October 16, 2007

'Knew' Being The Operative Word

The Washington Post has a must-read critique of the Iraq War written by veterans of the mission, similar to one written for the New York Times earlier this year. The twelve former captains of the Army write about their personal experiences and frustrations with force levels and the lack of progress. They make some good points, but the best point comes from the Post itself at the end of the piece:

This column was written by 12 former Army captains: Jason Blindauer served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Elizabeth Bostwick served in Salah Ad Din and An Najaf in 2004. Jeffrey Bouldin served in Al Anbar, Baghdad and Ninevah in 2006. Jason Bugajski served in Diyala in 2004. Anton Kemps served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Kristy (Luken) McCormick served in Ninevah in 2003. Luis Carlos Montalván served in Anbar, Baghdad and Nineveh in 2003 and 2005. William Murphy served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Josh Rizzo served in Baghdad in 2006. William "Jamie" Ruehl served in Nineveh in 2004. Gregg Tharp served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Gary Williams served in Baghdad in 2003.

Of the twelve captains that wrote this article, not one of them has served in Iraq since General David Petraeus took over command of the mission. Not one of them served with the higher force levels that have been deployed to Iraq. None of them served during the Anbar Awakening. Most of them last served in 2005, two years ago.

That doesn't mean that their input has no value, of course, but it does make them less than informed of what has happened in Iraq since the surge started. Fortunately, we have data on the effects of the surge that we can use instead. Violence has sharply decreased since the full deployment of the surge even with the aggressive tactics used to confront the terrorists. Iraqis have not only turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Shi'ites have begun turning against the thugs of the Mahdi Army. Political progress has not come as quickly as we had hoped, but in the past two months Maliki has reached out to Sunnis and isolated Moqtada al-Sadr, two important prerequisites for reform.

The 12 make a good point about Iraqi infrastructure:

Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

Iraq's institutional infrastructure, too, is sorely wanting. Even if the Iraqis wanted to work together and accept the national identity foisted upon them in 1920s, the ministries do not have enough trained administrators or technicians to coordinate themselves. At the local level, most communities are still controlled by the same autocratic sheiks that ruled under Saddam. There is no reliable postal system. No effective banking system. No registration system to monitor the population and its needs.

Unfortunately, this is one of those catch-22 situations that brings paralysis. One can't have rebuilding without establishing security, and security seems very difficult to establish when no one has drinking water, electricity, and sewage control. The US tried rebuilding immediately after the invasion, and had success with it outside of Sunni-controlled areas and Baghdad. However, they could not build infrastructure where it was most needed because of the failing security situation. The surge has given the US a window of opportunity to start addressing infrastructure needs, and they have already begun addressing the municipal infrastructure needs outlined in the essay.

Again, these twelve honestly reported what they saw, not what's been happening since they left. They haven't seen the efforts made in the wake of the defeat of AQI in western Iraq.

The essay ends with a call for a draft or a complete retreat from Iraq. That's simply nonsense. The US, as Jules Crittenden notes, has other means to increase the armed forces. We can increase recruitment by increasing the compensation for enlistments and re-enlistments. We can also start recruiting in more places -- like universities and colleges that now refuse such recruitment efforts. A draft army would take months to be effective, and would be less so than the current, professional volunteer forces that have performed so magnificently.

The twelve captains have written an indictment of the effort in Iraq, but the indictment only runs to 2006. It's incisive and intriguing, but not necessarily determinative to what is happening today.


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Comments (48)

Posted by NoDonkey | October 16, 2007 8:14 AM

If they weren't in Iraq prior to the surge, this qualifies as "old news" at best.

And I'm sure the Post could find 12 Captains or more like 1200 Captains who would sign an editorial that recognizes the need to stay in Iraq until the mission is complete, not that the Post would be the least bit interested in such a piece.

Posted by Scott | October 16, 2007 8:23 AM

Agree, NoDonkey, but I would take it a bit further. We won't really understand the impact of the surge for another 6-12 months. Too many variables. That is true of Sanchez's attac, as well.

Ed makes the very valid point that the political chaos has to be solved before the infrastructure problems can be addressed. Give the people 6 months of peace, and they will see a benefit in fixing the infrastructure. Give them 6 months of chaos, and infrastructure problems don't seem so important, compared to survival.

We have about 12 months before Americans make a decision about the presidency. It will be an important 12 months.

Posted by j | October 16, 2007 8:26 AM

It amazes me no end the lengths to which the MSM will go to find people to bash our military and Bush. Hopefully all these captains are gone b/c they don't have the backbone nor the chutzbah needed to serve in the US Army - in the big scheme of things, their behavior is woefully weak.

