Editor’s Note: Readers had comments about the shortcomings of the Iraq “surge”; the failure to give fuller counts of Iraqi casualties; and the ominous dispute between Russia and Estonia:
In all the discussions by the media about General Petraeus's plan, no pundit has raised the issue of whether the general has the resources, i.e., the requisite number of security forces to carry it out effectively. While at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Petraeus, then a lieutenant general, developed the new counterinsurgency doctrine in Field Manual 3-24, published on December 15, 2006. It clearly states on page 1-13 that a troop density--ratio of security forces to inhabitants--from 20 to 25 to 1,000 in the area of operations is needed for "effective COIN operations," adding that any fixed ratio is dependent on the situation. That ratio was already the norm and explained in a 1995 Army War College article in itspublication Parameters: "Force Requirements in Stability Operations." It is found throughout the literature on COIN operations.
According to doctrine, therefore, Baghdad alone requires a troop density, including well-trained and adequately equipped Iraqi military and police forces, of approximately 120,000, while Iraq requires a troop density of some 400,000 to 500,000, depending on how the population base is determined. Nobody talks about the French-Algerian conflict where by 1956 France had committed more than 400,000 troops to Algeria. Although the elite colonial infantry airborne units and the Foreign Legion bore the brunt of offensive counterinsurgency combat operations, approximately 170,000 Muslim Algerians also served in the regular French army, most of them volunteers. Algeria had a population of about 10 million at that time, while Iraq has approximately 24 million, considering the refugee population in other surrounding countries.
Why doesn't the press, hammer home this pertinent question?
Gerald A. Lechliter
Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.)
I have a minor criticism to make about Ray McGovern's article, "Tenet's
Ray McGovern writes: "...So we've ruined reputations and blots on records.
Poor boys. What about the 3,344 American soldiers already killed...What
about the more than 50,000 troops wounded, not to mention the hundreds of
thousands of Iraqi civilians...?"
Almost invariably, I notice, Americans cite U.S. deaths and casualties
first, followed by Iraqi deaths, and usually no mention of an estimate for
the number of Iraqi wounded.
No one needs reminding that the U.S. invaded Iraq by choice, and that the
American public gave the green light based on a few sound bites and
anecdotes from their president. Yet, Iraqi deaths are almost an aside in
the arguments many Americans make against the war - something extra to
bolster the assertion that Bush's decisions have been catastrophic for
To a foreigner, this tendency to cite American casualties first can be
seen as yet another manifestation of American arrogance: that, even in a
war of choice, American lives come first; which, rather frighteningly,
opens up the possibility of the U.S. nuking a country to save American
lives when a future conflict of choice spirals out of control (or, as in
the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, increasing the use of mercenary armies,
so that foreigners are killed, instead).
Therefore, I think it would have been better had Ray McGovern written
something like: "So we've got ruined reputations and blots on records.
Poor boys. What about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis these boys have
killed, and the thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) they have mutilated?
And not only have they harmed Iraqis, they have also harmed our own
citizens: the 3,344 American soldiers that are dead, the more than 50,000
Michael (London, England)
It was with great sadness that I read your posting about Russia's spat with Estonia, as my parents come from Estonia and I have relatives there. It is with great surprise that I think Pat Buchanan, of all people, correctly identified all the nuances of the situation there, which is much more than I can say about anything else that I have seen written about it.
And, unfortunately, I think Buchanan also got right the inherent danger there. I suspect Russia must have been looking for a pretext, for putting the statute and remain into a military cemetery is hardly a gross insult, considering that the Estonians probably really wanted to topple the statue and destroy the remains. As usual with Estonians, they acted very deliberately and with great restraint as they have lived under a jackboot for more than 700 hundred years.
And it is scary that Russia is looking for a pretext; Buchanan could very well be right about the balance of power issues involved. I have long thought that if we continue to attack others with impunity, that the world will begin to line up against us.
I am just trebly sorry that it seems to be starting with Estonia.
Ly in Upstate NY
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