I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, December 18, 2006

There's easy and then there's magic

By Nitpicker*

By Nitpicker--In the list of dumb things said about the Iraq War, Robert Pollock's claim that it's "not a hard thing" to push some soldiers into Iraq sooner and keep others there longer ought to be put somewhere below Rumsfeld's "I doubt (the war will last) six months" and above Tony Snow's claim that journalists were trying to "summarize a complex situation (Iraq) with a single word or gerund, or even a participle." In other words, it's better than dangerously blinkered monomania and worse than mush-brained understanding of the English language.

Why would Robert Pollock (who, as far as I can tell, has never had a job outside the Wall Street Journal editorial pipeline) think that it would be easy to find 40,000 soldiers lounging around just waiting to lose a leg? Because, he said, we do have 1.4 million troops.

Anyone who's served in uniform a day in their life just plotzed.

Robert Pollock is technically correct. According to the DoD (PDF link), we do have 1.4 million active duty service members. However, half of those service members are sailors and airmen (PDF link). They do not have the training required to serve as infantry riflemen or military police, the MOSs most needed in Iraq. Not to mention those 700,000 Navy and Air Force service members are already manning the ships and aircraft for which they've been trained. Does Pollock think they can simply switch? No?

I'm not saying there aren't plenty of squids and zoomies with sand in their shorts, but only that Pollock's suggestion that dropping 40,000 troops in Iraq wouldn't be hard is asinine.

Don't look to the Army to just do more, either. It's nearly broken. That's not me saying that, but the Army Chief of Staff.

And I can't even begin to explain the compassion-free nature of Pollock's statement. I'm sure he thinks he can feel soldiers' pain having spent five grueling years in the Wall Street Journal office in Brussels, but as someone who's been deployed in the past couple of years, I can assure you the unplanned-for extension of a soldier by even a month would drop like a lead weight on the families waiting patiently at home.

Still, as I've said before, none of these Magic Number Theorists can explain what the extra troops would actually do, but that doesn't keep them from baring their teeth and screaming for more blood.

Update: It seems the Joint Chiefs agree with me. There's no plan in this plan.
But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.

The chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.

NOTE: Typos corrected.

* I want to thank Glenn for inviting me to guest blog here at Unclaimed Territory. I admit to being a bit surprised--I'm no lawyer and I'm a bit coarser than Glenn, but that's what you get when the military trains a welder's son to write. Come see me at Nitpicker.

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