"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Boots On the Ground 

Let's do a little cocktail-napkin math here: We have about 130,000 soldiers in Iraq, give or take. That means we have almost as many people in country as Moqtada al-Sadr can mobilize on a moment's notice:
A hundred thousand Iraqis across the country marched on Friday in support of a maverick Shi'ite cleric opposed to a draft constitution that U.S.-backed government leaders say will deliver a brighter future.

The protest could reinforce the opposition of Sunni Arabs who dominate the insurgency and are bitterly against the draft.

Supporters of young Shi'ite firebrand Moqtada al-Sadr, who has staged two uprisings against U.S. troops, also protested against poor services during their marches, stepping up the pressure on the government.

A hundred thousand Sadr supporters marched in eight cities, including 30,000 people who gathered for a sermon delivered on his behalf in a Baghdad slum district.

They hardly noticed a huge government poster which read "One Nation, One People, One Constitution", instead seeking guidance from Sadr who inspires fierce devotion in his followers.

Here's a small stylistic point for Michael Georgy, the author of this report from Reuters - anyone who can get 100,000 people to march in the streets is not a "maverick." A demagogue, maybe, but not a maverick.





While I agree that the number of US forces in Iraq are woefully inadequate to the task, you left your math argument hanging.

(By the way, we call this a "back of envelope" calculation in engineering. We do it on cocktail napkins, but transfer it to envelopes so people won't think we are lushes.) US has 130k boots on the ground. Sadr can mobilize 100k for a protest march. Guessing now, lets say 1 of 10 (or 10k) of this group would actually go fight, come the call. But, there are many other centers in Iraq to recruit insurgents from, guessing again 20 or 30, so we are back up to 200k or 300k insurgents.

However, from wargaming, we have to account for the quality of the troops. In a pitched battle, US to insurgents quality is probably like 5+ to 1 (i.e one US soldier = 5 insurgents). In street fighting, it's probably closer to 2 to 1. Which means its more like a push (260k US soldiers to approx 250 insurgents).

What does this all mean? We need to win the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq, to cut of succor to the insurgents in order to win. Is that going to happen anytime soon? Probably not, and although people hate to hear it, I can offer as proof of this that we made the same mistake in VietNam. And the same type of fat, white old men are making the decisions in Washington DC.

Larry B.
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