The joke of "Surging" to victory in Iraq

The idea that “surging” twenty thousand more American troops to Iraq can make any real difference to what is already a full scale civil war is risible. Colin Powell pointed this out over the weekend but Powell —as usual—is a latecomer to the game.

Folks talking about increasing U.S. troop levels should first consider some painful military statistics: to begin with, according to the Pentagon’s own figures, every front line soldier requires at least three other military types to back him up: engineers, electricians, medics, bookkeepers, etc. Which means that 20,000 more troops to Iraq works out to only about 5,000 additional American trainers or soldiers actually pulling the triggers.

There’s another jolting irony: while the conflicts in Iraq (and Afghanistan) have been a recruiting dream come true for radical jihadists, they’ve created an enlistment nightmare for the American military. Though the U.S.army claimed they had met manpower targets for 2006, they managed to do so only by offering 700 million dollars in retention bonuses; and spending $300 million more for their recruiting drive.

On top of that is the soaring cost to prepare each American soldier: $120,000 for training plus $25,000 for basic equipment. For that amount, the government could instead send each new troop to Harvard for three years.

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