Category Archives: Military

What I got wrong about the Iraq war

I was going to write this a while back, but here it is. I was on the fence about it at the time, but history did not to wait for me to reach a position.

What I was wrong about with regard to Iraq (2003 assumptions)

  • I thought we would have over 10,000 military deaths by this point.
  • I thought the war would take about a year of heavy fighting.
  • I thought it would be over after that year
  • I thought the Sunni-Shia split would not play out as it has, rather that it would stay at or around the 2004 level
  • I thought we would have much more negative blowback – for all of the shouting and protests, not much has really happened on that front
  • I thought we would have found at least chemical weapons (in large quantities)
  • I did not think that Kurdistan would turn out as well as it has
  • I thought Turkey would have intervened in some form by now
  • I thought al Qaida would have benefited more, it seems that they have been hurt (in terms of their ideological appeal) by the Iraq war (more on that later)
  • I did not think that we would still have this many troops (fighting) at this point.
  • I thought that there would be much more conventional combat, and much less of this gang warfare
  • I thought that the Iraqis would have scored at least three major wins (surprise attacks in some fashion) in the scores of battles that have happened since the war began. They don’t seem to have won any against American troops.

More Friedman

While looking over David Friedman’s blog today, I came across this article on “The Economics of War“. It’s an interesting read. Here is another one I haven’t read in ten years or so, Paying for Crime Prevention it winds up being a partial defense of the system we have in America where the government is not liable if a defendent is acquitted at trial. To wit:

The outcome of a criminal case depends, among other things, on decisions made by police and prosecutors. Consider a situation where, at some point in the proceedings, the police begin to suspect that they may have the wrong man. Suspicion is not certainty; they can choose to ignore the evidence that their suspect is innocent or someone else is guilty. They can also choose to do their best to keep such evidence out of sight of the defense. How likely they are to do so depends in part on the cost to them of being proven wrong. Under a legal system in which acquitting the defendant, or dropping charges after he has been imprisoned for some time, results in sizable cash penalties against the police department or its individual officers, the police have a strong incentive to repress their doubts and push for a conviction.

How serious this problem is depends on a variety of factors. If there is a substantial chance that the conviction of an innocent will eventually be discovered and reversed, a police department that suppresses such evidence risks having to pay for years in jail instead of months. If, on the other hand, such a reversal is unlikely, suppressing evidence may be an attractive gamble.

I suppose that is another variant of the Gandhi game, or turning the other cheek as it’s less tactically known.

Tdaxp on winners and losers in a war with Iran

Dan Tdaxp has a very good post on the winners and losers of a purely punitive (i.e. we don’t occupy) attack on Iran. It’s well worth reading.

One thin that is not mentioned is that a take-down of Iran would create sizable about of Indian country, it would also be contiguous with the other large patch of Indian country, i.e. Afghanistan. I have no meaningful speculation on what would ensue from that.

Now that I think about it, “Land Ocean” might be a better way to refer to large lawless areas.

Random theories I haven’t thought through yet

Of fact-checked for that matter. Nonetheless, here are two bigthink ideas that have occurred to me recently:

  • With the notable exception of Imperial Japan, America hasn’t gone to war with any country that likes itself in the past 100 years. While I don’t usually go for theories involving Constructivism, all of the countries we’ve had conflict with, Nazi Germany, North Vietnam and North Korea, et al, are all fighting to some degree for national pride. This is why I’m not particularly worried about Iran, because the Iranians seem to like being Iranian.
  • The rise of dominant militaries can be summarized as discipline vs identity. By this I mean that the troops can be effective via skillful execution of a central plan, or simply by being themselves. The Romans were a good example of a disciplined group. They were able to carry out the will of their commanders due to training and tight organization. On the other hand, the Mongols required little central direction and usually just had to be their fearsome selves to successfully win wars. Most of the major conflicts through history can be characterized as a clash between these two tactics.

A good article

I came across this article on Iraq’s Mercenary King recently. It’s an interesting read. One thing that’s always said about Private Military Companies is that the contractors make several times what normal American troops make. Usually in another sentence it’s said that PMCs can be deployed at a much lower cost than deploying the regular military. No one ever draws any conclusions about this disparity.

Two things

Whilst listening to left wing radio today I heard two notable things, which struck me as totally wrong.

  • The claim that over 50% of all discretionary government spending is spent on the military. While true, the weaselly use of the “discretionary” modifier makes it meaningless. To declare that some percent of the budget “must” be spent on programs, when they have the full power to change any law making them spend it on said programs is downright silly.
  • The left wing (usually uttered by baby boomer types) screed that it is wrong not to show caskets of dead soldiers and marines as they arrive back in the states. This is usually followed by something like “if we could only see the human pain of this war, we wouldn’t be there at all.” Then it occurred to me that we all watched 9-11 happen and then three weeks later we were bombing Afghanistan, and 18 months later we invaded Iraq. The sight of dead Americans seems to make us more aggressive, not less.

War quote of the moment

From Marginal Revolution:

…Thomas Ricks’ says the war on Iraq and subsequent occupation was ill-conceived, incompetently planned and poorly executed. I have no quarrel with that. What dismays me is that anyone expected any different. All wars are full of incompetence, mendacity, fear, and lies. War is big government, authoritarianism, central planning, command and control, and bureaucracy in its most naked form and on the largest scale. The Pentagon is the Post Office with nuclear weapons.

I’ve always thought that the odds of the government getting some large conspiracy right were much smaller than the odds of them getting some basic assumptions wrong. The complaints of “Bush didn’t get the war planning right” crowd is baffling too. How else was it going to look. In many ways Iraq is much better managed than any of our other wars, only better lit. How else is it going to look?

Cool new military stuff

The Polecat, built by Lockheed Martin, was just unveiled. It’s a high altitude drone of some sort, but the most eye-catching line was

The company built the plane with $27 million of its own money over an 18-month period.

A pretty impressive design, for only $27 million, in only 18 months. It’s startling how much the client matters in terms time and cost. Even if you throw out the corruption and overruns (which would be huge), an internal client is much more likely to select only the low-hanging fruit, and put that into the mix.