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Sunday, April 22, 2007

We'll Be Ready This Time, Won't We?

I haven't done a lot on the war here, but this seems notable [on second thought, I guess Paul Krugman's columns have addressed this topic once or twice]. From theGarance.com, news that the president's unwillingness to discuss withdrawal from Iraq is making it difficult to plan effectively for such a contingency. Thus, we might get caught, yet again, with a less that fully developed alternative if everything doesn't proceed according to the president's troop surge plan:

A Disorderly Withdrawal: Brad Plumer points to a National Journal story about the lack of planning for disengagement from Iraq:

in all probability, the United States is going to draw down some or most of its troops from Iraq sooner or later, regardless of whether the surge ends up pacifying Baghdad or not (likely not). Military experts all agree that pulling out could end up being the most difficult and treacherous phase of the entire war. But the Pentagon can’t really plan for withdrawal because the president doesn’t want to discuss it.

That is, indeed, a frightening scenario.

Here's a bit more from the National Review article on the need to start such planning early, i.e. the necessity for troop safety to come before politics and for the planning to have already started:

[B]ut ... regardless of when it occurs, ... it will mark the beginning of the most challenging and potentially calamitous phase of the Iraq war. "There's an old military adage that the most dangerous and hazardous of all military maneuvers is a withdrawal of forces while in contact with the enemy. That's the operation all of us soldiers fear the most," retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a former commandant of the Army War College, told National Journal. ...

"This will be a much harder exercise than the actual invasion," said retired Col. Richard Sinnreich, a noted SAMS graduate who served on both the Joint Staff and the National Security Council. "During an invasion, the curve representing your capabilities and relative strength goes steadily up, and the situation becomes safer and safer as the operation progresses. As you pull forces out, it reverses, and your strength curve goes down, and the situation becomes steadily more dangerous. It's most dangerous for the very last squad that leaves the country. That's why you saw helicopters on the rooftops of the Saigon embassy in 1975."

The military could take a host of steps to help mitigate the risks of a U.S. troop drawdown... [But] ... It's almost impossible for the military to seriously plan for a contingency -- withdrawal -- that the commander-in-chief won't even discuss, Sinnreich noted. "The probability that it would leak to the press is too high, and no one in uniform wants to take that chance," he said. "Yet only with deliberate planning will we be able to take some of the sting out..."

Knowledgeable Pentagon sources say that some planning for a possible drawdown in Iraq is in the "conceptual" stage, but they concede that the vast majority of the military's energy and effort is focused on implementing the troop surge and Petraeus's counterinsurgency campaign in Baghdad. ...

"God, I hope they're already doing the planning for a withdrawal, because only after working through the various scenarios and all of the possible branches and sequels can the military planners explain to their civilian masters what's needed to do this in an orderly way," said retired Maj. Gen. William Nash, who led NATO forces into Bosnia in the mid-1990s. ...

Update: From the Boston Globe:

When April came to Indochina in 1975, the long war of that generation was coming to a close in chaos and despair. When it came time for "option four," which meant that the only way left out of Saigon was going to be by helicopter from the US Embassy, we saw American Marines furiously chopping down a tree in the chancery garden in order to make room for a landing pad. The US ambassador had not allowed them to touch the tree before then, which was symbolic to some of the head-in-the-sand attitude that refused to recognize that the war had long been lost...

    Posted by on Sunday, April 22, 2007 at 05:42 PM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (20)

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