One can always find complainers (as well as supporters). Our MSM only focuses on complainers. They along with our MSM are doing untold damage to our nation and the move toward peace in the world. They may think they're helping but they're not. If this war morphs into a bigger one b/c we don't finish this one, their whining and moaning won't help anything and in fact, will actually be causal to the bigger war.

This behavior appalls me even more b/c we have a son who chose the military and is right now serving on active (stateside) duty.

Posted by Immolate | October 16, 2007 8:44 AM


I honor your son for his service.

I disagree, however, with your characterization of the twelve captains. Through their service they have earned the right to express their opinions honestly. Their accounts will be useful in evaluating and understanding the war when we start looking at it in hindsight. They have insight into narrow issues that are somewhat outdated but possibly useful. Their prescriptions for what needs to be done to "fix" Iraq, however, is as subject to personal bias and experience as any other person's.

Posted by swabjockey05 | October 16, 2007 8:52 AM

Immolate: Exactly right.

I'm surprised it took this long to get 12 Army Officers to come out of the closet....and that there are only 12...so far.

Again, if you have military experience, your opinion is only "front page" news if you agree (somehow) with the Dhimmis.

Posted by NoDonkey | October 16, 2007 8:53 AM

"Through their service they have earned the right to express their opinions honestly."

Perhaps, but they are talking way, way above their pay grade. As Captains, they are Company Commanders at best. They have no more idea about the big picture than anyone who reads papers and keeps up on the war does.

This is like a group of middle managers, say GS-11's , getting together and signing an editorial about "what's wrong with the Dept. of Education". Think it would get published in the post? Of course not. Because the Post likes the Dept. of Education and because GS-11s don't really know the big picture.

"Their accounts will be useful in evaluating and understanding the war when we start looking at it in hindsight."

Interesting yes, but all that useful, probably not.

Posted by joeadams | October 16, 2007 9:11 AM

Right, so, just to make sure I have this straight - we need to listen to our military leaders, unless they disagree with us, in which case we need to belittle them for their inability to see the big picture and their lack of perspective. I love it...phrases like "talking way way above their pay grade" are just so descriptive of the fans of the current administration. Keep up the great work team!

Posted by always right | October 16, 2007 9:20 AM

Even if these men and women served before end of 2005, it follows that they would still have close contact with their buddies. Not that I am suggesting sensitive information, but the general mood, complaints, etc. from their old comrades.

Can't just simply dismiss their opinions as outdated, but we have to tilt it with some weight.

Posted by Immolate | October 16, 2007 9:25 AM


I think you're intentionally misreading most of the comments. Everyone's input is valid and worthwhile--with the proper filters in place. Captains' observations are most relevant when dealing with issues that they have both experience and responsibility for. Like everyone else, once you leave that particular area of expertise, their beliefs and opinions are less relevant. I have an opinion about Iraq and what our core objectives should be, just as the twelve captains do. There's is more or less relevant than mine based on their experience, education and ability to reason. The same is true of the '08 election, immigration and health care.

I respect anyone's opinion that is honestly given.

Posted by richard mcenroe | October 16, 2007 9:36 AM

This is like criticizing the Normandy landings based on your bad experience at Kasserine Pass.

Posted by NoDonkey | October 16, 2007 9:55 AM

"I love it...phrases like "talking way way above their pay grade"

Um, I made O-3 or Lieutenant in the Navy (equivalent to an Army Captain) when I was 25. So these guys are probably 25-30 years old.

Do we have any other 25-30 year old men and or women setting defense policy for this country? If so, I'd like to know about it.

And I'm sure there are a lot of 25-30 year old Captains/Lieutenants who agree with the current strategy of General Petraeus.

Hundreds perhaps.

Will we see their reply in the Post?

Don't hold your breath.

Posted by chaos | October 16, 2007 10:12 AM

The editorial is useless as it is obviously not intended as part of some kind of review of the past to learn from mistakes; it is obviously intended to shape Americans' opinions of the situation in Iraq today, not a year or two or three ago. Extremely disingenuous and typical of the now-desperate MSM. They've seen all their narratives crash and burn in the last six months. The surge was failing militarily; no it wasn't. The surge wasn't bringing political reconciliation and the Iraqi government was endlessly paralyzed; from what we've seen, the bottom-up political reconciliation has accomplished much of what the national government was supposed to do, and Maliki seems content to more or less sit back and see what results that bottom-up strategy brings than try to micromanage and sabotage it.

