the left was oddly only counting American troops when it was appropriate to consider all ground security forces and take into account the threat level in different areas.

At various times, I used contractor security figures when I heard them (I guess 16,000 or so was our peak for that category), tried to calculate the equivalent value of support contractors, included troops in Kuwait who supported the Iraq War but technically weren't inside Iraq and so weren't counted, considered how technology-based reach-back to personnel outside of the theater reduced the need for some personnel inside Iraq to do some jobs, and mostly counted allied and Iraqi forces--including self defense force militias--in counting how many troops there were to reach that somewhat magical level of having troops at 2% of the total population to control/protect in order to defeat insurgents and terrorists.

Since we did win the war, the Democratic critique was obviously wrong, no?

Funny enough, we actually had several hundred thousand American troops on the ground in Iraq:

The presence of so many civilian contractors in the combat zone was first noted by the mass media in Iraq. There were a lot of contractors there and by 2009 there was one civilian contractor for each member of the military in Iraq. Thus half the American force was civilians.

Since our troop presence in Iraq peaked at around 170,000 and since we relied on contractors to do jobs that during World War II would have been done by military personnel who were little more than civilians dressed in green, we actually had the equivalent of more than several hundred thousand troops in Iraq.

Remember, much of the past record of counter-insurgencies that led to the 2% figure (it's a guideline rather than a rule, of course) would have included lots of uniformed support personnel to calculate that ratio. If we simply hire those "troops" as contractors in this new era (and which is a return to older practices before mass conscription, really), the people doing the jobs are still there, no?

So even judged by the improperly narrow definition of whose troops count, as the embrace by Democrats of the Shinseki standard did, we had enough troops in Iraq to win the war.