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Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The "U.S. didn't send enough troops" argument

A few days ago, Colin Powell became the latest in a long line of public figures to claim that the fundamental problem in Iraq was the decision not to send "enough" troops to "win the peace" (that's my phrase, not a direct quote). We hear this over and over again from various critics, not of the invasion per se, but of the way in which it was "handled" by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al.

But here's the problem with this argument. There was a reason why the U.S. went to war with the minimum number of troops it could, and it had nothing to do with expecting to be greeted with candy and flowers. It had to do with the U.S. public, and its reaction (or perceived reaction) to the idea of sending massive amounts of troops. An essential component of generating American support for the invasion was the idea that it could be done "on the cheap," with relatively limited numbers of soldiers (not to mention limited amounts of money, the "Iraqi oil will pay for the reconstruction" argument). American opinion would, in my opinion, have been much more strongly opposed to the invasion had the Administration said it needed several hundred thousand troops and, reflecting that opinion, the backbones of a few more politicians and editorial boards might have stiffened just enough to put them into opposition. That was a chance the Bush Administration wasn't willing to take.

And of all the people, such as Powell, making the "we should have sent more troops" argument, not one has made this argument. They all want to leave the impression it was just a "poor decision" by George Bush. It was not. It was actually a "good" decision from his point of view. And most definitely a deliberate, well-thought-out one.

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