The GOP was supposed to abandon the president; it didn't. The Democratic Party was supposed to stand in lockstep behind Pelosi and Reid; it is the Democratic Party that has fractured over Iraq, not the GOP.

By spring the major political question in Washington will be "how are the Democrats going to manage to keep their majorities in Congress?"

There has not been a more inept performance of a political party in general and its political leadership in particular than the Democratic Party from January 2007 to now in this country for generations. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are perhaps the worst leaders a major party has ever had in this country. The first female Speaker of the House of Representatives, also the most inept Speaker of the House ever. I'd hate to be myself if I was Nancy Pelosi, here I am in charge of the US House of Representatives and all I've gotten out of it is a bunch of smelly Code Pink retards camping outside my house.

Posted by Plank Tonne | October 16, 2007 10:13 AM

Given that conservatives are celebrating the success of the "surge" based on a reduction of violence to 2005 levels, 2005 seems like a very appropriate comparison. (Leaving aside the question of whether the "surge" is responsible for the current drop.) The situation in Iraq now is very much the same as it was in 2005, and then as now, no serious person thinks we can "win" an Iraqi civil war.

Posted by Ron Woods | October 16, 2007 10:23 AM

The 'surge' is working due to the overwhelming force being applied. When we have to reduce that overwhelming force - which we will have to due to lack of manpower - then problems will begin to reappear.

We have soldiers in Iraq on their 3rd and 4th tours. We cannot in good conscience ask them to stay for more. We need fresh reinforcements now! I don't believe that we can find enough volunteers on college campuses to make much of a manpower difference. The Army has already lowered their standards and is enlisting people with previous felony convictions - this will only lead to a giant headache down the road.

We need to implement a draft (with no educational deferments) asap. The draft should be used to augment the volunteer force and end when they are no longer needed.

In fact, we should pass legislation that directs the automatic implementation of the draft as soon as the national guards are activated in support of the all-volunteer force. Legislation of this type would give Congress pause before relinquishing their responsibility to declare war to the president. If legislation of this type would have been in place before Iraq, we would not have gone!

Posted by TimPundit | October 16, 2007 10:24 AM

Oh I see. We shouldn't listen to soldiers who were in the field but we should all accept Ed's view on the matter because Ed is.....what again?


A rightwing blogger.

So, we are now at the point where rightwing bloggers sitting on their asses in their comfy little media rooms in sububia are more credible than actual soldiers on the ground actually risking their lives.

No wonder the rightwing blogosphere is becoming 'malkinized' i.e. 'ignored' by Americans.

Posted by chaos | October 16, 2007 10:31 AM

None of those soldiers have been on the ground in Iraq for over a year. Most of them two or more years.

So your comment, besides making you look incredibly stupid, doesn't really do much there Tim.

I don't see why when retention rates are well above goals and the military is meeting its recruiting goals as well that we "cannot in good conscience" tell our soldiers who volunteered to be soldiers that they will be fighting for as long as necessary. This concept of it being unfair to send soldiers on more than X amount of combat tours is something that your typical American of only a few decades ago would find very strange.

Saying that the violence in Iraq is only down to 2005 levels is disingenuous in the extreme.

Posted by TimEnder | October 16, 2007 10:39 AM

Well, chaos, that was pretty lame insult. I'm used to much better from the rightwad sites. Especially this one.

Anyway, these soldiers have been on the ground for longer than Ed has...(and of course, we are taking Ed's word on their service time..no one's checked Ed on that yet) and Ed has how much time on the ground in Iraq?

Typical Bush Apologist....we should listen to the soldiers on the ground....unless we don't like what they're saying then we should listen to a conservobot blogger.


Posted by chaos | October 16, 2007 10:50 AM

Well, chaos, that was pretty lame insult. I'm used to much better from the rightwad sites. Especially this one.

I wasn't aware that anyone here, particularly myself, thought you were in some kind of judging position. Rather presumptuous and onanistic of you.

Anyway, these soldiers have been on the ground for longer than Ed has...(and of course, we are taking Ed's word on their service time..no one's checked Ed on that yet) and Ed has how much time on the ground in Iraq?

The issue is that they have not been in Iraq for the implementation of the new strategy, so their comments on its effectiveness stemming from their own experiences aren't valid. It's like saying that I've driven dump trucks all my life so my opinion of the quality of a new sports car is valid.

If you're going to bore me with stupidity don't bother replying.

Typical Bush Apologist....we should listen to the soldiers on the ground....unless we don't like what they're saying then we should listen to a conservobot blogger.

These soldiers haven't been anywhere near "the ground" for 12 months at least.

You're so blatantly lying that it's really just disgusting. Try harder troll retard.

