Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Pointing Fingers

I'm no expert on the matter, but doesn't this sound like blaming the troops?
We've got lots of soldiers sitting on megabases all over Iraq. They should be out and about, some of them embedded, others just moving around, tracking the terrorists, hunting them down. I don't know how many guys and gals are sitting in air-conditioned quarters and drinking designer coffee, but it's a substantial number. Enough of that.

That's from Michael Ledeen at The National Review.

Clearly, our problem is that our troops are living the cushy life in Baghdad. Why, they might as well be in Boston for all the danger they're facing! Get out there, and gun down some terrorists, lazy ingrates!

Via Publius.


Anonymous said...

I didnt find the quote you used at the link. Was it taken down?

Anonymous said...

5th paragraph, it's still there.

Anonymous said...

If you read the entire article you will see that the author is not blaming the troops at all.

The author suggests that the real problems are:

1. Iraq's judicial system, which is "totally centralized in Bagdad" and which, according to the author of the article, repeatedly sets suspected killers free because of inefficiency and a lack of local judges. He suggests that Iraq needs to establish local courts throughout the country ASAP.

2. Lack of embedded Coalition soldiers. The author notes that "increase in embeds doesn’t necessarily require an increase in overall troop strength." That happens to be the topic sentence (which you conveniently left out) of the section you quoted. The author is finding fault with current military strategy in Iraq, not with the performance of the troops themselves.

3. Iranian and Syrian support of terrorism in Iraq.

David Schraub said...

Ledeen isn't blaming the troops for living a cushy life, but he still is saying that there lives (through brass mismanagement or whatever) are cushy. If they were only forced to work harder, we'd be winning now!

Anonymous said...

Again, you are misrepresenting his article. He never said or implied that "If [the troops] were only forced to work harder, we'd be winning now!" This is a gross distortion.

First of all, your choice of the word "force" implies that the soldiers would not want to serve as embeds and would have to be compelled or strong-armed into doing so. It is important to remember that these brave young men and women voluntarily enlisted to protect our country. They did so at the risk of their own lives, willing to make to ultimate sacrifice, if need be, to secure the safety and freedom of others.

Secondly, you claim that the author argues that we are losing the war because the troops aren't working hard enough and their lives are too "cushy". In fact, the author simply suggests we increase the number of embedded Coalition soldiers and that one way to do so is to recruit more embeds from the soldiers already stationed in Iraq. He believes it is a mismanagement to station troops on large megabases instead of having more work as embeds. Maybe he's right. Maybe megabases are not as effective in fighting this sort of war. As to whether life on a megabase is less dangerous and more comfortable than life as an embed, I don't know; perhaps it is. That's not the point. The point is to try and utilize the most effective military strategy.

Lastly, you say that the author claims that "we'd be winning now" if the troops were forced to work harder. However, the author never came close to making such a claim. He consistently maintained that there are many problems in Iraq including (1)Iraq's judicial system, (2)the failure of the defense ministry in Baghdad to properly pay the Iraqi troops, (3)prominent Americans continually repeating the threat of withdrawal, and (4)Iranian and Syrian support of terrorism. The lack of embeds was only one point, in a series of many. It was never said to be the main cause of problems, nor was it extolled as the simple solution.

David Schraub said...

To your (1): Soldiers may have volunteered to be the army, but they are still "forced" to obey their orders under any reasonable interpretation of the term (e.g., they can't really choose to ignore them). That doesn't mean that it's evil to force them. But it's still within the common meaning of the term.

To your (2): Ledeen specifically says that a "substantial number" of US troops are "sitting in air-conditioned quarters and drinking designer coffee." If that doesn't imply they're living the cushy life, I don't know what does. I think any US troop stationed in Iraq--regardless of the capacity--deserves our respect and admiration for the incredibly tough job they are being asked to do--implying that they are being paid to sip lattes is spectacularly disrespectful.

To your (3), perhaps it would be better to say that ending the coffee drinking air conditioning facet of our troops existence is a necessary, but not sufficient requirement for winning in Iraq. But that doesn't really change the point.

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right that US troops deserve "our respect and admiration for the incredibly tough job they are being asked to do." I'm glad you didn't refer to their service as the tough job they are being "forced" to do.

I also agree with you that the author's brief description of life on a megabase is not representative of what goes on there. Although it may be factually true that megabases are air conditioned and serve coffee, this has nothing to do with their purpose. The author chose these details to emphasize the ineffectiveness of megabases as compared to embedded operations. His tactic is not very persuasive to me, because it doesn't provide useful information about the strategic benefits of reallocating our resources. I would have preferred to hear about what is currently being accomplished on megabases, and how much could be gained by reassigning troops to other posts. In order to really get at the heart of the matter, the author would have to write a much longer article.

Although I agree the article could have been written better, it did not blame the troops for the problems in Iraq, and it definitely did not imply that they were "lazy ingrates".