Sunday, December 11, 2016

When Fake News is Promoted to Conventional Wisdom

It is interesting how misinformation--fake news, I suppose you could call it--lives on. The "firing" of General Shinseki by President Bush 43 is a case in point.

General Shinseki was supposedly fired by Bush for the general's inconvenient truth prior to the Iraq War of saying we'd need 300,000 American troops after the fall of Saddam's regime to stabilize the country.

But Shinseki's retirement was announced a year before that testimony.

And consider that even though we won the Iraq War on the battlefield by fall 2008--making the counter-insurgency fight a successful one, all things considered--we never had more than a little over half of what Shinseki said we needed to win.

So Shinseki was neither a prophet nor fired for his prophecy.

Indeed, I recall one Army study that said 100,000 troops would be needed to pacify Iraq (and many more would be needed for Afghanistan, but I can't remember the number and don't feel like searching for that post).

I'm reasonably certain that the Army study was based on Sunni Arabs being 20% of Iraq's 25 million people and that we'd need 2% of that population in troops to pacify them. That gives 100,000.

That ignores that more are needed to protect your friends and ignores that Iran activated their Shia supporters even as Syria funneled Sunni Arab jihadis into Iraq (Assad is thrilled that he allowed that pipeline that now ends in Syria, eh?)

Mind you, more than 300,000 troops were needed to win. What annoyed me about the 300,000 number--and the countless claims that we didn't have enough troops to win in Iraq--was that it oddly assumed that only American troops counted.

I spent countless pixels during the war doing basic analysis of Iraq regions and people and figuring out estimated threat levels and troop needs, and mostly concluded we had enough troops to win the war.

And we did win the war. President Obama failed to exploit or defend that victory, of course. So we are back to Iraq War 2.0 to recover what we lost.

And I guarantee that nobody in the Obama administration is saying we will need 300,000 American troops left in Iraq after this war against ISIL is over to defend what we've regained.

Sorry I don't have a link to the Shinseki reference that prompted this post. It was mostly an off-hand comment in some article that annoyed me, but I ignored it. But then it just burned for a while until I had to get my annoyance of that persistent error off my chest.

Oh, and by the way, President Obama actually did fire Shinseki--by compelling his resignation as head of Veterans Affairs.