Posted by Cycloptichorn | October 16, 2007 10:54 AM

What makes comments from people who haven't been to Iraq at all more valid then those who have been, but aren't there for the 'new strategy' (Which is a real joke, sorry- you do realize that there's no new strategy at all?)

What has kept them from knowing/learning the same things about the situation as any of you - but coming to different conclusions?

Trying to minimize the impact of their op-ed by kissing up to Saint Petraeus is really, really lame. Things in Iraq are roughly the same now as they were when the majority of those fellows were there, with many more dead or displaced. How many more years of this are people willing to put up with?

Posted by Reg Starling | October 16, 2007 10:58 AM

TimEnder, are you saying you don't trust the Washington Post to properly cite sources? To refrain from making up bad info on the spot? 'Cause arguing about "Taking Ed's word" on these officers' service time(s) is kinda hard to do when he's directly quoting an article from a major daily newspaper.

Cyclo, there's a difference between "Whack-a-mole" and "whack-a-mole-but-seal-the-hole." Don't just take my word though--go try it at your local Chuck E. Cheese's sometime.

Posted by chaos | October 16, 2007 11:09 AM

What makes comments from people who haven't been to Iraq at all more valid then those who have been, but aren't there for the 'new strategy' (Which is a real joke, sorry- you do realize that there's no new strategy at all?)

That's an idiotic quote on three different levels.

First, it frames the issue as Captain Ed's opinion vs. these soldier's opinion as deciding the Iraq issue. That's just nonsense. No one here has said you have to believe Captain Ed or you have to believe these soldiers.

Second, your assertion that there is no new strategy is simply a lie.

Third, you can see how desperate the defeatist Left is getting. Now they simply try to mimic whatever we're doing - see how Cyclo tries, like TimEnder, to try to make it seem as if we are indistinguishable from MoveOn with soldiers who disagree with us.

What has kept them from knowing/learning the same things about the situation as any of you - but coming to different conclusions?

That isn't what their op-ed is about. It wasn't "We were in Iraq, here is our view of the situation today." It was "We were in Iraq, it was shitty then, we should leave."

This dishonesty is getting tiresome.

Trying to minimize the impact of their op-ed by kissing up to Saint Petraeus is really, really lame. Things in Iraq are roughly the same now as they were when the majority of those fellows were there, with many more dead or displaced. How many more years of this are people willing to put up with?

There's no need to minimize the impact of their op-ed. Anyone who isn't an idiot would tell you that the war two years ago is not the war today.

Things in Iraq are not roughly the same as they were when the majority of those fellows were there. That's a lie, period.

All the defeatist Left has to offer anymore are unsupported assertions, hubris, and lies.

Posted by mikem | October 16, 2007 11:10 AM

Flame wars don't get us anywhere.
Chaos, et al,
This strategy (the "surge") is no different than what we have tried to do in the past, it's just that we are doing it with more (and definitely not enough) troops. Every time that we have made a push into territory to "clean house", we have left to only have that territory retaken again later by those we pushed out. The surge is not sustainable; we'll be pulling out forces next year. The same people we pushed out will be back. The surge strategy is not a strategy, but a repeat of the same things we failed at before. In another few years we will be discussing the next surge or the next strategy and how we are making progress. (how many times have we heard that, by the way? So many times, in fact, that one might actually see signs of, you know, progress.) This can't go on. The draft is not the answer--it'll take too long to implement, and the country won't allow it.
Honestly, I just don't see how this can work. I don't know how we can continue. And, I don't see any other way out but to just leave.
I am definitely not trying to pick a fight with any of the commenters, nor am I trying to scream that I am right. I just don't see how we are winning or how we are going to win this thing.

Posted by chaos | October 16, 2007 11:17 AM

This strategy (the "surge") is no different than what we have tried to do in the past, it's just that we are doing it with more (and definitely not enough) troops.


Every time that we have made a push into territory to "clean house", we have left to only have that territory retaken again later by those we pushed out.

Which is not what is happening now.

The surge is not sustainable; we'll be pulling out forces next year.

The first accurate thing you've said.

The same people we pushed out will be back.

No they won't be.

The surge strategy is not a strategy, but a repeat of the same things we failed at before.


In another few years we will be discussing the next surge or the next strategy and how we are making progress.


. (how many times have we heard that, by the way? So many times, in fact, that one might actually see signs of, you know, progress.)

If you aren't aware of what is going on in Iraq then stop giving us your opinion on it.

You badly need educated on what is really going on in Iraq, you obviously don't know anything that has happened there since January. You're just massively ignorant of the events that have taken place there this year. There's no other way to say it. About 60% of your post was just completely contradictory to reality and the rest of it was impassioned wailing about how you don't know this and that - correct.

