When social planners try their hand at military affairs, they usually can impress an elite audience, unless that gathering includes actual combat veterans. The Center for American Progress recently updated their report “How to Redeploy: Implementing a Responsible Drawdown of U.S. Forces from Iraq,” co-written by Lawrence Korb, Sean Duggan, and Peter Juul. The report focuses on debunking the myth that redeployment from Iraq would take many years; Korb stated that redeployment “can be done in 8 to 10 months, quickly and safely.”
CAP invited two retired military men to comment on the updated report; Colonel T.X. Hammes, retired member of the United States Marine Corps and the author of The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, stated that the report “essentially destroyed” the argument perpetuated by the “we-can’t-withdraw-quickly people.” However, Hammes stated that the paper had two major problems:
• The paper plans down to the brigade level, when they don’t know enough about the conditions to plan to that level.
• The strategic decision to pull out now, as quickly as possible, has been made by the paper without an argument.
Hammes explained that even military headquarters do not plan down to the brigade level, instead they issue orders for the brigade leaders to implement as they see fit. He also stated that the Washington D.C. planners needed to focus on the broad concepts of the war, and leave the operational level planning to the men fighting it.
Hammes’ second concern was that the paper “never asks what our strategic goals in Iraq are, and how we might achieve them, and it simply assumes the goal is to get the troops out.” He asserted that the report needed more of a discussion on the validity of setting a timeline as based on the U.S.’s strategic interests. He pointed out the 8-10 month time figure didn’t include “the other nations at all, the allies, or the contractors,” and also had “no discussion of how neighboring nations may react.”
Colonel John Nagl, US army (retired) and Senior Fellow at Center for a New American Security, reported that “The paper states correctly that the security situation in Iraq has improved dramatically” and elaborated on the success of the troops in Iraq. Just back from a tour of the battlefields in Iraq, he stated that “attacks in Baghdad are down to four a day” and lauded the growth of mom-and-pop businesses—specifically banks, gyms, and jewelry stores. However, he stated that despite these advances, “the Iraqis are not ready to take over security for themselves, and at least in private they’ll admit that.”
Nagl also addressed Korb’s original argument that “now more than ever it is important to set a date, because this is the one thing that all the factions in Iraq agree on, and we need to bring them together.” While Korb asserted that setting a date would inspire the Iraqi government to take more responsibility, Nagl asserted that when the Iraqis “began to think of us as reliable partners,” they began to cooperate with the U.S. forces, and setting a blanket timetable for leaving would undermine that image and subsequently, our hard-earned success. Nagl also noted that the Iraqis “are very, very concerned that America is going to withdraw too quickly;” he stated, “They absolutely want America to leave—but not yet, and not soon.”
Rachel Paulk is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run jointly by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.