November 23, 2005

"Why Iraq Has No Army"

James Fallow's Atlantic report on the failure of our vaunted "training" efforts in Iraq is online. The article focuses more on the poor job we've done in training Iraqis, rather than the notable lack of effort the Iraqis have made to get trained. It took the U.S. only about 15 months after the declaration of war in 1917 to reach the point where we could hold our own against the Germans on the Western Front and only 18 months to where the German General Staff could see Germany was doomed. The Iraqis don't have to fight Germans, they just have to fight Iraqis (and a few outside Arabs), and disorganized, poorly armed ones at that.

My guess would be that while Shi'ite Iraqis are willing to draw pay for training, when it comes to actual fighting, they would, on the whole, prefer we do the fighting and the dying for them. The Shi'ite attitude towards his American "allies" and his Sunni enemies appears to be: "Let's you and him fight."

General Patton said, "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." But the Shi'ites have got Patton beat. By malingering and goldbricking, they are persuading the poor dumb Americans to make the the poor dumb Sunnis die for the good of Mesopotamian Shia'stan.

But Fallow's portrait of the lackadaisical job we've done just getting ready to train Iraqis will make you ashamed to be an American.

One big problem is that training Iraqis is bad for your hopes of getting promoted in the U.S. Army, so nobody good wants to do it. And the language problem remains a gigantic stumbling block 32 months after the invasion. But the lack of effort is most striking.

The fish rots from the head. Fallows writes:

All indications from the home front were that training Iraqis had become a boring issue. Opponents of the war rarely talked about it. Supporters reeled off encouraging but hollow statistics as part of a checklist of successes the press failed to report. President Bush placed no emphasis on it in his speeches. Donald Rumsfeld, according to those around him, was bored by Iraq in general and this tedious process in particular, neither of which could match the challenge of transforming America's military establishment...

"There is still no sense of urgency," T. X. Hammes says. In August, he pointed out, the administration announced with pride that it had bought 200 new armored vehicles for use in Iraq. "Two-plus years into the war, and we're proud! Can you imagine if in March of 1944 we had proudly announced two hundred new vehicles?" By 1944 American factories had been retooled to produce 100,000 warplanes. "From the president on down there is no urgency at all."

Since last June, President Bush has often repeated his "As Iraqi forces stand up ..." formula, but he rarely says anything more specific about American exit plans... Vice President Cheney sounds similarly dutiful... Donald Rumsfeld has the same distant tone. Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz have moved on to different things.

I've known a couple of dozen people in the marketing research industry (not the most dynamic of businesses) who could get the job done better than the top two dozen people in the Bush Administration. Bush is what he was with the Texas Rangers, a marketing man focused on polishing the organization's facade, but with no talent for or interest in the boring operational side. He's an empty suit. Cheney was supposed to handle operations, but he's been a bust.

Another problem is that Iraq is a quite different culture than ours. Fallows touches on many of my favorite themes.

The ethnic and tribal fissures in Iraq were another big problem. Half a dozen times in my interviews I heard variants on this Arab saying: "Me and my brother against my cousin; me and my cousin against my village; me and my village against a stranger." "The thing that holds a military unit together is trust," T. X. Hammes says. "That's a society not based on trust." A young Marine officer wrote in an e-mail, "Due to the fact that Saddam murdered, tortured, raped, etc. at will, there is a limited pool of 18-35-year-old males for service that are physically or mentally qualified for service. Those that are fit for service, for the most part, have a DEEP hatred for those not of the same ethnic or religious affiliation."

Obviously, America is an insular country with little interest in foreign cultures. But, it's important to realize that while diversity and multiculturalism are advertised as making us more aware of the outside world, they've actually made it harder for us to understand other cultures. Why? We're told to "celebrate diversity" but we all know that means: "Don't think analytically about diversity."

Diversity and multiculturalism inculcate in Americans cautious habits of ignorance, lies, and euphemisms when it comes to thinking about ethnic groups. These days in the land of the free and the home of the brave, your career can be ended by saying the wrong thing about any politically powerful group (and there are so many noe, including Arabs), so things that need to be said go unsaid.

For example, how often has the fact that half of Iraqis are married to their first or second cousins come up in the American media? It has substantial implications for Iraqi culture and politics, but looking at Google, most of the items are references to things written by either me in the American Conservative, Randall Parker (ParaPundit), or John Tierney of the NYT. And we're quoting each other!

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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