I find it amazing that so many people are so ignorant of what the new COIN strategy is. The things you said - we're doing the same thing we did before, which you repeated about four times - are just simply entirely inaccurate.

Posted by Cycloptichorn | October 16, 2007 11:22 AM


"Things in Iraq are not roughly the same as they were when the majority of those fellows were there. That's a lie, period."

You're right - they are much, much worse. If you're an Iraqi, that is. 2 million displaced internally and 2 million out of the country; that doesn't sound like an ideal situation to me.

There is no 'new strategy.' There are new tactics. There's a significant difference. The new tactics have had some success, and why shouldn't they? The US military doesn't lose fights against people who have no air support whatsoever. From a strategic point of view, however, we are no closer to securing that country today then we were in 2005.

You are indistinguishable from MoveOn when it comes to people who disagree with you. The Right wing begins to attack anyone who speaks out against the war from inside the military, or at the very least pats them on the head like they are some sort of confused child; which is even more patronizing and insulting, really.

How is the new strategy materially different then the old strategy? We have more troops, and we're using different tactics; but what are the strategic differences? Specifically, please.

Posted by tomjproudamerican | October 16, 2007 11:23 AM

1. We will not be able to judge the effectiveness of the Surge until later.

2. There are great "infrastructure" problems in Iraq that are, as Captain Ed noted, twinned with the Security issues. The Security issues will not be solved until there is political progress in uniting Iraqis as a single nation.

3. We do not know if the parties are biding their time for a full scale Civil War or Partitioning after the Surge, or ten years down the line if American troops ever leave.

4. We need two more Surges, I think:

a. we need an infrastructure surge which the American taxpayers will have to pay for under The Pottery Barn Rule (we did break Iraq).

and b., the Captains are correct that we need some kind of massive rebuilding of the Armed Forces, either through a literal or figurative draft.

5. Iraq will be our financial and moral responsibility for the next 50 years. We are still in Korea, but South Korea has capitalism, so they pay their own way. An Islamic Middle East country has oil. Period.

6. In light of these factors, it is difficult to see what a great day it was when we marched off to war, cheering and whooping and hollering.

Posted by mikem | October 16, 2007 11:24 AM

"Nuh-uh" isn't a very convincing rebuttal to my statements. Maybe they are inaccurate statements, and perhaps you can educate me on this. Can you provide me links to information that will enlighten me. (and, please, no opinion bloggers, unless they happen to link to accurate reports)
So, the only accurate thing I've stated is that we will need to draw down forces next year. I'm glad you agree with that, at least. So, what happens then, when the surge ends? Will the Iraqi army magically come up with the well-trained, loyal to Iraq and not their tribe forces to fill in the gaps? If not, what then?

Posted by Captain Ed | October 16, 2007 11:24 AM

A couple of items:

1. I have never been to Iraq.

2. The difference in troop levels between 2005 and 2007 are not just the American troops, although we have 30,000 more now than then. It's also the number and quality of the Iraqi Army troops. They have played a critical role in our ability to hold territory once we've cleared it. The 12 Captains have not seen that ability.

Just for the record, I do think the article was interesting and worthwhile. It just doesn't have much to do with what's happening on the ground now, as independent journalists like Michael Yon, Michael Totten, and even New York Times reporter John Burns have informed us.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 16, 2007 11:35 AM

"We have soldiers in Iraq on their 3rd and 4th tours. We cannot in good conscience ask them to stay for more. We need fresh reinforcements now!"

First, IF the military is indeed so badly overextended, why has Congress chosen to not address this by appropriations to expand the Armed Forces? It is a simple matter of authorizing expenditures and appropriating the funding. So far, a lot of talk, but no move to give the Army or the marines additional funded units and manpower.

Second, since we are not going to get Congress to bite the bullet and expand the Armed Forces, we have to look at the list of volunteers who are signing up, starting paperwork, badgering their commanders, for the opportunity to get back to Iraq, and it is large. In my son's unit, active duty Marines, there is a wait list, extending past the enlistments of many Marines, as so many have voiced their desire to get back out and get to work, real work, rather than hang around Pendelton and doing Mickey Mouse projects.

This is their chosen profession. They want to get out and exercise their training and use their skills in their chosen profession.

Treating them like children, gee, we have to stop them from doing what they do and want to do because it isn't fair, is a common theme, mostly among Guard units, mostly among families of Guard units, far less so in Reserve units, far far less so in active duty forces, asnd a very very large theme among so many of the public.

