If there had been 300,000 U.S. troops in Iraq when the war ended, the orgy of looting, the collapse of public order and public services, and all the consequent crime and privation that alienated the Iraqi public might have been averted. The U.S. armed forces could have come up with that many soldiers for a year -- and if order had been maintained in Iraq and elections had been held there a year ago, it would all have been over by now. But on Rumsfeld's insistence, there were only 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
Why did he insist on that? Because proving that he could successfully invade foreign countries on short notice with relatively small forces, and without demanding major sacrifices from the U.S. public, was key to making President Bush's new strategic doctrine of "preemptive war" credible. It was also essential to the neoconservatives' dream of a lasting "Pax Americana" (which could easily involve an Iraq-sized war every couple of years). So the generals were told to shut up and follow orders.
It's too late to fix Iraq by pumping more U.S. troop numbers in now. The resistance has grown so widespread that it would take half a million American soldiers to win at this game of Whack-a-Mole and install an Iraqi government that would last long enough for the United States to walk away from the country without humiliation. Such numbers simply aren't available without bringing back the draft, and even the present troop level in Iraq cannot be maintained for more than another year without drastic new measures.
That backdoor draft is getting kind of obvious, too:
The Army has encountered resistance from more than 2,000 former soldiers it has ordered back to military work, complicating its efforts to fill gaps in the regular troops.
Many of these former soldiers - some of whom say they have not trained, held a gun, worn a uniform or even gone for a jog in years - object to being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan now, after they thought they were through with life on active duty.
They are seeking exemptions, filing court cases or simply failing to report for duty, moves that will be watched closely by approximately 110,000 other members of the Individual Ready Reserve, a corps of soldiers who are no longer on active duty but still are eligible for call-up.
In the last few months, the Army has sent notices to more than 4,000 former soldiers informing them that they must return to active duty, but more than 1,800 of them have already requested exemptions or delays, many of which are still being considered.
And, of about 2,500 who were due to arrive on military bases for refresher training by Nov. 7, 733 had not shown up.
The Individual Ready Reserve is the "bottom of the barrel," and the stories about people being called up when they shouldn't be seems to me like the ultimate slap in the face.
It should be interesting to see at what point Bush starts to reinstate the draft.