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Re: Kagan, Troop Numbers, and Generals


Rich, a lot of people get confused about troop numbers because there are always two completely different sets of figures.  When you’re talking about the effectiveness of a tactical plan, you need to know how many “combat troops” you will have.  When you are asking whether you have the forces and resources available, you need to know the number of troops & units total — a number that is usually at least twice the number of “combat troops.”  So for example if  Kagan’s plan calls for sending 30,000 extra “combat troops” to Iraq, the American people would have to know that 60,000 to 80,000 more troops need to go to Iraq, and they need to understand where the forces are coming from.  However, the army’s own counter-insurgency manual calls for about 140,000 “combat troops” to quell a city the size of Baghdad. 

This is one aspect of the president’s plan that I still don’t quite understand. 

Also the chain-of-command issue you worry about worries me as well.  Napoleon used to say, “one bad general is better than two good ones” — his main catchphrase for the vital importance of maintaining unity of command.  I fear that the very concept of a political strategy of “transition” to Iraqi control — as it must be incremental and overlapping — runs counter to the necessity for unity of command.  If so, our troops will continue to feel like ping-pong balls (as many complain now) fighting understrength and with one hand tied behind their back, surge or no surge.


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