L. Paul Bremer joins the band wagon: We needed more troops

The WashingtonPost has a story on L. Paul Bremer’s new book and how his request for more troops was denied (either explicitly or implicitly). According to the article (I have ordered but not read the book yet), "Bremer recounted how Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then the top U.S. commander in Iraq, reinforced this view, telling Bremer that with two more divisions, Baghdad could be controlled."

Controlling the images of the war in light of stop-loss orders, increasing deaths of American soldiers after the end of "major combat operations" and the President’s spectacularly staged landing on an aircraft carrier with the sunlight hitting his head just right to create a halo effect (and one of many usage of the military as props) is an attempt to allow the American public to stay free (as in unhindered emotionally or financially) to pursue happiness, benefit from tax cuts, and, as Thomas Friedman put it a couple of years ago, to enjoy the “Super Bowl halftime show, buying a new Hummer, and [ultimately] leave this war to our volunteer Army”. In other words, no sacrifices are required from the public, especially no emotional sacrifice as the Administration does not subject itself to the Dover Test (coffins on TV, remember when the pictures appeared and the rhetoric of their destabilizing "effect"?) to limit the power of “the temperamental atmosphere of a Gallup poll”.

The Bremer book is likely just one of many books to come out in the coming years on how the Administration took its unitary executive stance further than they admitted and further than public wanted. One of the big stories I think that will come out is how the military continued to request troops, equipment (including armor for the body and vehicles), and appropriate strategy and the Administration failed to deliver believing they had the answers and the professionals did not. This is not to say Bush is selecting targets like Johnson did, but the suits (aka "civilian elites") fail to respect and understand the nature of war and what it entails, choosing to limit the engagement of the American public in its cause. With fewer military veterans among the civilian elites holding policy making positions in the US government, the realities of military engagement becomes an abstract concept countered only by subordinated military elites. The veteran status of the civilian elites is central to their position on the use of military force. Active duty officers and veteran civilian elites hold nearly the same views on the use of military force, which is less hawkish than civilian elites without military experience. This decrease in awareness and understanding of the consequences and value of hard power was inversely proportional to the abandonment of “the first principle of civilian control, the bedrock practice extending back into pre-modern England: reliance on the citizen soldier for national defense. Going to war had required mobilizing the leadership, media, and public to maintain an understanding and congruent strategy to prevent swings of public opinion.

The solution to security situation, as propagated by L. Paul Bremer, was private industry. It will be interesting to read how he justified the expansion of the use private security contractors. Was it done to augment the lack of troops? Augment missing skill sets? Deniable accountability? Cost? In 1998, then-Colonel Bruce Grant, wrote a prize winning essay at the National Defense University, commenting on how the increased use of private security companies “cheapens the image of the military and its status in society by blurring the distinction between active duty servicemen and women, and consultants whose motive is profit.” He went on to quote an active duty Army officer on how it is “hard to understand how one day the general in uniform is a selfless servant of the state motivated by love of country and dedicated to soldiers, and the day after retirement is selling his services to the highest foreign bidder. This contradicts the military ethic of selfless service and cheapens the profession of arms in the eyes of the public.” This was before the widespread deployment in Iraq of some 20,000 private security forces, making it the second largest contingent (if grouped together into a unit which they are not) in country. (Does this make Bush’s coalition really the Coalition of the billing?)

The article closes with what is the largest problem we faced in Iraq: the actual and true size of the reconstruction effort. The Administration, in its unitary frame of mind, disregarded its own and outside professional opinions on what would result. The friction of the Administration

further complicated by bureaucratic delays in approving contracts and providing funds. "Washington red tape would slow reconstruction funds and personnel for almost a year," he writes.

See also USA Today on his book (which I now have but haven’t read yet).