succumbing to peer pressure

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Wee! Two posts in as many days. I must have some time on my hands. Or something I'm avoiding. I'll let you decide.

First up, this scary account of the 'beginning of the peace' in Iraq:

Gen. Tommy R. Franks climbed out of a C-130 plane at the Baghdad airport on April 16, 2003, and pumped his fist into the air. American troops had pushed into the capital of liberated Iraq little more than a week before, and it was the war commander's first visit to the city.

Much of the Sunni Triangle was only sparsely patrolled, and Baghdad was still reeling from a spasm of looting. Apache attack helicopters prowled the skies as General Franks headed to the Abu Ghraib North Palace, a retreat for Saddam Hussein that now served as the military's headquarters.

Huddling in a drawing room with his top commanders, General Franks told them it was time to make plans to leave. Combat forces should be prepared to start pulling out within 60 days if all went as expected, he said. By September, the more than 140,000 troops in Iraq could be down to little more than a division, about 30,000 troops.

That was 17 months ago.

The article goes on to say:
But many military officers and civilian officials who served in Iraq in the spring and summer of 2003 say the administration's miscalculations cost the United States valuable momentum - and enabled an insurgency that was in its early phases to intensify and spread.

"I think that there were Baathist Sunnis who planned to resist no matter what happened and at all cost, but we missed opportunities, and that drove more of them into the resistance," Jay Garner, the first civilian administrator of Iraq and a retired Army lieutenant general, said in an interview, referring to the Baath Party of Mr. Hussein and to his Sunni Muslim supporters. "Things were stirred up far more than they should have been. We did not seal the borders because we did not have enough troops to do that, and that brought in terrorists."

(emphasis mine)
The whole thing feels like a sad, scary parallel to the beginning of the AIDS crisis (hey, I'm in public health, what sorts of comparisons do you expect?). Throughout the early 80s, nearly every health expert on the ground, from scientists at the CDC to local health department officials to researchers at major universities were begging for more money to study AIDS. Most couldn't even afford the most rudimentary lab supplies, delaying the discovery of the virus for years (this is a big deal because discovery of the virus enabled us to create a test for the disease and thus people could know if they were positive and hopefully reduce the spread of AIDS). Anyway. While all this was going on, anyone in an administrative position maintained they had all the money they needed, because that was the party line they had to tow if they wanted to keep their jobs. And now it seems like anyone who's actually been in Iraq is saying we need more troops, while all the higher ups are insisting that everything is just fine. We should be smart enough to see through this. I'm not all eager to send more boys and girls over there, and I want to start bringing them home as much as the next person. But inadequate troop numbers do nothing other than endanger those who are currently there and further jeopardize any hope we have of 'winning the peace.' This should be way more important than any politicking over here.

And speaking of the need for more troops, two articles in the Times today address the whole draft issue. Sure, this is an ugly rumor that's been going around for a while, and both candidates insist they have no plans to activate the draft. But this is a new spin on things:
In a recent article in The Wisconsin Medical Journal, published by the state medical society, Col. Roger A. Lalich, a senior physician in the Army National Guard, said: "It appears that a general draft is not likely to occur. A physician draft is the most likely conscription into the military in the near future."

And Krugman makes this point:

Those who are worrying about a revived draft are in the same position as those who worried about a return to budget deficits four years ago, when President Bush began pushing through his program of tax cuts. Back then he insisted that he wouldn't drive the budget into deficit - but those who looked at the facts strongly suspected otherwise. Now he insists that he won't revive the draft. But the facts suggest that he will.

Bottom line is, eventually the talk on the ground that we need more troops will percolate up the food chain, and if we're serious about salvaging this thing in Iraq, it looks like we'll need more people over there. And given this president's history, the chances that if he gets another four years we'll find ourselves in another country (in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan) are not negligible. So one way or another, we're going to need more soldiers. Obviously, the preferred way to do that would be to offer better pay and support and thus attract more volunteers. But this guy hasn't seemed to inclined to do that either. I may trepidatiously say that I almost believe Bush when he says he has no plans at the moment to re-enact the draft. But I think any rational person can see that with another four years of him, the chances of another draft are significantly increased.

Lastly, for anyone who doesn't regularly visit my friend Steve's blog, he has posted an excellent outline of some scary affects another four years of Bush could have on our judicial system.


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