Friday, January 7, 2005

Lots of Luck in Iraq

Luck, as in 4-star general (retired) Gary Luck, the latest fixer-upper Rummy has chosen to go find out what’s wrong in that irritating country we just can’t seem to pacify. If he makes suggestions that cost more Iraqi and American lives, knocks the budget further into a rat-hole and fails miserably (as have those who went before him) there’s bound to be a Presidential Medal of Freedom in it.


The top item on his mandate is to find out why the training if Iraqi police and military is going so badly and what to do about it so we can get the hell out. It may be that Rummy chose a retired officer because he couldn’t get anyone on active duty within a thousand miles of that career-ending assignment. If Luck wants advice from a spec-4 (retired) medic about the ‘why’ issue, I’d be glad to help him out. The main deterrent to a successful Iraqi police and military operation, General, is the high degree of likelihood that enlistees will be gunned down on their way home from a hard day at the barracks.


Ft. Leonard Wood, where I took my boot camp a rather long time ago, was a pretty snarky place, but no one was waiting for you with a car-bomb or a simple bullet in the back of the neck when you went on weekend leave. That would have been a real morale problem. Leonard Wood was famous for drill sergeants ‘takin’ names and kickin’ ass,’ but no one was taking those names and finding out where you lived so they could kill you. So the answer, General Luck, is you can’t have an army or police force unless you can keep them from getting killed individually on the way home from work.


As to the second part of the General’s mandate, the what-to-do-about-it, I am far less sanguine because the solution is beyond the control of the mightiest military power on the face of the earth (that’s us).  The high demand for Iraqis to replace Americans is based on the higher demand for us to get the hell out of there. That’s a military law going way back past Napoleon---higher demand trumps high demand every time. Put that in your military journal.


If things were going as swimmingly as Dick Cheney’s vision of Iraqis throwing flowers (instead of rockets) at the feet of American occupation forces, we’d still be comfortably there directing traffic and giving candy to kids.  No worries about a few years of getting things back on their feet.  The training and deployment of an Iraqi police and military would be proceeding at a leisurely pace, the lights would be on all over Iraq and the rebuilding and repaving would be a boon to American contractors as well as a source of pride to grateful Iraqis. But it hasn’t turned out as the current Tricky Dick promised.


So, good luck General Luck. You can meet with the brass, chat up the Interim Government and spend as many hours bent over map tables as you wish, but the only report you can give with a straight face is that the war was a bonehead move by a bunch of amateurs too filled with hubris to listen to anyone. The mess that Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bush left on the floor can be swept at and scrubbed and polished, but the stain will be forever there on American and Iraqi history.


Tell the Marines there’s no way out. Then tell your president. Maybe Dick or Rummy can come up with another brilliant idea that doesn’t shift responsibility off to an honored and retired 4-star general.