Monday, November 13, 2006

To Win the War, Don't Run It Like a Business

William Stuntz has this great article in the Weekly Standard (via Ann Althouse). He says the reason we have been losing the war is because Donald Rumsfeld has tried to run the war like a business: put in just enough troops (resources) to cover the costs and democracy will win (profit).

According to Stuntz, that's the wrong model for this war or any war.

Why do insurgent gangs, who have vastly smaller resources and manpower than the American soldiers they fight, continue to try to kill those soldiers? The answer is, because they believe they only have to kill a few more, and the soldiers will leave. They need not inflict a military defeat (which would be impossible, given the strength of the American military)--all they need to do is survive until American voters decide to throw in the towel, which might happen at any moment.

The proper response to that calculation is to make emphatically clear that the fight will not end until one side or the other wins, decisively. That kind of battle can only have one ending, as Abraham Lincoln understood. In a speech delivered a month after his reelection, Lincoln carefully surveyed the North's resources and manpower and concluded that the nation's wealth was "unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible." Southern soldiers be gan to desert in droves. Through the long, bloody summer and fall of 1864, the South had hung on only because of the belief that the North might tire of the conflict. But Lincoln did not tire. Instead, he doubled the bet--and won the war.

In other words, the terrorists in Iraq figured that if they waited long enough (for the next election), Americans would grow tired of the war and bail out (like in Vietnam and other unpopular actions). I took a lot of heat over at Liberal Avenger for having the audacity to say that Americans don't have the stomach to win wars that last longer than Desperate Housewives. Apparently, saying that the war in Iraq will only be seen as worse than Vietnam if liberals and journalists keep painting it that way isn't playing nice and being civil in this new age of civility.

Interestingly, what I see from liberals is an all or nothing approach to Iraq: either we have to send 400,000 troops to finish the job or pull out entirely (or whatever the catch phrase is they are using these days). But according to Stuntz, we don't need 400,000 troops, only a few more than we have now.
Consider these data: Between November 2004 and February 2005, according to the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, the number of coalition soldiers in Iraq rose by 18,000. In that time, the number of Iraqi civilians killed fell by two-thirds, and the number of American troops wounded fell by three-fourths. The soldiers were soon pulled out; by the summer of 2005, American and Iraqi casualties rose again. Later that year, the same thing happened again. Between September and November of 2005, another 23,000 soldiers were deployed in Iraq; once again, both Iraqi and American casualties fell. In the early months of 2006, the number of soldiers fell again, and casualties spiraled up.

The picture is clear: More soldiers mean less violence, hence fewer casualties. The larger the manpower investment in the war, the smaller the war's cost, to Iraqis and Americans alike. Iraq is not an unwinnable war: Rather, as the data just cited show, it is a war we have chosen not to win. And the difference between success and failure is not 300,000 more soldiers, as some would have it. One-tenth that number would make a large difference, and has done so in the past. One-sixth would likely prove decisive.

Stuntz goes on to compare counterinsurgency warfare to the strategies used during the 1990s to reduce crime: put more cops on the street and crime goes down. This makes sense to me. It's not like cities deployed 400,000 cops to bring down the crime rates. Just a few more made a difference. The problem with Iraq is that we (yes, I said WE) still aren't willing to put in the manpower necessary and resolve to stay until the job is done. That we are paper tigers is what last Tuesday's election was about.