We supposedly learned from Vietnam that one-uear tours didn't work well. Experienced troops, NCO's and officers were removed from theater at just about the time they had reached a high plateau of efficiency, as did the units in which they served. It did not work well overall. And we had a vocal public demanding that the troops come home, now!

Rotation of units back to the States while at war may seem a nice thing to do, give the troops time with their spouses and kids, girlfriends and Mom and Dad...but what does that rotation actually accomplish from a strategic and tactical level?

Each new unit arriving in Iraq has a run-up phase, getting acclimated or re-acclimated with the environment, getting fresh or re-freshed on equipment, learning the new rules of engagement, getting into a tactical mode vice a training mode, making halting first new steps into the combat zone, taking a few months to get fully operational and conversant in their area of operations.

Then, allowing them a few months to learn their tasks, reach a high plateau of combat efficiency and cohesion with superior, adjacent and subordinate units, and then draw down and return to the States.

For each year a unit from the States is in Iraq, they have about 6-8 months max of actual combat effectiveness. Far far less so if kept in garrison or held behind the walls of large enclaves, as was the case when LTG Sanchez was in command.

When involved in an operation that requires, seriously demands a deep familiarity with the local environment, familiarity with the local lay of the land, cognizance of the local governence and leadership, requiring a familiarity with the normal daily habits of the locals and recognizing those abnormal habits and patterns that are precursors to attack or violence, rotating units in and out of Iraq works against the entirety of the program.

Knowing that on every Saturday and Thursday Mustapha and his family, who the individual troop can recognize from a block away, hang around the northwest end of the souk from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and being able to recognize when Mustapha and his family are not at the souk during those same times something bad has happened somewhere in the vicinity of the souk is not something that can be learned in a classroom at a stateside base. It has to be learned on the ground in theater. it takes time to acquire that particular skill set.

Familiarity of the environment, faculty in the language, recognition of who is who and where they are supposed to be and recognize when they are not is not made easier by the six-month or even one year routine rotations of units in and out of Iraq.

In conventional warfare, having R&R facilities in the rear areas was routine, and we had troops leave home in April 1942 and not return home until August 1945, but were pulled from the front lines routinely for R&R and to draw replacements. Being in for the duration was an acepted mode, and uncomfortable as it was, had we tried to rotate units into and out of theater in Europe or the Pacific, limiting them to six months or one year, the war would have gone on a lot longer.

In asynmetric warfare, where full cognizance of the combat environment is a matter of success or failure, of life and death, trying to pull experienced troops and units out at the height of their combat effectiveness and replace them with units that have to gin up to speed over a period of weeks or months, is a force depletor.

Posted by patrick neid | October 16, 2007 11:46 AM

I could care less what these 12 have to say. I respect their service, they have earned the right to type but their opinions? Yawning. In fact that is what most of the colonel's above them probably felt. In every war there are thousands of troops who think the situation/strategy is the shits. Read about prior conflicts. To date the carping about this war is minuscule.

All I care about is, are we winning?

We have been winning since the first day. As some one famously quipped:

"war is a series of castrophies which end up in victory"

Posted by Swede | October 16, 2007 12:35 PM

This Friday marks my third week home from Iraq.

I've served 2 tours: the first from Feb 04 to Feb 05, the second from Sep 06 to Sep 07.

Both times I've served in Baghdad (though on my second tour I served mostly in Balad). The evidence that things are better rests in the fact that Victory doesn't get mortared like it used to. My last 2 months in Bagdad we got hit 4 times. My first tour there we'd get hit 4 times a day.

Now, these Captains are free to say what they like. I'm just an LT (Army), but it is obvious to the people there, right now, that the drop in violence is truly remarkable.

The surge is working.

Posted by swabjockey05 | October 16, 2007 12:53 PM


I used to like riding Army Dogfaces. Not anymore. This swabbie's tipping his piss-cutter to ya, Shipmate. Wish I could buy you a drink or light the smokin' lamp.

Posted by Jeff Nuding | October 16, 2007 12:58 PM


I haven't seen these questions explicitly asked.

1. Are these 12 Captains engaged together in some kind of organization? Do they know each other, or did the WaPo reach out and find them? Who was the animus/organizer behind them? The WaPo, or some advocacy group?

2. I suspect the objective was to find officers who weer against the war or want us out. How many thousands of CPTs are there now or who have gotten out?

3. How do 12 people write an Op Ed together? (No, seriously.) Only because I find it hard to believe 12 people can frame, outline and argument and then write it. Obviously, a limited number of these 12 constructed it, ran it past the others and they said, "add this," or "reads okay to me." Related to #1 above, who framed their piece? Was the outline already pre-prepared, and they just signed on?

