Grim Possibilities in Iraq

Those of us who talked about the dangers of invading Iraq back in 2002 are — unfortunately — being completely vindicated. In October 2002, at a public talk on the possible economic effects of invading Iraq, I mentioned the probability that the post-war would require hundreds of thousands of US troops for several years. I also mentioned an extreme scenario in which the occupation might require so many troops that a re-institution of the draft would be required. I didn’t say it in seriousness — more just for shock value, to get people to imagine possible consequences — and people laughed (albeit a bit nervously). Including me. I didn’t really think that a reinstitution of the draft was likely, nor do I now.

However, in the wake of this week’s horrible bombing in Baghdad, bits of news like the following from the NYTimes make that extreme scenario seem less implausible:

Some experts say it is unrealistic to think that Iraq can be secured with troops at the current level. A debate over this subject flared in May, when Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, said hundreds of thousands would be needed to secure Iraq after the war.

James F. Dobbins, an expert in peacekeeping operations who was the Bush administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said in an interview today that the United States might need 300,000 to 500,000 troops to maintain stability in the country.

Considering the fact that the current 140,000 comprises over half of the US’s deployable military strength, one wonders how the Army is going to grow fast enough to meet the tasks that the Bush administration is handing it.