This seems like the OP Ed equivalent to astroturfing.

Posted by arch | October 16, 2007 1:15 PM

In Vietnam, we did indeed have a one year rotation, but these were individual tours, not units redeploying. Also, many people had more than one tour in South East Asia, so it was not always an FNG that arrived. In fighters, we crewed new pilots with experienced weapon systems and vice versa. We also put them on the wing or an experienced flight lead. It worked pretty well.

All GIs bitch captains included, especially on remote combat tours. I think it's a rule. How many captains have rotated through Iraq? You're a captain for 6 years? They are 5% of the unit manpower? 140,000 troops times 5 years times 5% is 35,000 captains. 12 out of 35,000 is 0.0342%. Doesn't sound like a mutiny to me.

I say listen to what they suggest. If any of it is valid, act on it. If not, thank them for their interest in national defense and go on to the next problem.

Posted by Immolate | October 16, 2007 1:41 PM


It isn't the duty of the blog or the forum to educate you on Iraq. You would have a hard time saying what you said if you'd read Yon or Totten and were up-to-date on what is going on in Iraq from the various sorces. You have a right to your opinion, but uninformed opinions are a waste of everyone's time. The information is free... go get it.

Posted by Bryan | October 16, 2007 3:19 PM


Great post. Your post alone should quiet 75% of the protests that came before you.

About the only thing I would add to what you've said is that nobody who is actually in the military wants anything to do with the draft. I half-believe that the left wants to reinstate the draft just so they can then rail against the injustice of sending poor Johnny into combat. Instuting a draft immediately creates the problem of having your military with a sizable population of men with no desire to be in the military. Secondly, the education level required for even the grunt soldier is high... do we then exempt a draftee because he lacks the basic knowledge or education needed in the modern military. It would be the reverse of what we had 35 years ago... rather than exempting the college student, we would need to exempt the high school drop out who failed his GED.

The people screaming for a draft are not doing so out of a love of the military.

And, personally, for all you guys in uniform, I will gladly buy you beer anytime I see you. You have my thanks. This conflict caught me at an age when I was already too old to enlist. But I spent 21 years as a Navy dependent, much of that time during Vietnam, and I will always speak up for the honor of the military. We are well beyond the days when children have to see their fathers spit upon when they come home, and I will have words with anyone who wants to take us back to that.

As for you idiots discounting Ed's argument because he hasn't served, what makes your argument any better? For every active duty or retired military man you quote in opposition to what's going on on the ground in Iraq, I can quote ten in support of what's going on since Gen. Petraeus has taken command. We now have in place a man who can actually win this war, and you still want us to lose it. For what purpose? So we can fight it again somewhere else?

Posted by davod | October 16, 2007 3:33 PM

We should thank the Washington Post. The Captains comments represent a vindication of the change in tactics.

Posted by Russ | October 16, 2007 4:27 PM

Why is it that folks at WaPo or the NYT only find folks opposed to what we are doing, when people like me are lucky if we get a letter to the editor in a regional newspaper(The Charlotte Observer, for example).

For every soldier you find opposed to the war, I will find 10 who, like me, know what we are doing is worth it. The single biggest frustration I have had since returning, and it is a frustration shared by the vast majority of my fellow soldiers, is that the news coverage does not match the country we were in. It is misleading at best, intentionally skewed to shape opinion at worst.

I look forward to WaPo's attendance at a CGSC forum or their attendance at BNCOC to talk to soldiers who believe in the mission. But I won't hold my breath.

Posted by NoDonkey | October 16, 2007 4:52 PM

Any active duty Captain who would actually wish a draft on themselves or their comrades, is seriously delusional.

Yes, add a bunch of surly, unmotivated, indentured servants to my unit. What a joy that will be to lead.

This is just the efforts of a bunch of Democrats to slavishly follow the party line.

This was written for them, undoubtedly by some Democrat Party hack.

Posted by NoDonkey | October 16, 2007 4:55 PM

I bet this guy isn't going to get a Washington Post interview anytime soon:


Posted by suek | October 16, 2007 5:38 PM

More on those Captains and the article here:


Posted by Russ | October 16, 2007 6:05 PM


You're absolutely right. We don't want a draft. Moreover, we have met recruiting goals for the past fiscal year. I agree that we need more troops, but that should come in the form of congressional authorization of such. Then see if we can meet the numbers(we have before) before we even talk about such nonsense.

Even if we get a draft, it's far from an overnight solution. Draft board, lottery, notification, reporting, basic, AIT, and unit training, it would be 18 months(at least) before the first draftee is on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan.

And that's just for privates. Growing the NCOs and mid-level(field grade) offciers needed to run such a bunch would take even longer, unless folks want inexperienced and untrained leadership.

Funny how the Left was trying to scare college kids that Bush would bring back the draft if re-elected(nearly three years and still waiting on that one), but it's always the dems who bring up the damn thing.

But who would listen to me? I mean, I'm just a soldier who happens to agree with the current conflict's goals, like most of my peers.

Posted by BB | October 16, 2007 6:24 PM

Bryan: You are dead right on the draft call. I distrust anyone or any screed that calls for a draft.

A draft is the ulitmate poison pill.

It would destroy competency and morale. It would give us another generation of John Kerrys and victims to oppose the next unwanted but necessary conflict. It would be the most effective possible ressucitation of the Left. You think they're annoying now?

Posted by BB | October 16, 2007 6:30 PM

Russ: You're dead on too. But the Left doesn't care about workability or destruction of the NCO corps. They know it would hobble us, the military. They know it would cripple national will. They know it would create a whining screaming class of leftist victims just waiting for their marching orders from the DNC and the DU.

And, judging from Vietnam, it doesn't even matter if it's a Dem that commits the forces! It's always a win when you are a societal vandal.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 16, 2007 6:52 PM

A Draft? Daft!

A Draft? For basic straight leg infantry, if this were 1970, and we faced massed armies of tanks and infantry across whole theaters. We don't need massed divisions and corps. We don't need "warm bodies."

We need soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are motivated, able to work well in small unit tactics, able to engender civil affairs, able to learn special operations as well, educated and willing to learn, voluntarily willing to put in the extra effort thinking and able to adapt quickly without a lot of getting permission from higher up as situations change. Recalcitrant draftees are not part of this equation, nor should they be.

Congress, if they want to chant the mantra that our military is overextended, needs only to immediately authorize expansion of the military and immediately appropriate all necessary funding to make it happen, before they consider ANY other legislation of any type.

Or Congress and others who talk about a draft should just shut up.

Posted by j | October 16, 2007 7:38 PM

Coldwarrior, Bryan and Russ - some reactions to your posts.
1 - in 2002, some members of Congress and military people asked Rumsfield and Bush to increase the cap on the military; both said "no." This was a mistake. They did think we could out military Saddam's army and we did but that wasn't enough.
2 - In the current DOD budget is funding to grow the Army and Marines in particular. But it takes time to get the people in the pipeline.
3 - It's the Dem leftists who refuse to let military recruiters into high schools and onto campuses for career days but they are quick to propose a draft.
4 - I totally agree the only reason the left/Dems talk draft is to get the kids to keep voting for them.
5 - For now the rotations, good or bad, are determined by military branch; the Webb amendment would have had the rotations determined by Congress. Guess who designed the Webb Amendment - Dem. Sen. Webb from VA. BTW, Coleman supported it - he's heard from a few of us about this.

Posted by j | October 16, 2007 7:42 PM

A final point: I spent about 20 years with top flight private companies, both international. I would hire most of these people who have military experience in a heartbeat. Why?
1 - They're not spoiled, they don't think they're the greatest thing since sliced bread
2 - They work
3 - They respect authority
4 - They know how to really lead
5 - They listen
6 - They know life isn't fair
7 - They show up on time
8 - Most present very well
9 - They understand what we're fighting and why
10 They chose the tough road, not mom and dad's "pay for six years of college" easy road.

Finally, they have CLASS!

The ones I wouldn't hire are the moaners and complainers. I want people who want to solve problems, not whine about stuff.

Posted by Russ | October 16, 2007 8:46 PM


Maybe I'll look you up for my next career when my military service is up in about 8 years. :-P

Posted by mikem | October 17, 2007 3:25 PM

Thanks for the advice, but I wasn't talking to you. Please spare me the lectures. I present a position that seems to be supported by historical fact over and over again in this conflict. We didn't have the manpower in the beginning and we don't have it now. The Iraqi's will not produce the necessary numbers to support what we are doing when we are FORCED to reduce numbers next year (not because of "conditions on the ground"). We have seen this same thing played out before. It will happen again. What I get from everyone here is "nuh-uh" or "your stupid for not knowing what's going on". I ask you to point me in the right direction. You say find it yourself. Thanks, but I thought i would start by coming here. I thought there might be someone here who might be able to help me understand these things better. I didn't come here to pick a fight, or flame anyone. But, all I get is derision for saying what I think. Thanks everyone, you've been a big help.

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